by Dr. Mark Foley
Moses.File 2 Back to the Mountain
Note 2.1 Next-level faith. Exodus 3:12
Leadership God’s way is always about next-level faith.
There is no firm way to know how long Moses dealt with the Egyptian king during the plagues, but a reasonable guess based upon forensic analysis of the story is three to four months from the first encounter to the departure of the people. Let’s call it the first quarter of the year.
Moses wrote the story in retrospect, and it is very clear that he remembered God’s first promise at the bush…“I will be with you. And this is your sign that I am the one who has sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God at this very mountain.”
We have already worked through the first clause of that promise…”I will be with you.” Now, look at the very specific second clause. . .back to burning-bush mountain. . .with all the people. It was advance notice that the promise and the assignment would be fulfilled.
Put yourself in Moses’s shoes. Every weekly progress meeting through the first quarter was dismal. . .no agreement from the king, no movement. There was certainly evidence of God’s action though the devastating plagues, yet the ultimate evidence of promise, freedom for the people, remained missing.
I have been there. Perhaps you have as well. You know you followed the urging of God’s Spirit in the course of action undertaken. To the best of your knowledge and ability, you conformed to the expectations of God . . .humble, praying, seeking, repenting. Yet, critical elements of the deal have been elusive. Your executive team looks at you expectantly. The front-end expenses have consumed your line, and your banker calls every other day. And you look in the mirror with no answers but with a firm recollection of the vividness with which you experienced God’s urging. It was a promise. Just like Moses, by faith you cling to faith. That is next-level faith based upon a promise yet to be fulfilled.
The call comes as you hoped it would. The deal is done. The promise is realized. The long first quarter is concluded with movement that perfectly mirrors the vision God planted. For Moses it was the beginning of the journey back to the bush on the mountain. . .with the people behind him.
What is your story of next-level faith? Read Hebrews 11:6 and tell your story.
Note 2.2 Hey Moses. . .shouldn’t we be headed the other way? Exodus 13:18; 14:1-4
The exodus was finally underway. The mass of tens of thousands with no organizational form other than twelve hereditary tribes and one God-assigned leader named Moses left Egypt with its economy devastated and carrying the nation’s remaining wealth willingly pressed upon them by the Egyptians.
“Sure glad to be on our way!”
“Yeah, but this gold sure is heavy. . . and its hot out here. Where are we headed anyway?”
“Not sure but heard it is some mountain. Must have something to do with that promised land thing. Someone said we just follow the big cloud that glows in the dark.”
“Isn’t that promised place northeast of here?”
“That’s what I heard.”
“So why are we headed southeast? There’s nothing but water that way?”
“No joke! I can see the water from here. What’s going on?”
“What’s Moses thinking?”
“Hey Moses. Shouldn’t we be headed the other way?”
Clearly there was a coffee wagon in the caravan, and these two were exercising the time-tested privilege of sipping and questioning leadership. The only target was Moses. Here is a reality you will learn to live with. . . the coffee counter bullseye goes with the job.
In fact, Moses had received specific instructions from the Lord regarding course, waypoints, and purpose. Read Exodus 13:21-22; 14:1-4. Had the two at the coffee wagon known about it, they might have needed a change of trousers. It would not be long before the next leadership crisis got hot. Exodus 14:10-12
Watch the confidence of the leader and the content of his statement as he confronted the issue. Moses did not speak from his own ability. He was quite aware that his ability was way short of the need. Exodus 14:13. . .”Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today.”
That leader spoke from his experience with the Lord. You have the same opportunity. It is a matter of trusting what you say you believe. Where do you find yourself regarding that level of trust? Psalm 56:3-4 Proverbs 3:5-8
Note 2.3 The art of God-directed action. Exodus 14:15-16
Every leader has been there. An urgent situation arises. Immediate action is needed to meet a critical situation. Everyone is looking at you. All your do-it-yourself switches are full on. But…wait…I am a Christ-follower. Am I not supposed to wait on God? Now what?
That is exactly where Moses was. Moses, in the process of becoming the greatest leader in biblical history, had learned through a series of exceptional situations to remain subject to God and His instructions. Not only had he learned it . . . he was committed to it. Moses was going to wait on God.
It was also clear to Moses that God purposely led he and the mass of Hebrew people in an unexpected direction. Exodus 13:21-14:4.
Once again, Moses found himself between the proverbial rock and a hard place. The hard place was a large deep body of water. The rock was the most formidable military force of its day in pursuit. The dust from the Egyptian war machine was on the horizon and rising quickly. Complicating the matter was the fact that the people Moses was leading were fully aware of the situation and were becoming a panicked mob. Exodus 14:10-12.
