Service Before Leadership - Serving God in Government

By Paul Cuny
Shebna was corrupt, arrogant, full of pride and selfish ambition, and a man of intrigue who was apparently intoxicated by his position and influence. He did not fear God, nor respect people he was to lead. Shebna led a group called the Egyptian Party, which believed that Judah needed political alliances with Egypt to offset potential threats from Assyria.


Isaiah 22:15-22 - Thus says the Lord GOD of hosts, "Come, go to this steward, To Shebna, who is in charge of the royal household, 'What right do you have here, And whom do you have here, that you have hewn a tomb for yourself here, you who hew a tomb on the height, you who carve a resting place for yourself in the rock? 'Behold, the LORD is about to hurl you headlong, O man. And He is about to grasp you firmlyAnd roll you tightly like a ball, to be cast into a vast country; there you will die and there your splendid chariots will be, you shame of your master's house.'"I will depose you from your office, and I will pull you down from your station.Then it will come about in that day, that I will summon My servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and I will clothe him with your tunic and tie your sash securely about him. I will entrust him with your authority, and he will become a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. Then I will set the key of the house of David on his shoulder, when he opens no one will shut, when he shuts no one will open.

In this text, the Lord speaks through the prophet Isaiah about the destiny of two men in government. One man, Shebna, was a counselor and prime minister/treasurer, to Hezekiah, King of Judah. The other, Eliakim, was an obscure leader, from an insignificant family, with little influence.

Shebna was corrupt, arrogant, full of pride and selfish ambition, and a man of intrigue who was apparently intoxicated by his position and influence. He did not fear God, nor respect people he was to lead. Shebna led a group called the Egyptian Party, which believed that Judah needed political alliances with Egypt to offset potential threats from Assyria.

Since Shebna was the leading counselor to the king, his influence and political viewpoint made his group a force in the politics of Judah. The Egyptian Party had an agenda which was clearly opposed to God�s influence over government.1 They believed trusting the Lord for the protection of the nation was not a prudent course of action. Safety for Judah, they thought, should come from political alliances with other nations, a clear violation of Scripture.

While Shebna was pressing for an alliance with Egypt and pretending concern for Judah, some scholars say he was also secretly giving information to the King of Assyria about the inner counsel of the king he was supposed to serve. Intrigue and secret government meetings have always been completely open to the eyes and ears of the Lord. God exposed these things to the prophet Isaiah and sent him to Shebna with a message that he would be removed from his position.

Isaiah went on to say that God would give his position and authority to an obscure man named Eliakim (the Hebrew translation means "God will raise up; God raises").2 There is a lesson for our government leaders in this chapter. God is involved in the affairs of government, and He exercises His influence more than we realize. In our day, He is "raising up" men and women like Eliakim.

The Author of Government

The Lord is the author of government, order and structure. He established government to provide a framework of protection and order so that families and communities can flourish. Government is supposed to benefit the people. Consider our admonition from the Apostle Paul in Romans 13:1-2 Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.

The perversion of government is anarchy, corruption, and domination of people for selfish reasons. Eliakim and Shebna represent the two completely different world views, or kingdoms we discussed in Chapter 1. These same divergent world views exist today. One is the Kingdom of God, and the other is the kingdom of darkness. Government leadership that expresses the Kingdom view is in the mold of Eliakim in Isaiah 22.


The concept of a call to government is sometimes a foreign concept in the religious world. Yet to serve God in government is no less of a calling than serving Him as a pastor, a missionary, or a businessman. In many nations, the culture of government produces corruption, selfish ambition, oppression of the poor, manipulation of the masses, and hoarding of wealth that belongs to the people of the nation. In many developing nations, religious leaders discourage believers from going into government because of what is perceived as an evil culture. Yet we have numerous important Biblical models of government leaders, such as Daniel, Nehemiah, and Zerubbabal, to name a few. We need to encourage these men and women who have been anointed for this segment of the marketplace to fulfill their destiny.

In my view, men and women with this calling need to be identified and commissioned to serve in this segment of culture. Certainly, corruption is a major issue around the world that prevents economic development and foreign investment. However, whatever element of culture that God's people abandon is the element we have no policy influence over. If we abandon government, we certainly will not have righteous government leaders who will legislate Kingdom policies for the people they serve.

