A Passion For the People
“Let GOD, the God of the spirits of everyone living, set a man over this community to lead them, to show the way ahead and bring them back home so GOD’s community will not be like sheep without a shepherd.“ – Numbers 27 :16-17 MSG
After all his years of faithful service, Moses was going to find himself unable to go into the Promised Land. As a result of him striking the rock in anger in the wilderness of Zin (Numbers 20), Moses was going to be denied entrance into the land. Now, I don’t know about you, but I have always thought of this as unfair punishment. Here was a guy who had led the people of God for four decades. He had put his life on the line on more than one occasion. He had stood before Pharaoh and demanded the release of the people of Israel. He had done everything God had commanded him to do. And now, because of one momentary lapse of judgment, he was going to be denied access to the very place he had been longing for all those years. But according to Moses’ own pen, his crime was more than just a fit of uncontrolled anger, it was considered rebellion against God. God told him, “…you rebelled against my command to show me as holy before their eyes over the water” (Numbers 27:14 NET). Rather than listen to God, Moses did things his way. He was angry and put out with the people of God. He showed his anger by striking the rock and in doing so, He disrespected and disobeyed God. This was a serious crime in God’s eyes. He was God’s chosen leader and as such, he could not lead the people of God while dishonoring God with his actions. So God made the decision to deny Moses entrance into the Promised Land.
Now, if I had been Moses, I would have responded in anger, resentment, disappointment, and even a fair amount of self-pity. I would have complained. I would have argued. I would have presented a long list of positive character traits and accomplishments that stacked the deck in my favor. I would have reminded God of all the good things I had done on His behalf. Or worse yet, I would have sulked and said, “Fine, then I’m done here. Find somebody else to do Your dirty work.” But Moses did none of those things. He continued to lead. He continued to obey. He did not defend himself or argue with God. He accepted the decision of God. And He continued to care for the people of God. When God reminds Moses that He is going to die in the wilderness (Numbers 27:13) because of his sin, the first words out of Moses’ mouth reflected his care for the people of God. “Let GOD, the God of the spirits of everyone living, set a man over this community to lead them, to show the way ahead and bring them back home so GOD’s community will not be like sheep without a shepherd” (Numbers 27:16-17 MSG). Moses was more concerned for the people of God than he was for himself. He was the consummate shepherd. In spite of all the hassles the people had given him over the years, Moses loved them, and he wanted to make sure that they were properly cared for. So he asks God to appoint a man who will lead them, guide them, and care for them like a true shepherd. Moses’ greatest fear was that the people would be left without a shepherd. Aaron was already gone. And there was no one left to lead.
In Moses we see the true heart of a shepherd. Self-sacrificing and other-oriented. He cared more for the people of God than he did for himself. He did not have time for a pity party. He was too busy worrying about the care of his flock. Now, lest we paint Moses to be some icon of virtue and selflessness we could never succeed in emulating, the book of Deuteronomy reminds us of his humanness. Moses was desperate to go into the land. He had waited for it all his life. He even asked God for a reprieve. He prayed that God would change his mind and allow him to at least be able to cross over and see the land first hand. “O Sovereign LORD, I am your servant. You have only begun to show me your greatness and power. Is there any god in heaven or on earth who can perform such great deeds as yours? Please let me cross the Jordan to see the wonderful land on the other side, the beautiful hill country and the Lebanon mountains” (Deuteronomy 3:24-25 NLT). But God denied his request. And once he reconciled himself to the fact that he would never enter into the Promised Land, he determined to put the needs of the people of God first. Their well-being became his focus. The church of God needs more servants of God like Moses. Men and women who will put their own needs last and the care of the flock of God first. We live in a selfish, self-centered society where sacrifice is rare and servanthood is in short supply. May we be like Moses and learn to put our own needs behind the needs of the people of God.
Father, raise up for men and women like Moses. And may I be one of them. May I continue to learn to put the needs of others ahead of my own. Teach me to serve selflessly and willingly. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men