Class 6 Devotional: The Kingdom: Leadership, Unity, and Division

What if you got everything you asked for out of life?

Imagine the optimism during David’s reign when Israel finally had a righteous king on the throne, living in the promised land, with Jerusalem as the city of God, and a dream of building a glorious temple. Able to see past David’s character deficiencies and crimes, the na8on celebrated good times! Then David’s son Solomon established his reign, demonstrated his wisdom, and completed the temple. God himself entered the temple and promised the kingdom throne to David’s descendants. What could go wrong?

1. The God Factor

Let’s recap the story so far. God created the heavens and the earth. He bequeathed the beautiful garden to the first family with the dream of establishing God’s reign and covenant over the entire earth. When the couple stumbled and their second son murdered the first, God intervened. Even when the whole world turned on him, he found one righteous family and started over. When humans repeated that rebellion, he called Abram and Sarai to become the new first family. Through their offspring, God patiently and proactively protected the covenant. He delivered the “Hebrews” from slavery into the promised land.

Contrast God’s actions with humanity’s:

• God honored his covenant, won the physical and spiritual baPles, treasured his people, and promoted
their legacy.
• Humanity repeatedly forgot God, abandoned the covenant, tripped into spiritual defeat, and
besmirched their legacy… to their own peril.

Would this new Kingdom finally be the way God fulfills his dream for humanity on this earth? There is only one way for this to happen… the God Factor—if God is present, we are blessed. Would the kings of David’s line con8nue to welcome God’s presence or…?

2. The Leadership Paradox.

Humans, like sheep, tend to follow the leader. We want a king, a ruler, someone we can see out front, who
fights our battles, protects us, and inspires us. However, we also tend to idolize those who lead. This power
seduces us and infects the leader. Israel idolized the Judges and the Kings—Samson, David, and Solomon were legends. We idolize celebrities, musicians, politicians, and even ministry leaders… to their peril and ours.

But leaders let us down. So we react by rejecting any and all leadership as dangerous. We don’t want to be
leaders. We don’t want anyone having authority over us. Maybe the biggest paradox here is that the only way
to trust another person is to trust God. If we trust God (e.g., the God Factor), then we can trust leaders.
However, that type of trust in leadership will look different—more like a God-centered covenant partnership.

In Israel, the prophets raised God’s voice to the kings to remind them of God’s intention for his people: justice, mercy, and righteousness. Godly leadership produces godliness and keeps God at the center of everything.

3. Justice over Power.

Injus8ce incites people to ac8on. We hear the battle cry and join the war to bring justice. However, it seems
whoever usurps power establishes the new “justice” that swings the pendulum, setting up the new rulers.
Those once enslaved by the Empire have become the new Emperors. God intervened in Israel, establishing laws that restricted the power of the kings (Deuteronomy 17), protecting the oppressed, and ensuring equality for all. Men and women, created in the image of God, would share dominion with God over his people as he intended from the beginning. God’s rule brought justice, righteousness, and peace… until the kings reverted to ruling as Emperors.

Kings like Solomon don’t like being told what to do. They see what they want and take it. They build their
kingdom in their image, to their glory, to their benefit. Reversing or ignoring God’s laws intended to preserve
justice and equality, they use their power or authority to promote their agenda at the expense of the weak,
the former leaders, and whoever doesn’t fall in line. The result is new type of injustice… at least until the
pendulum swings back on them. This injus8ce is exactly what the prophets addressed.

Jesus set an example in his leadership (e.g., breaking the leadership paradox). The way to justice for all is for all to take on the heart of a servant. Jesus calls us to give up any authority we have and grant that gib to others, especially those who are overlooked in our society. We grant everyone dignity, including ourselves, recognizing the image of God in each other.


4. Fragile Unity.

Solomon’s power extended the kingdom of Israel far and wide. These were the “glory days” of Israel—where
kings and queens paid tribute and honored Israel’s strength, wisdom, and even their God. However, when
Solomon ignored God’s instructions for Israel’s kings, God rebuked him. The seeds were sown. Solomon’s son Rehoboam chose hardline power tactics to get people in line… At that point, the kingdom split. Once fractured, the kings scrambled for power. The Northern Kingdom never recovered as power struggles led to murder, insurrection, alliances with other nations, and constant compromise. The Southern Kingdom generally followed suit except for a few revivals led by Asa/Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah.

Unity in any group is fragile. We like to villainize people—labeling who is “good” and who is “bad.” Good
people share my opinion. Bad people are uninformed, driven by bad motives, and have trouble seeing why I’m right. So we divide. Maintaining our distance helps us preserve our view of ourselves as the good people. After all, isn’t being right more important than being connected to those type of people? What did Jesus mean when he said he desires mercy, not sacrifice (Matthew 9:13, Hosea 6:6)?

However, the more we divide, the more we divide. Did Jesus really mean that the world will know about him
by our “complete unity” (John 17:23)? How much agreement is required for us to stay unified? Is it 100%, 90%, 50%…? How do we fight sin, rebellion, and “bad” things without dividing over our disagreements? But are we really the “good” people? Do we even agree with our own earlier beliefs? Aren’t we all a mixture of saint and sinister? Have we now abandoned the God Factor, Jesus’ leadership style, and rejected Jesus’ example of putting jus8ce and mercy over power to connect with us?


How can we embrace the Kingdom of God today?
Maybe you notice a progression in these points. When we take God off the throne, idolize leaders, value power and authority over justice, and villainize others while we fail to see the villain in ourselves, we cannot remain unified. Perhaps the route forward is to go back through each of these points and address our own hearts.

• Have I forgotten the God Factor? Do I truly value his presence and lordship over everything else?
• Do I trust God enough to trust others as leaders? Does my leadership start with submission to God?
• Am I willing to lead like Jesus in giving up any privilege to those who need it?
• Am I willing to be unified with people who don’t agree with everything I believe?

The kingdom of God is a messy place because we are a mess. May he bring his presence and peace into our
lives that we may embrace his kingdom!