The Last Words of David

"HE that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shinging after rain" (2 Sam. 23:3,4).

-President of the South Philippine Union Mission at the time this article was written

"HE that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shinging after rain" (2 Sam. 23:3,4).

The verses before the ones quoted above indicate these were the last words of King David. I do not know whether or not he was dying when he spoke these words, but it must have been at a time when he felt he would not live very long. In our country the last words of a dying man are as binding as any written law. Certainly, they contain valuable counsel richly deserving study and consideration.

David indicates that everyone who is in a position of responsibility should rule in the constant fear of God, always conscious that his leadership comes by divine appointment and that Heaven holds him responsible for every decision.

That is why David placed such importance on the concept that the first attribute of a ruler is that he be just, ruling in the fear of God. In my younger days I always wondered why it was necessary for us to fear a loving heavenly Father in order to please Him. I learned later that guilty fear is to be contrasted with the reverential fear that characterizes an upright and perfect man. The Lord said to Satan concerning Job, "Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?" (Job 1:8).

As a leader and a king, David rose from the ranks. He was a humble shepherd boy in the hills of Judea, tending his father's sheep. He would rise up early each day before the sun was up to lead his sheep to pasture. There he witnessed the break of day as the sun rose from behind the hills. There were rainy mornings, cloudy mornings, foggy mornings, and occasionally bright mornings. In his last days, as he fondly recollects the days of his youth, he remembers a particularly bright morning when the sun was rising over the distant hills without any cloud obstructing the beautiful scene. He likens a just leader to the grandeur of this recollection in the beautifully worded metaphor: "And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds." The man who rules for God, he indicates, will be as the sun, bringing to the earth light, warmth, and blessing.

"Light" and Leadership

As the sun brings light to the earth, so must a just leader bring light to his flock. One of the inherent characteristics of light is that it is transparent. The pen of inspiration has this to say about sunlight in relation to the life of a Christian: "Everything that Christians do should be as transparent as the sunlight."— Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 68. There should be no clouds of doubt to hide a leader's life. He is an open book, the same man inside as outside. There is no pretense in him. He is a man of integrity, a truthful, sincere, and upright leader.

The invention of plastic wrappers was a boon to business. Much time is saved because we can see through the wrappers and examine the contents of packages offered for sale without opening them. But some goods are still wrapped in opaque wrappers, such as the dry banana leaves used in wrapping salt offered for sale in small grocery stores in my country. During a prolonged rainy season in the Manila area the salt beds were flooded so that the price of salt rose from 20 cents a ganta (standard measure) to one peso. I sent my boy to buy a package of salt from one of the small grocery stores near our home in the city of Cebu. The five centavo package came home the usual size, so I thought the city of Cebu was not affected by the rise in the price of salt. However, when the banana-leaf wrappers were opened, there were three or four layers of thick banana leaves inside and only a few grains of salt. The grocery store had put one over on us since we weren't able to see inside the wrapper.

"There must be no pretense in the lives of those who have so sacred and solemn a message as we have been called to bear. The world is watching Seventh-day Adventists because it knows something of their profession of faith and of their high standard, and when it sees those who do not live up to their profession, it points at them with scorn."—Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 23. If such a life is expected of every member, how much more should it be of leaders of the flock?

"Warmth" in Leadership

A leader for God should not only bring light but warmth to his ministry. Those of us born in the tropics do not appreciate the heat of the sun as do those born in temperate and cold regions. We do not like to be exposed under the heat of the sun, so it's hard for us to understand why people in other regions love to sun themselves in the hot sun at beaches or in their own yards. I never really appreciated the warmth of the sun until I was assigned to help audit in the northern part of our division. It was spring, but the evenings were cool and rather uncomfortable for me. After completing my work there, I flew directly from Tokyo to Manila. The temperature announced before the plane landed in Manila was a little more than 98° F. As I stepped out of the plane the heat penetrated my body like a soothing balm. It was a welcome surprise to me. This was the first time I had opportunity to experience the pleasant sensation felt by those who come into the warm sunshine after having been deprived of it for some time.

As leaders, are we warm and soothing to those with whom we come in contact? Are we approachable, or are we cold and almost beyond reach? Have we established rapport with our workers? If someone wants to see us in our office, does he hesitate about asking our secretary for an appointment? Are our workers relaxed in our presence, or are they tense?