Instead of abdicating our place in government, we need to empower a new generation of believers with the call to government. God has established government and we need to bring His strategies and influence into government.

A "Call" to Government

Most pastors, by a special unction of the Holy Spirit, are able to deliver several messages a week, year after year, and never give the same message twice. This is being unusually equipped to fulfill a particular calling. The men and women who are called to government have also been divinely equipped to fulfill this task, not only for their own personal gratification, but to bring in the Kingdom of God into a place they have been ordained to serve. We may say that their personal destiny or calling is the micro view, while His Kingdom and our place in that Kingdom is the macro view.

It is essential that we come to the understanding that God is the One who equips people to fulfill their particular destinies. To say it another way, we have been equipped by God to fulfill the destiny He has for us, and that destiny is within a Kingdom context. The Lord tells Moses in Exodus 31:6 "and in the hearts of all who are skillful I have put skill".


As our world gets "smaller," and information is more readily available, there seems to be a growing understanding of this "call" to government. Men and women with the call to lead in government have been equipped emotionally, intellectually and spiritually for service in this area. God has given them the skill set to flourish in this calling.

Where Are The Godly Government Leaders?

Around the world today millions of people are crying out to the Lord for righteous government leaders. We see injustice and greed in many nations, and the poor and needy suffering. Many of these people are godly believers who are beseeching the God of Heaven for His intervention. How can this be and when will it end?

Yet God has given government leaders with His anointing to nations around the world. They are men and women who will serve Him in government. I Timothy 2: 1, 2 says to pray for those in authority over us "that we may live a peaceful and quiet life " NIV God is interested in leaders who enable their citizens to live peaceful and quiet lives. Not only must we pray for leaders in the mold of Eliakim to emerge, but we must identify who they are and align ourselves to support them in every way possible. By doing so, we align ourselves with God's will for our nations.

"Government Is Not Like Business"

These words were spoken by one of the leading political figures in our city. She had been successful in business, but felt that God was directing her to serve in government as an elected official. She became one of the leading political voices in our city for many years. She was a woman who succeeded in both worlds. It was a revelation to me when she said, "Business leaders need to understand that government is not like business. You need to run government on sound business principles, but government functions differently from business." If this is true, then there is a special equipping needed to flourish in this setting.

Characteristics of This Government Leadership

What characteristics differentiate government leadership from others? How can these leaders be elevated to positions of influence? How can we know which government leaders are God�s choices for nations? These are valid questions that apply to any nation on earth, and they are questions every believer needs to ask. The Lord has always had people like Eliakim. However, in our day, He is changing the leadership of nations for the sake of the people He loves so much. He is setting in place men and women with a hearts like Eliakim.

Service Before Leadership

Isaiah 22 illustrates this kind of change in government leadership, but also lists some prerequisites God has for these leaders to qualify in the eyes of God. When the Lord told Isaiah that He was going to bring about change, He introduced His choice Eliakim as "My servant." The Hebrew for the word "servant" means "bondservant."3

A bondservant, in Biblical days, was a slave who was given his freedom by his master. Instead of living as a freeman, he pierced his ear with a sharp instrument into the doorpost of the master's house, signifying that he made a decision to serve as a slave in his master�s house for the rest of his life. It was the bondservant's free will decision.

The Paradox of Kingdom Leadership

You cannot lead in the Kingdom in any capacity, until you first learn to serve. This is the paradox of Kingdom leadership. How can we be expected to carry out the plan of God, if we have not learned to serve Him and follow His instruction? It is apparent that Eliakim had to qualify for the designation of "My servant" during his years of obscurity. He must have become the man God could trust with His kind of authority to lead His people while he had no authority.

Then the Lord says, "he will become a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem." This type of government leader is distinguished from others by having the Father's heart for the people he or she governs. The true bondservant will take on the character, outlook, and desires of their Master - the heart of the Father for the people they lead.

Fathering Spirit

A father does not require a bribe from his children. A father won't oppress or permit injustice to his children. A father places a higher priority on the welfare of his sons and daughters than on his own life. A father will not steal from the treasury of his children to live in luxury while his children are impoverished. A father will not make empty promises to his distressed children, but will take action to alleviate this distress. Fathers don't manipulate their children for their personal benefit. Eliakim was a man who would be a father in the context of God's viewpoint.

