What does it take to be a Biblical Leader?

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But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7



Moses met God at a burning bush in the wilderness. God had picked Moses to lead the Israelites out of their bondage in Egypt and wanted to give Moses instructions for accomplishing this task. Moses, the leader God had hand picked was reluctant and tried many times to have God look for someone else. Moses complained that Pharaoh was too powerful. Moses minimized his own ability by stating he was a bad speaker. Moses didn’t want the task, but God wanted Moses.

God persisted and pressed on with Moses. God showed Moses that he wouldn’t be alone, that God would be with him every step. At one point God asked Moses to take his staff and throw it on the ground. When Moses dropped his staff, it turned into a serpent. When Moses was instructed to pick up the serpent it turned back into a staff. This was God’s way to show Moses God would be with him. All Moses had to do was believe that God was with him.

Imagine ourselves in this situation. Imagine strolling through a park and having a tree talk to us. What we have done? Likely, assumed it was a prank and moved on. It is easy to judge Moses, but we all are similar. When God visits us and he does, are we ready?

There was something deeper in Moses, despite his reluctance. God knew Moses wouldn’t walk away. Why else did God choose such a reluctant leader. A leader who didn’t want to lead. God saw something different, he saw a person with a heart for others and a respect for God. God chose Moses, not because of worldly stature, but because of his heart.

Moses didn’t know it at the time, but this future life meant leading a reluctant nation through the wilderness, across rivers and mountains for forty years. There would be times of scarcity with food and water. There would be grumbling by his nation and disobedience.

Through all of this Moses would have to lead by being obedient to his boss, God. While continuing to offer hope for the people of Israel. Many times Moses would be alone in these tough moments, no place to turn other than God.

God chose Moses, not because he was reluctant, but because he had a heart for his nation of Israel and a commitment to God. His reluctance wasn’t out of not believing in God, but believing in himself. He didn’t see in himself what God saw in him.

Moses would have to face the mighty Pharaoh to convince him to release the Israelites. Not once but ten times.

This still wasn’t his greatest feat. Consider the actual crossing over event at the Red Sea. The Israelites approached the Red Sea to become freed, they then noticed the Egyptians were pursuing them with a vast army. In front of them was the Red Sea and an unknown life. Behind them was a menacing army determined to slay them. They cried out to Moses, asking him why he had led them to a certain death. Even the severe bondage they lived in seemed like a better choice than their current state.

By now they had seen God’s great miracles and the powerful relationship Moses had with God. Even with God preceding them on their journey, as a pillar of clouds during the day and as fire at night. They still doubted and cried out to be saved. Not out of lack of confidence in God or Moses, but out of fear for their lives. Fear that overcame their faith. A fear we also sometimes let erode our own faith.

At God’s request Moses raised his staff to part the Red Sea. The sea parted, but the Israelites were still reluctant to go. Not trusting that the seas would hold back. Finally, Moses convinced this large nation to proceed. They crossed over saved by a miraculous intervention of God, through Moses.

For forty more years Moses led this reluctant group through the wilderness. A group who despite all they had seen from God through Moses still didn’t believe. But Moses led them and advocated for them.

How many times in our own lives have we witnessed the bounty of God, only to turn away in periods of stress?

After a generation had passed, they finally entered the promised land. Moses was old by then and did not enter the land promised by God. Dying on top of a mountain that overlooked the promised land.

Moses created this story in the book of Exodus through his obedience to God. After a reluctant start, he continued as a leader who was a go-between with God and the Israelites.

Over time when his people wouldn’t believe, Moses believed. Moses was many things, a judge, a counselor and provider. He kept his passion to lead despite seemingly overwhelming odds. His greatest leadership quality was his relationship with God. Instead of turning to human thoughts he maintained a rock steady faith that God would answer.

He climbed mountain tops through dense clouds to see God. He led his people through a vast desert sure of his direction with God, but never sure where the end would be. He created water out of stones and bread in the morning.

Moses led through his faith in God and compassion for his people. Moses led not out of self-interest or personal power. He believed in the higher good of serving God and humankind.

The first five books of the Bible are called the books of Moses. From Genesis to Numbers, they contain the law of God and the great history of Israel. The oral tradition of the first believers. A story that is real in that it is metamorphically connected to the lives of an ancient people with our own faith lives today.

The story of Moses is about leadership with the heart. Leadership that is not self-interested, but committed to a common good. Leadership inspired by a relationship with God.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Kalen Emsley

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