After taking the night flight from Manila at one-thirty in the morning, I was sleepy when I arrived in Davao City. It was a national holiday, so I thought I'd catch up on my sleep. But a young evangelist from one of the local missions came to see me very early. I learned that he could not continue his meetings as his lighting equipment had given out and he needed more than 400 pesos for replacements and repairs. I told him that he should take this problem to his mission president because there wasn't much I could do for him. He said he had, but his president would not make any decision. "He just kept silent and closed his eyes as if in deep meditation," he informed me. "Then what did you do?" "I told him that I would come to see you." "What did he say?" "He did not say anything, so I had to come to you for help." I sent him back to his mission president and also personally contacted the mission officers, asking them to meet and decide what they could do to help solve the problem of this young evangelist.

Certainly, it's impossible to give everything asked of us, as most of the time our funds are very limited. However, we don't need to give our fellow workers the cold-shoulder treatment. Instead we need to take pains to explain in a very kind way why we cannot help. Perhaps we can encourage them by saying that as soon as funds are available we shall remember their needs. At least our workers will feel that we are interested in their work and are trying to help them solve their problems.

The Blessing of Good Leadership

As the sun brings blessings to the earth, so should a leader of God bring blessings to his field. When finances and membership gains are down and workers seem discontented, is it always due to such natural causes as a long drought, poor harvest, or difficult territory? Or could these statistics be the result of the law enunciated by the apostle Paul to the Galatians: "For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (chap. 6:7)?

Jacob stayed with his father-in-law for many years. The time came when he wanted to be on his own and return to his country, so he approached Laban for permission to leave. "Send me away," he pleaded, "that I may go unto mine own place, and to my country. Give me my wives and my children, for whom I have served thee." Note his father-in-law's answer. "1 pray thee, if 1 have found favour in thine eyes, tarry: for I have learned by experience that the Lord hath blessed me for thy sake" (Gen. 30:25-27). Can it be said of our leadership that our people were blessed because of our stay with them?

King David also likened the right kind of leadership to "tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain." Just as the grass springs forth as a result of the ministry of sunshine and showers, so the man who rules is able to bring a train of blessings if he carries out his responsibilities justly and in the fear of God.

Have you ever noticed very young sprouting grass? It is not only very tender but also very straight and pointed. Leaders need to be firm, straight, and pointed along with their warmth and tenderness. A leader also needs to keep cool under pres sure. Someone has said, "Men are like steel—of little use when they lose their temper." To lose one's temper is to also lose one's influence. One retired minister who once held a very responsible position in our work probably revealed more to me than he intended when he said, "1 have lost my sting now."

There was an office janitor in one of our local missions who did not seem to know his job very well. He would apply polishing wax to the floor even if it was still dirty, leaving thin layers of sticky mud around. He was shown time and again the proper way of waxing the floor but he never did seem to learn. At last he applied varnish to the floor so it would be shiny without waxing. When this happened we wanted to sting him real hard by telling him to look for another job.

Realizing that he had a wife and two children and also dis covering that he had a knack of taking good care of his personal finances, we decided to give him another chance in another position. We sent him out with the colporteurs at the time of their deliveries to assist in collecting.

He was an excellent collector and did a fine job, accounting for every centavo collected. We later assigned him to look after a book depository in another city. He also excelled in this job. He was later promoted to book and periodical agency manager, then district leader, and finally ordained to the gospel ministry because he was active in evangelism. He is now lay activities and Sabbath school secretary of one of our local missions and considered one of our strong workers.Instead of "stinging" those who seem not to fit their jobs, it's our duty as leaders to find that place where they can most effectively serve.

"Whenever you see or hear something that needs to be corrected, seek the Lord for wisdom and grace, that in trying to be faithful you may not be severe. It is always humiliating to have one's errors pointed out. Do not make the experience more bitter by needless censure. Unkind criticism brings discouragement, making life sunless and unhappy.

"My brethren, prevail by love rather than by severity. When one at fault becomes conscious of his error, be careful not to destroy his self-respect. Do not seek to bruise and wound, but rather to bind up and heal."— Gospel Workers, p. 496.

May we be leaders characterized by integrity and warmth. Leaders who bring a blessing to all they touch. Leaders who measure up fully, by the grace of God, to the challenge found in the last words of David.


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-President of the South Philippine Union Mission at the time this article was written

November 1973

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