I have spoken to and prayed with and for believers who are government leaders all over the world. All of the ones I have met have this sense of a "calling," just as one is "called" to be a pastor. The Lord has uniquely equipped them for the task of governmental leadership. Some of these leaders are obscure, some occupy the highest positions in government, some have not yet moved into this calling. These government leaders have a clear mandate from the Lord.

The Lord said of Eliakim, He would entrust him with authority to operate in this new position. He said when Eliakim made decisions, or opened or shut a door, he would have God's backing and support. It is interesting that the Lord didn't say "As long as you always make every decision correctly, I'll support you."

Decision makers make mistakes. Isaiah 22:22 says, Then I will set the key of the house of David on his shoulder, When he opens no one will shut, When he shuts no one will open. In this verse, God was saying "I trust your motives for making decisions, even when you make mistakes. You have My full support." The Lord would do this because He knew Eliakim's heart was that of a servant of the Most High God, and he would do nothing to violate that relationship. The Lord trusted Eliakim to implement His will for the nation of Judah, and He would therefore endorse his decisions. This is a powerful concept.

The Mantle

When the Lord places His mantle (a special grace) on leaders like Eliakim, they will be viewed differently by others. They walk in His favor. God's favor is the instrument He uses to bring about change and promotion. They can operate in His wisdom to govern, and as a result, His blessing can flow to their nations because of trustworthy leadership. The same authority that the Lord delegated to Eliakim belongs to the men and women He has chosen. He will raise up leaders in government for the sake of the people and nations they are to serve. Once again, their personal destiny is secondary. The picture is much more strategic than personal destiny.

In some nations, the poor are living under oppressive government leaders. Some have become resigned to this oppression as a way of life. However, others are beseeching the God of Heaven for justice and freedom from oppression. This is the reason God is bringing about this change. God hears the cries of these people and He has positioned His bondservants in nations around the globe for just such a time.

The Heart of Humility

Government leadership is an essential element to the culture of every nation. The culture of a nation is like a stool with four legs for support - government, business, education and ministry. Weakening the legs of the stool makes it unstable. So it is with the culture of any nation.When government leadership is corrupt and does not have the godly characteristics exhibited by men like Eliakim, the people are not served and the culture is weakened.

The high-level, influential government leaders I know who are believers have a pastor who serves them as a friend and confidential counselor. Some sit quietly in church congregations around the world on Sunday morning. One helps park cars in the church parking lot before Sunday service. They all have a disdain for the culture of corruption that exists and they won�t participate in bribery or corruption. Like Eliakim, they have met God's qualifications of humility and servanthood.

I know political leaders who have experienced the "call" to lead their nations. My assessment of these men is that they are humble, godly men of great ability and intellect. They speak of this "call" with a reverence and humility that is unusual for a political leader. In each case, the voice of the Lord has clearly spoken to them about this call and confirmed His Word over and over again, through intercessors, pastors and leaders all over the world. Most of this confirmation came to them in private, out of the eyes of the public. These are men God has appointed to a particular task.

One of these men is a key political leader in Latin America. He told me he the Holy Spirit directed him from his country to a conference in Jerusalem with 5000 people in attendance. He traveled alone, could not understand the language, and sat in the back of the auditorium. The man leading the conference stopped the conference, called him up to the platform, and under the unction of the Holy Spirit said the Lord was going to "set" him in place as the President of his nation and named his nation.

Another is a man of great ability and intellect who has served his government in very high level positions. He is a strong believer with a ministry background and the unique calling to lead one of the volatile nations of Africa.

Each of these men told me he would have chosen a different destiny for himself, yet each has a strong sense of God's divine purpose for his life. Each shares the common characteristic of a fathering spirit and a commitment to their destiny.

All of these men are currently serving, or have served, in very high levels of government leadership in their nations.Two have backgrounds as pastors; one came from the business world and one from the military. All four men have said to me, "Why would God choose me for this? I have no qualifications." If there is one qualification this kind of leader has to have to be a representative of the Lord to the people, it is a "father's heart for the people." Each of these men is a man of prayer with a commitment to the ways of God and an overriding sense of responsibility for his nation and the people. Each man has a commitment to the Word and a desire to know God intimately; and each has a close personal relationship with their pastor; each man places a high priority on intercession and the intercessor.

Leaders With The Father's Heart for People

I was privileged to spend two days fasting and praying with the President and First Lady of an African nation and was left with two very strong impressions of this couple. The first is the godly authority that rested on them. I have never experienced anything like the moment they came into their living room for the first time. Their authority was almost tangible. This was clearly supernatural.

