Lessons on Leadership from Nehemiah
Today the spies are sent into the land! What an exciting time for Israel this must have been. Finally they're there. Finally they will enter into this land of milk and honey. Surely they must have wondered what it’s like. They must have all said, "I can’t wait to see if for myself." They might not have had any of these thoughts, but I’m sure their anticipation was great, that is until the spies return with a different story. The land certainly lived up to it’s description (v. 27), however the land was filled with strong armies. In fact there were giants in the land who made the men feel like grasshoppers (v. 33). Remember Goliath – mighty warrior standing over 9 feet tall? Imagine many Goliaths. Standing in the way of Israel and their promised land were an army of giants.
The 10 spies report was correct – they were like grasshoppers in the sight of the giants, and that on their own they could not overcome the strength of their enemies (v. 31). But what about God? Had they forgotten Egypt and the 10 plagues? Had they forgotten the Red Sea? What about when they won the battle against Amalek? Yes, on their own this would seem like a lost cause, but what about the pillar of cloud and fire that led them here?
Do you see the question worth considering today? Where’s the source of your strength? In whom do you place your faith/trust? Is it in yourself? Your job? Your family? If so you’ll likely feel afraid when you face your giants. But remember that yes, on my own I’m weak, but it is in my weakness I recognize my need and my source of strength and that’s God! The older you get the more you’re reminded of the frailty in humanity (2 Cor. 4:16), but my frailty reminds me of who brings the victory, and that is My God (2 Cor. 12:9-10).
Powerful, almighty God – You are great, so strong and so mighty, there is nothing You cannot do. I know this to be true because You have shown it to be true. From Your mighty works of old, to Your daily care, even the wonders of creation continue to remind me of Your greatness. I trust in You. Though I am weak, I know You are strong. I can face the storms of life, and conquer the giants of doubt through You, my Rock, my Strength, my Shield. The battle and the victory belong to You!
Moses, Aaron and Miriam
People in places of leadership know that problems often come in clusters of two or three. Satan is alive and busy and sinful people fight against the holy will of God. Just about the time the Lord helps you overcome one crisis, another one appears.
In Numbers 12, Moses, Aaron and Miriam were a team sent by God to help lead Israel (Micha 6:4). God has used Miriam to save Moses, her younger brother (Ex. 2:1-10). She was also a prophetess who lead the Jewish women in praising God (Ex. 15:20-21). Aaron was the older brother appointed by God not only to assist Moses in confronting Pharaoh but to serve as the first high priest. Everybody in Israel knew Moses, Aaron and Miriam were chosen by God, but that Moses was the leader.
However, there was rebellion that came from Moses’ own family, that is, Miriam and Aaron. It began when Miriam differed with Moses over his wife. Miriam eventually got around to her real complaint. Was Moses the only spokesperson for God? Didn’t Miriam and Aaron also have the right to declare God’s word? In questioning Moses’ authority and God’s will, Miriam and Aaron were acting just like the people of Israel. Moses didn’t answer them or try to vindicate himself. He left the defense to God. This was one evidence of his meekness. Meekness is not weakness. It is power under control.
God heard their words and saw their evil motives and acted swiftly before the sin spread among the people.
God made it clear that Moses was more than a prophet. He made it clear that He communicated with Moses personally. Aaron and Miriam had their assigned roles but Moses was God’s chosen leader of Israel. It was God who gave Moses that place and authority. It was wicked for Miriam to challenge Moses. Miriam paid the price. She was afflicted with leprosy.
It is a serious thing to be a spiritual leader, for the great honor, the greater responsibility. Leadership is not about the leader. It is about the leading for the good of the people. For those under that delegated authority it is vitally important that the role assigned by God to the spiritual leader be respected. Moses will write, “Remember what the Lord did to Miriam on the way when you came out of Egypt” (Dt. 24:9). There is a terrible price to pay for rebelling, not against those who are delegated the authority, but God who delegated that authority.
Also, when leaders are attacked from within, they cannot vindicate themselves or defend themselves. In Moises’ case, God did. Absent God’s direct defense, it requires those who know the leader will stand up to defend him against such self- evident self-serving accusations. Sadly, it may end up being like Paul, where not one stands to defend. But, as with Moses and Paul, God knows and He will exact His judgment against those who attack His delegated representatives.
This reading shows us a low point for God’s people. They’ve started up their journey towards Canaan, surrounded by the blessings of God – the God who was leading them, providing their food and protection, even their shoes and clothes were not wearing out. Despite all these blessings Israel begins to complain. The main complaint in this chapter is over food – more specifically meat (v. 4). This wasn’t a humble request for a different type of food. These words were words of greed (v. 4, 34), words of ingratitude towards God and His deliverance (v. 20). Their lack of faith in God to provide and care for them even rubbed off on Moses who wondered how God would provide meat for so much people (v. 21-22). Verse 23 is worth remembering – “Is the Lord’s power limited? Now you shall see whether My word will come true for you or not.”
There was a situation in Mark 5 like this. Jarius had a daughter that was dying, and before Jesus could arrive she died. Jarius was told, “Your daughter has died, why trouble the Teacher anymore?” It’s too late, you weren’t quick enough, this is beyond Jesus, why bother. Jesus responds, “Do not be afraid any longer, only believe.” (Mark 5:35).
