If you were a king and in the last days of your life, getting ready to pass the kingdom to your son, what would you want for his leadership? For his future? For his success?
One of my pastimes that I thoroughly enjoy is both the reading and the viewing of The Lord of the Rings. To me, it is an epic story filled with many smaller and wonderful subplots within its grand narrative.
There is a scene in the third installment, The Return of the King, that I was reminded of in thinking through this post.
Denethor II, the 26th and last Ruling Steward of Gondor, is finding his city under siege by the evil army of Mordor. Denethor’s oldest son, Boromir, has already died at the hands of the Uruk-hai and the Steward of Gondor is falling into despair. Faramir, his youngest son, has come to Gondor to fight. And in a discussion with his father, Denethor states that he wishes that Boromir’s and Faramir’s place in battle had been exchanged.
Fast forward, and Faramir is being brought back to Gondor, gravely wounded by a poisoned arrow. It is at this point that Denethor gives in to despair and seems only to be concerned about his one remaining son. Thinking his son dead, he abandons leadership of his city to another and takes his son to the White Tower, where he builds a funeral pyre for his son’s ceremony.
Gandalf the wizard arrives on the scene in time to save Faramir from the flames of the pyre. Fearing that he lost his beloved city, that an illegitimate king would now rule the city, and that his son would be under the tutelage of the wizard, Denethor breaks his white rod of leadership over his knee, casts it into the flames, and commits suicide.
Sad story. And even sadder story of a son seeing his father live out his final hours of a legacy of leadership.
Leadership from the Psalms
I have been reading through the Psalms lately for my time in the Word, and recently read through chapter 72. David is in his last days of his life and specifically praying for his son, Solomon, who would be taking the throne once his father died. I am sure I have read this Psalm before, but as the Holy Spirit often does, I was shown something new that I had never seen before.
In this prayer, David offers up an amazing vision for how he desires his son to lead. In these 20 verses, I see five clear themes for a leader that I desire for myself and would pray for my son as I pass from this world one day. And contemplating their importance, they seem to be part of that irreducible minimum of leadership that we need in order to have great influence.
A view of others…first
David first and foremost asks that Solomon would lead others with justice. That he would make decisions based on what was right for those he was leading.
Give the king your justice, O God. (Verse 1)
Leading others based on what is right for them and not personal agenda. Seeing the plight of another and using your authority and influence for the best outcome. Stepping in quickly when those you lead cannot help themselves in making a situation right. To be able to act in a decisive manner that is both proper and fitting for the one involved.
Leaders of this caliber are rare. But what a request of a father for a son. And what a manner in which to lead those around me.
I also noticed David prayed that not only would Solomon’s actions be pleasing to God, but that his heart would chase after the heart of God.
Give…your righteousness to the royal son! (Verse 1)
No ulterior motives.
No selfish gain.
No using others as pawns for a personal agenda.
And notice that David is very specific with his request. Not just being a good king, but ruling with the very righteousness of God Himself. An overflow of character that looks like Jesus.
Protection for the poor and needy
For he delivers the poor and needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper. (Verse 12)
David desires that Solomon would be the type of leader who notices the plight of those who did not live like the king, i.e. those who could not help themselves. This is a leader who is listening to the cries of those who do not have the same privilege as the king.
He does not live in a bubble. He has a healthy view of his life, knowing that others exist besides himself and that not everyone has the same means and resources to address the problems going on in their life.
A leader in touch with those he leads. Now that is authentic leadership. In an age where we see too many leaders in it for the coin or the prestige, this type of leader is out of the ordinary.
Empathy for the weak and needy
He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. From oppression and violence he redeems their life, and precious is their blood in his sight. (Verses 13-14)
To have pity on another means to show compassion, to feel the pain of another, or to put yourself into the circumstance of another.
An empathetic leader is one who “gets down into the pit,” so to speak, and trudges through the emotional mud to bring another out. An empathetic leader must pay attention to what is going on around him or her. And in doing that, they are able to understand and share the feelings of another, and in turn, the other feels valued.
Our people need us as leaders. They need us to set productivity aside and to step into their world. Their world of hurt, pain, betrayal, sadness, and despair. And many times they are not looking for us to solve their problem, only to be an anchor for them in their storm.
Influence that is far-reaching
This is an interesting character trait that David prays for his son.
May he be like the rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth. And may people blossom in the cities like the grass of the field! (Verses 6, 16)
I love when I mow my grass and then a gentle rain comes soon after. The grass is so lush, full of color, and grows quickly. This is a powerful simile from David in describing his son.
Simply put, David prayed that to be around Solomon would be refreshing, encouraging, and uplifting.
And in conclusion
Am I that type of leader? Are you that type of leader? When people are around us as leaders, do they come away refreshed like rain on freshly-mowed grass, or do they come away dry, parched, and worn, like walking through a desert?
There are many great books out there on leading well, but the Psalms give us what it takes to be a leader who leaves a legacy. But do not now sound your horn and jump into “doing better.” These are not traits that happen just by trying harder. No, rather, these traits come by being dependent on the Holy Spirit to do within you as a leader what you are not able to do yourself.
To have a spirit of justice, noble character, to protect and empathize with the poor, weak, and needy, and have an influence that feels like a gentle rain – these only come by walking in step with the Spirit. These are not “do better” charges; rather, they are fruit of looking like Jesus.
We need more leaders like this. People want more leaders like this.
I’d love to hear from you — please leave a reply below if you have any thoughts to add to the conversation.
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