Submission Is Essential for Leadership

By Mark D. Roberts

August 23, 2015

Serve the LORD with fear, with trembling kiss his feet, or he will be angry, and you will perish in the way; for his wrath is quickly kindled. Happy are all who take refuge in him.”

Psalm 2:11-12


Psalm 2 celebrates the authority of God and the granting of this authority to one who is identified as God’s son (2:7). In its original context, the son of God is the king of Israel. He was God’s son in that he was anointed, empowered, and authorized by God. The king had a close relationship with the Lord, as a son with a father, even though the king was a mere mortal.

The closing verses of Psalm 2 call the kings of the earth to honor and serve the Lord and, by implication, his representative on earth, the king of Israel. The final verses call human leaders to “Serve the LORD with fear” (2:11). The phrase translated by the NRSV as “kiss his feet” could be rendered more literally as “kiss the son” (nashequ-bar), that is the royal son of God. In the culture of the Ancient Near East, the kiss was a sign of submission to an authority. We see this, for example, in 1 Samuel 10:1, when Samuel kisses Saul to symbolize Saul’s being appointed as the ruler of Israel. The NRSV translation “kiss his feet” rightly gets the sense of submission in this passage.

As we read Psalm 2 today, our context is quite different. We no longer have human kings ruling over us. Moreover, we have come to understand that Psalm 2 points ahead to the one who was fully the Son of God. Thus, when we read verse 12, we hear a call to kiss, that is, to submit to Jesus, the Son of God. We who lead human organizations, whether governments, businesses, churches, or families, will be blessed in our leadership if we submit to the Son of God as a representative of the whole Trinity. When we offer ourselves and our leadership to the Lord, when we bow to his superlative sovereignty, when we seek his ways, when we yearn to honor him in all we do, then we are guided and empowered to lead in fruitful ways. On the other hand, if we get too puffed up with our own authority, if we forget to get on our knees before the Son of God and “kiss” him, if we seek our own glory, then our leadership will be ultimately fruitless.

For me, the regular discipline of offering myself to the Lord is essential to my healthy and effective functioning as a leader, whether in my professional or personal life. When I acknowledge God’s sovereignty over me, recognizing that I am a steward of that which belongs to God alone, submitting my plans and dreams to him, then I am in a position to be blessed in my leadership.


What helps you to submit to the Lord?

Where are you a leader?

How might your leadership be enhanced and reshaped if you submitted yourself to the Lord each day?


King of kings and Lord of lords, today I am reminded of your preeminent sovereignty over all things, including me. Psalm 2 calls me to “kiss” you, to acknowledge your authority by submitting myself to you.

So, in obedience to your Word, I offer myself to you today. I surrender my agendas so that I might be devoted to your agenda. I confess my tendency to live as if I am the king of the universe. I commit myself to your glory and your ways. Wherever I am a leader, may I be, first and foremost, your follower, your servant.

I pray in the name of Jesus, the Son of God. Amen.


An earlier version of this devotion appeared at Used by permission through the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license.


While Mark is on vacation for two weeks in August, we are running “greatest hits” devotions from the past year. New devotions will return on August 26. This devotional was originally published on May 24, 2015.

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

More on Mark

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Learn Learn Learn Learn

the Life for Leaders newsletter

Learn Learn Learn Learn