Here’s your question for today – who’s voice are you listening to? Are you listening to the voice of doubt that says, “it’s too late, I can never recover, I can’t change, things can’t improve, my marriage is doomed, my children are too far gone, etc.? Or are you hearing the voice of God who says, “Don’t be afraid, only believe.” Paul reminds us God is able to do beyond what we ask or think (Eph. 3:20-21). Don’t listen to the voice of doubt, the voice of ingratitude, of envy or jealousy. Satan’s lie is that you can never be satisfied where you are with what you have. Paul said He knows the secret of contentment, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). If God could rescue Israel from Egypt, provide a path through the sea when the way seemed lost; if God could guide and care for His people in times past, I know He can satisfy the desires of my heart, and provide for my every need.
Gracious and patient Lord, thank You for all You have done for me. You have rescued my soul, forgiven me of my sins through the blood of Your Son. You have given me all that I have, and have cared for me. All that I have and am is through You. Forgive me of when I listen to the voice of doubt which questions Your goodness, Your will, Your power. You have shown through Your word that You are the almighty, all-powerful creator of the world, and that You provide and care for Your people. You are my strength and my song. You are my hearts desire. Help me to find my satisfaction in You.
In Numbers 10 the people of Israel camped at Mt. Sinai for eleven months. During that time, God’s law had been announced and the tabernacle had been constructed and dedicated. Moses had consecrated the priests and Levites, counted the soldiers and organized the tribes. Israel is now ready for action.
However, for the next thirty-eight years because of their rebellion, they would wander in the wilderness leaving behind a trail of graves. In contrast, the first ten chapters of numbers record how the nation obeyed the Lord. In obeying the Lord Israel had everything to gain and nothing to lose, yet, they refused to trust Him and follow him.
The children of Israel have been comfortable for nearly a year, but now with the cloud over the tabernacle moving, the priests blew their trumpets and the Levites dismantled the tabernacle. And the people were ready to march. It was time for them to move.
The more comfortable we become the less we welcome change; and yet there is no growth without change. Comfort leads to complacency and complacency is the enemy of character and spiritual growth.
Further, the tribes had their leaders so all the priests had to do was sound the trumpet and signal when each tribe would move out. The Ark of the Covenant led the way. It was carried by the Levites following the cloud. Where each tribe marched in procession was not an option; it was an obligation from God.
The sound of the trumpet was a call to assemble. It was a call to action. It was also to warn and to be a reminder. Paul describes the coming of the Lord with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and the sound of the trumpet. When the trumpet sounds it will be a call for all of God’s people to assemble in that general assembly (Heb. 12:23). It will serve as a reminder of how God has saved all His people. The trumpet will call for us to offer sacrifice to the Lord and remember “I am the Lord your God. It will be a warning, as when the sound of the trumpet at Sinai and the voice of words terrified the people (Heb. 12:18-21). It will be a reminder of how fearful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Finally, it will be a call to action. When the trumpet sounds there will be none that are idle. All those who are His will be called to meet Him in the air. The trumpet sound will be clear. There will be no mistaking the sound.
Finally, Moses prayed to God for guidance and victory. When the nation stopped to camp, he prayed that God’s presence would again rest with His people at the tabernacle. No matter how many times the Israelites started and stopped Moses repeated these prayers. He wanted the people to know that God, not Moses, was in charge of the nation, and that Israel was dependent on the Lord for victory. Moses put God first in the life of the people. Had the people paid attention to this, they would have avoided the sins that later brought them much sorrow.
Our reading today is broken into two sections yet conveys one thought – follow the commandments of God. It begins with the Sabbath and how Israel was to continue to keep the Sabbath. God has specific regulations regarding the Sabbath described in Exodus 12 & 13. In our context a question arose about someone who was unclean. Some men had become unclean due to contact with a dead person, yet they knew they needed to keep the Passover. Notice, instead of just acting, supposing their decision was right, they came to Moses for direction. And Moses didn’t just give them his best opinion on the law, he went to God for guidance (v. 8).
The chapter ends with a description as to how Israel knew when to depart, and when to stay put. God’s presence would rest over the Tabernacle as a cloud by day and fire by night (v. 16). Whenever the cloud rested over the Tabernacle, Israel stayed put. Whenever it lifted, they journeyed on. Notice v. 23 – “At the command of the Lord they camped, and at the command of the Lord they set out; they kept the Lord’s charge, according to the command of the Lord through Moses.” In other words, they acted only by the command of God.
What a necessary reminder for us. Their steps were directed by God. It reminds us of the hymn we sing, “Where He leads, I’ll follow.” Instead of assuming God would be pleased with our desired course of action, we must learn to wait and listen to what the Lord will command (v. 8) through studying His words. If we speak, let them be God’s words (1 Pet. 4:11). If we act, let them be in keeping/following His words (1 John 2:3-6). May it be said of us what is said of those in Revelation 14:4, “…These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes…”
“Loving Shepherd, our Leader and Guide, thank You for leading us in paths of righteousness, to the green pastures of life. Even though we travel through the wilderness, the places where our faith is tested, we walk with confidence knowing You are with us, always. We are like sheep and tend to go our own way, thinking we know best. Forgive us. Be patient with us. Help us to surrender our will, and to follow the Lamb wherever He may go.”