The Changing of the Guard 12 – The Standard of Excellence

Select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Then it will be that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they themselves shall judge. So it will be easier for you, for they will bear the burden with you (Ex. 18:21-22).

Moses was facing a political crisis. The governmental apparatus of the nation had begun to bog down. Justice was impaired. Administration was slowed. And services were stymied.

Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, suggested that the entire civil structure be reformed to accord with God’s will (Ex. 18:23). He said that all the people, being the priests of God, commissioned as they were to be salt and light, should be taught the statues and the laws of God (Ex. 18:20). And then, according to Jethro, they should exercise their responsibilities as righteous citizens (Ex.18:18). Men should be selected out of the midst of the holy congregation he said, who could exercise the ministry of political action (Ex.18:21).

 But these men had to adhere to certain standards before they could be considered for this ministry. Their character had to be tested. They had to be screened by the Law. To govern in terms of the covenant, first they had to be governed in terms of the covenant. To judge, first they had to be judged. Those who are not willing to be judged by God’s law are warned not to execute judgment: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you” (Matt. 7:1-2).

So, what were the terms of judgment? What were the Biblical prerequisites for exercising the ministry of political action?  What political standard did the men have to adhere to?

God-Fearers

First, they had to adhere to the Biblical standard of godliness. They had to be men who feared God (Ex. 18:21). According to Jethro, this is an inescapable prerequisite. After all:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good under- standing have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever (Ps. 111:10).

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction (Prov. 1:7).

The fear of the Lord prolongs days, but the years of the wicked will be shortened (Prov. 10:27).

In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence, and His children will have a place of refuge. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, to avoid the snares of death (Prov.14:26-27).

Better is a little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure with trouble (Prov. 15:16).

 A nation whose leaders fear God will suffer no want (Ps. 34:9). It will ever be blest (Ps. 115:13). It will be set high above all the nations of the earth (Deut. 28:1). Ancient Israel’s greatness can be directly attributed to her leaders’ fear of God: Abraham was a God-fearer (Gen. 20:11); Joseph was a God- fearer (Deut. 10:12); as were Job (Job 41:23);
Joshua (Joshua 24:14); David (II Sam. 23:3); Jehoshaphat (II Chron. 19:4); Hezekiah (Jer.26:19); Nehemiah (Neh. 5:15); and Jonah (Jonah 1:9).

 Clearly, those who exercised the ministry of political action in Israel would likewise have to be God-fearers.

Men of Truth

Second, they had to adhere to the Biblical standard of truthfulness. They had to be men of honesty and integrity (Ex.18:21). According to Jethro, this too is an inescapable prerequisite.

After all:
“He who speaks truth declares righteousness, but a false witness, deceit. There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health. The truthful lip shall be established forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment. Deceit is in the heart
of those who devise evil, but counsellors of peace have joy. No grave trouble will overtake the righteous, but the wicked shall be filled with evil. Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal truthfully are His delight” (Prov.12:17-22).

“Even though divination is on the lips of the king, his mouth must not transgress in judgement. It is an abomination for kings to commit wickedness, for a throne is established by righteousness. Righteous lips are the delight of kings, and they love him who speaks what is right” (Prov.16:10, 12-13).

“Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him, that glory may dwell in our land. Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Truth shall spring out of the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven”(Ps.85:9-11).

God’s people are commanded to worship Him in truth (Jn. 4:24), serve Him in truth (Joshua 24:14), and walk before Him in truth (I Kings 2:4). The nation that desires the blessing of God must have leaders who esteem the truth (Proverbs 23:3), love the truth
(Zech. 8:19), rejoice in the truth (I Cor. 13:6), meditate upon the truth (Phil.4:8), and execute judgment with truth (Zech. 8:16). For they who speak the truth show forth righteousness (Prov.12:17) and are the delight of God (Prov.12:22).

Truth sanctifies (Jn.17:17-19) and purifies (I Pet. 1:22) and thus ought to be acknowledged (II Tim. 2:25), believed (II Thess. 2:12-13), obeyed (Rom.2:8), loved (II Thess.2:10), and manifested (II Cor.  4:2).

Clearly, those who exercised the ministry of political action in Israel would not only have to
 fear God, they would have to be scrupulously honest as well.

