Leadership: Moses and Capability

The world has probably never seen a leader the equal of Moses. Consider his feat: a new nation was born in one day and he led over one million people through a trackless wilderness for almost forty years. There were external foes and internal problems, all of which he had to handle virtually single-handedly. He maintained unity amongst a group of tribes who were known for rivalry. Any group of overseers who has sought to maintain unity in an assembly of fifty believers can only stand back in admiration.

He instituted a government and an entire system of laws to legislate every aspect of life. He charted a course morally and spiritually that the nation was to follow for centuries to come. His influence is still felt in the world to this day, even though it might be denied by many.

Was Moses a born and “natural” leader, or was he a product of the rigorous education which only God can administer? What crucial lessons were learned, what classes were attended which took the brash and confident young man of forty and transformed him into the strong leader at the age of eighty?

The Classroom of Delay

At the age of forty “he supposed” it was time to begin delivering his brethren, but he must learn God’s timetable. He killed an Egyptian in an attempt to deliver an Israelite; but he must learn God’s technique as well. It would not be through human might. God had an issue with Egypt and would display His power against the gods of Egypt (Ex 12:12). God intended Egypt to know His judgment and, as a result, His terror would be upon all the surrounding nations.

Delay is often difficult for leaders who by nature are men of vision and action. So there is actually something of the “natural” leader which God must refine.

The Classroom of Discovery

Exodus 4 details additional lessons which Moses would need to learn prior to assuming leadership. The rod cast from his hand became a serpent. He must learn the ultimate foe he faces – not Egypt and Pharaoh but the god of this age.

A hand thrust within his bosom exited as a leprous hand. Not only is there a foe without, but there is a treacherous and subtle foe within. It is our flesh.

The chapter ends with the strange and enigmatic meeting in the inn when we are told God sought to slay him. An uncircumcised son denoted disobedience to the Word of God. If Moses is going to speak for God, he must learn to submit to the Word of God.

Satan without, sin within, submission demanded – these vital lessons begin to shape this leader.

The Classroom of Disappointment

Moses must have moved initially with confidence born of his dealings with God. With boldness he demands of Pharaoh, “Let My people go” (Ex 5:1). But rather than compliance, Pharaoh worsens the working conditions for the Israelites and dismisses Moses and Aaron as insignificant rabble-rousers.

The words of the Jewish officers must have come with tremendous hurt to Moses: “Ye have made our savor to be abhorred in the eyes of Pharaoh” (v 21). Conditions only worsened as a result of Moses’ visit. “Since I came … he hath done evil to this people” (Ex 5:23).

God was teaching His prophet the need for further dependence and tempering his enthusiasm with a knowledge of the Word of God. He had forewarned him earlier of the initial outcome (ch 4:21). The two on the road to Emmaus knew something of this when they said, “We had hoped … ” (Luke 24:21 Newberry).

The Classroom of Defamation

Criticism from ungodly people is to be expected. But what about the criticism that comes from those who are believers? From those who are even friends? Mary had to endure it (John 12); Paul knew it in abundance in his service for God. Moses entered that class in Numbers 12 and graduated with high marks. He learned that God can vindicate and defend His servant.

The Classroom of Denial

There was one final and perhaps very sad lesson for Moses in the school of God. He longed to see the land which God was giving the nation. His failure at Meribah (Num 20:1-13), when he smote the rock, led to God’s judgment that Moses could not enter the land. It may have been the most difficult lesson for Moses to learn. His longings and grief are evident in the plaintive words he rehearsed before the people of God about to cross the Jordan (Deut 3:23-28). How did Moses respond? Sulking and self-pity? Half-hearted service from that day forward? With grace and dignity he accepted the verdict of God and placed the future in the hands of another capable leader.

The Lord had better things in mind for His servant. He would one day enter the land. It would be in better company – Christ, Elijah, and the three disciples. There would be better conversation – they spake of His exodus (Luke 9:31). There would be a better consideration – not just the land, but the glory of the Lord.

David knew a similar experience when his desire to build a temple for God was denied. Rather than rebel or display anger or frustration with God, he sits before the Lord and worships; then he rises to prepare with all his might for Solomon to build it.

The lesson? A leader must recognize that there is something far bigger than himself. The work and will of God eclipses any and every man. Yet God mingles all of this with compassion and kindness.

The classrooms in which God places us are at times painful; but all who have attended would never choose any other school.