Leadership: King David & the Prodigal Son

repentWhen we read the parable of the prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), we instantly see how self-seeking and selfish that young man was. We also often empathize with the older son who stayed faithful, and would end up splitting his own inheritance with his younger brother. If King David were a character in that parable he would’ve been the returning prodigal, while all too often, we leaders see ourselves as the “worthy” and faithful brother. Let me explain.

Yesterday Dan Reimer gave an excellent message based on Psalm 51. This is David’s psalm after his sins of adultery and murder. In this psalm we come to see a secret  to David’s  leadership. Without mentioning the specifics of his sins, he publicly bares his heart to God and repents.

I won’t attempt to recreate Dan’s message here, but instead will apply this psalm a bit differently to us as leaders.  I see King David’s psalm of repentance as being separated into 6 stanzas.

  1. He begs God for mercy and cleansing.
  2. He acknowledges that his sin is direct rebellion against God.
  3. He defines God’s forgiveness as God defines it: total and absolute
  4. He begs for God to remake his heart, and his spirit.
  5. David promises to lead others to God’s gracious forgiveness with heart-felt worship.
  6. He honors God by leading the whole nation to come to God with sacrifice and praise.   King David came to God like the Prodigal son came home: contrite, humble, and ashamed.

A man shared in that service how His own life was marred with sin and godless thoughts. Without sharing any details, he confessed that, like David, his heart has all too often been captured by sinful desires, thoughts, and attitudes that are rebellious to God. In a discussion later, one said how this man had humbly opened the door for others to confess and repent publicly as David had done. His act offered an invitation for any of us to go “second,” so to speak.  I confess that during our service I felt God’s spirit prompt me to speak next, and I chose to disobey. As I’ve pondered this, I’ve come to realize that King David went first, my good friend accepted an invitation to go second, and I failed to go third.   I sinned by not obediently being vulnerable about sin.  I fell to the worst kind of cowardice, and pride.

So, today I want to do the right thing. I believe God called King David “A man after my own heart,” partially because he was willing to be publicly repentant not because he was righteous in himself.  As leaders, if we are too prideful, cowardice, or self-absorbed to be transparent before God and the people we lead, then we might not deserve to lead. God’s women and men of leadership are those of us who will stand before our people pointing to Him, and refusing to be seen as anything special.  Especially by ourselves! We must be willing, when prompted in our spirit, to drop the veil of privacy and repent in the presence of those we are in community with. I doubt I’m alone in saying that as a leader my heart can be found, at times, to be filled with vanity and selfish arrogances that are rebellious to God. I want to share today my prayer as I pursue God’s redemptive and restorative grace each day.

“God, you know my tendency to see myself as the prodigal’s “worthy” elder brother, while knowing there is nothing worthy in me. You have shown me that many of the prideful sins that lured King David, lure me as well.  Father, please wash my sins away from me.   Remove the rebellion and wickedness from the corners of my heart. Restore to my soul the joy of your forgiveness, and help me to see that you are sufficient for all I could ever need.  Father, please help me to lead others to you, and may they only see Your hand print on my life. Blot from existence the ugliness of my heart, and selfishness of my motives. Thank you for your grace, salvation, and restoration.  May I bring honor and glory to you alone in the days you have scheduled for my life.”  Amen

King David, showed the nation of Israel, and us today, what it is to be publicly repentant. God has also shown us what He has done with repentant people throughout history. As leaders, I encourage us to be sensitive and obedient to any promptings from God to be publicly vulnerable, as David was. Who knows what God may want to do through any of our humbled leadership?

Psalm 51:17 (NIV) My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

Blessings, Tim

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About Tim Wenzig MAML

I am a pastor at Rosedale Friends Church. Rosedale Friends Church is a congregation affiliated with North West Yearly Meeting of Friends Chruches (Quakers).
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