Selfless Servants

Third, they had to adhere to the Biblical standard of selflessness. They had to be men of impeccability, hating covetousness and dishonest gain (Ex. 18:21). According to Jethro, this too is an inescapable prerequisite. After all:

“Yes, they are greedy gods which never have enough. And they are shepherds who cannot understand; they all look to their own way, every one for his own gain, from his own territory” (Isa. 56:11).

“I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.  As a partridge that broods but does not hatch, so is he who gets riches, but not by right; it will leave him in the midst of his days, and at his end he will be a fool” (Jer.17:10-11).

“Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith.
Indeed, because he transgresses by wine, he is a proud man, and he does not stay at home. Because he enlarges his desire as hell, and he is like death, and cannot be satisfied, he gathers to himself all nations and heaps up for himself all peoples. Shall not all these take up a proverb against him, and a taunting riddle against him, and say, ‘Woeto him who increases what is not his – how long? And to him who loads himself with many pledges?’ ” (Hab. 2:4-6).

“For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mat. 16:26).

Covetous leaders often brought calamity upon the entire nation of Israel:  Balaam, in loving the wages of unrighteousness (II Pet. 2:15); Achan, in hiding the contraband treasure of Jericho (Joshua 7:21); Eli’s sons, in taking the flesh of the sacrifice (I Sam. 8:3); Saul, in sparing Agag and the booty of war (I Sam.15:8-9); Ahab, in desiring Naboth’s  vineyard
(I Kings 21:2-16); and Judas, in swiping from the purse (Jn. 12:6).

 Selfless leaders, on the other hand, often brought great blessing upon the nation: Abraham,
in according to Lot first choice in the land of Canaan (Gen. 13:9); Moses, in choosing to suffer affliction with his people rather than enjoy the passing pleasures of sin (Heb. 11:25); Samuel, in his administration of  justice (I Sam. 12:3-4); the widow of Zarephath, in sharing with Elijah the last of her sustenance (I Kings 17:12-15);  Daniel, in refusing rewards from
 Belshazzar (Daniel 5:16-17); and Esther in risking her life for the deliverance of her people (Esther  4:16).

Clearly, those who exercised the ministry of political action in Israel would not only have to fear God and maintain strict honesty, they would have to serve in utter selflessness as well.

Able Men

But taking priority over these three  essential character traits, Jethro made it clear to Moses that the men who were selected out of the congregation to serve in civil government had to be men of ability (Ex. 18: 21). They had to adhere to the Biblical standard of excellence.  They had to demonstrate wisdom, discernment, understanding, and sheer skill. God granted Joseph great success as a leader because he combined godliness, truthfulness, and selflessness with evident excellence (Gen. 39:6). Everything he did prospered in his hand (Gen. 39:3). He served with excellence in Potiphar’s household (Gen. 39:5). He served with excellence in the
Egyptian prison (Gen. 39:22). He served with excellence in Pharaoh’s court (Gen. 41: 37-45). Joseph was not a dullard who was able to get by in this world simply because he had the love of God in his heart. He changed the world because he worked out what God had worked in (Phil. 2:12-13).

Similarly, God granted Nehemiah great success as a leader because he combined godliness, truthfulness, and selflessness with evident excellence (Neh. 2:18). Everything he did prospered in his hand (Neh. 13:14, 22, 31). He served with excellence in Artaxerxes’ court (Neh. 1:11, 2:1-8). He served with excellence as the governor of the land (Neh. 5:14-19). Nehemiah overcame innumerable obstacles with a dazzling display of excellence in leadership: He planned (Neh. 2:5-6); he delegated (Neh. 2:9); he encouraged (Neh. 2:17-18); he motivated (Neh. 4:14-20); he organized (Neh. 3:1-32); he improvised (Neh. 4:21-23); and
he laboured (Neh. 4:23).

Like Joseph and Nehemiah, Daniel obtained great success as a leader because he combined godliness, truthfulness, and selflessness with evident excellence (Dan. 5:12). Everything he did prospered in his hand (Dan. 6:3). He served with excellence in the school of Ashpenaz (Dan. 1:3-20). He served with excellence in the court of Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 2:46-48). He 
served with excellence under the regency of Darius (Dan. 6:3-5). Daniel obtained great favour with both God and man because of his proficiency and ability: He demonstrated intelligence in every branch of wisdom (Dan.1:4); he was endowed with great understanding (Dan. 4:18); he willingly underwent rigorous training and preparation for governmental service (Dan. 1:18); he displayed deep discernment and broad knowledge (Dan. 5:14); and he demonstrated political skillfulness in the king’s presence (Dan. 1:20).

