The Irrationality of Spiritual Leadership

Today’s reading: Joshua 5:1-9. Key verses: Joshua 5:1-2.

In today’s passage, the people of Israel had just witnessed an incredible miracle with the crossing of the Jordan river into Canaan. The invasion had begun. The people were excited. The Lord was bringing them at last into their land. It looked like they could not be stopped! Even the fear of Israel raged a psychological warfare on Canaan ahead of them:
"Now it came about when all the kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan to the west, and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea, heard how the LORD had dried up the waters of the Jordan before the sons of Israel until they had crossed, that their hearts melted, and there was no spirit in them any longer because of the sons of Israel" (Joshua 5:1).

With all systems go, now would be the best time to march to Jericho and attack, right? Wrong. The Lord has other plans:

"At that time the LORD said to Joshua, 'Make for yourself flint knives and circumcise again the sons of Israel the second time,'” (Joshua 5:2).

Imagine being in Joshua’s position and hearing this. Wait, what? You want us to do what? Lord are you sure? It seems counter-intuitive at best to think that Israel would be best-served by participating in circumcision right before battle. Instead of being at the top of their game, after the cutting they would be sore and recovering, anything but in top condition for war.

Yet the Lord is more concerned about their spiritual condition than their physical condition. Circumcision was the sign of their covenantal relationship with him, and he wanted to make sure their hearts were devoted wholly to their God.

Leadership Principle 5.1: The spiritual condition of a leader is of utmost importance to God

The Lord was more concerned about the circumcision of his people demonstrating their total allegiance to him than he was about their physical prowess and preparedness for war. We should learn an important lesson here. Godly leaders take their spiritual state seriously. They do not neglect their relationship with their God and adherence to his word. In fact, this is more important than organizational, administrative, managerial, or relational aspects of leadership. This one thing affects everything else in a leader’s life.

The Lord knew that in order to proceed with the conquest, he needed his people in right relationship with him, entirely devoted to him and obedient to the covenantal sign. Then, and only then, would they be ready for the task at hand.

Are there aspects of our lives that are hindering our relationship with the Lord and obedience to his word? They must be cut off and thrown away in order for us to be able to serve the Lord as he desires us to. Spend some time meditating today on your relationship with God and whether there are aspect of this life that are holding you back from being as effective for him as you would like to be.

Summary in a Sentence

The spiritual aspect of leadership, the leader’s relationship with God, is of primary importance, even more than administrative, organizational, relational, or managerial aspects.

JJ Routley

Jonathan J. Routley (JJ) serves as Professor of Bible and Theology at Emmaus Bible College in Dubuque, Iowa. JJ also serves on the Board of Directors for the Associates for Biblical Research (ABR). He holds a PhD in Theological Studies from Columbia International University, South Carolina. JJ and his family reside in Dubuque, Iowa.
Twitter: @JJ_Routley
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