The second is the father's and mother's hearts that were so clearly expressed in their prayer for their people. There were no condescending attitudes expressed, but rather a compassion and love for the people they were called to lead. This must be what the Lord meant when He spoke about Eliakim "and he will become a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah."

This President had two couples who interceded for him. He covered expenses out of his personal income, not with government funds. This is integrity on a high level. One of these intercessors told me "We are in perfect unity and love to pray for the President. At least one of us is praying for the President 24 hours a day. During the day we pray all day. We pray for his family, for wisdom to lead our nation, for godly counsel for Him and for the favor of God to be on him."

Public Yet Private

Leaders like this will never stand up in front of their congregations and testify about this call to government leadership. These Kingdom leaders have made a personal commitment to stand against corruption and bribery, sometimes at the threat of physical harm. They walk in a fear of God that produces high standards of integrity that are required for this kind of leadership. God's strategy for His Kingdom is to bring His economy to the people. Trusted government leaders, who meet His qualifications, must be in place for the Lord to open up hidden resources of nations.

Obviously, not all people called to government will lead nations. Some serve as trusted leaders or counselors, while some will be secretaries or managers. Government people are usually people with influence. For every man or woman summoned to serve God as government leaders, the Lord will send covenant people who ask nothing for themselves, never push personal agendas, refuse the "benefits" that come from these relationships, and do not use this God given covenant for personal gain.They come only with hearts of servants and intercessors. I will explain what it means to be a friend to this kind of leader in the final chapter.

What is God's Opinion on Elected Officials?

The Lord woke me very early one morning, with a nation in Central America pressing on my heart. This nation was to have a national election in a few months. As I prayed that morning, the Lord said to me, "My people are distracted by political speeches and personalities. They must come before Me with one voice and cry out for My choice to lead their nation."

I realized that morning that each time there is an election or an appointment in a nation, no matter where in the world that may be, God has His choice. He doesn't have a list of back-up options if His choice doesn't get elected. He has one choice for each position. His choice represents His will for that nation at that time. He has a big picture view - He knows what will happen in the future and He always has the benefit of people and the advancement of His Kingdom -- not necessarily churches, institutions or governments -- at the forefront of His choices. These things are all elements of His Kingdom, but they cannot be advanced at the expense of the Kingdom.

Yet many times our opinions about candidates are based on newspapers, clever television ads, party affiliation, or candidate speeches. God's opinion needs to be our opinion, and He is willing to share His opinions with us, if we take the time to listen. Our priority is to seek Him about elections or appointments in our respective nations. This seeking has to happen as a Body in each nation. Those who seek God and intercede over their nations, those who take the time to find out God's choices for their leaders, will determine the outcome of elections and thereby the history of their nations.

Just as the Lord has destinies for each of us, He has destinies for nations as well (Matthew 25:32). We seem to be consumed with our personal destinies (the micro viewpoint), and overlook the critical nature of the destiny of nations (a macro viewpoint).

I was recently in an African nation a few months before a national election. I spent some time praying with and for the former Vice-President of that nation. He was obviously a man with a sincere and deep commitment to God. He told me he had been grieved by recent comments of leading religious leaders of the nation. He said these leaders had been making public comments to the media and their congregations that, "It does not matter who you vote for, only that you participate in the voting process." One of the presidential candidates was involved in witchcraft and had several wives.

God has an opinion on every election and political appointment! He has an opinion about our lives, but also about a nation's future. How can we expect the blessing of God on a nation, when we just "participate in the process?"We must take the time to find His choice and support His choices! It is important for us to do our due diligence and study the candidate's lives, their affiliations, their backgrounds and history of decision making. However, it is more important to pray about these matters and find out God's opinion on the matter.

There is a New Breed

God's new breed of Kingdom government leaders will be established in every nation by the unified prayer of His saints, not necessarily by political influence alone. We bring this kind of government leader into office by interceding for our nations. We bring in this kind of leadership by crying out to Heaven for His leaders to emerge. The Lord says in Daniel 2:21: It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings." Give us men and women with the heart of Eliakim to lead our nations, Oh Lord!

Chapter 11 Excerpt, Secrets of the Kingdom Economy, by Paul Cuny,

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