“And when Joshua sent the people off, the Sons of Israel each went to his own inheritance to possess the land. And the people served Yahweh all the days of Joshua and all of the days of the Elders who lived days beyond Joshua, who had seen all of the great works that Yahweh had done in Israel.”
One of the themes that often puzzles people about the Bible is how often the spirituality of the body’s leadership is reflected in the spirituality (or lack thereof) of the people. Why don’t we see a body of god-fearing people when you have a bad king? Why do the people honor God when there is a revival in the life of the king?
The 19th century Scottish preacher, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, used to say, “My people’s greatest need is my personal holiness.” What he understood is that people normally follow the lead of their shepherd. And whether we see that in the Elders and Kings of Israel or the pastors and councils of churches, the pattern remains unchanged through history. Even in civil life in America, our healthiest times as a nation (when it came to spiritual matters) have always been when we have had godly leaders.
On a more local level, this trend should send a clear message to all of us who serve as ministers of the Gospel and in church leadership. How are we maintaining our souls? Are we being diligent to make our calling and election more sure (2 Peter 1:10)? It is too easy to get caught up in the busyness of the week and of the responsibilities to prepare church budgets and to set in place church guidelines; we need to be reminded to make this our greatest task — how will we care for our souls? For if we do not care for our own souls, how will we care for the souls of others?
And thus, history echoes the lesson we are learning in these verses. And, if we do not want that history repeated in our churches or in our communities, we need to encourage those who shepherd us to feed their souls as well as our own. That takes time, but in the scope of eternity, it is a worthwhile investment.