Tag Archives: hebrews

Leading the Unleadable

“Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, ‘Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their forefathers to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance.  The Lord Himself goes before you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.'” Deut. 3:17-8

Moses tells Joshua, in front of the entire nation of Israel, to be courageous as he enters the promised land with the Israelites. The spies have told them all about the giants who made them “appear as grasshoppers in their eyes.”  All along the forty year journey they’ve heard rumors of the mighty warriors in that part of the world.

But when Moses tells Joshua to be courageous he doesn’t mention any of that.  He doesn’t tell Joshua about the struggles of combat to come; he doesn’t fill him with confidence for mighty victories against his foes; Moses doesn’t allude to Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizites, Hivites, Jebusites or even mosquito bites.  The only “ites” mentioned are the Israelites!

Moses says, “You must go with this people…” [emphasis mine]  In essence, “You’re not getting the cream of the crop, my boy; Joshua, you’re not getting the Dream Team; you’re getting the people that God choose for the Promised Land.”  Joshua had been with Moses since “back in the day.”  He knew what the Isrealites were like.  He was witness to the murmuring, disputing and back-stabbing.  Moses was simply reminding him that leadership, Godly leadership, is about loving people where they are, but loving them too much to leave them there.

As leaders we would do well to heed Moses’ words to Joshua.  God doesn’t always, in fact He rarely, sends us the most talented, qualified, disposed or temperamentally equipped people to lead.  Want proof?  Look at who Jesus called as disciples.  It would be a challenge to find a more motley group in any church today.

Leading the most talented group isn’t really leadership, is it?  Did Chuck Daly really coach the original Dream Team in the 1992 Olympics?  He didn’t call one single timeout during the entire tournament.

Real leaders love the unlovable and lead the unleadable.  Rather than plead with God to send us better followers maybe we should pray that He nurture us as better leaders.  When preaching on marriage many of us say that husbands and wives can know that they are married to who God intended because that’s who they are already married to, so divorce is not an option.

The same holds true for us as leaders.  God intends us to lead those that are with us…now and those that He will send to us in the future.  Too often, we are quick to dismiss (sometimes right out the door) those who God has sent to us for a course correction (our course, not theirs.)  We may do it with what we call tact or even grace, but we know in reality that it was actually a “peacable” divorce (see “A 21st Century Church Epidemic” by Bob Hostetler).  It usually sounds, like “That’s not what God has called us to, but I’m sure that there’s a church down the street that will fit you.”  “At my last church we used to…” and “That’s not how we do it here,” are just different verses of the same song.  It’s just possible that God has sent someone with a different approach from ours because God needs us to get out of our rut.  It’s simply institutional arrogance to say that the strength of “our” church is measured by who we “send”, but assume that God wouldn’t send someone from another church to us.

OK, followers, now it’s your turn.  There was a reason that the Israelites were there.  They needed to hear the message, too.  They needed to hear the tacit communique’, “Lighten up, people.  Sometimes it’s no picnic leading you to the wide open spaces.”  Ironically the following message was written to Jews in the New Testament, “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority…obey so that their work will be a joy, not a burden…” (Hebrews 13:17) [emphasis mine]  When was the last time that we, as followers, made a leader’s work “a joy?”  It doesn’t say, “go along to get along;” the word “joy” is explicit.

Of course, if we all don’t think more highly of ourselves than we ought…well, that’s another blog.

The Law of Conservation of (Spiritual) Energy

“At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt…”, “…Pharoah summoned Moses and Aaron and said, ‘Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord as you have requested.'” Exodus 12:29 & 31

Ten plagues it took for Pharaoh to change his mind: blood, frogs, gnats, flies, dead livestock, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, death of the firstborn.

A few days ago I wrote that the reason Moses asked for the people of Israel to be let go was to go in the desert to worship (“Worship in the Desert“). Repeatedly God told Moses to make that request of Pharaoh. Repeatedly God let Moses in on the fact that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart and that the request would be denied. But, Moses dutifullyconfronted Pharaoh knowing full well that it was a fool’s errand.

For those of you that follow my blog you know that I have a category of posts about scripture passages that are confusing to me or, frankly, I just “don’t get.” It doesn’t meanthat I don’t accept them as the inerrant word of God, but I just don’t understand why God put them there…yet.

This is one of them. Ihave a hard time figuring out why God would purposely harden someone’s heart. I canconsider it in my head, but my heart doesn’t quite wrap all the way around it. I understand, intellectually, that God used all of the plagues and the deliverance of the Hebrews from them for His glory, but my heart feels there must have been a better way. Obviously, there wasn’t a better waybecause if there was God would have done it that way. But,something nags at me that there must be more. I want justa glimpse of God’s thinking. I echo the words of Einstein, “I want to know God’s thoughts, the rest are mere details.”

And then, there it is. Einstein…physics…a piece of the puzzle. Particularly, the law of conservation of energy. Itstates that energy may neither be created nor destroyed. It simply becomes a different form of energy: kinetic may become potential or heat become light, but energy cannot be created from nothing or annihilated to nothing.

God wanted the Hebrews to be free. While some biblical scholars don’t believe they were slaves in the traditional sense of being owned by individual slave owners, the Hebrew words used to describe them and their forced labor certainly implies a sub-human status in Egyptian society. Based on the Egyptians’ treatment of the Hebrews it’s not difficult to imagine them being regarded as possessions or tools as oppossed to living, breathing beings.

In short, the Egyptiansregarded God’s chosen people equallyuseful either alive as forced-laborers or dead as fertilizer for their crops. Let’s go with the latter, for now.

If we regard the captive Hebrews as lifeless possessions exploited at the whim of the Egyptians, then freedom for them toworship inthe desertmeant “life” to them. In fact, inExodus 6:6 God says, “…I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm…” Redeemed here is “ga^al” which could be translated as”to redeem individualsfrom death.”

Are you still with me? Life is free…life ispassionate…life is energy. Life without freedom…life without passion…life without energy is, at the risk ofbeing obvious, dead. According to the law of conservation of energyif the Hebrews were to be set free from captivity, to come “alive”, then someone had to die. In this case, it was the firstborn of the Egyptians; in particular the firstborn of the King or Pharaoh that had to die.

Now, I know that this doesn’t answer my initial question of why the first nineplagues were necessary, but it does help with why the last one was. In order forsomeone to be free to live (spiritually), someonemustdie (spiritually).

If we jump into Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine and speedfrom the Old Testamentto the New Testament we find the same law of physics applies. Only now it’s God’sSon, the Firstborn ofThe King,thatdiedso that others could be free to live. And, Jesus’ passionate love for us was so full of”infinite energy” that His death was more than enough in exchangefor the life of every man, woman and child in the world! But, He had to die so that wecould live. And, we get to die to ourselves so that He can live through us. Jesus didn’t come to make people better, He came to bring dead people to life (please see earlier”Worship in the Desert“regarding “have to” and “get to”) .

And, “Jesus-life” is freedom. Before He brings us to life we’re just dead, possessions being exploited by some slavemaster: lust, drugs, porn, money, power, status, control…whatever it is it keeps us dead, it keeps us captive so that we can’t “go to the desert to worship the Lord.” Someone had to die so that I could live. Jesus was that someone. He died so that I could be free to worship.

That’s “why worship.” Worship isn’t to set me free; it’s because I amfree. “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Free to worship!