Moses: Leadership lessons

Today I opened my bible to read and it fell open to the life of Moses. More specifically the end of his life. He was an incredible man, created for greatness. He provided a model for leadership that people have studied for thousands of years. He had such a connection with God that he was said to have talked face to face with Him. He led the people victoriously out of slavery and towards the ‘Promised land’.  He spent time in Gods presence hearing Gods heart for relationship with his people and was responsible to administer ‘The law’. The means by which Gods chosen people should relate to a pure and holy God. Today the thing that really grabbed my heart was the bittersweet ending to his life. He saw so much victory and breakthrough and yet the end of his life leaves a strange taste in the mouth. Successful leadership often looks very different to how we might imagine. Moses paid a high price in leading Gods people.

Moses ultimately failed to lead the people into the promised land. At the end of his life the Lord leads him up Mount Nebo. From this mountain he could see the ‘Promised land’ in the distance, it was so close and yet so far away. This was to be Moses final resting place. I imagine this would have been an emotional experience. One of the major purposes God gave him for his life, within sight, literally, knowing he would make it no further.

I tend to think Moses had it pretty tough! From the very moment he takes leadership of the Israelites he has to deal with their incessant complaining, idolatry and seemingly nonchalant approach to the God of the universe in their midst. Time and time again he steps in the gap, takes responsibility for their distant hearts and pleads for Gods mercy. For the most part he keeps his heart turned towards God and defends Gods name with great vigour and passion, only to then associate himself with those who don’t seem to realise the consequences of their heart condition.

It has led me to realise great leaders take responsibility for their people and the actions they take. I recently learnt that you will never have influence over an area you do not take responsibility for. Moses really understood this. His heart was so big for his people that he acted as if the peoples failure was his own. This responsibility he carried brought a whole nation into the favour of the Lord. They walked in the Lords provision, his guidance and had the very presence of God go with them. Moses role in this was huge, I can’t help but think what would have happened without him. He represented the people before God, he interceded, carried their burden and yet remained wholly committed to God and his purposes. At times he reminded God that this was His people, he prevented their destruction several times. One man fully committed to both his Lord and to the people he was called to lead. He shirked the idea that he could or should distance himself from the people he led.

The failure that prevented Moses from entering the ‘Promised land’ was seemingly insignificant and yet crucial. You can read of it in Numbers 20. The people were complaining (again!) about a lack of water and the Lord gave Moses a strategy. Unlike the last time God provided water from a rock, Moses was to speak to the rock and water was to pour forth. Instead of obeying, Moses strikes the rock in the same way he had done before. The Lord still honoured Moses action but it revealed the positioning of his heart. The consequence for Moses was that he would not enter the ‘Promised land’. There is a sobering lesson here for everyone wanting to lead Gods people. Leaders must remain humble, following the Lords voice carefully. Any assumptions that God will work in the same way that He has historically are dangerous.

Those looking to grow in leadership can learn a lot from Moses. Firstly it is vital to cultivate humble and obedient hearts that follow Gods leading. Secondly, we also need to take very seriously the responsibility to lead people. When we feel the need to distance ourselves from the actions of those we lead we are actually giving up the influence we have to lead them further into Gods purposes. The way Moses stood in the gap for the people of Israel is humbling and inspiring. He modeled a servant leadership approach that thousands of years later the Son of God, Jesus would more fully demonstrate. Jesus never distances himself from us but rather fights our cause and even when we are obstinate He intercedes on our behalf before the Father.

45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

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