Leaders Listen

“The moment you wake up each morning your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job of each morning consists in shoving them all back; in listening to that other Voice, letting that other, stronger, larger, quieter Life come flowing in.” —C.S. Lewis 

“God said, ‘Abraham!’ ‘Yes?’ answered Abraham. ‘I’m listening.’” —Genesis 22:1 

Then God came and stood before him exactly as before, calling out, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ Samuel answered, ‘Speak. I’m Your servant, ready to listen.’” —1 Samuel 3:10 

“How much of God are we missing because we don’t stop to listen to the many voices God uses to speak to us?” —George Washington Carver 

“To answer before listening—that is folly and shame.” —Proverbs 18:13 

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” —Winston Churchill

A mark of a godly leader is one who listens to the counsel of other godly leaders. 

“Wise, godly leaders know they must listen to the counsel of wise, godly leaders.” —Craig T. Owens 

“Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear.” —James 1:19 

“There are none so blind as those who will not see, none so deaf as those who will not hear, none so ignorant as those who will not listen… and none so foolish as those who think they can change those who will not see, hear, or listen.” —Warren Bennis

“Correct the wise, and they will love you.” —Proverbs 9:8 

“What is a great man who has made his mark upon history? … He is a man who has looked through the confusion of the moment and has seen the moral issue involved; he is a man who has refused to have his sense of justice distorted; he has listened to his conscience until conscience becomes a trumpet call to like-minded men, so that they gather about him, and together, with mutual purpose and mutual aid, they make a new period in history.” —Jane Addams, in a speech about George Washington 

“People don’t lose intimacy when they stop talking, but when they stop listening. Leaders seldom realize how much their listening empowers the other person. Because they are leaders, the sheer act of listening speaks volumes that even a great speech can’t communicate. …   

“A leader’s communication must be consistent, clear, and courteous. But leaders must also be good listeners. When leaders don’t listen: They stop gaining wisdom. … Leaders listen; leaders learn; and then leaders lead.” —John Maxwell 

This is part 43 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

Whose Fight Is It?

In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups… (Genesis 32:7). 

Jacob’s brother Esau is approaching with 400 men! 

Esau is the man who sold his birthright to Jacob, and then had his father’s blessing swindled away from him by Jacob. And now he is rapidly approaching Jacob and his entourage. 

Jacob’s natural response is, well, natural: great fear and distress grip his heart (v. 7). In his agitated state of mind “he thought” of a strategy to try to appease his brother and save as many of his family members and possessions as he could. 

And then another strategy popped into Jacob’s agitated mind: Then he prayed (v. 9). He concocted his own plans first and then he prayed. Prayer should have been his first response, but at least he finally did get around to praying!

In his prayer, Jacob twice reminds God, “You said” (vv. 9, 12), and in-between those reminders he confesses to Him, “I am afraid” (v. 11). 

As he speaks to God, reminds God of His promises, and confesses his own heart-quaking, knee-knocking fear, God says:  [crickets chirping in the warm evening]. 

God is silent. 

So Jacob returns to his own strategizing—once again we read “for he thought” (v.20)—until he is utterly out of options. All he can do now is wrestle with God (vv. 22-30). All out of his own options, Jacob now tenaciously clings to God and will not let Him go! 

In the Hebrew language, the name Jacob means a man who struggles, thinks, and strategizes using his own abilities*. 

After finally submitting to God, Jacob’s name is changed to Israel**. Now Israel lets God do the strategizing and the fighting. Jacob tried to figure things out on his own; Israel lets God’s plan prevail. When Israel bought his first plot of ground after his name had been changed, he built an altar there and named it El Elohe Israel—The Almighty God is my God (33:20). 

Israel now says, “I’m done striving with men on my own. I’m done fighting people and trying to figure out how to make things happen for me. From now on I will only wrestle with God, and I’ll let Him fight the battles for me!” 

How often do I strategize on my own first, and only after I have run out of options do I run to God in prayer? This is a Jacob spirit in me! I don’t want to live this way. I want to be like Israel—clinging to God as my first and only Source of help. 

How about you?

