Tuesday Re-mix –
So Moses went back to the LORD and said, “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.” Exodus 32:31-32
Of the men who went to explore the land, only Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh survived. Numbers 14:38
Thinking today about the twelve spies in Numbers who explored and investigated the promised land and reported back to the people. Ten of the spies brought a discouraging report and two (Joshua and Caleb) brought a faith-filled report. The people went with the majority report and cowered from the task to which God had called them. All of them were cursed and sent to wander in the wilderness another forty years. Caleb and Joshua had to go with them.
I’m wondering if Joshua and Caleb had a regular Tuesday night support group for each other during those forty years of living under the consequences of everyone else’s mistakes. Can you even imagine the frustration…the pain of giving up forty of their best years to pay the price for other people’s sin? Can you imagine the temptation of gathering the entire assembly of Israel together on the annual anniversary of their collective cowardice and, together, Joshua and Caleb yelling out “We told you so!” But as far as we know, they did no such thing. As far as we know, Joshua and Caleb bit their tongues and continued to lead well throughout those forty years in the wilderness. That is what leadership sometimes calls us to do in the church…to suffer the consequences of other people’s mistakes.
But not only is it a call to suffer consequences, it is a call to actually stand in the gap for those very people…to stand with them before an angry God, like Moses did (more than once). Leadership among God’s people means continuing to faithfully cast the vision of obedience to God’s Word, to call God’s people to step in line with God’s plumb-line, and then to stand with them when they stubbornly refuse and get it completely wrong…because first and foremost, we are called to love them, even in their disobedience.
That calling, I think, is where so many pastors and shepherds lose their patience and draw the line. Somehow they conclude that standing with God means standing against God’s people when they rebel. But Moses (most of the time) demonstrated otherwise. And Joshua and Caleb did as well. These men walked with God’s people. They never feared that standing with those people would somehow look as though they were approving of their sin. God does not play the “guilt by association” game. These Godly leaders knew that God knew their hearts, and that was enough for them. God had called them to lead, and that is what they would do, even when “leadership” required standing side by side with a people who had rebelled against God and had shown cowardice in the face of adversity.
I will confess that there are parts of this lesson I still struggle with and have trouble understanding, even as a leader in the church. But one thing rings loud and clear for me: God’s call to lead His people is a call to love His people…warts and all. That is a high calling indeed.