Leadership is hard, deal with it!

apr18_13_HBRStaffThe title of this article probably sounds harsh to 21st Century ears. This is ancient wisdom for modern times and I am so glad to be able to learn this and share it with others. Moses was a meek man by nature and the trials of leadership helped chisel that meekness into a beautiful virtue. Meekness is not weakness. It is power under control. Moses was obviously a powerful man with a temper. He beat a man to death who was trying to beat another man to death. Moses was no wimp. Moses rose to the call of leadership. He was hesitant at first, and rightfully so. He was going to have to lead an obstinate, stiff necked people to the Promised Land. The Pharaoh of Egypt wanted to kill Moses. The children of Israel wanted to stone Moses. In Numbers 16, his own sister rose up in opposition against him. In Numbers 16, a man named Korah convinced 250 people to rise up against Moses. Leadership was hard. Moses dealt with it. How do you react when you get difficult news? Moses is about to get some terrible news, right on the heels of the death of his sister, Miriam. Let’s examine Numbers 20.

I. An attitude of ingratitude

The generation that exited Egypt was almost gone. A new generation had risen up in its place during the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. This new generation suffered from the same old problem from which we all suffer, sin nature.

1 Then the sons of Israel, the whole congregation, came to the wilderness of Zin in the first month; and the people stayed at Kadesh. Now Miriam died there and was buried there.
2 There was no water for the congregation, and they assembled themselves against Moses and Aaron.
3 The people thus contended with Moses and spoke, saying, “If only we had perished when our brothers perished before the LORD!
4 “Why then have you brought the LORD’S assembly into this wilderness, for us and our beasts to die here?
5 “Why have you made us come up from Egypt, to bring us in to this wretched place? It is not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, nor is there water to drink.” (Numbers 20)

Miriam has just died and the people face a situation, again, where they do not have water. This physical need is going to expose a deeper spiritual need. It’s very difficult to get people to unite to do good, especially in our modern world. On the other hand, getting people to join forces to do evil, that is not so difficult. History is full of examples of people uniting to do evil. The children of Israel quickly unite against their spiritual leadership. This current generation should have learned from the mistakes of the previous generation. Their ancestors faced the same situation one generation previous. In Exodus 17, the children of Israel had no water and they grumbled against Moses. They were ready to pick up stones and put Moses to death. Moses ran to the Lord and the Lord intervened on his behalf. The people learned that God is Jehovah-Nissi, the Lord is our banner of victory. This current generation complains and stands against Moses and Aaron. In reality, the people oppose God. In fact, the people develop a warped sense of reality, claiming that it would have been better to die in the wilderness with the previous generation than to face their current circumstance. They never think to turn to Jehovah-Nissi for help. Instead, they begin to question their spiritual authority figure. Not only that, but they are terribly ungrateful to Moses directly and to God indirectly. They view the past through rose colored glasses. They label their current location a “wretched” place, forgetting that Egypt really was a wretched place where the previous generation cried out daily for liberation. This is what happens to us when we do not trust the Lord and are ungrateful. What is Moses going to do this time? The previous time that this happened, Moses ran to the Lord.

II. A moment of anger

Moses seems to have forgotten about the work of the Lord while leading the previous generation through the wilderness. This time, he takes a different approach when dealing with disgruntled people.

Then Moses and Aaron came in from the presence of the assembly to the doorway of the tent of meeting and fell on their faces. (Numbers 20:6)

Moses does not run to the Lord right away. Instead, he falls on his face before the crowd. God sees (El Roi) and intervenes.

Then the glory of the LORD appeared to them;
7 and the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
8 “Take the rod; and you and your brother Aaron assemble the congregation and speak to the rock before their eyes, that it may yield its water. You shall thus bring forth water for them out of the rock and let the congregation and their beasts drink.” (Numbers 20)

The Lord intervenes and speaks to Moses. The Lord gives specific directions to Moses. Moses is to gather the congregation and speak to the rock. Up until this point, Moses has obeyed the Lord fully. In his anger, Moses is going to make several mistakes.

9 So Moses took the rod from before the LORD, just as He had commanded him;
10 and Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly before the rock. And he said to them, “Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?”
11 Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation and their beasts drank. (Numbers 20)

Moses partially obeys the Lord in this situation. Moses gathers the people together before the rock, just as the Lord had commanded him to do. But, Moses does not speak to the rock. Instead, he speaks to the people and rebukes them for the way that they have treated him. He calls the people rebels. This is a true statement but he was not supposed to do this. The word rebel means to be contentious. It means to be obstinate, to quarrel with others. This is perfect picture of our sin nature. We are rebellious by nature. We rebel against God and that manifests in our rebellion against spiritual authority figures. This perfectly describes the children of Israel. Moses is not wrong in what he says. He wrong because he was not supposed to speak to the people. He was supposed to speak to the rock. Then, instead of speaking to the rock, he strikes the rock two times. Even though Moses disobeys the Lord, God performs the miracle and satisfies the needs of the people. It’s not about the leader. It’s all about the Lord. The leader is to point the people to the Lord. In this case, it seems that Moses is pointing the people to himself. Like all sin, this set of sins brings about consequences in the life of Moses and Aaron. Sin may satisfy momentarily. Moses probably enjoyed scolding the people. But sin never satisfies long term. It always brings about consequences.

III. Consequences to face

Leadership is hard. A leader will always be tempted to give in to his sin nature as the rebellious people will push his buttons constantly. Moses had a sin nature like all of us. He allowed himself to be angered and in his anger, he disobeyed God several times over.

12 But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.”
13 Those were the waters of Meribah, because the sons of Israel contended with the LORD, and He proved Himself holy among them. (Numbers 20)

The people tested Moses. They pushed his buttons and he responded. Now he has to face the consequences. Moses receives some harsh news. He and Aaron are not going to be able to enter the Promised Land. Moses has a choice here. He can argue with God and try to justify his actions. Moses does not do this. He deals with the consequences of his actions. Our modern world needs to hear this message so desperately. When we mess up and get caught, we must face the consequences. We are told to argue and justify our actions. We are told to blame others for our actions. This is what our sin nature wants us to do. Do you want to see this on full display? Watch how a modern politician responds when caught doing something wrong. They spin, shift the blame, hire a PR representative, and deny over and over again. Moses sets the example for us. Leadership is hard, deal with it! We can learn from this event or we can repeat the same mistakes and pay the price for it.

May the Lord help us understand these truths and apply them to our daily lives.

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