Thursday, June 25, 2009

Saul's Leadership

Still been reading 1 Samuel. Here are my observations about Saul's leadership:


Humble beginnings
Too timid to tell his Uncle that Samuel annoited hm as king (10:16), hiding among the baggage when Samuel is selecting the king (10:22), after being annointed he's out in the fields with his oxen (11:5), and after his first victory, he resists punishing his naysayers and gives glory to God (12:13)

Skills at rallying the people
When Jabesh is attacked, he decisively "took a pair of oxen, cut them into pieces, and sent the pieces by messengers through Israel" (11:7). This has the effect of making the men who turn out "as one man".

Lacked personal relationship with God
When reading about and observing Saul, I never get the sense that he really knew God or had a relationship with him. In chapter 13, Saul is certainly in a bind. He has flared up the Philistines and they have come out to meet him with way more manpower than Saul can muster. Samuel in turn has told him to wait 7 days for his coming, at which point they will "seek the Lord's favor". In this waiting time, Saul's men are scattering left and right as they see the Philistines amass an even larger army and receive no real direction from Saul. Admittedly, I don't think I could wait for 7 days like this either, but once the official 7 days are up, Saul takes matters into his own hands and does the job of Samuel. Just then Samuel arrives. I can empathize with Saul's position, but the king has to be stronger than this. It's as if Saul thinks God is a rubix-cube that you have to get the pieces in the right order to unlock his power. Someone who knows God, knows that this is not the case.

Even on the eve of Saul's last battle, it is so sad to see him consult the with at Endor (chapter 28). He truly doesn't know God, and instead resorts to the only form of "higher power" he does know: the ghost of Samuel. Personal relationships with humans are very important, but you ideally want to see them bridge to personal relationship with God. This unfortunately didn't happen for Saul, thus is left resorting to the ghosts of humans.

One step behind
I think good leaders are continually switching between being at the front of the pack and at the back. They're at the front seeing or imaging what's coming and then at the rear empowering people to get there. Saul in chapter 14 is just off on both these fronts. Examples:
  • After the sacrifice mistake and a looming Philistine army, Saul is described as "sitting under a pomegranate tree" (14:2) while his son, Jonathan, is proactively going out to see if God will open a door for them, living in the truth that "nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few" (14:6).
  • While Jonathan and God have caused panic through the Philistine camp, Saul is concerned about determining the Israelites behind this (14:16).
  • While Saul's lookouts are reporting that the Philistines are melting away in panic (14:16 - a great time to go attack!), Saul is calling for the ark of the covenant so he can consult with God.
  • Instead of empowering his troops to nourish themselves so they can keep up the pursuit, he places the army under a curse to not eat until nightfall (14:24).
  • As nightfall commences and the starved troops fill their hungry selves as quickly as possible by not waiting for blood to drain out of the meat (a violation of God's law for the Israelites), Saul points out that they have broken faith (14:33). While it's good that he helped the people be obedient to God by slaughtering their dinner in a centralized and controlled place, he didn't take responsibility for the fact that he set the people up for failure by his curse!
  • His foolishness with the curse goes even farther as he is dead set on killing anyone who violated it, which happens to be his son. As the lot casting process reveals Jonathan as the culprit, Saul is prepared to kill him (14:44), but it's the troops who have to plead Jonathan's case to his own father (14:45).
By the end of the day, I would really be questioning the competency of my leader!

Feared men more than God
Chapter 15 is where God officially rejects Saul. God has given him the task of wiping out the Amalekites (a punishment they had coming for a couple hundred years). Saul doesn't follow through on the "total" part. The king is spared, along with the plunder. What's interesting, is that Saul believes he has been obedient. When Samuel comes to confront him on his disobedience, Saul says, "The Lord bless you! I have carried out the Lord's instructions" (15:13). It's funny how we can be disobedient and trick ourselves into believing we are obedient.

As Samuel makes it clear to Saul that Saul did not follow instructions, Saul admits his wrong, and says, "I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them" (15:24). This is a constant temptation for most of us, to fear men more than God. As a leader, fear of God must trump fear of man, but Saul unfortunately had these reversed.

Lacked repentance
Saul's focus on appearance before his people is further revealed as he begs Samuel afterwards to join him before the people. Samuel's presence was a sign of God's approval before the people, but Saul's lack of complete commitment should not be condoned. Saul's requests for forgiveness of his sin seem more like formality so he can get Samuel back than a true sign of repentance. If Saul were truly sorry for his actions of sparing the king and keeping the best of the plunder, he would have confronted the people alone, admitted his wrong, and then acted to correct them (destroy the king and the plunder). Unfortunately Saul doesn't do this, and it's up to Samuel to kill the king of the Amalekites.

Feared loosing control
Saul's relationship with David is so sad. Here God brings to Saul an incredible servant, and instead of empowering him to be all that he can be, he's constantly suspicious of him and worried that he will take his thrown. His focus becomes on thwarting the very gift that God gives him. Saul would have been wise to act like the Egyptian Pharaoh in Joseph's day, who in seeing Joseph's aptitude and capacity, puts him in charge of the country. No doubt that Joseph received incredible praise from the Egyptians, even more than Pharaoh at points, but this doesn't hinder Pharaoh from putting him in the position he belongs. Jealousy doesn't overtake him like it does Saul.

It's not uncommon for leader's to find themselves as the "best" in their sphere of influence. In fact, this is often times why they are put in the leadership role. It's easy to get conditioned at being the best though, and then to loose that position. A healthy leader embraces someone who is projected to do better. I'd expect some feeling of jealousy to be there at first, but how we act on them is very important. It's a lot different to confide in someone about those feelings and seeking help from God to be free of them, than to act on them and try and stifle the up and coming leader. I would expect that a good leader would come around and take great satisfaction in helping the new leader surpass them. We'd have a much different view of Saul if he had the humility to step down and follow David.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Health Services On Reservation

I was pointed to an interesting article about the state of health services: It's well worth the read and stirs compassions for the Natives among in the US. It helped me glimpse of how much on the fringe Natives are in some cases. It made me wonder what things are like for the local Lummi reservation in Whatcom County. I look forward to finding out when we return.