Each of these men met and even exceeded the Biblical standard of excellence. Each of them was a “man of ability’ (Ex.18:21).

Clearly, those who exercised the ministry of political action in Israel would not only have to fear God, maintain strict honesty, and serve in utter selflessness, they would have to demonstrate real ability through excellence as well.

Divine Excellence

God’s own excellence is evident in His every attribute. The Biblical standard of excellence is thus rooted in His character. His name is excellent.

 “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth, You who set Your glory above  the heavens!” (Ps. 8:1).

“Let them praise the name of the Lord, for His name alone is exalted; His glory is above the earth and heaven” (Ps. 148:13).

“Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every
 name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil.2:9-11).

His lovingkindness is excellent:
“Your mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens, and Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Your righteousness reaches to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the great mountains; Your  
judgments are a great deep; O Lord, You preserve man and beast. How excellent is Your  lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings. Oh, continue Your  lovingkindness to those who know You, and Your righteousness to the upright in heart” (Ps. 36:5-7, 10).

“Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You. Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name” (Ps. 63:4-5).

His greatness and power are excellent:
“Praise the Lord! Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty firmament! Praise Him for His mighty acts; praise Him according to His excellent greatness!” (Ps. 150:1-2).

“Blessed are You, Lord God of Israel, our Father, forever and ever. Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power and the glory, the victory and the majesty; for all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the Kingdom, O Lord, and You are exalted as head over all. Both riches and honour come from You, and You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; in Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. Now therefore, our God, we thank You and praise Your glorious name” (II Chron. 29:10-13).

His salvation is excellent:
“And in that day you will say: ‘O Lord, I will praise You; though You were angry with me, Your anger is turned away, and You comfort me. Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; For YAH, the Lord, is my strength and my song He also has become my salvation.’ And in that day you will say: ‘Praise the Lord, call upon His name declare His deeds among the peoples, make mention that His name is exalted. Sing to the Lord, for He has done excellent things; this is known in all the earth’ ” (Isa. 12:1-2, 4-5).

“Your right hand, O Lord, has become glorious in power; Your right hand, O Lord, has dashed the enemy in pieces. And in the greatness of Your excellence You have overthrown those who rose against You; You sent forth Your wrath which consumed them like stubble. Fear and dread will fall on them; by the greatness of your arm they will be as still as a stone, till Your people pass over, O Lord, till the people pass over whom You have purchased”
(Ex. 15:6-7,16).

His will is perfect:
“God is clothed in fearful splendour: He, Shaddai, is far beyond our reach. Supreme in power, in equity, excelling in justice and in willful purpose toward men” (Job 37:22-23).

“And do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Ro. 12:2).

His great and mighty deeds are excellent:
“Sing to the Lord, for He has done excellent things; this is known in all the earth. Cry out and shout, O inhabitant of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel in your midst!” (Isa. 12:5-6).

“Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints! Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glory Your name? For You alone are
holy.  For all nations shall come and worship before You, for Your judgements have been manifested” (Rev. 15:3-4).

His ways are excellent:

“He has made His counsel excellent and His wisdom great” (Isa. 28:29, NASV).

“As for God, His way is perfect; the Word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him. For who is God, except the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God?”
 (II Sam. 22:31-32).

 From cover to cover the Bible is a pantheon of praise to the excellencies of our God.

Called to Excellence

As God’s representatives before men (II Cor. 5:20), we are to “proclaim His excellencies”
 (I Peter 2:9). But our proclamation must not merely be “in word or with tongue, but in deed and with truth” (I Jn. 3:18). We proclaim His excellence by our excellence. In everything we do and in everything we say, we are to manifest Him who has “called us by His own glory and excellence” (II Pet. 1:3). As we follow after Him (Matt. 4:19), as we walk in His footsteps (I Pet. 2:21), and as we imitate His attributes (I Pet. 1:16), excellence is to be our hallmark. Like Jethro, Joseph, Nehemiah, Daniel, and even God Himself, we are to be noted for our excellencies.

God expects nothing less of us.

