Monday, March 06, 2017

To Jezreel By Chariot

Jehu-style leadership is not always a bad thing.

Both Jehu and David were anointed king of Israel at God’s command. David chose to serve King Saul faithfully until forced to flee for his life, then served God and country as he was able while on the run until Saul met his end in battle. It took approximately 32 years to establish David’s kingdom.

Jehu, on the other hand, sniffed the political winds, discovered his fellow commanders all had his back, then promptly drove his chariot to Jezreel at speed and killed not just the king of Israel and his entire family, his friends, his priests and his inner circle, but the visiting king of Judah to boot. His kingdom was established in a matter of hours.

The similarities end with the anointing oil.

Git ’er Done, Jehu

Now, for all that Jehu may be open to legitimate criticism for his technique (he shot his own master through from behind while he was making a run for it), we must bear in mind that his act of conspiracy fulfilled the word of the Lord as he understood it. He had been told, “You shall strike down the house of Ahab your master, so that I may avenge on Jezebel the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the Lord,” and he took that as divine command, not merely prediction.

Until the day he was anointed, we are given no indication Jehu entertained thoughts of treason against the crown; he was just another loyal Israelite soldier doing his job. And when he did rebel, he advertised what he was doing as “zeal for the Lord”. Possibly it was. He did what it had been prophesied he would do, and he didn’t flinch or hesitate until the job was entirely done. Further, he put the prophets of Baal to the sword, demolished Baal’s place of worship, and — my favorite bit — made it “a latrine to this day”. At least initially the Lord could say to Jehu, “You have done well.”

That’s a certain sort of leadership, folks. A little rough around the edges, but Jehu got ’er done.


But Jehu-style leadership does not work in the Christian home. Don’t get me wrong, a zeal for the Lord that takes no prisoners is a good quality in a father and husband, but such enthusiasm doesn’t manifest itself in demolishing the house. It shows up in the way a husband pays attention to his wife’s nature and needs. It shows up in the way he honors her. It shows up in sacrificial devotion and a passion for holiness. It shows up in the way he takes care to gently and wisely instruct his children rather than driving them away from the things of God.

The leadership style required of a father and husband has more in common with David than Jehu, and even more in common with the Good Shepherd who gave his life for the sheep. Jehu is not welcome in the Christian home.

Jehu in the Field

Likewise, Jehu’s leadership style has no place among the people of God.

Again, zeal is an admirable thing. The Lord himself was consumed with it. It’s how that zeal comes out that defines us. Real elders don’t go around breaking stuff: “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him.” That’s a promise.

Godly zeal comes out in a desire for the work, not a desire to order people around. Godly leadership models the qualities desired in the sheep rather than imposing its will by force. One look at the qualities of an elder described by Paul to Timothy shows that zeal for the people of God is displayed in a life of patient and dignified self-management and gentle, wise direction of others.

The church should never tolerate its Jezebels, and that means zealous elders must be on guard against the incursion into the church of false and foreign doctrines. But hurling the doctrinally-aberrant from the windows before the Lord’s Supper — even by proxy — is probably not top of the agenda. If Jezebel has to be dealt with, the Head of the Church will undoubtedly have something to say about it. He does not need Jehu’s management style to accomplish his ends.

Jehu Takes the White House

Doug Wilson has an amusing and perceptive piece here on Donald Trump as the “Jehu” president. Like Jehu, Trump has happened upon a political situation ripe for change, and those who follow him are “all in”. Like Jehu, he came into office like a man on fire.

Hey, it seems to me if there is any place for Jehu-style leadership in the world today, it’s definitely the Oval Office. The days of reaching across the aisle or out to unite the people through traditional media are long gone: what’s on the other side of the aisle is actively anti-civilizational and the media is full of land mines. Nobody can govern effectively who is unaware of this.

The Downside of the Jehu Leader

That doesn’t mean that Jehu-style leadership is necessarily a good thing for those who exercise it. Jehu went too far in a number of ways. Killing the king of Judah and 42 visiting members of his family was beyond the scope of the prophecy; there was probably some room for nuance and negotiation there. God ultimately judged Jehu’s household for the “blood of Jezreel”. In other ways, he didn’t go far enough: “Jehu was not careful to walk in the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He did not turn from the sins of Jeroboam, which he made Israel to sin.”

That could have been the man. Perhaps Jehu was too emotional, or insufficiently methodical. Perhaps he was inconsistent in his commitment to the glory of God. It could also have been the leadership style. Some styles are more effective than others in the long term.

Despite his failings, if we’re going to imitate kings of Israel, let’s have a long look at David first.

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