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by Dr. Mark Foley

Moses.File 5   The Long Detour

Note 5.1   Hope   Numbers 15


Easy was not in the job description. The enormity of the task, the seeming impossibility of the assignment, fear of change in the organization, continual rumors and votes of no confidence, insubordination, outright rebellion. . .Moses and every great leader since knew the challenge and the grind upon spirit.


How excited must Moses have been when he sent twelve of his finest to scout the land God promised; and how crushed must he have been as he watched the promise slip away in the wake of a fearful report by ten of the twelve.


Then came the turn-around order from God, and a 40-year detour began. Numbers 14:25. Numbers 14:34.


If you have been in a position of leadership for long, you well know the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” It is your nature and your job to point the organization to a vision of effectiveness and prominence and lead it to accomplishment. You will not have dwelt long upon the difficulty of pressing forward, for that is part of leading. . .a price willingly paid to achieve a goal.


Yet, when an unexpected circumstance occurs, avoidable if only key actors had followed your direction, and disaster follows of such magnitude that the very existence of the organization is threatened, and the goal is lost. . .the wind is knocked out of you to the extent that you wonder why you even tried.


That is exactly where Moses was as he issued God’s command to turn around and head back the way they had come. I expect you can relate. That is why the story in Numbers 15 is so important. God introduced hope amid defeat. He spoke directly to His friend at the darkest hour and reminded him that the goal was still there and that it would be attainted.


When you finally settle in the land…” “When you arrive in the land…Numbers 15:2. Numbers 15:18.


Can you imagine the hope that inspired in this beat-up leader?


You are a follower of Christ and a leader of people. The disappointment of temporary failure is crushing. Yet, the hope of God’s plan remains. Get in His presence and listen to your Leader. He will carry you through.


“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” Isaiah 43:2-3


He has this.

Note 5.2   Dealing with Usurpers   Numbers 16-17


You are studying the greatest leader in biblical history. Re-fix your mind upon this. . .the key to Moses’ effectiveness. “Thus Moses did; just as the LORD had commanded him, so he did.” Numbers 17:11.


That statement implies intimate relationship with God, clear communication within the relationship, and instant obedient response to directives. It was the key to Moses’ effective leadership. May it be found so with yours.


Be mindful of this as well. The Bible is very clear that God opposes pride and favors humility. You can rely upon that fact.


“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.”  Proverbs 11:2


“One's pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.” Proverbs 29:23


“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18


“The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.” Proverbs 8:13


God had issued the turn-around order, and a purposeful detour was underway. It would continue until the death of each rebellious adult. . .40 years. But the prideful rebellious mindset was still rumbling among members of the community. Usurpers to Moses’ leadership and Aaron’s role made their move.


It was about power and prestige. A man named Korah with two allies named Dathan and Abiram, stirred a group of 250 prominent citizens and brought a demand to Moses that their responsibility as caretakers of the Tabernacle be elevated to become priests. . .the role that was assigned by God to uniquely to Aaron. It was pride 101. They wanted power over the people. They were an affront to God, to Moses, and to Aaron.


Pay close attention to Moses’ response. Look for his trust in God’s authority; his exercise of keen wisdom in his response; a remarkable exercise of grace, and God’s affirmation of His assigned leader.


Here is the part about trust and wisdom. Moses proposed a test. He invited them to perform a simple priestly duty. Read what happened. I have given you a link to a translation that puts it in very clear language. Numbers 16:16-21 (The Message).


Now, here is the part about remarkable grace. Moses intervened with God once again on behalf of the people. Leaders of the rebellion must face justice, but he begged God for mercy on their followers. Numbers 16:22-33 (The Message).


The story contains a fascinating affirmation by God of his assigned leader. That affirmation settled the matter. Numbers 17:1-11 (The Message).


And here is the leadership lesson from this story. Trust God with your responsibility, always. When a crisis occurs, you will be properly positioned to follow God in the exercise of keen wisdom and remarkable grace through intercession. And, you will know the affirmation of God.


Intimate relationship with God, clear communication within the relationship, and instant obedient response to directives

. . .it was the key to Moses’ effective leadership.


May it be found so with yours.

Note 5.3   A Leader’s Anger and It’s Cost   Numbers 20:1-13


Here is the stage setup for a God-honoring leader who let his anger take control.


The long detour was well underway. The promised homeland and the hope it represented was behind them, and God had made it clear that it would remain inaccessible through the lives of each adult who refused the opportunity to move into it. Moses was acutely aware of the cost of their rebellion against God. . .lost opportunity, lost hope, and continued travail for the next forty years.


The territory into which God now led the people was harsh and dry, and the grumbling against Moses continued. It was a hard time, and everyone. . .including the leader. . .was frustrated. Water shortage was the specific trigger. Numbers 20:2-5.


Note the steps to resolution. . .they are applicable to your role as a leader.

  1. Seek the presence of God. As in previous conflicts, Moses and Aaron went to God. Numbers 20:6. Pay particular attention to the manner of their approach, “face down on the ground.” It was the posture of complete surrender and humility before The Resource of all life. There they waited for the glorious presence of their Lord and His resolution to the crisis. 

  2. Understand specific instruction. God gave Moses very specific direction. Numbers 20:8.

    • Get the big stick. . .Aaron’s shepherd staff, the symbol of God’s authority.

    • Assemble the people.

    • As you hold the staff, publicly speak to the rock that I indicate.

    • Water will emerge in sufficient quantity to meet all the needs.
  3. Obey the instruction by faith. Once again, God would meet a critical need by means otherwise impossible as his appointed leader exercised simple, exact, responsive obedience in faith.  Numbers 20:9.


Then it came undone.  In an instant, Moses allowed four years of pent-up frustration to take control. Instead of reverently and faithfully obeying God’s instructions, Moses angrily reprimanded the people, “Must we (I) bring you water from this rock?” Instead of faithfully speaking to the rock, he hit it twice with the staff. Numbers 20:10-11.


Here is the issue. . .in that moment of anger-provoked disobedient action, Moses put himself above God before the people. It seems a small and understandable thing. Yet, throughout his life in leadership, the key to Moses’ effectiveness is his humble surrendered faith in an intimate relationship with God and his instant obedient response to God’s directives.


Faith and trust were supplanted by pride and anger, and it cost Moses the opportunity to experience the fullness of God’s promise. Numbers 20:12.


Use this sad lesson to instruct your role as a leader. Your effectiveness will always be found as you seek the presence of God, understand His specific instruction, and specifically obey the instruction by faith and trust.


As it could have been with Moses, may it be so with you.

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