Moses knew the challenges of leading a tribe. If you lead 100 people, you have to deal with 100 minds full out countless emotions and ideas -- all while trying to hold it all together. Let me share just how complicated leadership can be with this [you'd think getting a lightbulb changed would be easy, right?]…
A pastor asks if someone can change a burned out lightbulb, and the suggestions started rolling in: "If God wanted the bulb changed, he'd do it himself." "The bulb doesn't need to be changed. We should pray for its healing." "Call the elders together to anoint it with oil and lay hands on it." "We need to cast out the spirit of darkness." Some conservatives said, "Don't even go into that hallway anymore. We should separate ourselves from all darkness" while progressives said, "We don't want to make the bulb feel unwanted or uncomfortable." Some warned that if we touch it, it could lead to dancing. The hippies said, "Far out, man", the business men suggested we form a committee, and the older folks said, "I remember the good ole days when a lightbulb lasted for 20 years." The rest of the bunch told the pastor to do it and reserved the right to complain about how he did it. One person said that a lightbulb had burned out in their last church, and it wasn't pretty, so they were leaving the church. And a handful of people were offended they didn't get their way and walked out.
Meanwhile, we sit in the dark.
That's what it must have been like for Moses to lead the Israelites. Leaders will get frustrated, and they will have obstacles and opposition. They will often not feel up to the task, and they will want to walk away from time to time. But it is impossible to engage in God's work without challenge and opposition! Do we think the enemy is going to just sit back and accept our success?
Every member of the tribe of Jesus needs to ask themselves what kind of person they are to lead. We need to vow that we not make this journey about our personal pleasure and preferences. If we see the church and the LORD as a source for our personal pleasure, we will end up resenting the church and all those who didn't feed our need for pleasure. We end up living in constant hurt as we consult our feelings instead of consulting Jesus.
We don't judge the Israelites for all their grumbling, because we're the same. I am too often fickle, feckless, and faithless.
Like the Israelites, we have selective memories. We romanticize the past, longing for the good ol' days, and we forget what God has already done. Nearly 200 times in scripture, we are told to 'remember'. We need to remember all that God has done for us!
Like the Israelites, we're short-sighted. All they could see was the Red Sea in front of them and Pharaoh's army behind them. We do the same thing. We panic with what's in front of our face, and we forget where we're going. We forget why we are a church and that we are the people of God who he is taking on a journey. Instead, we focus on what we want here and now. We need long distance vision!
Like the Israelites, we are more in tune with our feelings than Jesus. I filter my life through my feelings every day. That's normal...but we must learn to submit our feelings to God's truth. That takes work (discipline). We're so good at awful-izing. We feel a lot of deep emotions, but we have to know the truth!
You know what I love about the stories of all the grumbling of the Israelites? They grumbled about slavery, and God freed them. They grumbled about the Red Sea, and God made a way for them. They grumbled about bitter water, and God gave them sweetwater. They grumbled about being hungry, so God gave them their daily bread. They grumbled about being thirsty, and God caused water to flow from a rock. They grumbled about their enemies, and God gave them the victory.
I'd have walked away from them.
But not God.
He heard their complaints and met their needs (even though he was slightly annoyed with them).
Isn't he good?
May God bless our feeble efforts to walk together in love!