a study through Exodus on how God shapes His leaders
When I read some of the stories in the Old Testament it amazes me what some of God’s leaders had to put up with. We think we have difficult people in our lives, but what about them? Have you ever considered how challenging Ahab was to Elijah? But even more trying is when the difficult people in your life are part of your spiritual family, fellow believers with the same faith and God you profess. This is probably the most difficult! But Moses is a great role model for us in these situations.
The children of Israel were not an easy assignment. They were constantly complaining, grumbling, and angry about something. In our Exodus account, no sooner did God provide daily food in the form of manna, than the Israelites were back at Moses’ throat complaining about the lack of water and blaming Moses for it. Picture the scene…over 1 million people are angry at you and ready to kill you in their discontent and rage. How would you respond?
Would you ask God to smite those ungrateful people? Would you argue with them and get angry too? Would you try to be diplomatic? Let’s see how Moses responded.
“So Moses cried to the LORD, ‘What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.’ And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.’ And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.”
As I read and ponder Moses’ response to the Israelites’ complaining, I gather examples Moses gives us on what to do with difficult people.
1. Moses brought his problem before the LORD.
This is the first thing Moses did, and this should be our first response when faced with challenging people and situations. Go to God! Ask Him what we should do and then wait for His response. Sometimes, when we bring our problems to God, we spend the whole time complaining and telling Him all the difficult things this person or situation has brought into our life. This is not bad or wrong. Notice that Moses mentioned to the LORD that the Israelites were ready to kill him. But then what did he do?
He waited. He stopped talking and waited for God to respond. Waiting is hard, but necessary. How else are we going to hear God’s still, small voice? Moses waited and God answered. How often do we stop talking long enough to wait for God’s response to our supplication? When was the last time we waited until God replied?
2. Moses didn’t complain about the Israelites.
The Israelites were annoying, frustrating, and totally complain-worthy, but Moses didn’t stoop to that level. He didn’t complain and grumble about his divine assignment. He simply went to the Lord and laid the problem at His feet.
When was the last time you didn’t complain about a difficult person or situation in your life? The situation might be completely “complain-worthy”, but what would happen if you extended grace instead?
Life is full of difficult people and circumstances, but if we complain about every little, challenging person we meet, we would start looking like the Israelites who were annoying, frustrating, and frankly immature. Do you want your life to look like that? I don’t! So let’s take our cues from Moses and bring our problems straight to God without complaining or whining.
2. Moses obeyed God’s instructions.
After Moses brought his challenging situation before the LORD, after he waited for God’s response, he obeyed. He obeyed the instructions God gave despite how ludicrous they may have seemed. He obeyed even though God didn’t give him an explanation for the people’s behavior or a full answer to his question. Despite his personal hurt and offense that he must have felt from the people’s rejection again, Moses immediately obeyed God. No questions asked. And God did a miracle.
So what can we learn from this? The story of water springing forth from the rock is one familiar to us, but have we considered the situation that preceded the miracle? Have we pondered what it must have been like for Moses to be faced with over one million angry people? Have we examined Moses’ response and applied it to our own life?
We will come across challenging people in this life. It’s a guarantee when we live in a world full of broken, sinful human beings. And before we start pointing fingers at others, let’s be humble enough to accept the fact that we might be that difficult person for someone else. No one is perfect, and we all have our less-than-wonderful moments. However, when faced with a situation with a difficult person, how will we respond? Will we follow Moses’ example and follow the three steps he took? Or will we retaliate in anger and hurt?
I want my response to mirror Moses’ so that God’s miracles may be worked through me. Because Moses followed the course he did, God was able to do the impossible. Don’t you want that to be your testimony? I know I do! So the next time we rub shoulders with a difficult person or situation, let’s remember to bring our problem before the Lord, not complain, and immediately obey when God tells us what to do.
And who knows? Living water may just spring out of the hardest of rocks.