From Generation to Generation: A Tale of Two Kings
Moishe was a strong and innovative leader, but he recognized that the movement of Jews for Jesus couldn’t be sustained by his leadership alone. He intentionally mentored young people into leadership, considering Jews for Jesus to be a leadership training cadre. This was clearly demonstrated when Moishe stepped down from his position as executive director in order to empower the young leaders he had mentored to carry the vision of Jews for Jesus forward.
Although Moishe is no longer with us, the vision of Jews for Jesus that God entrusted to him still remains intact. The value of mentorship and leadership training remains core to our organizational identity.
Yet we don’t have to rely on Moishe’s example alone to find a picture of mentorship and intentional leadership training. There are several outstanding examples of intergenerational leadership transitions in the Bible that model the process of mentoring and empowering developing leaders. I want to explore one of the best of those examples: King David and his son Solomon.
David and the Temple
During the height of God’s favor on Israel, David was preparing Solomon to take his throne and finish his work. He had spent his life unifying the people of Israel, fighting against their enemies to complete the conquest of the Land, and establishing the location where the Temple would be constructed.
David had a clear vision: to see the Temple constructed. Yet he was unable to do so in his lifetime because, as God explained, he was a man of warfare and bloodshed. So he had to pass the task on to the next generation. That transition, from David to Solomon, was deliberate and premeditated. After all, successful generational transition doesn’t just happen: it is planned, intentional and purposeful, with preparations made well in advance.
I don’t imagine it was easy for David to hear that the Lord would not let him build the Temple. But that didn’t hinder his passion, nor did it interfere with his vision. God had instructed David not to build the Temple – but He hadn’t told him not to prepare! And so David actively worked for the success of his son and successor:
Then David said, “The house of the Lord God is to be here, and also the altar of burnt offering for Israel.” So David gave orders to assemble the foreigners residing in Israel, and from among them he appointed stonecutters … He provided a large amount of iron […] bronze […] cedar logs […]
David said, “My son Solomon is young and inexperienced, and the house to be built for the Lord should be of great magnificence and fame and splendor in the sight of all the nations. Therefore I will make preparations for it.” So David made extensive preparations before his death. (1 Chronicles 22:1–5)
David had a choice among several options. On the one hand he could have chosen to be apathetic and fatalistic: “I guess this whole Temple business is not my problem.” And he would have been done with it.
In the opposite direction, David could have chosen control, making provisions to guarantee that the Temple would be remembered as his legacy. When I was growing up I made a donation to the Jewish National Fund so they could plant a tree in Israel. But I wondered, how will people know which tree was my tree, planted because I gave my money that I got when I raked the leaves in the yard? Would there be some sort of sign on the tree, saying: “THIS TREE WAS PLANTED THROUGH THE SACRIFICIAL GIVING OF AARON ROBERT TRANK, SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA, AGE SEVEN”?
In the same way, I can imagine David touring Solomon around the Jewish Temple Fund warehouse. There would be a pile of nails, each one hand-engraved “DONATED BY KING DAVID.” A giant placard would be hanging at the Temple entrance: “THE KING DAVID TEMPLE FOR THE AUTHORIZED WORSHIP OF GOD.”
Of course, we know that David chose the middle ground. He made preparations for the construction of the Temple and invested in the project until the end of his life. But he didn’t wrestle with Solomon for control over the process.
This is the real legacy that David left for Solomon: he made preparations so that Solomon would have plans and materials at his disposal, but then he stood back and let Solomon own the project. When we think about the First Temple, we don’t think of it as David’s Temple, but as Solomon’s Temple. David’s passion and love for God are seen in the fact that He poured the last years of his life into a project that would bring glory to God, not to himself.
Our world is fueled by money, power and fame. The example of David and Solomon reminds us of the temptation to create notoriety for ourselves, securing our legacy even if it means holding onto control for just a little longer. It is hard to entrust your vision to someone else, and it is hard to know that they and not you will get the credit for it.
Yet isn’t that the best test of our motives – to ask whether what we are doing is really for God’s glory or our own? There are times when we will be confronted with the reality that something we are passionate about is bigger than us; that it will take more work or resources than we can put in; or even that we are not the people who should be doing it.
Can we empower others to succeed without fearing that we will lose some opportunity by their success?
Can we view our own personal success as something to be shared?
Can we view others’ success as something we can be proud of?
Or how about this: will we obey God, knowing that we might get no recognition for it?
