Have you ever heard someone expound some “new idea” and thought to yourself that the idea was not new at all. In fact, sometimes as I have discovered, the idea was already written down and explained a long time ago in an “ancient book” called the Bible.
One such “new idea” is what is now known as “servant leadership.” I checked it out and found the following on the internet:
“Servant leadership is a leadership philosophy in which the goal of the leader is to serve. This is different from traditional leadership where the leader’s main focus is the thriving of their company or organization. A servant leader shares power, puts the needs of the employees first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible. Instead of the people working to serve the leader, the leader exists to serve the people. As stated by its founder, Robert K. Greenleaf, a Servant Leader should be focused on, ‘Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?’”
It seems that “Robert K. Greenleaf first popularized the phrase “servant leadership” in ‘The Servant as Leader’, an essay published in 1970 … Greenleaf credited his reading of Hesse‘s 1932 book, Journey to the East, as the personal source of inspiration in his coining the term, ‘servant-leader’. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Servant_leadership
Well, I don’t know if Mr Greenleaf read the Bible, but I think the original idea was around a long time before 1970!
Although we do not know who the psalmist who wrote Psalm 119 was, he was likely to have been someone of importance in his community, possibly a leader. Maybe it was King David and if so, check out how many times this great leader is called David the servant of the Lord (Psalm18:1 Jewish Study Bible). And, this attitude of servant-hood towards his God was reflected in David’s leadership of God’s people, although being human, not perfectly.
And, so we read in Psalm 119:121-128
121 I have done what is righteous and just;
do not leave me to my oppressors.
122 Ensure your servant’s well-being;
do not let the arrogant oppress me.
123 My eyes fail, looking for your salvation,
looking for your righteous promise.
124 Deal with your servant according to your love
and teach me your decrees.
125 I am your servant; give me discernment
that I may understand your statutes.
126 It is time for you to act, Lord;
your law is being broken.
127 Because I love your commands
more than gold, more than pure gold,
128 and because I consider all your precepts right,
I hate every wrong path.
The psalmist “professes his status as a servant before God… He is not too proud to admit his need to be educated in the royal decrees or to seek divine wisdom for decision making.” (# 47)
Consider how his servant attitude reflects in his everyday life. He considers that he has tried to do that which is righteous and just (v. 121).He is on the lookout for the Lord’s salvation, looking for your righteous promise (v. 123). His desire is that God would constantly teach me your decrees (v. 124) and that He would give [him] discernment that [he] may understand [God’s] statutes (v. 125). Knowing what are the right paths in life he was able to say, Because I love your commands more than gold, more than pure gold, and because I consider all your precepts right, I hate every wrong path (vv. 127-128).
With such qualities in his relationship with God, he was then able to lead as a servant!
There are many other such servant leaders in the Bible – for example, Abraham, Moses and Daniel. But, the perfect One, prophesied about in the Old Testament (see Isaiah’s “servant songs” – 42:1-9, 49:1-13, 50:4-11 & 52:13- 53:12) was revealed in the One who said of Himself, the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). That One was Jesus. The greatest “servant leader” of all time, whose words to his disciples that day are still as relevant today. He said: whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,and whoever wants to be first must be your slave (20:26-27)
Thank God, that over the last two millennia since then, there have been many faithful “servant leaders”. For example, people such as Amy Carmichael of Dohnavur (see photo) as mentioned in my last Post.
Lord, deal with me in loving-kindness, and teach me, your servant, to obey; for I am your servant; therefore give me common sense to apply your rules to everything I do. (vv. 124-124 Living Bible)