MOSES AS A LEADER: A BIBLICAL MODEL.
BY DONALD SHIELDS 02/17/90
“He was gifted and trained as perhaps none other of his day, and he was entrusted with a task probably greater than any other person of any day.” (Wood, P.136)
The mention of America would quickly bring to mind the memory of many great presidents; England it’s noble monarchs. However mention Israel, and the name Moses is immediately recalled.
The Scriptures ascribe to him his final epitaph in Deuteronomy: “Since then (the time of Moses), no prophet has rises in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, who did all those
miraculous signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt – to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or preformed the awesome
deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.” (Deut. 34:10-12,N.I.V.) Who was this leader and what contributed to his “greatness”? By following the course of Moses’ life, we can gain insight on how God can “draw out” the skills of leadership from His chosen vessels.
I. First Forty Years
“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” (Prov.22:6, N.I.V.) No where is this better illustrated than in the childhood of Moses. “When Moses was born, his parents determined to make a brave effort to preseve the young life.” (Ackland,P.70)
The Pharaoh of the day had prescribed infanticide as a solution to the “Jewish problem” in Egypt. Moses parents determined to “preserve this young life” via God’s mercy. “There is no doubt that the seeds of his greatness were planted and nurtured during the days of his youth and early manhood…Moses recieved remarkable spiritual training in his home.” (Boice,P.57)
Amram (Moses’ father) and Jochebed (Moses’ mother) conspired to save the young Moses by getting the Pharaoh’s daughter to adopt him. Having accomplished physical preservation, Moses’ mother was brought into the palace as his wet-nurse and so his spiritual preservation was also appropriated. In the life of Moses, the foundations laid by these Godly parents definitely gave him deep spiritual roots that God would use in the course of Moses’ lifetime.
“God had arranged for him to have a first-class secular education as well as a spiritual one.” (Boice,P.59) In the palace of Egyptian nobility, Moses would have received the equivalent to a college education. Reading, writing, leadership theory, protocol and mathematics would have been well within the grasp of the young Moses. This education would later prove useful to Moses in:
1) His confrontation against Pharaoh
2) Leading of the Children of Israel
3) His writing of the Decalogue
4) The building of the Tabernacle
5) Organization for the entrance into Canaan
The education of Moses demonstrates that Godly leaders must receive a well rounded education. Although God does use uneducated individuals to further His causes, in the case of Moses, his formal education was useful to his leadership calling.
II. Second Forty Years
“By faith Moses when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.” (Heb.11:24-25,N.I.V.)
“Having made the commendable choice, however, Moses did not carry it out wisely. He went out among his kindred Hebrews, saw one abused by a slave master, and killed the cruel fellow. He hid the body thinking no one had seen him. The next day he attempted to settle a difference between two struggling Hebrews, and in doing so learned that his action of the previous day was known.” (Wood,P.96)
The axion states “haste makes waste”. Moses jumped the gun on the true deliverer Jehovah God and had to flee Egypt into the Midian desert. “The problem with Moses was his temper. He simply could not control it…His lack of self-control obviously had to be dealt with before he could ever be entrusted with the pastoral care of God’s people.” (Briscoe,P.24)
To be entrusted with close to two million lives, a leader has to be able to think with a cool head. Moses needed to learn patience and self-control. Forty years in the desert began to soften Moses. Did Moses’ haste destroy the ministry God had set out for him to fulfill? No, but God needed to tenderize Moses and build compassion into his life. “Moses’ first great choice and failure shows that God’s true servants can sometimes fail miserable. In our own failures we can gain a measure of encouragement from (this).” (Boice,P62)
True leadership contains failure. Every success has the potential for defeat. Frustrated Moses flees to the Midian desert and finds contentment by servivng in the household of Jethro. “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” (Ex.3:10, N.I.V.) “The call of Moses is perhaps the most revealing, as it was the most momentous event in his entire life.” (Tenney,P.281) Every great leader of God receives a heart-felt call from the Creator. Moses was no different. The experience of the Midian proved valuable for Moses, “…(he) would have gained valuable experience in wilderness survival, which would prove valuable to the future leader of the Israelites in that same area.” (Int. Standard Bible Enc.,P.418)
Now God wanted to send His servant back into Egypt, back into Pharaoh’s court, to gain liberty for His people in bondage. “Faced with a challenge that seemed beyond his capabilities, the aged Moses began making excuses for not accepting the task.” (Baker Enc.,P.1491) What ran through the mind of Moses at the point of his call is open to speculation: Perhaps the image of his encounter with the Hebrew people, and his failure to be a social deliverer. He may have envisioned Egyptian justice, and his unsettled crime against the Pharaoh. Whatever his reasons, Moses begins to appeal to God on his own behalf.
