For the week of December 11, 1999 / 2 Tevet 5760
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 41:1 - 44:17
and Bemidbar / Numbers 7:54 - 8:4
Haftarah: 1 Kings 3:15 - 4:1
Replaced by: Hanukkah II, 1 Kings 7:40 - 50

Great Leaders

Leadership intrigues me. Good leadership, that is. There are different opinions as to what really makes a good leader, but something that they all have in common is their ability to do what they think needs to be done no matter what. Good leaders listen to advice, but they stick to difficult decisions regardless of the opinions and threats of others.

The victory experienced by the Jewish people at Hanukkah was mainly due to good leadership. Many of the people were giving into the oppression of the ruling foreigners. They went along with the Emperor's plan of religious and cultural assimilation even though it was against the very foundations of their God-given faith. That is until Mattitayu the priest said, "No."

Mattitayu and his five sons revolted against the powerful oppressors. Though victory wasn't immediate (it took several years before the people gained their freedom) it started with this one man.

What was the secret of his leadership? Hundreds (maybe thousands) of books have been written in the past several years that claim to reveal the secrets of leadership. Each one attempts to provide us with the psychological and managerial tools to overcome our environments so that we can rise effectively to face the obstacles of life and succeed (in whatever way the particular author defines success).

I wonder if these leadership techniques in modern management literature would have helped Mattitayu or any of the greatest leaders of history.

So what makes great leadership? What enables a human being to lead people out of some of life's most horrible circumstances?

You may not agree with me, but I think that it is the leader's willingness to die for their cause that makes all the difference.

For Mattitayu to be able to stand up to his oppressors as he did, he had to be willing to die. Otherwise there would be a point where he would have given in just like many of his contemporaries. He too would have become an oppressed follower. But once he accepted that his resistance might result in his own death, and he was willing to resist anyway, he became a true leader.

Not every cause finds leaders risking death, but certainly they must continually risk significant loss - loss of job, prestige, relationships, money, and so on. As long as other things can dictate their decisions they are no longer true leaders.

This is how Yeshua leads us. Because he was willing to die on our behalf, he was also able to set us free from our greatest oppressor- death.

By giving his life, he released us from the guilt of our sins. Through him we no longer face the threat of eternal damnation. Instead, from the moment of our receiving him into our lives, we are transferred from the oppression of evil to the freedom of God's goodness.

Just like Mattitayu, Yeshua stared our oppressors in the face and said, "No." It cost him his earthly life, but it was worth it.

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