* In the Faithlife Illustrated Study Bible, there is an interesting note on Jacob’s name. For instance, when Esau says, “Isn’t he rightly named Jacob?” (Genesis 27:36), the FSB editors offer this commentary: “Esau uses the Hebrew word ‘aqab here, which is a wordplay on Jacob’s name in Hebrew, ya-aqov. … Esau suggests that Jacob’s name actually has to do with him being a person who supplants or cheats other people.” 

** Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel (Genesis 32:28). The FSB commentary points out, “Jacob’s name must be changed due to its association with his misdeeds. Here, the reasoning for the name Israel (yisra’el in Hebrew) is the verbal phrase ‘you have striven with (or struggled with) God.’ This suggests the name derives from the Hebrew verb sarah, meaning ‘to struggle,’ ‘to strive’ or ‘to fight.’ The name yisra’el itself could mean ‘God will struggle,’ ‘May God struggle’ or ‘God fights’….” 

What’s In A Name?

Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son… (Genesis 29:32). 

Jesus said that ALL the Scripture pointed to Him (John 5:39). That means even the various names of people in the Scripture give us some insight into the nature of Jesus. 

Consider Jacob and his sons, who become the fathers of the tribes of the nation of Israel. Jacob the deceiver is transformed into Israel the guileless, and the names of his sons point to what Jesus does to transform all of us into His righteous brothers and sisters. 

[Check out the links posted below to read all the Scripture references.]

Reuben—God sees my misery and sends His Son (Genesis 29:32; John 3:16). 

Simeon—God sent His Son when I was unlovable (Genesis 29:33; Romans 5:6-8). 

Levi—after I am saved from my sins, I am joined to God (Genesis 29:34; Ephesians 2:1-5).

Judah—my salvation brings praise to God (Genesis 29:35; John 15:8).

Dan—God has vindicated me in Jesus (Genesis 30:6; John 8:11).

Naphtali—Christ’s righteousness has given me victory over my struggles (Genesis 30:8; Romans 8:1; 1 Corinthians 15:54-56). 

Gad—God’s favor now advances toward me like an unstoppable troop (Genesis 30:11; Romans 8:31-39). 

Asher—I am now able to enjoy God’s happiness (Genesis 30:13; Matthew 25:21, 34). 

Issachar—God IS my reward (Genesis 30:18; Revelation 3:20-21).

Zebulun—my Husband (Jesus) honors me (Genesis 30:20; Ephesians 5:22-23; Hebrews 2:11).

Joseph—God has taken away my disgrace and added His blessing (Genesis 30:24; Romans 8:1, 32).

Manasseh—God has made me forget my past (Genesis 41:51; Psalm 103:12).

Ephraim—God has made me abundantly fruitful (Genesis 41:52; 1 Peter 2:9-10).

Benjamin—I am God’s son (Genesis 35:18; Ephesians 2:6)! 

God has done ALL this—and more!—through Jesus! 

When you read the Bible, don’t rush through it. Slow down. Meditate on it. Soak in it. And then see how the Holy Spirit will illuminate truth to you. 

[Please check out the Bible references I’ve listed above for yourself. All of the Genesis references are here, and all of the other references are here.]

God Keeps His Word

…as He had said… (Genesis 21:1-7).

This thought—and even the phrase itself—permeates the Bible. From the very beginning of Time itself, whatever God says—happens!

His word is His bond: What He had promised (v. 1b). There are no loopholes, no equivocations. When God says it, it is signed, sealed, delivered!

When is His word accomplished? From the moment He says it. His word cannot be altered nor delayed. We simply wait for its fulfillment: At the very time God had promised (v. 2).

This also means that I must obey what God says. If His word is immutable, my faith and obedience must be just as steadfast. Just like Abraham: Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him (v. 4).

Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would help remind us of everything God has said. The same Word that tells us God’s promises is also the same Word that sparks the faith to believe His Word (Romans 10:17). 

Get God’s Word.
Believe He will fulfill it in His timing. 
Obey everything He says.
Laugh in joy when you see His word accomplished: God has brought me laughter (v. 6)! 

All Of HIStory Is His Story

There were the kings who reigned in Edom before any Israelite king reigned (Genesis 36:31). 

