: Chiefly about Who Should be Chief
the Israelites left Egypt, God spoke to them through Moses.
But at Mount Sinai, God spoke to them directly from the mountaintop.
Hearing God’s voice, the Israelites trembled with fear, and told Moses,
“Speak to us yourself and we will listen.
But do not have God speak to us or we will die! [Exodus 20:19]”.
So, God continued to speak through Moses and the people looked up to
Moses as their leader.
who was the real leader? After the
Tabernacle was set up, “Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting….In all
the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the
Tabernacle, they could set out; but if the cloud did not lift, they did not
set out” [Exodus 40:34 & 36]. Wasn’t
God leading them directly?
God determined when they should travel, where to, and how long they should
stay, the passage Numbers 10:29-33 is a mystery.
For here we see Moses pleading with his brother-in-law Hobab: “Please
do not leave us. You know where we
should camp in the desert, and you can be our eyes.”
Wasn’t Moses asking Hobab to determine where the Israelites should
camp? Did Moses waver in his trust
in God to lead them safely through the deserts of Sinai, Paran, Zin and the
Negev? Was Hobab for insurance,
just in case ….?
Moses’ wavering infect the Israelite population?
For a few verses later, at the very start of the next chapter, we read
that “the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the
Lord” [Num 11:1]. Then, “the
rabble with them began to crave other food and again the Israelites started
wailing and said, ‘If only we had meat!
We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost – also the cucumbers,
melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But
now …. we never see anything but this manna!’ ” [Num 11:4].
heard the people of every family wailing” [Num 11:10].
Surprisingly he took their wailing to be directed not towards God, but
towards Moses the Leader! He
confronted God. “Why have you
brought this trouble on your servant [i.e. me]?
What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these
people on me? Did I conceive all these people?
Did I give them birth? Why
do you tell me to carry them in my arms like a nurse carries an infant, to the
land you promised on oath to their forefathers?
Where can I get meat for all these people?
They keep wailing to me …. I cannot carry all these people by
myself” [Num 11:11-14]. Every
now and then, a Christian leader falls into this snare, of thinking that he or
she is carrying the people and their burdens, when they should, instead, be
carrying the burdens to God, the solver of all problems.
Moses’ tone. How dare Moses talk
to God in such a tone? Was God
God reminded Moses he was not the only Israelite leader.
He ordered Moses: “Bring me 70 of Israel’s elders who are known to
you as leaders and officials among the people …. And I will take of the
Spirit on you and put the Spirit on them”.
Moses lost his unique status as the only leader anointed with the Holy
Spirit, for 70 other leaders received the Holy Spirit and started prophesying,
i.e. God spoke through them. Worse,
God took of the Spirit that He had put on Moses and spread it among the 70
leaders. Then God answered
Moses’ impertinent question, “Where can I get meat for all these
people?” by supplying the Israelites with quail meat for an entire month.
God was the supplier of the Israelites’ needs, not Moses.
Moses was put in his place. (Was
it coincidence that the next chapter records that Moses was “more humble
than anyone on the face of the earth” [Num 12:3]?
Wouldn’t you be very humble after being publicly chastised by God?)
God’s chastisement of Moses embolden Moses’ elder brother Aaron and his
sister Miriam to talk against him [Num 12:1], ostensibly because of his
Cushite wife” [Num 12:1]? But their real objective is revealed when they
asked: “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Hasn’t he also spoken
through us?” They wanted to be
leaders equal in status to Moses! History
teaches us that when there is general unhappiness with a leader, this opens
the way for wannabe leaders to stir up the masses and project themselves as
worthy successors. We see here the
beginnings of a rebellion.
nipped this rebellion in the bud. He
sent a cloud which covered Moses, Aaron and Miriam.
When the cloud lifted, Miriam was white as snow: a leper.
Aaron saw her in this state and begged Moses, “[Please] my lord, do
not hold against us the sin we have foolishly committed.”
Not “my brother” but “my lord”.
That day, Aaron and Miriam learnt an important lesson, that, unlike
secular leaders, the leaders of God’s people are not chosen by the people,
but by God. So when we elect a
pastor, elder or deacon, we should not choose and then pray: “O Lord God,
please let so-and-so be elected a leader”.
Instead, we should ask: “O Lord God, whom have you chosen to be a
leader? Please guide me to vote
for the right person. Please let
me see the good qualities that you see.”
of course want to exercise their God-given intelligence and wisdom, especially
when electing a leader. However,
it is worthwhile remembering that compared to God’s intelligence and his
wisdom, human intelligence and wisdom are like rags.
If it was left solely to us, we would vote for the most articulate,
self-confident, intelligent or qualified men and women into church leadership
positions, instead of the ones God has already chosen.
Would we have voted for Moses, a murderer and a lowly shepherd?
Yet God chose him and continued to use him though he wavered.
So God can use us too, flawed as we are.
COMMENCING IN TERM 3, 2005
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Visit our website for course descriptions
|A Blessed Birthday to ...||
Justin Lee 24/5
Ms Cindy Tay 27/5
Lawrence Chan 28/5
|Chapel speaker on 25 May was Senior Pastor Benjamin Lee of Hope Church (Singapore).|