Another Look by David Faust
Maybe you have felt that way, too. Moses had grown weary of the burden of leadership, exhausted from trying to lead the foot-dragging multitude across the barren wilderness where food was scarce but gripes were plentiful. Grumblers whined, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” (Numbers 11:4-6). Even a daily supply of miraculous bread wasn’t enough to satisfy the discontented crowd. They missed those Egyptian salad bars where they ate “at no cost”—except the cost of slavery to the Egyptians.
With nowhere else to turn, Moses poured out his troubles to the Lord:
Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their forefathers? Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me (11:11-14).
Most leaders have been there. It’s an unpleasant and ugly place, but a place you’re likely to end up somewhere along the wilderness journey. A place where you’re at the end of your rope, but not at the end of the road. A place where you feel inadequate yourself and you even question the adequacy of God. A place where your prayers sound angry and drip with self-pity.
God was in that place, though, and he answered Moses’ honest plea. The Lord promised to provide meat and he promised to pour out his Spirit on 70 of Israel’s elders so they could help Moses shoulder the burdens of leadership. However, two of the men summoned by Moses, “whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the tent. Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp” (v. 26). For some reason, these two elders didn’t accompany the other 68 to the tabernacle. They stayed behind in the campground, but the Spirit empowered them to speak God’s message anyway—a supernatural sign made more astonishing because it took place away from the tabernacle, the visible center of God’s presence among the people.
Alarmed when he saw this, “A young man ran and told Moses, ‘Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.’ Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, ‘Moses, my lord, stop them!’” (vv. 27, 28). Joshua wanted to protect his mentor, but Moses didn’t become defensive. He saw the hand of God at work in Eldad and Medad even though they didn’t quite fit with the rest of the pack. “Moses replied, ‘Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all of the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!’” (v. 29).
Anyone who aspires to be a leader should ask himself some serious questions. Am I jealous for personal power and recognition? Am I willing to recognize and affirm God’s work in others? Do I realize that no individual—not even Moses—has a monopoly on God’s good gifts? Am I overly protective about my leadership and influence, or do I find joy in the accomplishments of others? Is my heart large enough that I’m truly happy when God blesses others and gives them prominence?
Leadership can be a heady and exhilarating place. And as Moses learned, it can be a lonely place where your weaknesses are exposed and you discover how much you need God and others. That’s why before you enter the place called Leadership it’s best to check your ego at the door.