Faithfulness: The Key to Leadership

Today’s reading: Joshua 8:30-35. Key verse: Joshua 8:35.

I once had an employer that constantly lied in small ways. They told me they would be on the job at a certain time, and when I arrived at that time they wouldn’t be there. They told me they would have certain materials on the job needed for the work, and when I arrived those materials were nowhere to be found. Once, after waiting about fifteen minutes for this boss to show up, I left to move on to other responsibilities. When I next spoke with him, he had the audacity to reprimand me for not being at the job at the time we had agreed upon! His lack of faithfulness to his word made me lose both respect for him as a leader and confidence in his ability to lead.

At the end of Joshua 8, after the victory at Ai, Joshua leads the people of Israel on a very important mission. It’s a very small section of the book but records a highly significant event in the early life of Israel.

Then Joshua built an altar to the LORD, the God of Israel, in Mount Ebal, just as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded the sons of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of uncut stones on which no man had wielded an iron tool; and they offered burnt offerings on it to the LORD, and sacrificed peace offerings. He wrote there on the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written, in the presence of the sons of Israel" (Joshua 8:30-32).

Leadership Principle 8.5: Faithfulness is a vital leadership characteristic

Moses had commanded the Israelites to perform this sacred ritual when they entered the promised land. Half of the people stood on Mount Gerizim, and half on Mount Ebal as the book of the law was read. Just as Moses envisions it in Deuteronomy 27, Joshua accomplishes it in Joshua 8.

It may have been tempting for the people of Israel to set this aside and just not worry about it. Or maybe they might have said, “let’s do this covenantal renewal ceremony once the land has been completely taken.” But this is not the way of Joshua as a leader. He makes a bee-line for Shechem and these two mountains of the central hill country. Why? To keep a promise to his mentor, and fulfill the word of the Lord. As difficult as it would have been to march all the people of Israel up into these highlands of Ephraim and Manasseh, the reward was worth it.

Be A Promise Keeper

Joshua kept his promise to Moses. The people of Israel kept their promise to Moses. God kept his promise to Israel, by bringing them out of the wilderness and into a land flowing with milk and honey. Faithfulness is one of if not the key themes in the book of Joshua. Faithfulness is so important to the Lord because it expresses a divine attribute. It tells us who God is, at least in part (but a large part). God always, always keeps his word. He is constant and consistent, never breaking a promise. His words never fall to the ground; they are never spoken without purpose and precision.

The godly leader today must exhibit this kind of faithfulness in their life. It reflects God’s ultimate leadership and authority. It builds confidence and trust among followers. There are at least two applications here. A leader should not make promises lightly. That means we must think about and weigh the things we say, no matter how great or small. Tasks, relationships, and partnerships should not be entered into that cannot be carried out or completed. The leader is responsible to be faithful to their word from the initial promise or agreement.

Finish What Was Started

The second application is that it is important to follow through and complete what is started in leadership. As difficult as it might be to follow through with a task or endure a difficult relationship, it is God-like to be faithful to one’s word. This applies to all areas of life: schooling, business, employment, management, marriage, and I’m sure many more. When I was at college, far from home, in the midst of difficult classes and new people, there were many times I felt like quitting. In those times, my father encouraged me to finish what I started. Even though he didn’t point to a particular verse for this principle, I knew he was right. Here in Joshua (and throughout the Bible) that principle is supported. God finishes what he starts, and it is good for us to persevere in our work and relationships as well.

Imagine being an Israelite child on one of those mountains, and the wonder of occupying land that did not belong to you, and hearing the words of the law that would govern you read aloud while you verbally consented to each portion. Imagine knowing that God had been faithful to you through your years of wandering in the desert and now had kept his promise by bringing you into Canaan and driving out its people before you. Wouldn’t you follow that God, and Joshua, to the very ends of the earth?

Summary in a Sentence

Leaders must concentrate on the overlooked characteristic of faithfulness; faithfulness to God, to others, and to their word.

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