It’s frustrating for leaders when followers don’t follow very well.
Moses was an A+ leader, but those stiff-necked Israelites were D- followers, at best.
They grumbled, they whined, they rebelled.
Leading is tough when you have to hogtie your tribe and drag them, kicking and screaming all the way.
Across a desert.
For forty years.
But what if we flip that thought:
It’s frustrating for followers when leaders don’t lead very well.
What if there are people who would be willing to step out in faith, if only there was someone to take them by the hand and say, “Let’s go!”?
How long before followers are expected to do a little leading?
Jesus’ first words to the disciples were, “Come, follow me.”
His last words were, “Go and make disciples.”
The best leaders still follow…..
and the best followers, lead.
I have always felt bad that Moses didn’t get to enter the Promised Land. After all, he did spend 40 grueling years with a bunch of stiff-necked people in a desert. Because of one little incident, Moses was disqualified and didn’t even get to reach his little toe over into the land of promise.
Evidently when God says, “Speak to the rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water,” and instead you speak to the people (“Listen, you bunch of rebels…”) and hit the rock not once, but twice – you’ve crossed the line. Moses lost it, and God was dishonored in front of a million Israelites. Frustration can push you over the edge sometimes.
Just before Moses died, God had him climb a mountain (again) and allowed him a panoramic view of the Promised Land. Oh, how Moses must have longed to see the 40 year mission to its completion and lead a glorious march into Canaan. But, a glimpse was all he got. Which is why my heart skipped a beat when I read Mark 9:4, “And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.”
Jesus had led Peter, James and John up a high mountain. Suddenly, as Jesus began to transform before their eyes, Moses and Elijah appeared. And where were they? Smack dab in the middle of the Promised Land, that’s where! By God’s grace, Moses finally made it! Sure, it was 1,400 years later, but how sweet of God to allow Moses to stand on that mount with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6
In the midst of the thunder, lightning and smoke of Exodus 19, there is a rather amusing side story. I love it when the Bible strikes my funny bone; God does display a great sense of humor from time to time.
In this scene, Moses has led the Israelites to Mt. Sinai, the place God had told Moses at the beginning of his adventure to come and meet up. Now, Mt. Sinai is no Mt. McKinley, but it was still a good mile and a half hike to the top. The Israelites set up camp at the base of the mountain and 80 year old Moses started to climb. He was probably keeping his eye open for any burning bushes during his ascent, since that’s how God spoke to him the last time he was in the vicinity.
Moses “went up to God” (v.3) and sure enough, God had a message for Moses to take to the people. So, Moses “went back” (v.7) and delivered the message. Then Moses took the people’s answer “back up to the Lord” (v.8). God was pleased and gave Moses another message for the people. After Moses “had gone down” (v.14), it wasn’t long before God “called Moses to the top of the mountain, so Moses went up” (v.20). Are you picturing this?
Here’s the funny part. Moses had just made his third trek up Mt. Sinai and God’s first words to him were, “GO DOWN and bring Aaron up” (v.24). Up and down, up and down, up and down. Isn’t that just the way it feels sometimes? But Moses spoke not a grumblin’ word; instead the Scripture says, “So Moses went down” (v.25).
Aside from the fact that Moses must have been in pretty good shape for an 80 year old, what do you think was going through Moses’ mind as he went up and down that mountain three times? Bible study ladies (and anybody else that wants to chime in) think about it this week and post your comments!
**Please see post titled “Mt. Sinai Mystery” published on October 19, 2012
Our women’s study is currently working through the book of Exodus. This week we read about all the grumbling going on by the Israelite people in the wilderness. (Exodus 16) One month after the dramatic parting of the Red Sea and deliverance from slavery, they looked back at the good old days in Egypt with nostalgia. “There we sat around pots of meat…” So when the food supply ran out, the grumbling began. They grumbled against Moses and accused him of leading them out into the desert to starve them all to death. But God heard all the complaining and took it personally. Moses told the people, “You are not grumbling against us, but against the Lord.”
After coming down pretty hard on those wilderness wanderers, I began to wonder if I ever grumbled. If? Boy, was I in for a rude awakening. The experiment began as I heard PB’s alarm go off at 4:45 a.m. Now, I’m an early riser, but my hubby’s Friday morning routine is too extreme even for me. Grumble. An hour later, I went into the bathroom to find the toilet paper roll was empty. Grumble. When I came out to the kitchen, my son’s midnight snack debris was all over the counter. Grumble.
The toaster was set too high and my english muffin burned…..the dishwasher needed unloading……one of the socks I put on had a hole in it……grumble, grumble, grumble. And I hadn’t even left the house yet. Oh my. Oh my goodness. I wasn’t even close to being without food and water in the middle of a desert. And was God taking my complaints to heart? Are my murmurings, when I come right down to it, really a way to gripe against the One who is supposed to be in charge of the world?
Try it. I dare you. Keep track of how many times you grumble for a day. Then try walking around in a desert for 40 years.
After the last post, and pondering how Mary responded to God’s message, I’ve been wondering how other people in the Bible reacted to a word from the Lord. For instance, Joseph. There is not one recorded word in the scriptures from the mouth of Joseph. In fact, almost every time he’s mentioned, he’s sleeping. God speaks to Joseph four times, each time in a dream. God is always telling Joseph to “get up”. To Joseph’s credit, what follows is, “so he got up” — but not a word. He must have been the strong silent type.
Now, take Moses. God speaks to him from a burning bush about delivering the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. After giving God four reasons why he is not the man for the job, Moses finally just spits out, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.” It reminds me of trying to find someone to teach the Junior High Sunday school class.
Then there’s Isaiah. God said, “Whom shall I send?” and Isaiah is like the kid in the back row of the 3rd grade classroom who desperately wants to be the first one to give the answer to the teacher. Isaiah shoots his hand up in the air and almost falls out of his seat, saying “Ooo, oo, oo, me! Send me!!! Pick me!!!” God must have loved that. Especially after dealing with Moses.
Demure Mary, quiet Joseph, reticent Moses, enthusiastic Isaiah – God used them all, regardless of the adjective before their name.
I love musicals. My favorite all-time movie is “Singin’ in the Rain”. It makes me want to break out into a spontaneous song and dance routine while grocery shopping or gassing up the van. Except, unlike the movies, where everyone suddenly joins in with perfect four-part harmony and synchronized dance step sequences, I would be afraid of having to explain my behavior to a police officer. But, oh, to live in a world where people bust out with a show tune and it snowballs into a real show stopper, right there in the check out line. What a fine world that would be.
Music is a powerful force. Just try to imagine living without music. One of the best things about a song is how it can transport you back to a place and time. For instance, when I hear James Taylor’s “Smiling Face”, I’m sitting in my dorm room writing a letter to my future husband. I was falling in love with his smiling face even though we were four states away from each other. That song reminds me of those carefree days and the excitement of a future out there somewhere.
Maybe that’s why the last thing Moses did before climbing a mountain to die, was to teach the Israelites a song. He knew a sermon wouldn’t be remembered after he was gone, and he had already given his share of commandments. But a song…a song would stick with them. So, he composed a song, a very long song, and taught it to the whole assembly of Israel. (Deuteronomy 32) Imagine a 120 year old man standing before a nation, delivering the performance of a lifetime. It would not be forgotten. It would be sung and re-sung for generations. A reminder of their heritage, of their glory days, of their God and His faithfulness.
Moses’ song must have been a good one, because, as it turns out, it will continue on in the last days. (Revelation 15:2-4) Maybe my dream of being in a spontaneous outburst of song and dance isn’t that far away.