These are hard questions, but very relevant, especially for leadership development. I have found that dedication to a vision and the need for personal control or recognition are mutually exclusive.
Vision and Values
1 Chronicles 22 continues:
David said to Solomon: “My son, I had it in my heart to build a house for the Name of the Lord my God. But this word of the Lord came to me: ‘You have shed much blood and have fought many wars. You are not to build a house for my Name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in my sight. But you will have a son who will … build a house for my Name.’
“Now, my son, the Lord be with you, and may you have success and build the house of the Lord your God, as he said you would. May the Lord give you discretion and understanding when he puts you in command over Israel, so that you may keep the law of the Lord your God. Then you will have success …
“I have taken great pains to provide for the temple of the Lord … And you may add to [these provisions]. You have many workers … Now begin the work, and the LORD be with you.” (1 Chronicles 22:7–16)
David commissioned Solomon and also passed on his vision (constructing the Temple) and his values (following the Lord) by “selling” Solomon on them. David doesn’t assume that his son’s values will match his own. So he explicitly elaborates what his vision is, and why it is important to him.
Unlike David, many parents make assumptions that their children’s values and worldview will automatically be their own. There is a concept of an “Intergenerational Contract” that assumes that future generations are obligated to provide a service to the present generation, just as this one is for an older generation. (A typical example would be the Social Security system in the U.S.) But the Intergenerational Contract says nothing about the obligation for the older generation to pass on not just a service, but also their vision and values. In contrast, we find the intentional passing of vision and values in each of the biblical examples of generational transition done right.
Notice also that David didn’t simply make himself available for advice. He was proactive in giving Solomon the help that he knew would be needed. Rather than wait for a mentorship request, he simply recognized the need and stepped in. There are many in today’s experienced generation who say, “I want to teach,” and many in the inexperienced generation who say, “I want to learn.” Yet too often neither group is talking to the other; one is waiting to be asked, and the other is waiting to be told.
The body of Messiah brings together people of different generations, and creates opportunity for intergenerational interaction. I want to encourage all of us to spend time communicating and communing with people from other generations than our own. We all bring something to the table, we need each other, and this is a great opportunity to share with and to learn from one other. But let’s be proactive about it!
Leaders and Followers
Then David ordered all the leaders of Israel to help his son Solomon. He said to them,
… Begin to build the sanctuary of the Lord God …” (1 Chronicles 22:17,19)
Solomon could not build the Temple on his own. Leadership isn’t just about position or title: if no one is following you, then the title does nothing to make you a leader. David therefore appealed to the leaders of Israel to help Solomon be successful. By rallying the leaders of Israel around Solomon’s cause, he ensured that people would own Solomon as their king. It’s interesting that he asked the leaders in Israel to get behind and follow Solomon. It’s been said that to be a good leader, you need to be a good follower. These leaders of Israel were being asked to serve in a helping capacity, rather than to take charge.
By fully backing Solomon, David set an example for the rest of the people to follow. Too often, leaders attempt to secure their legacy by planting their feet, fighting the tides of change that swell when a new generation of leadership takes the place of the old.
David did not attempt to memorialize the past. He didn’t establish himself as the ultimate model for future kings. Yes, God called him a man after His own heart, and the Messiah was promised to be a Davidic king. But David did not set himself up on a pedestal. He was king of Israel through a period of transition and violence. He was the visionary leader that Israel needed at that time. But David recognized his own limitations and made the bold move of stepping out of the way, so that the vision of building the Temple could be accomplished.
There are several key lessons that can be learned from David’s example.
First, entrusting other leaders with our vision is a test of our motives. Second, vision and values need to be passed on – we can’t assume that people’s values and vision will naturally match our own. Third, young leaders need to be mentored. And fourth, we must be proactive in promoting the next generation.
I want to encourage us to communicate intergenerationally, to invest in people intergenerationally, to think about what we have to offer each other: wisdom, energy, passion, vision. May we be unified in purpose, so that the gospel might continue going forth in power from generation to generation.
 And biblical parents don’t seem to be any better off: just read the stories about Jacob and his twelve sons (who mistreated Joseph), or Aaron and his sons (who offered unauthorized fire on the altar), or Eli and his sons (who were wicked priests), or yes, even Solomon and his son and successor.
Aaron Trank is minister-at-large and director of recruiting at the San Francisco headquarters of Jews for Jesus. He was working as a software engineer in the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory before he was called into ministry. He and his wife, Rachelle, have three children, Rina, Rafi and Rocco.