There are so many people in Scripture that God placed in roles of leadership. Jesus, Paul, Peter, David, and many others, are some that we will cover in the lessons on leadership series. One of my favorite leaders in Scripture is Moses.
The one drawn from water by Pharoah’s daughter, raised in Pharoah’s household, and who fled from all he had known in the land of Egypt to the land of Midian. And this is all within the first two chapters of the Book of Exodus.
However, Moses was Israel’s leader who led them out of Egypt amid oppression and slavery at the hands of Pharoah. God appears to Moses in the burning bush and explains to Him that he will bring God’s people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt (Exodus 3:10). Moses is known for then explaining to the Lord the reasons why he couldn’t possibly lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. The Lord wouldn’t hear of it, and while Moses is the leader, his brother, Aaron, is the mouthpiece. There are several good lessons regarding leadership that we can glean from Moses’ life.
1. Moses was persistent. Moses continued to go before Pharoah and persistently seek the release of the Israelites (Exodus 5). Despite the magic tricks of Pharoah’s magicians, Moses continued to make his way into Pharoah’s presence and ask for the Israelites’ release. Though Pharoah repeatedly denied the request and made the task of brick making harder for the Israelites, Moses trusted God for what He promised – deliverance of God’s people. How many times do we give up on something, even when we know the Lord promised? If the leader gives up, why shouldn’t the people?
2. Moses was patient. It is very interesting to read in the chronological Bible all the accounts of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy in the order that they occurred. When I read these stories in order, one thing stands out: the people complained. Again. And again. And again. Seriously. If it wasn’t one thing, it was another. As a leader, Moses was patient with the people. Granted, he had his moments of lack of patience and disbelief in the Lord, and this ultimately led to his inability to step a toe into the Promised Land (Numbers 20:8-13), but he didn’t leave the two million Israelites in the wilderness to wander with a, “See ya,” and make his own, solitary 11 day trek to Canaan. No, he patiently stayed with the people and led them for forty years despite their complaints about food, water, having a better life in Egypt, making a god for themselves and wanting a new leader. He patiently stayed the course to which God called him.
3. Moses was teachable. Eventhough Moses led the people well, he didn’t have it altogether and he learned from older, wiser people. One of those people was his father-in-law, Jethro. Jethro recognized that Moses was inundated with the disputes of the people – Moses handled all the disputes of all the Israelites (Exodus 18:13-16). Jethro saw this wasn’t good – for Moses or the people – and encouraged him to delegate to able men who could help handle the disputes (Exodus 18:17-23). What Exodus 18:24 says is important, “Moses listened to his father-in-law and did all that he said.” Moses could have easily told his father-in-law to leave him alone; God had appointed and chosen him as the leader of the Israelites and how dare Jethro try to tell him how to lead. But, he didn’t. He listened, discerned, considered, and applied the suggestion he had been given.
4. Moses was faithful. Moses was faithful to the Lord and he was faithful to the people. God was always faithful to Moses, but the people weren’t always faithful to him. When it would have been easy to leave the people in the desert, Moses continued to serve the Lord by serving the people. When Moses had frustrations with the people, he took them to the Lord – not the people. Numbers 11:1-9 shows us that the Israelites were complaining and took their complaints to Moses. Moses, in turn, takes the complaints of the people – as well as his own – to the Lord (Numbers 11:10-15). But, he never left the people – even amid all their complaints, their rebellion and their disloyalty. He faithfully led them in the good times and bad.
5. Moses was obedient. Though he had his moments of disobedience and disbelief, overall Moses was obedient to the Lord. Even when the people wanted to do something else, Moses was obedient to act upon what the Lord told him. In Numbers 14:1-10, we read of the reaction of the Israelites to the report that the 12 spies bring to the Israelites regarding the land of Canaan. Ten of the spies report that the people are big and there is no way to overtake them. But, two of the spies, Caleb and Joshua, tell the people not to rebel and to trust in the Lord (vs. 6-10). Moses pleads before the Lord on behalf of the people (vs. 11-19) and the Lord pardons the people, but He says to Moses, “Surely all the men who have seen My glory and My signs which I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have put Me to the test these ten times and have not listened to My voice, shall by no means see the land which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who spurned Me see it…I, the LORD, have spoken, surely this I will do to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. In this wilderness they shall be destroyed, and there they will die” (vs. 22-3, 35). Moses shares this news with the people and they mourn greatly (vs. 39). But, the very next morning they decide they are going to go into the land anyway, despite having sinned against the Lord. Moses, though, obediently stands his ground, “Why then are you transgressing the commandment of the LORD, when it will not succeed? Do not go up, or you will be struck down before your enemies, for the LORD is not among you. For the Amalekites and the Canaanites will be there in front of you, and you will fall by the sword, inasmuch as you have turned back from following the LORD. And the LORD will not be with you” (vs. 41-3). The people don’t listen and they “heedlessly” try to take the land and they are all killed at the hands of the Amalekites and the Canaanites (vs. 44-5). Moses, however, didn’t go with them. He was obedient to the Lord’s command rather than the people’s desires.
In evaluating the leadership and life of Moses, we can see highs and lows, good and bad. Most likely the same can be said of our leadership and lives. But, we learn from his life as he is one commended in Scripture who had faith (Hebrews 11:23-29).