Moses as a Leader (The Story: Chapter 4)
God calls Moses to leadership through the burning bush in the wilderness--a bush that burns but doesn't burn up. Moses doesn't run away, but he draws closer to the bush and God calls out his name then gives him a surprising calling.
Moses responds, "Who am I?" Moses was an unlikely and imperfect leader: a shepherd all alone on the far side of the wilderness, eighty years old, and a foreigner; faltering speech, a murderer who fled Egypt, and how can a hebrew raised in Pharaoh's household lead the people whose God has no name? And yet he was rescued as a child by Pharaoh's daughter and raised as a prince of Egypt. Was he delivered in order to become a deliverer?
And then Moses asks, "Who are you? What is your name?" God reveals his name, "I am" or "I am who I am." This is the first time in scripture God has a name. God moves from the general name El or Elohim (God) to the specific name Yahweh, and the very personal promise, "I will be with you."
God gives Moses his brother Aaron to speak for him, a staff and his own presence and they go. They're all in. They go to Pharaoh.
Only after blood in the Nile, frogs, gnats, flies, pestilence, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, and the firstborn does Pharaoh beg Moses and Aaron to leave. "Take your flocks and herds, go worship your God. And before you go, bless me." So why did it take ten plagues, confrontation with Pharaoh and competition with the magicians before the Israelites could leave Egypt?
One answer is Pharaoh. He was stubborn and powerful. He had too much to lose of his slave workforce to relent too soon. His reputation was at stake among his own people. How could he allow himself to be pushed around by Moses and this God when he had his own power, magicians and gods?
Another answer is Moses. He is afraid and hiding in the wilderness. He becomes a leader as he journeys to Egypt, as the staff becomes a snake, as the plagues come upon Egypt. This is a steep learning curve for Moses. Moses is learning who he is, becoming a leader and developing a deeper trust in God. Moses discovers the answers to his questions as he goes. Maybe it took ten plagues for Moses to trust God and to answer that deeper question of his heart. "Who am I?" "Who is God?" could not be fully answered on Mount Horeb.
John Eldredge writes, "Deep in man’s heart are some fundamental questions that simply cannot be answered at the kitchen table. Who am I? What am I made of? What am I destined for? It is fear that keeps a man at home where things are neat and orderly and under his control. But the answers to his deepest questions are not to be found on television or in the refrigerator." (Wild at Heart)
A third answer is God's people.There are as many as two million Israelites in Egypt who need to put their trust in God and follow Moses, this unlikely and imperfect leader who has returned from exile. How long did it take for the grumbling to begin?
Who does Moses think he is? Where did he come from? What's his plan? How will he do what we haven't done in generations? Who chose him to be our leader?
How would the Israelites trust Moses enough to follow the odd instructions of the Passover meal, leave their home, and head for the desert through the Red Sea? By the time they left Egypt they would have to trust God and Moses implicitly. Moses and the Israelites had a long journey ahead. This was not a sprint, but a 40 year marathon.
And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant. Exodus 14:31
The apostle Paul wrote that God "is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or imagine according to his power at work within us." (Ephesians 3)
Moses and Aaron's leadership was dependent on a powerful God to be with them and to work through them... and so is ours.