Moses was a saving leader. God called Moses to save Israel from slavery and lead them into a saving wilderness experience where they would be under God’s protection, provision and power. They would experience a kind of closeness with God’s presence like no other nation or people had ever experienced. Their resistance to God would bring them close to extinction along the way. In the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy we read about Moses’ saving leadership. He literally saved them from God’s destroying wrath several times (see Exodus 32:10f 33:3, Numbers 14:12, 16:21; 45). Saving leadership is really tough!
Let’s look at a few of the challenges in Moses’ saving leadership that you read in Numbers:
Chapter 11 – the Rabble raise their voices in complaint and it spreads throughout the camp until even Moses is so discouraged he wants to die. God gives Moses support by adding 70 leaders. Then God meets their need and punishes their greed and rebellion.
Chapter 12 – Moses older Sister, Miriam, and older brother, Aaron, speak against Moses.
God calls them all together and rebukes Miriam and Aaron and puts Leprosy on Miriam. Aaron repents and confesses their sin and begs Moses to pray for Miriam. Moses prays, but God holds Miriam under this punishment for a week.
Chapter 14 – Israel is right on the cusp of the promised land of Canaan, then 12 spies are sent in to check out the land. In 40 days they come back and 10 of them give a bad report, saying, “We can’t face these Canaanites! They are huge and powerful and we don’t stand a chance!” When Joshua and Caleb plead for them to trust in God, that God would surely give the land to them and defeat their enemies, they spread a bad report throughout the camp. All the people listened to their words and wanted to kill Joshua and Caleb. Then God stepped in. Enough said. Only Joshua and Caleb, two of the twelve spies, survived God’s wrath. The other ten spies died before the Lord.
God said, “Turn around and go back into the desert. You will be there 40 years. Talk about a time out! Every one who resisted and rejected God’s saving leadership died in the wilderness and missed the promised land.
Chapter 16 – Korah, Dathan and Abirim rebel against Moses’ saving leadership. They influenced 250 other chief men of Israel to join them. When God punishes these rebellious leaders by death, all the people rise up and say to Moses: “You have killed the Lord’s people!” God steps in again. 14,700 people die of a plague.
Chapter 17 – Look at verse 12. What are all the people saying? “We will die! We are lost, we are all lost! Anyone who even comes near the tabernacle of the Lord will die. Are we all going to die?”
How does one lead such a nation of people? How can there be saving leadership for people who WILL NOT listen to God’s word and follow God’s saving will and ways?
Last week we talked about rules and relationships and how these apply to the laws in Leviticus, and also, how rules and relationships apply in our lives.
The greatest commandments in God’s word (the highest and most important rules) just so happen to be the greatest relationships. In God’s word we see law and love combining, as the song says. God created us; God designed us, and God knows how we are built to perform. In the Bible God has given us the instructions or rules for putting together our lives in the way that works. Is this true?
One huge problem in our world today is the disregard for God’s rules and in their place we see human inventions and the making of our own rules. God calls this “sin” and “rebellion.” Sin ruins our relationship with God and it wrecks our relationships with one another.
Just imagine a world where everyone, and I mean everyone was striving to love God first and foremost… and then out of that, everyone was also striving to love everyone else. What would that look like? When we are doing those things we look much better than when we are not, wouldn’t you say?
What is it in humanity that resists God’s authority and rules? Who is leading this rebellion?
We are living in a world of evil, where chaos is rampant and trust is fractured and broken. We, as a human race, have been led into sin. When we break God’s rules we also break God given relationships. You can’t have God designed and God blessed and God protected relationships of love and trust and honor without following God’s rules and God’s leadership.
The Bible gives us a historical, international study on what happens when we leave God’s leadership and look for leadership elsewhere, either within ourselves or outside of ourselves. In the Bible God presents case after case for this truth: there is no other answer to be found. The only saving way involves embracing rules and relationships God’s way.
What we find in scripture is that God supplies saving leadership for those who seek Him. God raises up saving leaders who call us back to Himself. Good ones that find traction and actually manage to pull people toward God are few and far between, even in the Bible. The biblical message is plain: most people won’t have it. Some won’t even consider God’s way. Some will start off and then fizzle as soon as the going gets tough. Some try to keep one foot in the world and one foot in God’s word and their divided hearts block their progress. But some, some have what Jesus called noble and honest hearts who humbly receive God’s word and it grows and produces much fruit. From these fruitful people come saving leaders who seek God’s kingdom and righteousness first and who enter the saving mission and serving mission of God’s love and grace.
Romans 5:6-10 tells us: God has demonstrated His saving love for us. This demonstration of God’s saving love is, ironically, also a demonstration of God’s wrath and punishment against sin. God’s saving love expresses His desire to be with us, God’s holy wrath expresses His response against sin. God is a saving God. He is also a God who judges and punishes sin.
For God’s love to save us, Jesus, God’s only begotten Son, had to die. God so loved you, He gave His Son to die in your place. God’s first and foremost saving rule is that you love Him. Israel, by in large, failed to love God. Not until after 40 years of wilderness wandering where the rebellious all died, did Israel finally follow God’s saving leadership.
The next Old Testament book of Deuteronomy is going to press home this important rule: Love the Lord your God! Prepare to hear this over and over. Listen to the saving leadership of Moses to God’s people. Moses will say: I set before you life and death, blessing and cursing, now choose life!