Leadership Under Attack

I am almost afraid to see how long it has been since I have written a reflection on scripture. Perhaps the reason for a lengthy dissertation below. Debbie and I have been keeping busy. The end of last month we attended a “Grand-parenting Summit” in southern California and then spent an additional week there as a delayed 65th birthday trip for both of us.

I am pleased to report that life for me seems to be taking on a “normal” routine! I am pain free, I am able to return to some fitness workouts and I have lost about 34 pounds since the end of October. I weigh less now than when I was hospitalized with West Nile Virus. However, as friends have reminded me, “when you get older, the weight shifts.”

Finally, Debbie trying to make a job assignment shift, which keeps getting delayed. Also, next month I will teach my first online course with Colorado Christian University in their nonprofit management program. So at this point life is good. Perhaps better than it has been in recent years. For that we praise the Lord and are so grateful for the prayers and support of many friends and family members.

BIBLE VERSE FOR TODAY…. Miriam and Aaron began to criticize Moses because he was married to a woman from Sudan. They asked, “Did the Lord speak only through Moses? Didn’t he also speak through us?” …. Numbers 12:1,2 GW  

“Korah…, Dathan… and Abiram…, and On… dared to challenge Moses…” Numbers 16:1 GW

As I was reading through Numbers recently, the series of attacks on Moses’ leadership had me reflecting on how what we see in these passages is still common today.

Moses undoubtedly had the biggest leadership task any individual could take on. He was powerfully used of the Lord and even in his own humanity, he remained “meek” and demonstrated the proper response to challenging times. Yes, we do see his anger arise but it was more temporary than resulting in bitterness and burnout.

In the heart of Numbers (chapters 12-16) there are three significant challenges Moses’ leadership faced. First was from his own sister, Miriam and brother Aaron. It is one thing to have your leadership, integrity and character called into question, but when it comes from your own family or those closest to you it is even more painful and challenging.

In this situation, I observe that the, “issue isn’t always the issue.” Notice their complaint was, “Did the Lord speak only through Moses? Didn’t he also speak through us?” These siblings were upset with Moses over his selection of a wife, (which we never see God condemning) but their public outcry was Moses’ authority as “the” leader. Perhaps they viewed his actions as a “fatal ” flaw or a disqualification for leadership. In their minds the two were connected, but that is not always the case.

It seems that Miriam was the primary instigator and she talked Aaron into joining her. I say that due to her receiving the Lord’s judgment and not Aaron and observing how, if someone is upset at a leader, the first thing they do is to get some one else to get up set as well and join them.

Next we see the negative report of the ten spies who scouted out the promised land. Joshua and Caleb are known as the two “faith-filled” spies that said, “Let’s go now and take possession of the land. We should be more than able to conquer it.” (Numbers 13:30 GW) But the ten other spies, looked at the obstacles and not the opportunities and gave into fear. As a result, “they began to spread lies among the Israelites about the land they had explored.” (Numbers 13:32 GW)

It is interesting how when a grand goal that requires faith and God’s intervention can be sabotaged when a group of people only consider their own abilities and resources and respond in fear. Some take the approach that is is better to try and fail than to maintain the status quo. Others feel more comfortable in what they know or have than to trust God to give them what they need or take them where they could not go on their own.

Once again we see these spies gaining support for their position, by “spreading lies.” Since fear is a great motivator these former slaves quickly cave into the attitude and fears of the ten spies and begin to exaggerate their situation and destiny. “We are going to die in the dessert” they complain. The Lord responds and says, “have it as you wish.” As a result, the entrance into the promised land was delayed by 40 years as “that” generation died off in the dessert. Those who oppose God’s plan and purpose, always look for allies in for their cause.

Finally, I notice the rebellion of Korah and his followers. Korah is named as the “ringleader” and he gains the support of three others in challenging Moses’ leadership. Look at their complaint,  “You’ve gone far enough! Everyone in the whole community is holy, and the Lord is among them. Why do you set yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?” (Numbers 16:3 GW)

This sounds similar to the complaint of Miriam and Aaron. That leads me to believe that they sowed some seeds of distrust and division that manifested itself at another time, in another situation. We see once again the Lord coming to the defense of Moses and Korah, his followers and their families die when an earthquake swallows them.

This leads to Moses being challenged by the “entire congregation” with the complaint, “You have killed the Lord’s people.” (Numbers 16:41 GW) At this point it would seem that Moses should be asking, “when is enough, enough?” The Lord steps in and sends a plague that kills those rebelling against Moses’ leadership.

Finally some important observations we see from Moses, that do give us some important “leadership lessons.” First, leadership will be questioned. In some form, at some time, in some manner it will happen. It will happen if a leader does nothing. It will happen if a leader does something.

Moses, even dealing with his own human emotions, remained humble. We see him respond, but not retaliate. He prayed for and interceded for those who opposed him. He took quick actions for Aaron to follow to stop the plague that was killing the people after the death of Korah and his followers.

We see God, being Moses’ defender. This is a great challenge. It is easy to be quick to defend ourselves. It is easy to “respond in kind.” But to remain humble, to act wisely and to trust the Lord for the truth to be revealed for the Lord to be our defender is a challenge.

In closing these attacks on Moses and his leadership all find themselves “book ended” around being at the border of the promised land and preparing to move into possess the land the Lord had for them. It is difficult to know the exact timeline of all these events. But the sequence is obvious. Miriam and Aaron’s issue just before the spies are sent out. The return of the spies and the rebellion of the spies and the people about moving forward with the Lord’s plan.  After, God’s verdict that they will wander in the dessert for 40 years, we see the rebellion of Korah and his followers.

Leaders need to remember that “rebellion” and challenges is not necessarily an indication that you are “out of God’s will.” It could be an indication that just the opposite is true.

One of the great challenges for a leader is to continue to love people, remain humble, trust the Lord and seek Him even in the midst of pursuing your God-given call and leading people where the Lord desires them to go.