Moses: A Leader

By Glenn Hamilton


By Glenn E. Hamilton


 Without doubt one of the most significant characters in the history of the people of Israel is Moses.  He brought them out of the land of Egypt and slavery, he brought them the words of their God, he lead them through the wilderness and to the very border of the promised land.  For forty years Moses was the visible leader of the people of God.  What made Moses into a leader?  Was he effective?  Can we use his example to teach us how to be effective leaders of God’s people?  Let’s look at Moses’ example and see what we can learn.

 Even though Moses was raised as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, his earliest years were spent with his natural mother as she was the one called upon to be the wet nurse for the baby Moses.  During those years she instilled in the young boy a knowledge of who he was, one of the people of God.  The people of God were waiting for God to rescue them from the slavery they were left in.  God had promised to Abraham that four hundred years were all He would let the people stay in the land of Egypt.  The time for deliverance was near and it looked like the young man Moses was being positioned in the best possible way to lead the Israelites.

 In the years after he was given completely into the care of his Egyptian teachers, Moses never forgot his heritage.  He used the opportunity God had given him to learn the best that he could.  He became wise in the teaching of Egypt (the most advanced civilization of that day).  (Acts 7:22)  He became a powerful soldier in one of the world’s most powerful armies.  “By the time he reached the age of forty, there was probably no greater leader . . . in all the land than Moses.” (Rodgers, p. 35)  Indeed to man, and most likely to Moses, he seemed to be the perfect leader to set the Israelites free (cf. Acts 7:23-25).  But God does not see as man sees.  Moses rashly decides to take matters into his own hands by joining his people.  Almost immediately he finds an excuse to begin the rebellion by killing an Egyptian.  But instead of being the rallying call to bring the people to his side in rebellion, it rather leads to his betrayal into the hands of Pharaoh.  “However, this attempt was in the energy of the flesh and, although God had chosen him for this great task, he attempted through self-effort to bring it to pass.  This never accomplishes what God has in mind.” (Rodgers, p. 35)

Instead of facing the wrath of Pharaoh, Moses flees from Egypt.  Certainly by then he must have thought that he was wrong about his usefulness in God’s plans.  God must have decided on someone else.  The next forty years Moses spends as a simple shepherd.  He leads mild-mannered sheep along mountain trails to find food and drink for them.  He probably fought off wild beasts to protect his sheep, and his heart was probably torn with grief when one of his sheep died.  A far different man he became than the young self-reliant man who thought he could deliver his people from Egypt with the might of his arms and the eloquence of his speech.

Yet it is exactly this kind of man that God chooses.  God does not want a leader who thinks he can stand alone.  God needs leaders who know how to provide, protect and show compassion.  The humble are useful to God, the proud cannot serve Him well.  So when God calls upon Moses to be the leader of His people and deliver them from bondage, Moses protests that he is not fit to lead.  Moses was still thinking in human terms.  No longer was he the strong young man he had been.  He was no longer well known, he had not used his voice for speeches in many years.  Moses did not think he could act as a leader.  “When he met God at the burning bush, he was a broken man.” (Rodgers, p. 36)

That is why God chose him.  He chose him because he no longer thought of himself as the leader.  God wants Moses to rely on Him.  God tells Moses to tell the people that He, the great I AM, had sent Moses, and God would deliver the people with His own powerful hand.  So eventually Moses agrees to lead the people and when the people hear that God will deliver them, they believe and worship God (Ex. 4:31).  Perhaps with this initial success “the old feelings of success and conquest came back.” (Rodgers, p. 36)  However, God does not let him keep those old feelings for long.

Things do not proceed as Moses and the people probably expected.  The Pharaoh did not let them go immediately.  Instead things got harder for the Israelites.  Even Moses was reduced to blaming God for the trouble on Israel. (Ex. 5:22-23)  Moses still thought God should act as man desired.  But God is not a man.  A leader of God’s people has to be able to accept God as God is, not as man wants Him to be.  A leader of God’s people must be able to accept adversity without doubting in God or His plans.  So during the time of the plagues upon Egypt, Moses is growing in his faith toward God and in his ability to be an effective leader.

After the plagues while the people were leaving Egypt, Pharaoh and his army approached.  Here might have been the great opportunity for the military mind of Moses.  Moses, trained as a mighty warrior of Egypt, could he defeat the Egyptian army with his band of slaves?  A question never to be answered because Moses had learned a lesson about leading God’s people:  let God lead.  Moses told the people, “The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”  (Ex. 14:14)  But that faith did not excuse Moses from acting.  He simply waited for God to tell him what action He desired, then he did as he was told.  Moses had finally become a fit leader of God’s people.

Yet leadership always involves problems.  Moses quickly faced a series of problems that would test his leadership.  First there was the problem of water for all these people.  Although Moses had learned to trust in God, the people “failed to trust God or respond toMoses’ leadership.”  (“Moses”)  When the people brought the problem to Moses, he cried out to God.  (Ex. 15:25)  Moses did not try to solve the people’s problems by himself.  These were God’s people and he knew that God would be able to solve their problems.  In like manner Moses let God solve the problems of food and meat.  Moses refused to be the one to solve the problems.  God was the true leader of this people.  One who leads God’s people must always remember whose people they are and allow God to be the source of answers to problems.

But leadership requires more than a casual commitment.  When Moses was up on Mount Sinai, the people committed a very great sin.  They turned against God and Moses, and God said to Moses, “Go, get down!  For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves.” (Ex. 32:7)  No longer did God claim the people as His own.  They were Moses’ people and he had brought them out of Egypt.  Originally that was exactly what the younger Moses had intended.  He was going to be their savior.  Now God was offering Moses the chance to be the kind of leader he once wanted to be.

Yet Moses is no longer