So all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness! Why has the LORD brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” So they said to one another, “Let us select a leader and return to Egypt.”
Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel.
But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes; and they spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: “The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the LORD delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, ‘a land which flows with milk and honey.’ Only do not rebel against the LORD, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the LORD is with us. Do not fear them.”
And all the congregation said to stone them with stones. Now the glory of the LORD appeared in the tabernacle of meeting before all the children of Israel.
Then the LORD said to Moses: “How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them? I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.”
And Moses said to the LORD: “Then the Egyptians will hear it, for by Your might You brought these people up from among them, and they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that You, LORD, are among these people; that You, LORD, are seen face to face and Your cloud stands above them, and You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. Now if You kill these people as one man, then the nations which have heard of Your fame will speak, saying, ‘Because the LORD was not able to bring this people to the land which He swore to give them, therefore He killed them in the wilderness.’ And now, I pray, let the power of my Lord be great, just as You have spoken, saying, ‘The LORD is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.’ Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of Your mercy, just as You have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.”
Then the LORD said: “I have pardoned, according to your word; but truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD— because all these men who have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice, they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected Me see it. But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it.
NUMBERS 14:1-24 NKJV
As we looked at previously, one of the things that Moses had to deal with was insubordination and rebellion.
This often manifested in people complaining and murmuring against Moses and his leadership team.
In Numbers chapter 13, we read the account of Moses sending out twelve spies to surveil the Promised Land. This was on God’s express command. Ten of those spies came back and affirmed that the land was indeed a land of plenty and flowing with milk and honey but that it was nigh on impossible to capture as the cities were well-fortified and there were giants there.
These spies said that they were as grasshoppers in their own sight in comparison to the giants and the giants saw them as grasshoppers.
Fear will make you seem small before your enemy and will make your enemy seem gigantic in strength and ability. It is interesting that fear made these spies see themselves as small and puny. These men would have seen the mighty hand of God wipe out Pharaoh’s army.
As a leader, you will have to encounter people who allow fear and other negative emotions to warp their self-esteem and obscure their identity.
As we see in Numbers chapter 14, the bad report from these spies spread panic among the people. This led them to decide to go back to Egypt and to look for a new leader to take them.
Joshua and Caleb were the other two spies and they voiced confidence in God’s ability to help Israel take the land.
Moses had two good men to back him up. They shared his vision. Good leaders must have solid people in prominent positions who share the vision and are willing to communicate that vision. It is clear that Moses deposited some of his own faith and confidence into some of his staff.
Notice that Moses and Aaron responded in the perfect manner to the planned coup. They went down on their faces before the Lord. Humility is always the ideal response to mutiny. As 1 Peter 5:6 reminds us, if we humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand, He will exalt us in due time. Moses’ great strength was his meekness and humility. This qualified him for leadership at the highest level.
The more you humble yourself, the higher God will lift you. Moses understood that being humble was actually a source of power and authority to him.
If you want to be a great leader, qualify by being genuinely humble.
Despite Joshua and Caleb putting forth a faith-based argument, the people wanted to stone them! Fear can twist people into very wrong responses.
God turned up and showed His glory. When you are doing God’s work and obeying His Word, He will back you as a leader.
The Lord was angry and wanted to wipe out the people. He promised to start the whole project over with Moses. This is where Moses showed true leadership.
Moses actually rejected God’s offer to make him a patriarch and stood in the gap for the people who were seeking to boot him out of office! He pleaded with God that wiping out the Israelites would not bring Him glory but would provide Israel’s enemies with an opportunity to decry Israel’s God and say He was not capable of delivering His people.
He also reminded God that He “is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression.” He affirmed this aspect of God’s character in order to have it manifest toward the children of Israel.
Moses actually changed God’s mind and shifted His intent. Moses’ intercession influenced God and changed His mind. Intercession is a powerful tool and we see here Moses demonstrating a powerful truth – that a big part of being a leader is standing in the gap for those we lead and being an advocate for them.
God acted according to the word of Moses. This was all based on relationship. Moses could ask God to change His mind because he walked with Him.
Caleb had a different spirit. God is looking for people who have the victorious, overcoming mindset to lead.