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by Dr. Mark Foley

Moses.File 4   To the Promise

Note 4.1   Special Forces   Numbers 1:1-4:49


The time came to move to the land promised by God. A year was spent in safety at the foot of Mt. Sinai. The people-Israel had been shaped into an orderly society with standards of behavior and clarity regarding who they were in relation to their divine Savior, how He expected to be honored, and the consequences of failing those expectations. All this through the leadership of Moses by his careful obedient response to the instructions of God

It is not unlike the essential early stages of a business…identification of purpose, establishment of mission, development of early objectives to secure essential financial resources, organize human resources, refine manufacturing processes, develop sales and marketing elements, and refine all into an effective assembly of purpose-directed systems. 

As an organizational system reaches a certain point of maturity, it is ready to extend into the first of what will be a series of initiatives, driven by purpose, that extend the influence of the organization and its products. Such initiatives are necessary to growth of the business but are challenging and have risk that requires marshaling of organizational resources in advance of the initiative.

That is what you see occurring in this part of Moses’ leadership story. Their move to the promised homeland would involve potentially dangerous confrontation with people groups opposed to the move. An army of special forces was needed…an army that did not yet exist. Thus, the instruction of God to Moses to form the army and organize it. Numbers 1:1-4. If you ever wondered where the idea for selective service registration came from, now you know.

Moses identified one key leader from each segment of the organization through whom he initiated a draft equally impacting each segment. It produced a significant force of over 600,000 men organized into front, rear, and flanking guards for the move north. Numbers 1:45-46

Our point here is to learn from Moses and how he prepared the organization for a God-directed initiative. Note these key aspects.

  • Moses remained in constant communication with God prior to the instruction to move.

  • The initiative was purpose-driven, introduced by God, and directed by God.

  • Moses involved the entire system through sectional leaders. Every individual in the organization was informed and willingly accepted responsibility for its success. He achieved buy-in based on his personal credibility with the people as a compassionate but uncompromising servant of God. 

You lead an organization that has faced or will face strategic initiatives that challenge the system. Perhaps it is a new market opportunity, or essential new product development, or key capital development projects. Regardless of the type, follow the example of Moses. Start and stay in the presence of God. Be certain it is both purpose-driven and Spirit-directed in its origins and design. Involve the system both in preparation for it and in its accomplishment.


Take particular care that your zeal and pride do not lead you to an idea that you then try to sell to God as something into which He should invest. Let Him birth the idea in you and follow Him through it.

Success depends upon it. 

Note 4.2   Stress Point!   Numbers 11:10-15


Preparations were complete, and the people-Israel received the signal to pack up and head north. Numbers 10:11. It had been over a year at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Their need for food, water, and social order had been met by God through the months, and contentment with the routine of things had become established. The move into the unknown represented troubling change from the familiar and known. Add to that the newly formed army. ”So. . .why are we going to need an army?” The people were unsettled. . .the pot had begun to simmer.


Consider what Moses was managing. The logistics of moving many tens of thousands of people from babies to the elderly were staggering. . .supplies, provisions, security, water, whole households, the tabernacle system, the army system, the order of march. . .and in this kind of terrain.  

Here’s a perspective. Imagine that you were tasked by God (whose plan was a mystery to everyone but you) to move the entire population of Denver, Colorado from their current location on the plains over the Rockies through Death Valley to Fresno, California…on foot without roads, maps, or knowledge of terrain, with high probability of armed opposition along the way.


Let that soak in.


Three three days into the move, the grumbling-pot rose to a low boil. “Hey Moses, where’s the water? Hey Moses, all we ever have to eat is manna. Hey Moses, We want meat! Hey Moses, when we were back in Egypt, we had all the fresh fish and vegetables we wanted. Hey Moses, are we there yet?!“ Hey Moses. . .whine. . .whine. . .whine.


And Moses had enough! Numbers 11:10-15


He went looking for God. A very sarcastic Moses reminded God that he had not wanted this job in the first place. Exodus 4:10. What had he done to deserve this? He was not their wet-nurse-hand-holding-pack-mule. How was he supposed to find meat for these people in a desert? It was too much! The whining people-Israel were such a burden that Moses asked God to do him the favor of killing him and put him out of his misery. 


You have been there. Maybe it is your employees or your board or your faculty or your family or your congregation or your executive team. “Why can’t they see what I see?” “Why can’t they understand that this will work?”


And you hit the same point. You have had it! You go looking for God, and you let Him have it. 


Know this about that experience.
•    God knew about the situation before you did. Psalm 139:1-7.
•    He will patiently love you through the stress. Matthew 11:28-30. 1 Peter 5:6-7
•    You will grow from the experience. Philippians 4:6-7.
•    As with Moses, He will introduce a solution. Numbers 11:16-17.


So, vent. But remain in His presence and wait for Him to respond. That’s the deal. He leads; you follow.

Note 4.3   Humility   Numbers 12:1-15

It was a family feud that resulted in God calling Moses’ brother and sister to the woodshed. . . and a strong affirmation of a key leadership characteristic. . .humility.

