The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent. Exodus 33:11 (NIV)
“Its lonely at the top”
There are many reasons why this is a valid statement, be it issues of trust or otherwise. But for all the reasons for loneliness at the top, it’s more effective to take someone along.
One of the reasons to never go on the journey of leadership alone is this simple word: Legacy.
A leader could do a lot in his time, but nothing is as important as leaving behind “people” that work. There is a problem if the people are not better than how you met them. Rome wasn’t built in a day but with the wrong people, it can crumble in a second.
The Apple that Fell Far from the Tree
The king answered the people harshly. Rejecting the advice given him by the elders, 1 Kings 12:13 (NIV)
David was a leader. A man after God’s heart but his leadership suffered in one area.
In “Finishing Strong” by Steve Farrar, a fascinating book, Steve pointed out something about David. David’s family problems started long before he became king. His problems started while preparing to be king.
He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold. Deuteronomy 17:17 (NIV)
God described the godly king. David already took at least two wives after being anointed to be king. By the time he died, David had many wives and concubines whose number was not stated (2 Samuel 5:13). Clearly, this legacy was passed down.
Solomon followed in David’s footsteps in his love for God. Writing all those proverbs and giving a thousand burnt offerings was his expression of that love. But he took on and expanded the weakness of his father taking on 700 wives and 300 concubines. By the time of his death, his epitaph read:
So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done. 1 Kings 11:6 (NIV)
Your Legacy, Your New Wineskin
David and Solomon both surrounded themselves with their advisers and mighty men but their sons never had a seat at the table.
When David was old, it wasn’t at once clear to everyone who was the next in line. In that instance a statement was mentioned in passing about Adonijah who attempted to usurp the throne:
(His father had never rebuked him by asking, “Why do you behave as you do?” He was also very handsome and was born next after Absalom.) 1 Kings 1:6 (NIV) [emphasis mine]
We could question David’s relationship with his children for discipline and correction. It’s possible that there was no real transfer to his children the values required for godly living.
In some sense, leaders, like wineskins, become worn with use. After some time in an organization, we need totally new wineskins. A new wineskin with its own set of experiences and knowledge. But no matter how new the wineskin is, the wine is also vital. There must be a transfer of the principles that guide the organization.
The Stench of Rotten Leadership
By the 3rd generation, whatever love and respect there was for God had been diluted to non-existence. And the evil had spread from the royal bloodline to the people:
Judah did evil in the eyes of the Lord. By the sins they committed they stirred up his jealous anger more than those who were before them had done. They also set up for themselves high places, sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree. There were even male shrine prostitutes in the land; the people engaged in all the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. 1Kings 14:22–24 (NIV)
The apples fell farther and farther away from God as each generation of leaders passed until all the land lost their way.
Each of these leaders accomplished material successes and won victories in battles. Down the line, they lost the kingdom and all their victories were wiped out because they didn’t work on their excesses and develop a legacy for the future.
People are the true legacy. And for any action a leader takes, he gives his followers permission to do the same.
Twice the Man He Was
Whenever a leader leaves a good legacy behind, you’ll notice that more seems to be accomplished when they leave. This is irrespective of what was accomplished while in office.
Moses and Joshua
When Joshua took over, he completed the assignment of leading the Israelites into the promised land, dividing the lands among the tribes and families.
Joshua always accompanied Moses to the tent but when Moses returned to the camp, Joshua remained with God at the tent.
Leaders should always expose their inner circle to the source of their fire. Expose the source of their wine. Subordinates need to drink from both the leader (for experience) and the organization (its core values).
Elijah and Elisha
These two were conjoined leaders. Elisha left everything when he was called, burning up the tools of his trade to be totally devoted to his leader. Only God could separate them. Elisha got double what Elijah had and accomplished more than Elijah did.
Elijah was at a point where he felt that there was no one else standing with God apart from him. (1 Kings 19:14). After Elijah complained of his loneliness in the fight the next instruction from God was to anoint a king, a priest and a prophet to succeed him. And he told him of the 7000 people who hadn’t bowed to Baal. It’s like God never intended for him to go it alone.
What if All We Have is a Bad Legacy?
How do we turn the tide if all we’ve had before us are negative leaders?
Four names come to mind:
Hezekiah, Manasseh, Amon and Josiah.
These were successive kings of Judah. Hezekiah did good but he made a grave mistake in exposing the secrets of the kingdom of Judah to the spies from Babylon. Hezekiah didn’t care much about his legacy because when the judgment was passed, his thought was: “The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?” 2 Kings 20:19 (NIV).
Manasseh and then Amon inherited the judgment of their father. They became very wicked kings that did evil in God’s eyes. Then comes Josiah without a mentor to look up to. His epitaph?
He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and followed completely the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left. 2 Kings 22:2 (NIV)
Josiah was not led by a good leader. But he traced the history of the organization back to the source: God.
Josiah found the book of the law and he followed it.
What We Have Left
After all is said and done, our legacy is all we have left. The people we leave behind. Not our material accomplishments. And if we focus on this, our work will continue through the strength and minds of those we pass the baton to.