It seems I can’t escape Exodus! No matter where I go or what read, somebody seems to be preaching in Exodus or at least about the story of the Israelites and the Promised Land.
A few weeks ago I shared that I thought part of the reason the Israelites spent 40 years on an 11-day journey is that God knew they were not ready for the Promised Land. God had to keep the wondering until they were ready, and unfortunately, most were never ready and therefore were not able to enter. I still agree with this statement; however, while most Israelites were not ready to enter the Promised Land, I believe that some where indeed ready, but they let others lead them around the wilderness for 40 years.
A little back story: Numbers 12:
Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. 2 “Has the LORD spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” And the LORD heard this.
3 (Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)
4 At once the LORD said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, “Come out to the tent of meeting, all three of you.” So the three of them went out. 5 Then the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When the two of them stepped forward, 6 he said, “Listen to my words:
“When there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, reveal myself to them in visions, I speak to them in dreams. “ But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. 8 With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak
From this we can see that there was some jealousy in the camp. Yes, God had used others as prophets and such, but Moses was God’s favorite. Moses was the chosen one to lead these people. When others tried to get in the way, or muddy the waters, God was quick to put them in their place. If you were to read on in Numbers you would see that God gave Miriam a form of leprosy as punishment and it was only at Moses’ request that Miriam was healed and able to return to camp after 7 days. Why did God do this? He was mad that two people in such high places of leadership would try to override and bad mouth someone God had chosen. God did not want the others to get confused on who their earthly leader was. Moses was chosen because he was devoted to God, and unlike other prophets, God spoke to Moses clearly and directly, so there was to be no mistake on what the Israelites were to do. If others got in there and the Israelites started following them, it would not take them long to get lost (even more so than they already were).
What we know so far: Moses was chosen by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and to the Promised Land.
The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.”………….17 When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said….. 18 See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many………………21 So they went up and explored the land from ………
25 At the end of forty days they returned from exploring the land. 26 They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh …… They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. 28 But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. …….
30 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”
31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” 32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. 33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”
That night all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud.2 All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! 3 Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”
5 Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there. 6 Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes 7 and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. 8 If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. 9 Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”
10 But the whole assembly talked about stoning them.
God had promised to give the Israelites a prosperous land. He promised to protect them. Time and time again God had done just that. However, it didn’t seem to be enough for the Israelites.
Upon the completion of the exploration, all but two came back very distressed and less than hopeful about the success of a takeover. Despite the knowledge the God has vowed to protect them, the naysayers did their best to sway the whole camp over to their side.
The camp, instead of listening to their leaders, to Moses (you know, the one who talks directly to God), they chose to listen to the grumblers and the naysayers. The mistakenly looked at the situation with human eyes instead of God-like eyes.
It is easy to chastise the Israelites for their short-sightedness, but how often do we do this? I have witnessed firsthand churches rising against anointed pastors or church leadership because the pastors or leadership, under God’s direction, were trying to lead the people where they didn’t want to go. Instead of bowing to God and God’s chosen leader, they ran that leadership out so their wills could be done. This kind of thing is sad. It is maddening. And I know it is not pleasing to God; just as it wasn’t in Numbers (which we will talk about further tomorrow).
What really gets me with the Israelites and in churches is the arrogance of the people. We have already seen in Numbers 12 how God feels about His chosen leaders. He was ready to take both Miriam and Aaron out for talking smack about Moses. Do you think His feelings have changed? When it comes to churches today, do you think God doesn’t care that we are not listening to His chosen leaders? I think he does. I think he cares a whole lot. God place His people in charge because He knows He can trust them to carry out His work. Let us look at some scriptures regarding authority:
Hebrews 13:17- Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that [is] unprofitable for you.
Romans 13:1-2: Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
God purposely places people in leadership. We must respect and submit to those in leadership; whether or not their plans match our own.
Now, I know some of you are chomping at the bit. I bet Acts 5:29 is running through your head right now:
But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.
Yes, we are to obey God rather than men, but we are also to submit to those God places in authority over us. If our pastors are God-fearing, anointed people, who are we to say we know better? If our church leadership is indeed anointed, then we are following God when we follow them.
There are two things God brought to my attention here is Numbers 13:
1. Don’t be a naysayer leading others into the wilderness-don’t get others up in arms because church leadership is wanting the church to do something that you don’t want to do-do not lead others into the wilderness;
2. Don’t let others lead you into the wilderness. Don’t let fear of the unknown stop you from doing the work of the Lord.
How can we tell if we are following anointed leadership?
1. Talk with God about it:
I have been in churches with anointed leadership and without anointed leadership. I was not strong enough in my relationship with the Lord when I was under leadership that was not anointed to tell the difference. So, my advice would be to focus on building a strong relationship with the Lord. Once you have a strong relationship with the Lord, you will be able to hear the Lord more clearly. As we know from Numbers 12, God does speak to everyone. God will speak to me. God will speak to you. You have to be willing to be open and honest with yourself and with God. Sometimes the will of God does not match my will. Sometimes my voice wants to be louder than God’s voice and I have to be very careful not to let my voice win. Sometimes God just outright tells me:
“You are not leading this ship. You listen to who I have placed in charge because that is who I am speaking to on this issue.”
In other words, “You are not the boss here Missy!
2. Look at the leadership track record:
Has your pastor or church leadership led you astray before? Have other projects and ministries worked out?
There was a time recently that my pastor wanted to start a ministry that I just didn’t want to do. I didn’t think it was needed. I didn’t think it would work. God told me to shut up and do what I was told. I did. I absolutely love the new ministry and it is honestly growing up disciples. Praise the Lord that I didn’t voice my opinion and try to thwart a ministry that was blessed by God.
God showed up on behalf of the Israelites time and time again, but after it was all said and done the Israelites forgot God’s faithfulness time and time again. Don’t let history repeat itself.
3. Look to see if it lines up with scripture/with your mission/direction:
The first one is easy enough, the second and third ones not so much. Sometimes church leadership can get sidetracked. They see a nice shiny object and they want to go after it, which only takes them away from their original destination. I have been in a church where we would get started on one ministry just to end up starting another without even getting remotely anywhere with the first ministry. Needless to say this was not good for the church or community and cost us church members and maybe even potential followers of Jesus Christ. So, a pastor or church leadership does need a check and balance system and I found it good to let your mission statement help keep leadership on track. (But even mission statements need tweaked from time to time.)
Well, I have definitely run out of time and space for today, so please join me tomorrow as we take a look at the fallout for the Israelites who followed man and not God.
Have a blessed day!