Ecclesiastes 8:1 – King Solomon’s First Principal for Good Leaders

This week I am providing another quote from Robert McLaughlin’s commentary on the Book of Ecclesiastes (the book can be ordered free of charge by following this link). Pastor McLaughlin is continuing his exploration of what attributes King Solomon believes a good leader should have.

My first post (link here) quoted from Pastor McLaughlin’s introduction to Ecclesiastes 8 and this week I am providing his discussion of the first attribute of a good leader: an understanding of where the leader is taking his organization and why he is taking it there. I don’t know about you all but I have been in job situations where I have wondered if management had any idea where they wanted to take us. If you have ever been in that situation you will understand how unsettling that can be. Uncertainty in any organization, be it small or large, is deadly.

There is one other thing that really catches my attention as I read Pastor McLaughlin’s commentary. Quite often he will demonstrate the principle he is talking about by using pastors as an example and he does that again here. There is nothing specific in this passage to pastors and no reason why the principles explained don’t apply to everyone, he just uses pastors as an example because that is the profession he knows best. I find that to be refreshing! It’s nice to see a pastor apply principles to himself and let me apply the principles to my own situation. A lot of pastors feel the need to rain down fire and brimstone on the reader to make their point but that gets to be a little old, and ineffective, after a while.

Ecclesiastes 8:1 actually contains two leadership principles but I am saving the second one for a later post. This one is interesting enough on its own. Enjoy!

Here is Pastor McLaughlin:

Whether you are in authority or under authority, you need to understand the principles behind wise and good leadership. There are at least five characteristics of a good leader given in [Ecclesiastes 8] verses 1 to 9.

Ecclesiastes 8:1. “Who is like the wise man and who knows the interpretation of a matter? A man’s wisdom illumines him and causes his stern face to beam.”

The first half of this verse gives us the first characteristic that makes a person in authority a good leader; and that is, that he has a clear mind. It presents a rhetorical question that is not meant to be answered. The key word is interpretation, which is the Hebrew word pesher, and it means a solution or someone who sees through the mystery of something. Keil and Delitzsch say that this word does not mean the one who has the knowledge of all things, but rather, one who knows how to explain the difficult things. It means to unfold mysterious things; it refers to an individual who knows why things are the way they are. A good leader is one who knows philosophically where the ship is going and why. He doesn’t have to know how to do everything, but he does need to know the why’s. The person who knows how will usually have a job, but that individual will usually work for the one who knows why. The person at the top of an organization, whether it consists of two or two million doesn’t have to know all of the inner workings within that organization, but he needs to know where those things are going and why. In the spiritual realm, the interpreter here refers to one who can expound the mind, the word, the ways, and the works of God. He is said to be one among a thousand according to Job 33:23. Many individuals may see clearly through their own eyes, but they do not have the ability, the gift, or the talent to remove the cloud that obstructs the vision of others. Some people will look at an organization and it will be a big mystery, but this should not be true of the person at the top, or else that organization is going to be in big trouble. The interpretation of a matter is the basic assignment of the leader. When there’s confusion at the top, there is greater confusion down the line. Or, as one person put it, “a mist in the pulpit puts a fog in the pew.”

Churches headed by pastors who don’t know the way become churches that don’t know where they are going. By the way, I know where I’m headed, and I know where I am trying to lead you. My goal is to lead every single one of you to spiritual maturity; for your sake and for mine! For the pastor-teacher, his goal, and even his happiness, is derived from seeing members of his congregation reach spiritual maturity and then receive their spiritual blessings: the highest awards believers can receive in time and eternity. The pastor’s job is given in 1 Peter 5:1-2, “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, Feed the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion [or being driven and forced from pressure], but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain [from self-motivation and selfish ambition], but with eagerness; [which means with a ready mind].” This refers to one of the things that you must look for in a pastor. A ready mind is a prepared man.

First Peter 5:3 says, “Nor yet lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.” Lording it over those allotted to your charge refers to the pastors – or those who think they are pastors! – who violate the royal priesthood of the believer. These are the bullies behind the pulpits, who are legalists and manipulators. The word for “examples” is the nominative masculine plural of tupos, which means a mark, an impression, or a pattern. It does not mean a clone, but it means to be a pattern or example of that which you teach. The pastor’s pattern is what he leaves behind as a legacy of Bible doctrine. Remember the simple principle; it is always the message that counts, never the man. It is the doctrine that comes from the pulpit that counts, not the personality or the charisma of the pastor.

The Eight Experiments of Man: A Commentary on the Book of Ecclesiastes
Robert R. McLaughlin
pp 252-254

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