When Rebecca was pregnant with twins, they jostled each other in her womb. God said this was an indication of what was to come of the two nations that would arise from her sons. God also said that the older son would serve the younger son (25:23).

The nation of Edom was a fierce but unstable people. Just take a look at the succession of their kings to see the power struggles at every transition. But eventually, King Saul would war against Edom, and King David would subjugate them—making the prophecy true that the older son served the younger son.

What went into the fulfillment of this prophecy?

  • Esau (also known as Edom) short-sightedly sold his birthright
  • Jacob and Rebecca conspired to get Isaac to bless Jacob instead of Esau
  • Esau married Canaanite wives, which disappointed his parents and strained relations with them
  • God blessed both Esau and Jacob so that Esau had to move to the region that would eventually bear his name: Edom

Along the way, Esau had a son with his Canaanite wife named Eliphaz. Eliphaz had a child with a concubine named Timna—a son that grew into one of Israel’s most deadly foes: the Amalekites!

Yet all of this was foreseen by God and fulfilled His pre-ordained plan. Once again: All of History is His story. There is never any need for us to worry about turmoil—political or otherwise—because God is in sovereign control… always! 

(By the way, this is not an isolated incident. There are countless examples in the Bible of how God’s sovereign plan is fulfilled, despite man’s best efforts to derail it. Check out another example here.) 

God’s Blessing On A Good Attitude

The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered… (Genesis 39:2).

This idea is repeated throughout Joseph’s life:

  • the Lord gave him success in everything he did (v. 3) 
  • the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph (v. 5)
  • the Lord was with him; He showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the warden (v. 21)
  • the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did (v. 23)

For 11 years as a slave in Potiphar’s house and 2 years as a prisoner in jail, God not only blessed Joseph but He also blessed those around Joseph because of Joseph. 

This wouldn’t have happened if Joseph had been bitter over his situation. 

He didn’t demonstrate a bad attitude, but an outstanding work ethic. 

He didn’t look for opportunities to subvert and scheme, but he submitted and served. 

These principles are echoed in the New Testament as well:

  • Let your light shine before men so that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16)
  • Slaves, obey your masters with respect (Ephesians 6:5)
  • Work well whether your boss is watching you or not (Colossians 3:22-23) 
  • Whatever you do, do it for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31)
  • Live such good lives that others may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us (1 Peter 2:12-20)

[check out all of these verses by clicking here] 

This attitude is one that receives both God’s blessing and man’s favor. When we steward this blessing and favor well, we bring even more glory to God! 

Whether as a slave, a prisoner, or a prime minister, God blessed Joseph and He blessed those around Joseph because of Joseph’s attitude. Can the same be said of our lives?

How Foreigners Pray

I am a foreigner and stranger among you… (Genesis 23:4). 

Abraham and Peter remind us that God-fearing people are foreigners; they are not citizens of Earth. Christians are respectful of the people, laws, and customs of the land in which they sojourn, but they know that this land is not their home. 

Abraham wanted his son to have a wife who was of the same mindset—not attached to the place of sojourning but looking forward to Heaven. Abraham knew how an earthly–focused wife (like Lot’s wife) could distract her husband, so he sent his servant on a mission to find a heavenly-minded, godly woman for his son Isaac.

This servant was a godly leader in his own right. He was loyal and loving to Abraham’s family. Abraham gave him two simple boundaries: don’t take a wife from Canaan, and don’t take Isaac back to Mesopotamia (the land from which God had called Abraham). 

Notice how this godly leader undertook his mission:

  • He prayed a very specific prayer for success (24:12–14)
  • After praying, he “watched closely” (v. 21) to see how God would answer his prayer
  • He praised God when it appeared that his prayer has been answered (vv. 26, 27, 46)
  • He shared his answer to prayer with others to get confirmation (v. 50)
  • He quickly followed through with what God had provided (v. 56)

A mark of a godly leader is one who bathes his activities in prayer.

When God calls us to live in a certain way, it is fitting that He will answer our prayers that align with that way of living. This is exactly what Jesus meant when He told us to “ask for anything in My name.” 

This is part 42 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

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