By Chuck Griffin
Exodus 2:11-15a (NLT)
Many years later, when Moses had grown up, he went out to visit his own people, the Hebrews, and he saw how hard they were forced to work. During his visit, he saw an Egyptian beating one of his fellow Hebrews. After looking in all directions to make sure no one was watching, Moses killed the Egyptian and hid the body in the sand.
The next day, when Moses went out to visit his people again, he saw two Hebrew men fighting. “Why are you beating up your friend?” Moses said to the one who had started the fight.
The man replied, “Who appointed you to be our prince and judge? Are you going to kill me as you killed that Egyptian yesterday?”
Then Moses was afraid, thinking, “Everyone knows what I did.” And sure enough, Pharaoh heard what had happened, and he tried to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in the land of Midian.
Meet the not-fully-formed Moses. After living the first part of his life as a sheltered member of Pharaoh’s court, Moses was discovering his ancestry and seeing the terrible injustices the Hebrews faced every day.
For Moses to become the man God wanted him to be—a liberator—he had to develop the sense of righteous indignation necessary to rescue his people from slavery. We see the seeds of that important emotion in this story.
Great leaders cannot be emotionally driven reactionaries, however. Moses clearly was impulsive at this point in his life, reacting to events rather than shaping them. He responded to a terrible crime by committing a more terrible crime, forcing him to flee the one place he could be effective.
I suppose impulsivity is a stage through which most future great leaders must pass. There is little basis for becoming a mature, thoughtful, right-minded leader if you have not felt youthful energy and excitement for big ideas like justice. A budding leader can make a lot of mistakes during that early phase, though.
Moses, who lived to be a supernaturally vigorous 120, needed four decades in the desert and an encounter with a burning bush to prepare. Today’s developing leaders probably cannot train for so long. But they do need time to seek guidance from God, time to watch and work under other leaders, and time to learn the importance of planning.
As leadership expert John Maxwell wrote, “God prepares leaders in a crockpot, not a microwave. More important than the awaited goal is the work God does in us while we wait. Waiting deepens and matures us, levels our perspective, and broadens our understanding.”
In our own culture, there remains much in the way of injustice needing to be cured and problems needing to be solved. My concern is whether enough people are taking the time to hear from God before trying to lead others. Impulsively burying a body or two in the sand won’t make a long-term difference.
The good news is the right leader, properly prepared, can do wonders. When a fully formed, God-inspired Moses returned to Egypt, the Hebrews left their chains behind and crossed the Red Sea in a remarkably rapid way. Moses went in with God on his side, and it didn’t hurt that plagues fell upon the Egyptians rat-a-tat-tat.
As we consider leaders around us in all our institutions, large and small, let’s look for sober judgment, sound reasoning, and a clearly expressed desire to follow God’s will both personally and professionally. With such servant leaders in place, our world might improve faster than we expect.
Lord, raise up for us new leaders where they are needed. We pray fervently that many have been preparing themselves through the years and are ready to step forward. Amen.