He who long ago demanded excellent sacrifices (Mal.1:8-10), excellent artistry (Ex. 28:2), and excellent service (Prov. 12:4), has in no way altered His standards of discipleship. We are to live lives marked by moral excellence (II Peter 1:5). We are to keep our behaviour
excellent at  all times (I Peter  1:12). Our minds are to dwell constantly on excellence
(Phil. 4:8). We are to walk in the way of excellence (I Cor. 12:31), manifesting cultural excellence (Gen. 1:28), economic excellence (Matt. 25:14-30), familial excellence
(Prov. 31:10-31), spiritual excellence (Phil. 1:10), and evangelistic excellence
(Matt. 28:18-20). Mediocrity and triviality are to be the furthest things from the experience of faithful Christians.

The great God of excellence calls us to be men and women of excellence (I Thess. 4:1, 10). Just as God called those under Moses and Jethro to excellence, He calls us to be men and women of ability (Ex. 18:21).

Unfortunately, the modern evangelical Church has failed to heed this call. It has almost
become an evangelical legacy to churn out the basest sort of triviality: sloppy literature, sloppy music, sloppy social outreach, sloppy scholarship, sloppy worship, and sloppy
political action. It seems that we have become “addicted to mediocrity.” The liberal humanists can scoff at our legislative initiatives, slander our hand-picked candidates, scorn our most precious causes, subvert our judicial agendas, and scandalize our most important issues because we have failed to excel. We have failed to raise up and train up young Josephs, Nehemiahs, and Daniels.  We have failed to take note of and emulate the excellencies of Almighty God. In short, we have failed to heed the high call of diligent discipleship.

That is why we must be clearheaded about our political agenda: Yes, God rules; yes, He has ordained politics as a legitimate sphere for ministry; yes, He has called us to be salt and light, redeeming the land as priests unto Him; but — if we pursue dominion in the same sloppy,
shoddy way we’ve done everything else, we’d best forget about it altogether.

 The fact is, if Christians gained control over the government of the United States tomorrow, our nation would be in real trouble. We simply do not yet have men and women of ability. We do not yet have men and women weaned on a legacy of excellence.

Not yet.

But, if we are to heed Christ’s commands to render unto Him all things, to reclaim the land for Him, and to disciple the nations, teaching them to  observe  all that He has commanded (Matt. 28:20), then it is high time we returned to the standard of Jethro and Moses, the standard of Joseph, Nehemiah, and Daniel. It is high time we returned to the Biblical standard of excellence.

Conclusion

The sixth basic principle in the Biblical blueprint for political action is that we must return to the standard of excellence. God’s earthly spokesmen must be governed by the Law of the covenant. Careless and haphazard moral tinkering by the “new right” will not be sufficient to return our nation to civil sanity. We must raise up leaders who know what to do and how to do it well.

The first major political crisis Moses faced after the exodus was a leadership vacuum. He simply could not do the job alone. Therefore Jethro, his father-in-law, suggested that the entire civil structure of the fledgling Israelite nation be reformed. Why not appoint men from out of the midst of the congregation who could exercise the ministry of political action, he asked? Of course, he pointed out these appointees would have to be qualified:
They would have to be godly men, trustworthy men, and men free of covetousness. And in addition to these prerequisites, they would have to be able men. The task of caring for the civil sphere is certainly too important to leave in the hands of the godless, the lecherous, and the greedy. But it is also too important to leave in the hands of the sloppy and careless.

It was on this foundation of excellence that Moses built the political action of the nation of Israel, and it is on that same foundation of excellence that we must build the political action of our own nation.

Summary

 Jethro advised Moses to call men out of the congregation to exercise the ministry of political action, to lead the thousands, the hundreds, the fifties, and the tens.

 It was necessary that these men be qualified.

First, they had to adhere to the Biblical standard of godliness. They had to be God-fearers.

Second, they had to adhere to the Biblical standard of truthfulness. They had to be men of honesty and integrity.

Third, they had to adhere to the Biblical standard of selflessness. They had to be men of impeccability, hating covetousness.

But, besides these prerequisites, they had to be men of ability as well. They had to adhere to the Biblical standard of excellence.

This standard of excellence is illustrated in the lives of Joseph, Nehemiah, and Daniel, but it is rooted in the very character of God Himself.

The great God of excellence calls us to emulate Him. He calls us to be men and women of excellence.

Sadly, the Church in our day has failed to hear or heed this call.

If we are to reclaim the land, if we are to be salt and light, if we are appropriately to render unto Him all things, then obviously we will have to overcome our addiction to mediocrity and adhere to the Biblical standard of excellence.

And the sooner, the better.

“Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God” (I Thess. 4:1).

Comments Closed

Comments are closed.

Copyright © Christian Family Study Centre