Remember. . .the key to Moses' effectiveness was constant communication with God. He knew the Lord had a plan. Clear and immediate action was needed and Moses was determined to wait on God. Exodus 14:13. Conflicting positions?
Consider the art of God-directed action. Here are some points to consider in your leadership.
1. Moses remained in direct and constant communication with God prior to the challenge. So must you.
2. The Lord has a plan. Rein in your do-it-yourself tendency and wait for it.
3. Following Jesus is not a passive venture. It is intense, fast paced, immediate, effective, and always on His purpose.
4. The Lord knows the timing of His plan. He is in control, not you.
5. He is always faithful to His plan and to you.
6. Your job is to be ready for immediate responsive obedient action.
One friend said, “In business, if you don’t see dust on the horizon, you haven’t completed your 360 review!” He is spot on. There is always a challenge of one kind or another. You must remain in direct and constant communication with Jesus. Often, your discovery of His plan will occur as you run toward the dust.
“Grab your stick and follow me . . .NOW!” Exodus 14:15-16. God acted in time for Moses as He will for you. He made his point to the people and solidified Moses as their leader. Exodus 14:31.
It is the art of God-directed action.
Note 2.4 The right response. . .gratitude. Exodus 14:31-15:1
It had to be shocking to take in. The large body of water backed up on itself on both sides to produce dry passage for thousands of people as a glowing cloud blocked the progress of the pursuing army. Then at the last step on the eastern bank by the last traveler to cross, as the cloud lifted and the army charged, the water flowed rapidly into its basin and destroyed the army.
How long do you think Moses stood there watching the swirling water that God used to ensure His promise given months earlier? Exodus 3:12. “Stunned” would not even be close to describing what this leader was experiencing as he made sense of what had just happened. God had removed any doubt that He was fully in charge.
Perhaps you have experienced your own version of that story. . .an impossible situation, all response options dead in their tracks, a door opens unexpectedly, the matter is resolved as if by magic. But you know there was no magic involved. It was God. . .the very Lord in whom you profess belief, the One you trust, the One whose promise was just proved even as you wondered if it would be.
Moses responded with gratitude. Exodus 15:1-21. Look at the elements of his response. They form a pattern that you will do well to incorporate into your business. Read the section and find these elements.
Clear acknowledgement that God and God alone produced the action. There was no self-credit.
Rehearsal of how He acted.
Recognition of His power and authority.
Recognition of His holiness. . .uniquely set apart and alone in stature and glory.
Recognition of His unfailing love.
Rehearsal of His guiding promise.
Now, recall a time that God has acted on your behalf. Respond to it with gratitude. Voice these six elements and make note of how your faith is encouraged.
Note 2.5 Supply line issues. Exodus 15:22-27
Military history reveals a critical point. Force readiness is dependent upon its supply line. . .water and ammunition. Battles have been lost by superior forces due to a break in supply lines. Water is exceptionally critical. Organ breakdown begins at day three without water. It occurs earlier in mobile forces in desert conditions. Ability to fight declines rapidly leaving the force commander with an army increasingly unable to respond.
Your business may not be as dependent upon good water as a mobile army, but there is need for adequate supply of other elements. You need a dependable supply line of cash, of products to sell, and of customers who want those products. Run short of those essentials and your business will creak to a stop.
A month after leaving Egypt, Moses became painfully aware of the importance of an open supply line. Day three in the desert without water replenishment and running short on food. . .the line at the complaint department was long and noisy. Exodus 15:22-24. If your essential business supply line is compromised, you understand the pressure on the leader to find remedy.
By now in Moses’ relationship with God, continual communication, and the familiar sequence of “need-ask God-act obediently-experience result” was becoming a pattern of his leadership. He was learning not to try to do things in his own strength and initiative rather to wait upon and follow God’s always-timely direction.
Look carefully at Moses’ reaction to the situation. Exodus 15:25.
Moses cried out to the Lord for help.
The Lord showed him a piece of wood.
Moses threw it into the fouled water.
The water was made good to drink.
Here’s the supply-line lesson for a Christ-follower assigned to lead people.
Auto response to a need - Humbly and expectantly ask God.
Cognitive awareness of His instruction - He will cause you to know.
Immediate obedient action by faith - particularly if it does not make sense.
A way forward is discovered.
Here’s the point of the supply-line lesson. . .God IS the supply line.
