Moses is one of the most prominent figures in the Old Testament. As the author of the first five books of the Bible, Moses has substantially influenced Judaism and Christianity. His personal character and ministry are remarkable when one studies his life, leadership, and legacy. His story communicates a plethora of timeless principles that can be applied to modern-day pastors and spiritual leaders who wish to mentor and equip their respective flocks. These principles are matters of the heart that will aide the present-day spiritual leader in his or her endeavors.
A particular episode in Moses’ life that reflects a great deal of significance for Christian leadership in how he handled the criticism from his brother Aaron and sister Miriam. We read this account in Numbers 12:1:13:
While they were at Hazeroth, Miriam and Aaron criticized Moses because he had married a Cushite woman. They said, “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Hasn’t he spoken through us, too?” But the Lord heard them. (Now Moses was very humble—more humble than any other person on earth.) So immediately the Lord called to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam and said, “Go out to the Tabernacle, all three of you!” So the three of them went to the Tabernacle. Then the Lord descended in the pillar of cloud and stood at the entrance of the Tabernacle. “Aaron and Miriam!” he called, and they stepped forward. And the Lord said to them, “Now listen to what I say:“If there were prophets among you, I, the Lord, would reveal myself in visions. I would speak to them in dreams. But not with my servant Moses. Of all my house, he is the one I trust. I speak to him face to face, clearly, and not in riddles! He sees the Lord as he is. So why were you not afraid to criticize my servant Moses?” The Lord was very angry with them, and he departed. As the cloud moved from above the Tabernacle, there stood Miriam, her skin as white as snow from leprosy. When Aaron saw what had happened to her, he cried out to Moses, “Oh, my master! Please don’t punish us for this sin we have so foolishly committed. Don’t let her be like a stillborn baby, already decayed at birth.” So Moses cried out to the Lord, “O God, I beg you, please heal her!”
This passage demonstrates the virtue of humility, which is incredibly vital to lead successfully in any organization. It’s fascinating that right after Aaron and Miriam’s criticism of Moses’ decision-making and challenge of his authority, Scripture describes Moses as being “very humble-more humble than any other person on earth.” In a poignant background to unwarranted criticism, Moses is portrayed as meek. The subsequent description of Moses depicts how important meekness is in the eyes of God. “If there were prophets among you, I, the Lord, would reveal myself in visions. I would speak to them in dreams. But not with my servant Moses. Of all my house, he is the one I trust. I speak to him face to face, clearly, and not in riddles! He sees the Lord as he is.”
Jesus said in Matthew 23:11, the greatest among you will be your servant. This statement indicates the power of humility and meekness. Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, writes that the most effective leaders in companies that made the jump from good to great “build enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will. It’s not that Level 5 leaders have no ego or self-interest. Indeed, they are incredibly ambitious – but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves.” (Collins, 21)
Moses exhibited the rare quality of revelational ambition. Selfish ambition focuses on being put on a pedestal and looking after your own self-interest at the expense of others and your institution. Moses’ drive and passion to liberate the Hebrew people and lead them to the Promise Land did not come from a need to stroke his ego; it came from a powerful encounter with God that compelled him to take action on behalf of an oppressed people. Unlike King Saul, who built a monument to himself after a victorious battle, Moses was a man that walked in deep humility and dependence on God.
Like Moses, many of the great heroes of faith saw themselves as sinners and humbled themselves before God. The prophet Isaiah, in Isaiah 6 saw himself as unholy and unclean after a clear view of the brilliance and holiness of God. Isaiah wasn’t humiliated by the experience, but he was humbled. What’s the difference? Satan wants you humiliated so you feel unworthy to serve the Lord. He will beat you up with your mistakes, sins, and indiscretions. God wants you humbled so you can serve the Lord. He wants you to admit your sins, so He can forgive you and empower you to live differently.
One clear theme that we see on the Old and New Testament narratives is, how God humbles a man or picks a man or woman who exhibits great humility. Proverbs 29:23 states, Pride ends in humiliation while humility brings honor. Moses was a leader who was driven by revelational ambition. God revealed his purposes and plans to Moses in a powerful way. That revelation was a catalyst for deep personal humility. We learn through this particular episode in his life how his humility helped him to respond in the right way to criticism that was levied by his brother and sister. Instead of responding in bitterness or even gloating when Miriam was struck with leprosy, he instead prayed fervently for her healing. He essentially turned the other cheek despite being struck with a verbal fist to the face.
Modern-day leaders can learn from Moses how vital it is to walk in meekness. We live in a society were so many people try to elevate their social status. I’m going to build my life on a radical commitment to Christ. We must be vigilant to guard against selfish ambition and the subtle ways to raise our personal profiles and social status. In our age, social media gives us an unprecedented opportunity to amplify our voices and make our opinions known to the world.
We must seek to imitate Christ’s attitude of humility and follow the example of Philippians 2, Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names.
I’m Harold Dorrell Briscoe. Thanks for reading.