Systemic Failure of Leadership

On the evening of September 11, 2012, Islamic militants attacked the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. This resulted in the death of four Americans, including the U.S. Ambassador, J. Christopher Stevens. Three members of the Embassy’s security team believe that Stevens would have survived the attack if they had not been delayed 3 times by the top CIA officer. Initially, it was reported that the attack was the result of the release of an anti-Muslim video. Further investigation revealed that this was false and the attack was premeditated.

The 2012 Benghazi attack is still under investigation, however, a report released on December 20, 2012 by the Accountability Review Board states, “Systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at the senior levels within two bureaus of the State Department … resulted in a special mission security posture that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place.”

We may think that the systemic failure of leadership only occurs in our times, but history is filled with the failures and the consequences of poor leadership. I Samuel 15 tells the famous story of King Saul’s failure – failure to obey the word of the Lord.

Thus says the Lord of hosts: “I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed him on the way when he came up from Egypt. Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” I Samuel 15:2-3

And Saul attacked the Amalekites, from Havilah all the way to Shur, which is east of Egypt. He also took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. (7-9)

Noticed the words, “unwilling to destroy them” in verse 9. Saul knew what was asked of him, but he was unwilling to complete the task. Don’t miss this – unwillingness to do exactly what God commands is rebellion.

Have you ever been asked to do something by an authority? Is the expectation to do some but not all of what is required? No, of course not. If you are unwilling to do exactly what has been asked, then it is rebellion. Now, multiply that times 1 billion because rebellion against God is unwillingness to do what the highest authority, the great I AM, is asking. This means your rebellion is of the absolute highest degree. We may take our rebellion lightly, but the authority, in this case Yahweh, most certainly does not! In our culture we like to sugar coat everything and say anything and everything is okay, but that is a lie. Unwillingness to obey always has been and always will be rebellion.

Let’s read on –

But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?”

 And Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and the oxen, to sacrifice to the Lord your God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.” (vs. 14-15)

After Samuel tells Saul to be quiet, he continues:

So Samuel said, “When you were little in your own eyes, were you not head of the tribes of Israel? And did not the Lord anoint you king over Israel? Now the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go, and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do evil in the sight of the Lord?”

And Saul said to Samuel, “But I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me, and brought back Agag king of Amalek; I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took of the plunder, sheep and oxen, the best of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.” (vs. 17-21)

You notice that Saul tells Samuel that he did obey, but “the people” took the plunder. In other words, God has commanded Saul to do something and when he did not obey, he blamed the people. As a leader you do not have the luxury of blaming others for your failures. Either you obey or you don’t. Saul may have excused his disobedience, but God did not. Listen to part of the response of Samuel:

For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,
And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
He also has rejected you from being king.” (vs. 23)

This shows us exactly how serious rebellion is. Saul was rejected by God. And although there would be a time lapse before David would be king, in the next chapter Yahweh sends Samuel to anoint David.

If we are going to operate in leadership over God’s people, then we MUST obey the voice of the Lord. This is NOT optional, it is required. Otherwise, one way or another, God will remove us.

So where does rebellion lead – death and destruction. Sounds harsh, doesn’t it. But if we follow the text, that is exactly where rebellion leads. From chapter 16-31 we find that Saul’s kingship takes a spiral downward and culminates in chapter 31.

And when his armorbearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell on his sword, and died with him. So Saul, his three sons, his armorbearer, and all his men died together that same day.

So it happened the next day, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. And they cut off his head and stripped off his armor, and sent word throughout the land of the Philistines, to proclaim it in the temple of their idols and among the people. Then they put his armor in the temple of the Ashtoreths, and they fastened his body to the wall of Beth Shan. (vs. 5-6, 8-10)

The Philistines defeated Saul, which means land was lost and transferred to a foreign power. In addition, Saul’s head was cut off and his body put on display in the temple of the Philistine’s idols. When leaders rebel, God’s people suffer loss. No man or woman is an island to himself, our rebellion affects others. And when the highest leaders rebel, the effects are devastating. The result of Saul’s rebellion is far reaching, but in a nutshell the result is God’s people suffer and idolatry spreads.

Does rebellion matter to God – YES! It matters and has lasting effects. Lawrence Freedman in his book on strategy makes this observation, “in the end only one strategic judgment matters: whether or not to obey God.”

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