Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up…“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. Exodus 3:1-2, 5-6
When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord.When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. Exodus 34:29-30
Sometimes, I find myself concerned about how easily we as church leaders throw around the notion of God speaking to us. It seems to me that we are often guilty of speaking about that possibility as if we’re describing what we had for breakfast. In scripture, when God makes an appearance and speaks to one of His servants, or when one of His servants has just come from being in the presence of God, it is never a small thing. It is something that forever changes that servant, and that change is evident to the rest of God’s people.
So, as I ponder Moses’ friendship with God, I come away with a few observations that I find …
And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.” 1 Samuel 8:7-9
“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” C.S. Lewis
Here is a fundamental truth for church leaders (including pastors): the church is not for you (not really), nor is it about you. If you think about it, that is actually a rather freeing reality. That means it is not your responsibility to manipulate every outcome. Rather, it is your responsibility to speak God’s truth to the best of your ability and to love your people well…and love often means letting them mess up royally.
Most of my own best illustrations of this leadership principle come from parenting. If you are a parent, you already know the phenomenon well. There are times when a parent can see a wrong direction a child is headed and the very best way to teach this lesson is to simply warn them and then let them make their own decision (and live with the consequences). Take bedtimes, for example. Toddlers are simply told when they will go to bed. But, as they grow older, we eventually get to a point where they must learn to use their own judgment about sleep …
“As for the prophets who lead my people astray, they proclaim ‘peace’ if they have something to eat, but prepare to wage war against anyone who refuses to feed them. 6 Therefore night will come over you, without visions, and darkness, without divination. The sun will set for the prophets, and the day will go dark for them. 7 The seers will be ashamed and the diviners disgraced. They will all cover their faces because there is no answer from God. ” Micah 3:5-7
This passage from Micah has something to say to us about pastoral authority. And so does professional baseball.
They say that, among the various professional sports skills, hitting a major league baseball pitch may be the most difficult. I’ll buy that. And as far as I’m concerned, nobody practices that skill any better than Josh Hamilton. I honestly think he has maybe the sweetest swing in baseball. Last year, his four-home-run performance against the Orioles became just another illustration (just to put that in perspective, that has only been done 16 times in all of MLB history…that makes it even more rare than pitching a perfect game). But let’s be clear about those home-runs. They do not happen because of Hamilton’s amazing backstory, and they do not happen because of his title or his position as a major league player, and they do not happen because he has somehow earned the respect of his team mates or of opposing players. Those home-runs happen because of many long hours of perfecting a swing and then repeating that swing perfectly under a variety of circumstances. It is about sticking radically to that perfection and not wavering from it even a little bit. When Hamilton does that, when he sticks …