The Pastor of Maywood Baptist Church, Jake Taylor, calls himself “Coach Jake.” He has a passionate desire to not be seen as a superstar minister or as the only shepherd of the congregation.
He believes that his role is to coach other “players” on the team to discover their gift and serve God to their best.
Many people who serve with Coach Jake have memorized Ephesians 4.7-13 where the role of pastors and teachers is “to equip the saints for the work of ministry” (verse 12).
Centuries before Paul wrote the Letter to the Ephesians, Moses recognized the need for shared and cooperative leadership.
The people were in Moab and poised to possess the land of promise. Moses knew they needed leadership that was able to mobilize 1.5 million people.
He had this dialogue with the people in Deuteronomy 1.
— Verses 9-13 – At that time I said to you, “I am unable by myself to bear you. The Lord your God has multiplied you, so that today you are as numerous as the stars of heaven.
“May the Lord, the God of your ancestors, increase you a thousand times more and bless you, as he has promised you! But how can I bear the heavy burden of your disputes all by myself?
“Choose for each of your tribes individuals who are wise, discerning, and reputable to be your leaders.”
— Verse 14 – You answered me, “The plan you have proposed is a good one.”
— Verse 15 – So I took the leaders of your tribes, wise and reputable individuals, and installed them as leaders over you, commanders of thousands, commanders of hundreds, commanders of fifties, commanders of tens, and officials, throughout your tribes.
The only way for God’s people to properly function and to conquer the land was for each person to fulfill their role as assigned by God.
It was an honor to be chosen to be chosen to lead, but it carried a serious burden of responsibility. Depending on a person’s position of authority, the lives of thousands were their responsibility.
When Coach Jake makes the development of leaders a top priority at Maywood Baptist Church, he is in good company and following the examples of Moses and Paul.
The obstacle that he encounters is a tradition that makes the pastor a superstar and allows members to escape their responsibility. The good news is that many people are responding to Coach Jake’s leadership and have embraced using their gifts according to the Ephesians 4 passage.
Like the Hebrew people under Moses, we all must function in the leadership role that God has for us. We need to discover our spiritual gifts and exercise them in his work in the world.
One of the roles of leaders in Moses’ day was to execute justice when disputes arose among the people.
Deuteronomy is like reading the “blueprints” for God’s people for all time. They tell us the kind of society that God expects from people who follow him.
The people of God had wandered for 40 years, because they had rebelled against God’s direction. When the time came to enter the promised land, God gave them instruction about just dealings with one another.
Verses 16-17 – I charged your judges at that time: “Give the members of your community a fair hearing, and judge rightly between one person and another, whether citizen or resident alien.
“You must not be partial in judging: hear out the small and the great alike; you shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God’s.
“Any case that is too hard for you, bring to me, and I will hear it.”
I want to emphasize the essential parts of Moses’ instructions about justice.
(1) “The judgment is God’s” (verse 17). The authority for justice resides in God, not humans.
God has revealed his standards of justice in the Bible. When making just decision, we need to look to God for his principles and adhere to them.
(2) God is not partial and neither should we be partial. Both the small and the great deserve equal justice.
(3) Judges should not be intimidated by the relative position of people who appear before them. They should live in the “fear of the Lord” rather than the fear of humans.
(4) The resident alien (or immigrant in our modern language) deserves the same justice as that of a citizen.
Later in Deuteronomy, Moses will remind the people why the immigrant was to be treated with justice. He said, “You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10.19).
Leadership in 2021
Deuteronomy is an ancient document that has great relevance to today. As God’s “blueprint” for our lives, it challenges to make two decisions.
(1) Do we know our leadership role in God’s work and are we engaged in serving God with our best?
(2) Do we promote the kind of justice that is revealed in this passage?
About This Blog
Please take a moment to view the video that Rudy Ross and I have produced on this passage. It can be found on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel. Rudy has many insights that will add to your appreciation of Deuteronomy.
I am indebted to Peter Craigie’s commentary on Deuteronomy that has both informed and challenged me to live closer to God.
Please email your prayer request to firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.