“The Lord showed him a piece of wood. Moses threw it into the water.” It is not about the identity of the wood. . .just a common stick. The point is found in the gap between the period and the “M” in that sequence. In that gap, Moses believed God and, by faith, determined to do exactly what God instructed with an insignificant piece of wood. God took care of the rest.
As He did with Moses, so He will do with you. Remember. . .God is your supply line.
Note 2.6 Symbols Exodus 17:1-11
Symbols are important tools in leadership.
Some symbols are purposed to identify the importance of a cause. . .the presidential seal on a podium or a carefully crafted inspirational logo. Others are purposed to identify the importance of the individual. . .the car, the pictures with important people, the office, elegant accessories.
Take care with your use of symbols. Pride is too often a factor in their use. It is a short step from “Look at the importance of our purpose and mission” to “look at me.”
Moses, high among the greatest leaders the world has seen and with the greatest cause imaginable, was also the example of humility in leadership. The symbol God would appoint for him was also humble, a common stick. It had practical purpose in his agricultural life. . .a shepherd’s staff, dense hard wood, long enough to be used as a guiding tool among animals and thick enough for use as a defensive weapon.
God transformed that humble stick into a true symbol of His presence, His power, and His Spirit-directed leadership. Exodus 4:2-4.
The symbolic staff was of great personal importance to Moses. It was always with him. I imagine that it was the first thing he grasped in the morning and the last thing he released as he slept with the staff beside him. The people he led never saw Moses apart from the staff.
The symbol of God’s authority carried by His appointed leader made a specific point at every impossible step in the early life of Israel. . .
Exodus 14:16 – rescue from destruction.
Exodus 17:5-6 – provision of life-giving water.
Exodus 17:9-11 – protection from an invading enemy.
Here is the lesson from Moses’ staff. The most important role of a God-symbol is its reminder to the leader. . .“I am, and you are not. I can, and you cannot. I have, and you do not.”
So. . .what symbol have you adopted to remind you of Jesus’ presence, authority, and provision? Put it where only you can see it. May that “staff” in your life remind you to humble yourself, to pray, to seek Him, and to readily confess sin.
You, the Spirit-directed leader, are the symbol to those being led. . .your manner, your humility, your wisdom, your care, your effectiveness. It is the art of close following Jesus. When people look at you, they see Him. Your ever-present symbol of he authority and provision of God is God Himself. . . Jesus.
Note 2.7 When Responsibility meets Wisdom Exodus 18:13-27
Two months out of Egypt and in sight of their first destination. . .the mountain upon which Moses first encountered God. Exodus 3:12.
Two things had become clear to this enormous mass of people. First, God was leading and protecting them. Second, Moses was their connection to God and the source of instruction in all matters.
Moses was president, chief of staff, chief justice, general, and head of religious affairs all in one. He appointed his brother Aaron as his second-in-command and an up-and-coming leader named Joshua as his military field officer. But the center of the organization and its daily direction weighed upon one man. . . Moses.
The exact number of people with whom he was personally dealing on a daily basis was staggering and exhausting. There was no administrative structure other than Moses, a responsibility he willingly accepted and fulfilled, 24/7. And it was increasingly ineffective. Exodus 18:13.
The situation resembled a rapidly growing business. Once a one-man shop, now with procurement, manufacturing, and sales systems spinning to meet a fast-growing customer base, demands quickly exceed what one person. . . even an exceptionally dedicated and responsible person. . . can effectively meet.
In fact, deep dedication and a high sense of responsibility can blind a leader to the need for timely delegation and support system expansion. At risk is declining service, loss of effectiveness, erosion of customer base, and a dangerous physical/mental cost to a key leader.
Enter Jethro, and responsibility meets wisdom. Exodus 18:14. God used a caring and observant friend to introduce organizational wisdom to a responsible and dedicated leader.
Jethro was Moses’ father-in-law and had hosted Moses’ family while he was deployed to Egypt. He was returning the family to their husband and father. Jethro observed the lack of organizational system and its toll on Moses and outlined a system of delegation and accountability. He introduced wisdom that refined responsibility with effectiveness. Read about it in Exodus 18:19-23.
The lesson: Wisdom meets responsibility in the purpose and direction of God. The resulting organizational effectiveness required the leader to surrender elements of control to a corps of responsible and capable others.
Sometimes that is accomplished by restructuring existing assets. It may also require investment in additional assets. In either case, it is Spirit-directed change in the organizational system that shifts control patterns and expands effectiveness.
Moses recognized Godly counsel and embraced it. The founding leader, having been appointed by God, was led by God to release control and delegate it into an organizational system. The result was an effective management system that expanded with system growth.
May it be so with you.