Day 37--Wailing for Quail--"Humility" Numbers 11-14
February 6, 2021, 7:45 AM

Day 37—Numbers 11-14

First—we are 10% through our reading of the Bible! Applause to you for sticking with it! It may be hard to find time every day, and even harder to wade through verses that may seem unconnected to our lives, but as I have been reading, my personal learning curve has enabled me to connect much of what I read to both the New Testament and to our world today. Yet there is much that I cannot resolve or neatly plug into my understanding, and I am ok letting that rest for now.

Leadership is a great example of that. The chapters appointed for today seem to focus specifically on the leadership of Moses and the challenges he faced. I don’t sense, at least not yet—but we will!—an example where Moses acts out of selfish motives. Since the time he was chosen by God to serve and to lead, way back in the book of Exodus, Moses has been honest with God about his shortcomings. Moses knew that he could not speak well, for example, and he told God that he didn’t think he was suited to the job. That honesty has always warmed my heart.  As we continue to read about Moses and his leadership, the way he deals with the people appears fair-minded, and Moses always, always defers to the LORD, including our readings for today.

The people complaint that there is nothing but manna—let me be clear that I would have absolutely been in the manna-complaint group! I know myself. No peanut butter? No vegetables? Impossible! So Moses appeals to God, and God’s response cracks me up: “They want meat, do they? I will give them so much meat it will start coming out of their noses! I will give them so much meat they’ll start to hate meat!” What parent hasn’t been here before?

Quick side note: I once worked at Friendly’s during college, making ice cream sundaes and waitressing. The theory was that working at Friendly’s and having access to all that ice cream would make you sick of it. Not true!! Just saying.

The big picture is that every time the people come to Moses, waving their arms and yelling, Moses turns directly to God and expects God to solve the problem. Moses recognizes his own limitations. We read “Now the man Moses was very humble, more so than anyone on the earth” Num 12:3 Another note: if the author of the book of Numbers was actually Moses, that does put a claim to humility in a slightly different light, doesn’t it? In other words, Moses would have written this about himself—which may run counter to that super hero humility.

But let’s look at the story points:

  • The people complain about a lack of variety in their diets. Moses appeals to God for help, although he does question God’s ability to deliver on the promise in Num 11:22. Moses is able to be honest with God, and honesty is a key component of good leadership.
  • Moses recognizes his inability to deal with the complaints and problems of thousands of crabby people in the desert. He appeals to God for help and accepts the offering of 70 elders who now share some of the spirit of God that had formerly only been given to Moses himself. Moses is willing to share his leadership position for the benefit of God’s people, perhaps we could say that he allowed some “Divine Delegation” to occur.
  • Moses cries out to God for the healing of Miriam, who challenged her brother’s leadership along with Aaron, their brother. God responds by essentially making her unclean for a week, preventing the camp of the Israelites from moving on. Moses has compassion.
  • Just as the Israelites could have entered the Promised Land, led by Joshua and Caleb, they rebel out of fear and threaten to stone their leaders to death. Moses appeals to God, and God is once again divinely annoyed with the people, and tells Moses that he is going to restart the whole operation with a whole new group of people. Moses intercedes on their behalf, and God relents and forgives. But God makes it clear that there are consequences for a lack of trust, and for disobeying the word of God, which Moses tells the Israelites. Moses
  • Moses cares deeply about the people who have been entrusted to him, and he continues to lead the people by serving God, even though God also tells him that out of the thousands of adults that he leads through the wilderness, only two will make it to the Promised Land, and Moses own name is not on that list. Even before the event that prevents Moses from stepping foot into the Promised Land, God tells him the end of the story, and I don’t know any leader who would remain in a position of leadership knowing that the big payoff, the big prize, the cushy retirement, the ultimate goal of the mission, would be fulfilled and experienced by someone else. Moses even knows the names of those two men, Joshua and Caleb, and he does not kill them or punish them. Moses accepts what God has said, and he continues to do the work God has given to him.

So that does bring us back to the key word for today: humility. We don’t often see the words leadership and humility combined in the same sentence. I once knew someone who was let go from a great leadership job because he wasn’t “enough of a shark.” To this day I believe that company needed compassion and servitude more than blood-lust, but power is difficult to maintain, and to use justly. Is there a difference between Christian leadership and secular leadership, and does it matter? Should it matter?

Moses points the way to the kind of leadership we will ultimately see in Jesus. Servant leadership. Compassion for those who suffer. Deep connectedness to the Father. Care for neighbors. Prayers said from a set apart place where there is an ability to concentrate all attention on God, and God alone. Worship of God at all times, and in every activity. Humility before, as our contemplation says today “the superabundant love and worthiness of God himself”.

Happy Saturday! Be blessed and be a superabundant blessing to others,

ML

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