Clues on Leadership, Character and Ways: Examples from the Prophet Moses

From Numbers 11, 12 and 14



Moses was given the task of leading Israel from slavery in Egypt to freedom and worship of God in Canaan the promised land. It could rightly be said that Israel at this time had not known God except for the plagues performed in Egypt (his mighty hand in deliverance Exodus 3:13-15). However they knew very well that they were Abraham’s descendants Genesis 17:7 which made it not strange to hear of God coming to deliver them from Pharaoh’s tyranny, and lead them to the Promised Land.


But Israel was in their most crude state, so full of themselves, their wishes and wants, and so much detached from God’s will and ways. A people who did not hesitate to attack their leader when their needs were not met and they were a million over in the desert. Imagine having to lead over a million disgruntled people. In fact Israel made it clear that since they were not responsible for their coming out of Egypt, they couldn’t be responsible for any hardship, but Moses. Nor would they accept any inconvenience. They had not embraced God yet and taken him as their God.

This was the type of people Moses was leading, over a million people over forty year period; through wars and battles; I wonder if a leader could be found who has a people more difficult to lead than Moses’ Israel. This was the inception of the people of YAHWEH as a nation. And God wanted them to be different from all other nations. Exodus 19:5 and 33:16



Moses’ conversation with God in verse 12 of numbers 11 broke a secret of leadership God had told him. ‘’Carry the people on your heart!’’ Moses was to just do that, carry Israel on his heart. In order to go far with the people you are leading you have to carry them on your heart. Then you will be able to be concerned with their success and prosperity. You will be able to be happy for them; sad for them; and you can find solutions to their problems; they become yours and you theirs. A leader who does not belong to his people has failed just as a leader to whom his people do not belong. But all these could be possible when you carry your people on your heart.

We can see from the life of Moses that the people you carry on your heart do not easily weary and disheartened you. You don’t quickly get fed up with them. You can bear them with all their difficulties. Having them on your heart brings you to love them; to care for them; to be concerned with their affairs; able to meet their needs and patient with them just like a father to a child. This is what we see in Moses.

Pray that God will enlarge your heart to accommodate the people you are leading.


This is not just delegating authority. It is asking God to raise men like you to carry the burden together. Every leader needs this. In verse 14 of chapter 11 Moses declares that he need helpers to bear the burden. He was not giving up on his task of leading the people, he was rather responding to reality of his task as he cried out to God. Moses emphasized that God’s favour is rather to let him die than to carry these people alone. Until in verse 26 of chapter 11 Moses was the only one who prophesied in Israel, Numbers 11:26-29. So it was strange for Joshua, or rather improper to have another person prophesy in Israel besides Moses. Yet Moses acknowledged that this was his desire to have God filled leaders helping him.


He did not protect his image nor raise his ego. When Aaron and Miriam were not happy with Moses’ decision of taking an Ethiopian wife they complained and intruded into the affairs of his prophet hood, that he was not the only one to whom God spoke, levelling themselves up with Moses. Did Moses answer them? No! He was not hasty to fight back; was not full of himself; he did not have his eyes on his image, nor did he feel hurt. If he was preoccupied with himself or his image, he would have quickly reacted to Aaron and Miriam. But before he could muster a word God intervened on his behalf. You see God is watching his man and his work, why then are you afraid? If you are doing God’s work, leading his own people, then allow him to defend you. Don’t rush to your own defence.


Moses did not base leadership on position but rather on God’s purpose and plan for Israel. In Numbers 14:1-5 when the congregation of Israel complained against Moses and threatened to choose another leader instead of him, he did not get mad nor felt betrayed. The leader God chose or the leader the people chose in their rebellion, who would you want to be? Instead of fighting for his threatened position, Moses fell down before the people and pleaded with them to not do what God dislike-to not go back to Egypt. Moses was bothered with taking the people to the Promised Land, thereby achieving God’s plan. So if it demanded pleading, he would not reserve himself for it. All he wanted was to get them to the Promised Land as God wanted. He knew his people were not making the right move. Is just like pleading with someone not to go into sin. Moses did not enforce himself on the people saying I am your leader I must be obeyed. Task oriented not position minded. What i am saying is he was more concerned that the people not move against God’s will than his threatened position.


In Numbers 14:11-16 God was offering Moses the privilege to raise a people for him, instead of the present Israel-Abraham’s Israel. He was so bent on accomplishing his task that he could advise (suggest) even God the task giver to not fail himself by wiping out the people. See what he said “then the Egyptians will hear about it…………if you put this people to death all at one time, the nations who have heard this report about you will say, the Lord was not able to bring these people into the land he promised them an oath; so he slaughtered them in the desert.” Imagine what that would have been like today, had Moses agreed, he would have been sort of another Noah in Abraham’s progeny. Something totally different would have been known today. Perhaps knowledge of the twelve tribes would have not mattered to us today. But Moses was not out to seek his own, he recognized Israel as God’s own people and himself a mediator, so what need has he order than to lead them. This was his position. And that was why he could quickly and easily see God’s proposal from another angle. Who could blame Moses if he had accepted God’s proposal, but because he sought not his own, he could turn the issue around and intercede for Israel. He was living in his task.


Moses knew that Israel had done wrong (Numbers 14:13-20), he was at the centre of the mess at the time it happened. In fact the attack was directly on him. He faced the people’s insults. Yet at the same time God came to punish the people he said no. He in that hot moment turned around and pleaded with God to pardon the people. Get close to God and soon you will begin to think and act like him God-likeness. No wonder Jesus said “take my yoke and learn of me” enter into a walk with him, and God will teach you to be like him. God did not tell Moses to say what he said it just flowed forth naturally from his heart.

Even though the people deserved hatred and punishment, Moses would not let them have that. He was not angry with the people beyond his love for them. (Interestingly God begins to call them as Moses’ people, Exodus 33:1). Look at how quickly God changed his mind (Numbers 14:20) it was because of Moses’ relentlessness to achieve God’s purpose on Israel, to lead them to the promise land. This is why he was able to intercede for them. Otherwise he would have been annoyed and leave them to God’s destruction. Instead of resulting to anger, Moses interceded and made God relent of destroying Israel.



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