Faithful Leaders Discern the Lord's Wisdom


Like many Americans, our presidents have expressed their dependence on God and sought God's blessing. Some presidents have been very private about their faith. Others have been accused of parading their piety. Of course, discerning Christians listen to pious presidential statements with caution, hoping for integrity and watching for evidence of authentic faith in personal practices and public policies."Oh Lord, give me health and strength. We'll steal the rest," he reportedly prayed.

While we may chuckle at Fishhooks' blend of piety and politics, we must readily admit that religion has played a central role in American political leadership.

Richard Nixon associated himself closely with Billy Graham. Jimmy Carter made the term "born-again" a mainstream cultural concept, becoming the first modern president to put his personal faith in full public view. He cited Micah 6:8 in his inaugural address, went to church regularly and took his annotated Bible to Camp David for meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Menechem Begin. When Bill
Clinton found his presidency imperiled, he turned to religious leaders for support, seeking counseling from three Christian leaders.

In an interview in Ladies Home Journal, George W. Bush said that he read the Bible every morning and drew strength from his faith. "Just living this life—when you realize that there is an Almighty God on whom you can rely—it provides a great comfort," he said.

Like many Americans, our presidents have expressed their dependence on God and sought God's blessing. Some presidents have been very private about their faith. Others have been accused of parading their piety. Of course, discerning Christians listen to pious presidential statements with caution, hoping for integrity and watching for evidence of authentic faith in personal practices and public policies.

Beyond presidents, we have witnessed an upsurge in interest in the relationship between leadership and religion. Jesus CEO, a popular book by Laurie Beth Jones first published in 1995, illustrates this connection and looks at Jesus' values for leadership.

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Text without context is pretext. We cannot study 1 Kings 3:3-15 without examining the knotty context of succession, the struggle between King David's two sons. The very transfer and consolidation of political power introduces us to Solomon.

"King David was old and advanced in years; and although they covered him with clothes, he could not get warm," reads 1 Kings 1:1. By the middle on the next chapter, we read, "Then David slept with his ancestors" (2:10).

Between these verses lies a dramatic story—rebellion, manipulation, jealousy, broken promises, revenge and assassinations. The story contains a frail king (David) and a beautiful young woman (Abishag); the king's scheming son (Adonijah) and his fellow conspirators (Joab, the military commander, and Abiathar, the priest); Nathan, the prophet, who conspired with Bathsheba, the king's wife, for the succession of her son Solomon to the throne; and a host of other characters.

"When David's time to die drew near," he gave Solomon clear instructions. "Be strong, be courageous, and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes," David said (2:2b-3a).

David also told Solomon to pursue a scorched-earth politics, telling him to eliminate Joab, the general, and Shimei, a long-time critic. Solomon obeyed. Solomon also had his half-brother, Adonijah, assassinated, and banished the priest, Abiathar …

Robert Parham is executive director of Baptist Center for Ethics.

Editor's Note: Beginning today, each Wednesday we'll include an excerpt from one of our Bible studies. We begin with EthicsDaily.com Executive Editor Robert Parham's lesson in Looking at Leadership: Lessons from 1 and 2 Kings. Appropriately, the lesson speaks to presidential politics.

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