Remember the scene in Braveheart when Mel Gibson’s character, William Wallace, was giving the freedom speech just before the big battle? I’ve often wondered what it takes to be such a leader. It would be really cool to be able to rally people the way that William Wallace did. Imagine the influence it would require to motivate people to give their lives for a cause.
However, even though today’s business world isn’t faced with a need for that strong of a commitment, we often fight for our lives (careers) against competition flying in our faces who would love nothing more than to see us fall.
There was a time in the early days of the nation of Israel that an oppression took over. If the nation were to survive, then it would need someone to step up and lead them. But before we talk about this seldom heard of leader, let’s lay the groundwork first…
In the history of Israel, there was a time that the nation was virtually leaderless. There was little to no governing authority. People simply lived in the territories of each of the 12 tribes that made up Israel. This time was after the occupation of the land of Canaan. But even before that, the “nation” had been in bondage in Egypt for hundreds of years.
Most of their identity was wrapped up in the promise of being a great nation, all the while they’re living under the rule of another “world power”. Eventually, they’re delivered from bondage, and witnessed great miracles in the process (like the crossing of the Red Sea). However, this newly delivered nation wandered in the desert for 40 years before taking over the promised land.
Think about this fact for a moment.
All of the men of fighting age, are either dead or too old to fight by the time they get to enter the promised land. So all of the great warriors are the young men that were born in the desert, and simply missed witnessing the miracle of the Exodus.
So this new generation enters the promised land, and they take over and settle into their new homes. Remember, this is mostly a generation that is inheriting the promise from their forefathers, and have only heard stories about some of the greatest miracles that ever happened. So, they get in, and get comfortable.
Have you ever been a part of an organization that has gotten “comfortable” where it is at? I believe that often some of our biggest problems come accepting the status quo.
As the nation of Israel got comfortable, they started fulfilling their own will rather than seeking the will of God (their ultimate Authority).
Imagine what this would look like in today’s work environment. Think about people who do things that don’t seem to be quite in alignment with what the business wants to accomplish. Often these people are very much about doing what they think is best for them, but to someone concerned about taking the business in a specific direction you may be wondering what the heck is wrong with them. Well, this is pretty much the situation in Israel, and it got them taken over by a foreign ruler for about eight years until someone got fed up with it…
Enter Othniel. God raised up a man to judge Israel and kick out this foreign king. If you look closely at the record of this time, you’ll notice that two major things happened, and in a specific order.
First, Othniel, with “the Spirit of the Lord upon him” (or the Power of his Authority delegated to him) he “judged Israel.”
In other words, as a representative of the Leader, he enforced the plans of the organization. He held people accountable to the tasks that they were responsible for.
Part of me cannot help but to think of Sylvester Stallone’s character of Judge Dredd where the “judges” acted as police, judge, jury, and executioner right there. I don’t know that it was that extreme in Othniel’s time, but I do know that he had a little house-cleaning to do before he could get anywhere.
Sometimes we need to enforce (or reinforce) expectations before any other foreign enemy can be dealt with.
After that, he “went out to war”. Some of the traditions that were recorded by Josephus indicate that, “with a few other brave men, he massacred one of the Assyrian garrisons.” For the non-military types reading this, a garrison is a fortified military unit. So basically we’re talking about how a few “brave” men took on an Army unit in a well-protected fort. This must have been a pretty formidable task, and a major feat to accomplish.
Josephus continues by saying that, “when the Israelites saw that he had been successful in his first attempt, they rallied around him in great numbers.”
Once complete victory had been achieved, there was peace and rest in the land for the next 40 years, until Othniel’s death. When I read this, I cannot help but to think that Othniel led the people with his actions. He moved in power, and proved to the people that he was not afraid to get his hands dirty.
I think that there are several modern day business world implications here. Most importantly, we need to recognize (and hopefully prevent) complacency from setting in. If we are to continue to win the fight for survival, then comfort and self-seeking motives have no place in our organizations. If complacency is setting in, then what can you do as a leader to “remind” people of the mission? And hold them accountable for their part in it? Further, how can you get your hands dirty, and lead by example to show people not only that it can be done, but also how it can be done?
Going back to the opening example of William Wallace, he also proved himself in the smaller battles as being worth following in the big ones. In the same way Othniel made his presence known, and as long as he was alive his presence was also felt. Ask yourself what you can learn from Othniel’s life to be a leader that can rally the troops when needed.
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“Most of their identity was wrapped up in the promise of being a great nation…” What an interesting observation. I can see how I’ve done this in my own life. It is so easy to get so caught up in the “promise” or hope of things to come that I’ve missed the journey along the way, and what God was doing in the “now” to prepare me for the “promise”…Makes ya wonder if this has anything to do with why they wandered for so long :p
Another thought that comes to mind, “all of the great warriors are the young men that were born in the desert, and simply missed witnessing the miracle of the Exodus.” and as you went on to say about getting comfortable or the new generation coming up with their new agendas that fit the current vision. This reminds me that we need never to forget our history and where we came from. Yes there may be changes necessary to be relevant, but we need to never forget the life lessons from our forefathers, and the overall mission.
This seems like it would be one of the most fundamental ideas for leading other people. I imagine that William Wallace would have gotten along well with Othniel too. I’m glad that this one ministered to you!
Hey Dan! It’s great to see the revival of Management by God… Keep it coming!
I admit I have never heard of Othniel, but I totally get your description here of the 2nd generation Israelites. I have a lot of experience with family businesses, and this is one of the most common pitfalls of the 2nd or 3rd generation. They forget about all the sweat and work that went into the business, and they just want the comfy lifestyle, or eventually just to cash out rather than have to fight any more. Many times, however, the fighting turns internal among family members over the cash itself. This Othniel story is a great analogy for business transitions and leadership.
You really know your bible, dude!
The leadership lessons from the Book of Judges that can be applied to the workplace are amazing! I love studying these guys and thinking about the modern-day applications!
I hadn’t thought through the family business implications, but what you point out makes a lot of sense. I can even see some of that in the transitions in the company that I work for (like we talked about on our hike up to the bluff at Laity Lodge). I think this has even more meaning and application for me now…
Thanks for stopping by Brad! You rock dude! #fistbump