When a Leader Worships

“Still can’t sleep?” asked Caleb. He gestured towards the west. In the predawn hours, the city of Jericho could be seen in the moonlight. The city’s high walls and several taller buildings were black and stood out. The sun had not yet risen, but there was enough light.

“No. You know I haven’t slept well in the last week,” said Joshua.

Caleb clapped his hand on Joshua’s shoulder. It was a gnarled bony hand. Caleb was 81 years old and still very strong and energetic. His mind was still sharp and rivaled most men half his age. Caleb planned to go into battle with his oldest friend next to him. The two were the oldest men. They had survived Egypt. They had survived 40 years wandering in the desert. Just last month, they had tasted their first fruits of the Promised Land.

Caleb adjusted the straps to his armor. He had taken it from a dead Amalekite commander several years ago. The armor was made of leather and reinforced with metal. It fit rather well, along with the dead man’s sword. The sword was a short stabbing sword with a wide blade.

“It’s not like he is going to ask for it back,” Caleb had when his daughter Achsah complained it. “Besides, it fits me better than that Egyptian junk armor they took off the Egyptians.”

Now that armor and sword might be put into use.

“You know what, you should do what you normally do,” Caleb said. “Pray. Do what Moses did. Ask Jehovah to help you figure it out.”

“You should not be so flip; that was Moses. I’m not supposed to go to the Tabernacle; that is for the priests. Don’t forget what happened to Aaron’s sons.”

“Yeah, I haven’t forgotten.”

Joshua smiled. “Thanks, old friend. If you don’t mind, I’d like to be alone a little longer. Come find me when the sun has risen and it’s time for breakfast.”

Caleb made his way down the hill overlooking the camp. As he made his way down, he made one more glance back towards his friend. Jericho could be seen in the distance and then disappeared.

Joshua got up from his sitting position. He adjusted his battered armor and picked up the cap. The Egyptian junk that Caleb complained was actually comfortable and protected the torso. It was supple but then Joshua had been wearing it nearly 40 years. There were some nicks from the last skirmish with some marauding Ishmaelites and Amalekites, but it had endured well. The cap was a metal hoop around his head covered with leather. It was a Hittite design. The Israelites had no armorers and very few metal artificers. They had to make do with what they plundered from the surrounding nations.

Just then, Joshua spotted a man standing in the distance. He shaded his eyes and blinked several times to ensure he was not imagining things. The desert was known to play tricks with the eyes. Besides, Joshua was eighty years old and he wanted to make sure his eyes were not failing him. He walked towards the figure and saw that indeed it was a man.

The man had a drawn sword in his hand, but the sword was pointed downward into the sand. The sword was bright, possibly made of a metal that he had never seen before. Steel was unknown in the ancient world and in fact it would not be invented for several more millennia. The pattern will called Damascus and it would allow the swords to be stronger than ever. There were several words engraved on the sword.

Furthermore, the man wore bright armor made of the same steel. He wore metal greaves around his feet. The man was not wearing a helmet but was rather tucked under his elbow. The helmet was an enclosed design with stiffened horse hair on top to form a prow.

Joshua swallowed hard and closed the distance. He had to find out who this man was and what he was doing near Jericho.

“Are you for us or against us?” Joshua called out.

“No, but as Commander of the army of theLord I have now come.”

There was power in the words and Joshua knew immediately he was in the presence of someone much, much, greater than he was. Joshua was the commander of an inexperienced army and the man before him was commander of hundreds of legions, a force made of angels. There was only one response.

Joshua knelt down. Still looking down, “What does my Lord say to my servant?”
“Take off your sandals for the ground you are standing is holy.”

Joshua reached down and took off his sandals. The man nodded then tapped on Joshua on the shoulder. “Good. Now, rise, because you have a lot to do. Here’s what you’re going to do…”

The short story above is a dramatization of what might have taken place just before Joshua met the Commander of the army of the Lord. A lot of commentators agree that this might be a pre-incarnation of appearance of none other than Jesus Christ. Had it been an actual angel, the angel would have told Joshua to get up and not worship him because they were fellow servants. Instead, the stranger accepts Joshua’s act of worship which meant God was really there.

That might be an interesting tidbit, but I really learned from this event is that leadership and worship go hand in hand. They are two odd concepts that don’t seem to mix. If you are in a church, you might have a worship leader who leads singing on a Sunday morning, but that’s not what I’m talking about.

I am talking about what a leader worships.

Some leaders worship power. It is all about power. It is all about what they can do and maybe even get away with it. As Lord Acton rightly said: “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Some leaders worship fame. You don’t have to be a politician to worship fame. You don’t have to be a CEO to worship fame. You can be a deacon in a 200 person church and still go after fame. You can be a regional sales manager in Omaha and still go after fame.

Some leaders worship themselves. There is an interesting story about US Army General Douglas MacArthur. There is no doubt that MacArthur was a very capable general. After being forced to leave the Philippines in 1942 after the Japanese invasion, he vowed he would be back. For the next 2 years, MacArthur formulated the strategy to win the war in the Pacific. He achieved his goals and returned in triumph to liberate the Philippines. For all of his achievements, he was made a 5-star general of the army.

There is also no doubt that MacArthur had a huge ego. While President Franklin Roosevelt was alive, his superiors put with him in part because he and the president were friends. But when FDR died, Harry Truman became president and Truman had a very different personality than FDR. Suddenly the dynamics changed. Fast forward 6 years; in 1951, MacArthur commanded the UN troops to fight the Korean war. MacArthur’s strategy: the end-run at Incheon was genius and again he proved his ability. But when MacArthur and President Truman started to disagree on policy and disagree publicly, this started to come to a turning point.

When Truman visited Wake Island in 1951 for talks, MacArthur was there to meet him but he forgot to salute the president. Rather, he shook hands instead. MacArthur as the top general had been at the top so long that he forgot he answered to the Commander in Chief: the President of the United States. Although Truman was not annoyed, others were, especially those who had a higher view of what the office, not the man, is entitled to.

I bring up this story of Douglas MacArthur as a foil. Sometimes leaders get too enamored with themselves that they forget there is Someone greater than them. It doesn’t always appear that way: after all in the UK, who can be higher than Queen Elizabeth II? Yet her and many of her forefathers’ regnal names say they are king or queen by the Grace of God. If you are curious, it is Queen Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God Queen of this Realm and of Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.

It’s funny how leaders forget they are there by the Grace of God, even in the workplace. Maybe next time, to stay humble, change your title to be “John Smith, by the Grace of God regional sales manager, Ford Motor Company of Omaha.”

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