But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens… Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said. He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Exodus 18:21; 24-25 (NIV 1984 Italics added)
Choose some wise, understanding and respected men from each of your tribes, and I will set them over you… So I took the leading men of your tribes, wise and respected men, and appointed them to have authority over you—as commanders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens and as tribal officials. Deuteronomy 1:13, 15 (NIV 1984 Italics added)
In Deuteronomy we have several messages from Moses to the people of Israel before they were to cross into the Promised Land. In these words, Moses reminds them of their history – how they arrived at this point in time. In the first chapter he reviews the change of leadership structure that came about from the advice given to him from his father-in-law, Jethro, some forty years earlier (see Exodus 18).
Jethro saw that Moses was being worn down by the daily leadership demands of the people, and thus needed some help. The advice given and heeded was to set up a hierarchy of leaders to help carry the leadership load and thus free Moses to focus on teaching the people the Law of God and only handling the most difficult cases.
Note the selection criteria for those who were chosen to judge the people: capable men who feared God and were trustworthy (Jethro’s advice). Moses’ summary forty years later was the choosing of those who were wise, understanding, and respected.
Here’s two general observations on who was considered qualified to lead. First, they were to be capable, wise, and respected. To determine if someone meets these criteria, they must have a track record of their leadership. We need to be able to assess the results of their decisions and evaluate the outcomes of their choices. We are to select based upon demonstrated, realized potential, not just potential. We are looking for proven leadership ability, not just raw potential. Competency counts!
Secondly, they were to be men of godly character. They were to be – men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain, wise, and understanding. They were to be able to lead from a foundation of seeing their leadership as a servant and steward of God. They must be people of integrity. And they must have wisdom and discernment to see solutions to problems and able to discern root issues. Character counts!
When selecting leaders for Kingdom leadership we are to choose those with both proven competency to lead and Christlike character. Competency and character are two wings of the leadership airplane. We need both for it to fly!