Moses was a man born in desperate times, raised in a royal palace and forged by 40 years of desert living.
What is interesting about Moses is he had all the credentials and training to lead at the highest level in terms of human standards. He was raised as a member of Pharaoh’s household. Yet all of that was burned out of him living in the backside of the wilderness miles from the circles of power.
The background of Moses’ rise to leadership of the Israel people provides us with another great example of the contrast between good leaders and bad leaders.
Exodus 1:8 tells us that there arose a new king in Egypt who knew not Joseph.
Even great alliances and historical blessings can fade in the memory and become irrelevant to those who lead long after the events of yesteryear.
The Pharaoh of Joseph’s day was a confident, expansive leader who saw only benefits in appointing the Hebrew Joseph as his prime minister and allowing Joseph’s family to settle in Egypt.
Fast forward to the time when Moses was born and you have a Pharaoh who is insecure and riddled with fear that the Israelites, who have swelled greatly in number, would become a threat to the integral security of Egypt.
The solution Pharaoh came up with is an example of extremely poor leadership. Whenever you make leadership decisions based on fear you make bad decisions.
Pharaoh decided to make the Israelites slaves. He put them under a yoke of bondage. Bad leaders oppress those they lead and restrict their freedoms. Invariably this manifests in the economic realm.
In addition, Pharaoh made a horrific judgement, instructing Hebrew midwives to kill any child they delivered if it was a boy.
Moses, of course, was one of those boys and, thanks to the defiance of Pharaoh’s order and the protection of God, Moses became an adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter.
Like many biblical examples, Pharaoh represents the bad leader in contrast with Moses the good leader.
Pharaoh could have chosen a different way in dealing with the large immigrant population of Israelites, a way that was inclusive and benevolent. Instead, he let fear govern his policy.
Now it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out to his brethren and looked at their burdens. And he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. So he looked this way and that way, and when he saw no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. And when he went out the second day, behold, two Hebrew men were fighting, and he said to the one who did the wrong, “Why are you striking your companion?”
Then he said, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?”
So Moses feared and said, “Surely this thing is known!” When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh and dwelt in the land of Midian; and he sat down by a well.
EXODUS 2:11-15 NKJV
Moses made a decision that would change his life. He committed a murder, which made him an outlaw and ended his career trajectory.
It appears that Moses had a propensity to lash out in anger, something which would feature in his future ministry and actually rob him of his destiny at the latter end.
Perhaps the crime that Moses carried out came from an attitude developed from the life he spent as an Egyptian prince, where a sense of entitlement was inculcated in him. DL Moody famously said: “Moses spent forty years thinking he was somebody; forty years learning he was nobody; and forty years discovering what God can do with a nobody.”
Moses clearly thought he could murder a man and get away with it. However, his deed became known and Moses had to flee to the backwater region of Midian, where he married the daughter of Jethro, also known as Reuel.
It’s interesting to consider that Moses’ life was in three distinct periods of 40 years. As God’s Prophet, it is clear that the Lord’s hand was on him. However, Moses clearly paid the price for his own actions. Evidently, Moses’ time as a shepherd in Midian was a long period wherein God burned all sense of self-importance out of His servant.
You have to wonder what would have happened if Moses had not murdered the Egyptian and been banished from the courts of Egypt. Although the arrogance that was in Moses could be attributed to being trained in the politics of Pharaoh’s court, there is clearly something of the Lord’s leading in having Moses undergoing the training of a national leader – even if it was merely to demonstrate to him the folly of leading a nation without the guidance and wisdom of God.
We can see here what happens if a leader impetuously takes matters into his/her own hands. Moses saw the need – his fellow Hebrews were being oppressed – and “heard the call” to liberate them. Sometimes leaders receive the “call” simply by seeing the great need or injustice in front of them.
The call is not enough, however. There has to be a process undergone whereby the leader is trained and equipped to do the job. Moses, as a royal prince of Egypt, assumed he already had the credentials. There is only one place for people who think they have “the stuff” and that is oblivion. Moses was sent to the wilderness of Midian to discover that only those who are as nothing in their own eyes are fit to lead.
We must distinguish between knowing who we are in Christ as leaders and thinking we are somebody in ourselves. Humility is not thinking we are unworthy curs and wretches; it is recognising we are that without Christ, Thank God we are not without Him!
Not everybody has to learn meekness and humility the hard way. If we will submit ourselves under God’s mighty hand, we can spare ourselves much hardship. As the saying goes, learning the hard way is God’s method of training those who will not listen to a wise mentor.
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time
1 PETER 5:6 NKJV
Here is a key principle of leadership – that God will raise you up i.e. He will choose you – if you humble yourself under His mighty hand.
Moses learned this lesson, as we will see later in our study. However, he had to learn it in exile from the courts of power he was destined to confront and overturn.
There is an easy way and a hard way for leaders. The easy way is to stay close to God and be humble before Him.