Moses’ Five Arguments. (Ex.3:11-4:13)
Moses — God
1) “Who am I…” (3:11) “…I will be with you…” (3:12) SHIELDS 05
2) “What shall I say to the people..” (3:13) “Iam…” (3:14)
3) “What if they don’t believe me…” (4:1) Two signs from God (4:2-9)
4) “I cannot speak very well…” (4:10) “…Who gave man his mouth…” (4:11)
5) “Send someone else…” (4:13) God provides Aaron (4:14)
(Bibl.101 Lecture Notes, Dr. Duez)
This process of discovery resulted in Moses receiving a vision of Jehovah God. The Egyptians were blindly serving their god’s. Moses encountered the God of the Hebrews who had heard their anguish. (Ex.3:7-9) For a secular executive to best represent a corporation, two things need to be present: 1) knowledge and 2) dedication. Through this exploration Moses came to know God, and as we will see later, banked Jehovah’s full support. James Hasting in his book, The Greater Men and Women of the Bible, comments on two results of Moses’ vision of Jehovah:
1) “The vision of God prepared him for the work of his life.”
2) “The vision of God gave endurance in fulfilling that work.”
The two principles of leadership that this period high-lights are: 1) Men/Women of God must be secure in their calling and 2) Men/Women of God must have a vision of God’s providence.
III. Final Forty Years
“Throughout the period of the plagues Moses emerged as a strong individual who was willing to confront Pharaoh” (Int. Standard Bible Enc.,P.423)
Moses returns to Egypt prepared by God to challenge Pharaoh. From the initial meeting with Pharaoh to the banks of the Red Sea, Moses commands the upper hand, confident that God will fulfill
Israels deliverence. Even the Hebrews, though hesitant at first, look to Moses for direction.The Moses that emerges is different from the Moses that left after the murder of the Egyptian slave master. The anger that caused Moses to act impulsively was still present, but now it was being channeled by God towards Pharaoh.
“Moses had been greatly tried by Pharaoh’s vacilliation, by (Pharaoh’s) persistant refusals to yield to the demands made of him in the name of Moses’ God.” (Tenney,P.286)
With the expertise of a great general, Moses prepared Israel for the Passover and exit of the land. Egypt buckled under the death blow of God dealt upon the first-born males. “The death of all the first-born children evoked such a popular reaction that Pharaoh was compelled to release the Israelites.” (Tenney,P.286) “The biblical record says that about 600,000 Hebrew men left Egypt. Together with women and children the total would have been in excess of two million people, a grievous blow to the economy and pride of Egypt.” (Baker Enc. of the Bible,P.1492)
Moses who had failed to command the respect of two fighting Hebrews (Ex.2:14), now with God’s power, was leading two million to the promised land.
“The man of God was ready. When the summons to assume leadership of his people came, Moses was a prepared instrument. His loyalty to God guaranteed that all lesser loyalties would be observed, and ordered his life in a course of uninpeachable integrity. His spirit of detachment from self-interest meant that justice and equality would be in all his ways. Now faith was called upon to triumph over every difficulty; and the call was gloriously answered.” (Ackland,P.75)
“As a sign that Moses had been sent to deliver the people, God told Moses that he would bring them to the same spot, where they would worship God (Ex.3:12).” (Baker Enc. of the Bible,P.1493)
Moses faced many obstacles on the way to Mount Sinai. There was the Red Sea. With Pharoah and his troops it hot pursuit, Moses needed a way of escape for himself and his people who were trapped with nowhere to go. With God’s power, Moses power he stretched his rod out and the waters parted. After a sucessful crossing by the Israelites, the waters returned to their original state, submursing Pharoah’s armies in the process. This mighty miricle would seem enough to instill awe into Israel concerning Moses and Jehovah whom he served. Unfortunately this was far from the truth and Israel began to complain and whine. The patience of Moses’ Midian wanderings is exibited. Time and time again Moses becomes Israel’s intercessor. Seeking God on their behalf for everything from food to forgiveness. Moses’ father-in-law visits Moses (Ex.18:1-27) and instructs him to share the mundane matters with others. I sense that God used Jethro to prevent Moses from burning out. The compassion and love that he had for Israel blinded Moses to the limitations that he possessed as a man. Pastoral leaders often learn to late to train others to share the heavy load of the Ministry.
