The Cost of Leadership

Do you think Exodus 3 would have been a bit longer if Moses had known what he was truly getting himself into? He gave God a hard time as it is, but I wonder whether Moses would have completely refused had he known the full assignment when God called him. At first glance, being the Deliverer of Israel doesn’t sound like a bad gig; I might sign for that in a heartbeat. As I read through Exodus and Numbers in particular, however, I began to change my opinion on the desirability of that assignment.

The way Moses’ leadership is attacked time and time again is unparalleled in the Old Testament as far as I know. Even though God had called him, equipped him, empowered him, and worked great miracles through him, the Israelites continued to throw an amazing amount of mud at him. What makes everything more poignant is that Moses didn’t even want the job in the first place! Having accepted the job, however, he proves to be the perfect man for the job – who other than the meekest man on earth could ever handle a bunch like the Israelites?

Complaints about more work, no food, no water, no meat, lack of leadership, and regular exclamations of “why did you bring us here into the wilderness to die?!?” abound in this journey through the wilderness. In fact, I am surprised at how many times they complain about the same things and how much patience Moses has with the people. Did he ever regret not letting God wipe out the people of Israel when he was on Mount Sinai? I know I would have said to God, “Ummm, God, about wiping out the people and making me into a great nation – is that offer still on the table?” But not Moses. He prays, intercedes, shows amazing patience, reasons with the people, and seeks God continuously. I bet that a large part of the reason why he was able to do it was because he spent so much time in the tent of meeting – it’s where I would be if I were in his shoes!

Never before have I really paused long enough to realize the fierceness of the attacks on Moses’ leadership and the toll that must have taken on him. In Numbers 11, he tells God he cannot do it alone anymore – and that is before Aaron and Miriam question his leadership and before Korah & Co. try to elevate themselves to the same level of leadership as Moses and Aaron. I have great respect for how this man responded to everything that was thrown at him and stayed dedicated to God, the calling He had given him, and the people God had entrusted to him.

Moses and his dealing with the Israelites serves as a great example for us: when we lead, let’s lead like Moses; when we follow, let’s not follow like the Israelites did.

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