The issue was sibling rivalry that bubbled up in Moses’ sister, Miriam, and his brother, Aaron. It was jealousy of God’s attention to Moses. Miriam was the likely instigator. She took an envious shot at Moses’ wife and brought Aaron into it. They began grumbling and feeding off one another to the point of fragmenting the organization’s executive team.

Numbers 12:1-2.

Moses was likely aware of the discontent. However, as is stated in stunning clarity, he was a very humble man, more so than any other person on earth. Numbers 12:3. That humility may have led him to an ineffective placating response to his sister and brother.

God, however, was more direct. Numbers 12:2; Numbers 12:4. He acted quickly to interrupt the distracting effects of pettiness upon His chosen leader. He communicated to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam in a manner that was clearly understood, “Go out to the Tabernacle, all three of you!” It was a woodshed moment. Then He spoke directly to Aaron and Miriam with Moses present. Number 12:5-9. God was angry and set the brother and sister straight in no uncertain terms. 

To our point. . .In the process of reprimanding the offenders, God affirmed the humility of Moses and included an exceptionally clear instruction on leadership effectiveness. The yield of verse 3, is the fact of verses 7 and 8. . .“Moses is the one I trust. I speak to him face to face, clearly, not in riddles. He sees Me as I am.”

You are a follower of Christ and a leader of men. As such, you have responsibility to follow and lead on God’s terms. Attend humility. Seek it. Understand it. Embrace it. Live in it. Imagine leading your organization with the clarity, peace, and confidence that comes from God’s entrusting you with unmistakable understanding of His operational instructions.

Humility is the absence of pride. The selflessness of humility, initiated and guided by God’s Spirit in you, is the threshold of surrender of your limited way to God’s unlimited provision according to His purpose

Here are a few points in fact. Matthew 5:3; Matthew 5:5; Matthew 5:6; Matthew 5:7; Matthew 5:8; James 4:10; Proverbs 15:33;

1 Peter 5:6; Luke 14:11; Psalm 25:9; Matthew 11:29. There are many more. 

So. . .what will it be, your way or God’s way? You know the right answer. 

Here’s a side note. You REALLY do not want a woodshed moment

Note 4.4   Disappointment of Lost Opportunity   Numbers 13:1 - 14:38

It must have been the greatest disappointment of Moses’ life . . . to have been on the fringe of realizing God’s promise for the organization he had led so carefully for two stressful years only to see the fulfillment of his hope evaporate. Then to absorb the fact that his expected conclusion to the current assignment would be delayed for 40 years.

It was a critical lost opportunity due to unexpected refusal of the organization to follow leadership that eliminated both short-term gains and long-term strategic initiatives. Though the organization would eventually recover, the lost opportunity marred the history of the organization and defined its failure for an entire generation.

The people-Israel had reached the southern threshold of the area they first heard about from Moses when they were in Egypt . . . the promised homeland. Moses followed the instruction of God and arranged a scouting party of twelve men. They were to spend forty days learning the area and assessing the value of the land and the strength of those living there. 

The scouts returned with a split decision . . . two for and ten against. The land was good, but according to the ten, there was no way to prevail against the strength of the people living there. Though two of the scouts championed the opportunity, fear and rumors shot through the people, and they followed their fears rather than God’s promise. They rebelled against leadership . . . Moses and Aaron, the two positive scouts, and against God.  Numbers 14:2-4. Numbers 14:10

Moses once again found himself leading through a crisis and deep personal disappointment. On one side, he stood before God who reacted strongly to the situation, interrupted the rebellion, and prepared to bring swift justice in response to the contempt of the people. Numbers 14:11-12. On the other was a frightened rabble being influenced by an insurrectionist few.


There is no easy place for a leader in such a situation. I hope you never find yourself there. But, if you do, Moses remains your example. Pay attention to what he did. 

  • As always, his close continual communication with God is the context of effectiveness. If you do not currently experience such a close relationship with the Creator . . . fix it. Go to this link, invest the time, and do all necessary to fix it! Now, not later!

  • He interceded with God for mercy upon the people. Numbers 14:13-16. Moses’ close relationship with God allowed him to plead directly to spare the very people who had been plotting against him. But for the intercession of this caring leader, the story of the Exodus would have ended that day. 

  • He sought God for alternatives. Numbers 14:17-18. God honored his friend’s request.

  • He was truthful. Moses honestly and directly delivered God’s judgment to the people. He stood before the people in the courage and confidence God provided knowing many would pay a heavy price for their contempt. Numbers 14:26-39. Numbers 14:36-38.

  • He led the organization. Heartbroken at their choice and its consequences, he led them from the lost opportunity because that was his job. Numbers 14:25.


Leadership is often hard. You are called upon to make and enforce decisions. Some of those decisions will weigh heavily upon you. Yet you lead. In the courage of Christ, in the power of His Spirit, with hope for the future, even with heaviness of heart . . . you lead, because that is your job.

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