Arriving at Mount Sinai, Moses faced one of the greatest hardships of his leadership. God called Moses up the mountain to receive the law. While Moses was away, the children of Israel become restless. Thinking Moses to be dead, with the consent of Aaron, they built an idol and began to worship it. “When he descended the mountain, he was filled with great anger upon seeing what had taken place, and he destroyed the tables of the decalogue, ground the golden image into powder, scattered it on the water and forced the people to drink it.” (Tenney,P.288)
What could have been Israels greatest hour, was tarnished by sin and disobedience. God’s anger burned and Moses again climbs the mountain, only this time with hopes of sparing the people from God’s wrath. James Montgomery Boice in his book Ordinary Men called by God describes the great compassion of Moses: “Moses reached the top of the mountain and began to speak to God. It must have been in great anguish, for the Hebrew text is uneven and the second sentence which Moses speaks breaks off without ending. The fact is indicated by the presence of a dash and a semicolon in the middle of the King James translation of Exodus 32:32.
Moses’ prayer was a strangled cry, a grasping sob, welling up from the heart of a man who is asking to be sent to hell if only it can mean the salvation of the people he has come to love.” (Boice,P.104)
The selflessness that Moses exhibits is an example to Godly leaders “…his humility, his love of God and zeal for his honor and glory, were most severly tested and most clearly revealed.” (Tenney,P.291)
“The Mosaic Covenant is distinct among covenants. It was, first, Israel’s national constitution and contains instuctions for Israel’s socio-judicial system as well as personal moral issues.” (Juster,P.40) Moses’ Egyptian education proved useful in recording Israel’s code of ethics. The first five books of Scripture are attributed with his authorship.
Moses took great pain in instructing Israel in their importance, and the need for careful caution in their observation. The book of Deuteronomy amounts to a speech Moses gives to Israel concerning the promised land and their duties as God’s people. Good leadership is conscious of the finite nature of their position, and Moses prepares Israel for automony without him. In the forty year period from the exit of Egypt until his death, the leadership of Moses was challenged many times. He remained secure in the fact that God had called him and made little effort to justify
his position. Moses had the unique priviledge of having his Divine Boss intercede and settle all leadership disputes.
A prime example of God’s vindication takes place in Exodus chapter 18. Miriam (his sister) and Aaron (his brother) query his right to absolute leadership. Before Moses has a chance to act God moves in and strikes Miriam with temporary leproscy. In the case of Korah (Num.16-17), Moses challenges the leaders of the mutiny to meet at the gate of the tabernacle. Again Moses looks to God for his defense, and the ground swallows up the rival leaders. The greatest tradgedy of Moses’ career is recorded in Numbers chapter 20. Again the children of Israel grumble because of no drinking water. Moses is commanded by God to speak to the rock for water. In anger he strikes the rock. God reacts to Moses by telling him “…because you did not trust me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” (Num. 20:12b, N.I.V.)
The impulsive anger that caused him to flee Egypt again surfaces. Throughout his 120 year lifetime, the opportunity was there for him to gain control over this temper. Unfortunately, anger remained his blindspot and spoiled his chance to enter the promised land. Moses does not resign at this point but begins to give the second generation instruction needed for entry into the land.
“Every one will admit that the record of the life of Moses manifests a patience, meekness, and constancy, which is perhaps the most wonderful ever displayed by a man.” (Hastings,P.299) Moses’ example of leadership style shows what greatness can be achieved by man under the hand of God. Each stage of his career was essential in the overall product of his person. He became the pattern
by which later Hebrew rulers would conform. “…Prophet, priest, lawgiver, judge, intercessor, shepherd, miricle worker, and founder of a nation,” (Baker Enc.,P.1489) he was all of these and more. Moses was a leaders leader, a true servant of God.
Ackland, Donald F. PeopleHaven’tChanged. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1957.
—. BakerEncyclopediaoftheBible. Vol.2 Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988.
Boice, James Montgomery OrdinaryMenCalledByGod. Wheaton: Victor Books, 1983.
Briscoe, Jill HereIAm-SendAaron. Wheaton: Victor Books, 1978.
Duez, Dr. Robert C. Bibl.101-ClassNotes. Spring 1989.
Hastings, J. TheGreaterMenAndWomenOfTheBible. Vol.II
Edinburgh: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1914.
Juster, Daniel JewishRoots. Pacific Palisades: Davar, 1986.
Stevens, William W. OldTestamentStudy. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1974.
—. TheInternationalStandardBibleEncylopedia. Vol.3 Grand
Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans, 1986.
Tenney, Merrill C. TheZondervanPictoralEncyclopediaoftheBible.
Vol.4 Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975.
Wood, Leon J. ASurveyofIsrael’sHistory. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986.
—. WycliffeBibleEncyclopedia. Vol.2 Chicago: Moody Press, 1975.