“Just obeying orders, Sir!”
“Right away, Sir!”
Crisp. Clear. Confidently spoken knowing they were backed by the full authority of the one who gave the command, the soldier carries out his orders even as he leads those who are under his authority in the direction he’s been given.
I don’t know about you, but I am completely fascinated and in awe of the United States Military. I admire their sense of comrade and their commitment to duty, honor, and country. I stand in awe of the sacrifices that are made by not only by the members of the military, but also by their families and the courage it takes to live their lives for something greater than themselves. Even though I know that military life is difficult, coming with its own unique set of challenges and frustrations, there are times when I am actually envious of their community and think, “If only the Christian church could grab hold of this same sense of purpose, passion, commitment, and comrade...can you imagine the impact we would have on the world?”
What would happen if everyone who called themselves a Christian adopted the mindset that their lives were committed to a purpose greater than serving themselves
What would the church look like if a sense of duty, honor, and commitment to Christ replaced the apathy and selfishness that fills many pews in America?
What would it look like if the members of the church truly saw themselves as an army of believers---a band of brothers and sisters that worked together, supported each other, and sacrificed for each other?
What would happen if we truly grasped the concept that we need to work together to carry out the mission given to us by our Commander in Chief---the Great Commission?
What if each Christian were truly prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice to see this mission carried out and gain the spiritual freedom of another? Then what would the church look like? What would our lives look like? How would this change our definition of what it means to be a “leader” within the body of Christ?
It’s this last question that we’re going to focus our attention on for the remainder of this article. We’re going to look at how properly understanding the spiritual chain of command is necessary to be an effective, godly leader. As always, we’re going to turn to the book of Exodus and see what we can learn from the life of one of the greatest leaders of all time, Moses.
If you read last month’s article, you know that we left Moses in Exodus 6 where he learned 2 lessons:
1. Moses had to learn to lead even when it wasn’t popular.
2. Moses had to learn that he was just the messenger---God was in control.
If we were going to put the second lesson in military terms, we’d say that Moses had to learn his rank. He was not the Commander-in-Chief. He wasn’t the One calling the shots.
Yes, he was a leader, but so is a Sergeant, a Lieutenant, or even a General. Even though all of the men or women holding these ranks have a level of authority, they also all have someone over them who holds the ultimate authority. True, they may get to give orders, but they also have to take orders. Many, many times they aren’t creating the orders they give, but they are just passing along the orders they have received from those in authority above them.
This brings us to this month’s leadership lesson: Because Moses was just a mid-level officer/messenger leading the people; his main responsibilities were to hear God’s commands, obey God’s commands, to pass God’s commands on to the people, and to lead them as they followed God’s commands. That was his job description in a nutshell.
You see, last month’s lesson was that Moses needed to recognize the chain of command
In this month’s lesson, we see Moses functioning under this chain of command and carrying out his responsibilities to:
Hear God’s Orders
Follow God’s Orders
Teach God’s Orders to the People
Lead the People in Obeying God’s Orders.
For an example, let’s look at Exodus 6:28-7:6.
Now when the Lord spoke to Moses in Egypt, He said to him, “I am the Lord. Tell Pharaoh king of Egypt everything I tell you….See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet. You are to say everything I command you, and your brother Aaron is to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go out of his country. But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply My signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you. Then I will lay My hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out My divisions, My people the Israelites. And the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I stretch out My hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it.’ Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord commanded them.”
God gave Moses the full battle plan.
Moses was to go to Pharaoh and speak God’s words.
God would harden Pharaoh’s heart so that he would not listen to Moses or even respond to the miraculous signs.
Next, God would pour out judgment on Egypt. Then, the Israelites would be miraculously delivered, and the true mission would be accomplished: both Israelite and Egyptian would know that God is the One and Only True God.
The next step was Moses putting the plan into action, which we see in Exodus 7:8-13:
“The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Perform a miracle,’ then say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh,’ and it will become a snake.”
So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his officials and it became a snake. Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts: Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. Yet Pharaoh’s heart became hard and he would not listen to them, just as the Lord had said.”
Round One: Things are going pretty much according to the plan: God tells them what to do, Moses and Aaron do it, and Pharaoh’s heart is hardened.
What do Moses and Aaron do next? They wait for God’s next command.
“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Pharaoh’s heart is unyielding; he refuses to let the people go. Go to Pharaoh in the morning as he goes out to the river. Confront him on the bank of the Nile, and take in your hand the staff that was changed into a snake. Then say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to say to you: Let My people go, so that they may worship Me in the wilderness. But until now you have not listened.
This is what the Lord says: By this you will know that I am the Lord: With the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water of the Nile, and it will be changed into blood. The fish in the Nile will die, and the river will stink; the Egyptians will not be able to drink its water.’
The Lord said to Moses, ‘Tell Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt—over the streams and canals, over the ponds and all the reservoirs—and they will turn to blood.’ Blood will be everywhere in Egypt, even in vessels of wood and stone.’’
Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord had commanded. He raised his staff in the presence of Pharaoh and his officials and struck the water of the Nile, and all the water was changed into blood. The fish in the Nile died, and the river smelled so bad that the Egyptians could not drink its water. Blood was everywhere in Egypt.
But the Egyptian magicians did the same things by their secret arts, and Pharaoh’s heart became hard; he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said. Instead, he turned and went into his palace, and did not take even this to heart. And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile to get drinking water, because they could not drink the water of the river.
Seven days passed after the Lord struck the Nile.” (Exodus 7:14-25)
Once again, we see the same pattern: God speaks to Moses and tells him exactly where to go, what to do, and when to do it. Essentially, God gives Moses His orders.
Next, we see Moses not only obeying God’s orders, but passing down God’s orders to Aaron.
Here’s the interesting part about this series of events: All Moses and Aaron do is follow the orders God gave them---nothing more, nothing less.
You might say, what’s the big deal about that?
Well, to answer that question, let’s just take a minute and think about what Moses and Aaron don’t do.
They don’t panic because the Egyptian magicians and sorcerers are able to perform the same miracles.
They don’t call a strategy meeting to see what they should do next.
They don’t even freak out when 7 days pass before they hear from God or Pharaoh again.
They simply carry out the orders God gives them, and then patiently wait for the next set of orders to be given and obeyed. In His time, God gave Moses the orders to be carried out, Moses passed the orders down to Aaron, and the orders were carried out and obeyed. This pattern continued through the plagues of the infestation of the frogs and the gnats, the plague that killed the Egyptian’s livestock, the boils that covered the Egyptian’s bodies, the hail and the locust that destroyed the crops, and even into the darkness that covered the land.
For the sake of space, we’re not going to print each passage, but I encourage you to go back and read through Exodus 8-10 on your own. Look at some of the seemingly crazy things that God told Moses to do, and notice the pattern that each time Moses carried out God’s commands to the letter. As Moses followed his Leader, God’s battle plan advanced and deliverance for the Israelites came closer and closer.
Now let’s move on to Exodus 11, where we get a glimpse of the final stages of God’s battle plan for Israel’s deliverance. Notice that at this point, God’s plan expands to include more than just Moses and Aaron. It is now Moses’ job to pass on God’s commands to the Israelite people and then lead them in carrying out those plans.
In Exodus 12:1-11, God gives explicit instructions to Moses regarding the Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, how they were to prepare to leave Egypt, and what they were to do on their way out of Egypt. Notice that the instructions were very specific including:
---Specifically when they were to celebrate the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
---How to prepare the lamb, the qualifications for the lamb, how to cook the lamb and how, where, and with whom to eat it.
---The Israelites were given specific instructions for where to put the blood (on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs.)
---They were told not to leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, they had to burn it. Also, they were told to eat it with their cloak tucked into their belt, their sandals on their feet and their staff in your hand.
Those are some pretty specific instructions!
Now look at Exodus 12:21-28, and see that after Moses received his instructions from God, he summoned all the elders of Israel and commanded them to obey all of God’s instructions very specifically. Notice the last verse which says, “Then the people bowed down and worshiped. The Israelites did just what the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron.”
Again, we see the pattern of leadership established:
Moses received his directives from God.
Moses told God’s directives to the people.
The people obeyed the commands of God spoken to them through Moses.
God’s mission was completed: The Egyptians were judged and the Israelites were not only spared but delivered.
As we read further, we see that this pattern doesn’t end with the deliverance. No, keep reading in Exodus 13:17-14:18-30 and you’ll see how the total defeat of the Egyptian army at the Red Sea came about because Moses obeyed God and led the people in the direction he received from God.
Throughout each of these passages, hidden among these amazingly miraculous stories, we see the pattern that God led Moses and Moses led the people.
Looking at Moses’ life, I believe that it was Moses’ ability to hear God’s direction, and lead the people in obeying God’s commands that made Moses a great leader. From the life of Moses, each of us can learn that if we want to become godly leaders who fulfill their mission in the kingdom of God and lead others to do the same, we need to learn to understand that a leader’s first responsibility is to live close enough to God that they can hear God’s voice saying, “This is the way I want you to go and to lead My people.”
Often as leaders, we get the cart before the horse and try to lead God’s people before we know which direction God wants us to go. We think it’s our job to come up with a plan, to strategize, to take a survey and figure out what methods will work best in a given demographic. We feel like it’s our responsibility to make things happen, to come up with our own battle plan, and then recruit people to follow our lead.
Yet, throughout the book of Exodus, you never see Moses do any of these things. In fact, the one time he did try to create his own battle plan by sending spies into the land, the entire thing blew up in his face ending with an Israelite rebellion and the punishment of 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. Before we’re too hard on Moses for this blunder, we should be honest with ourselves and admit all of the times that we came up with a “brilliant plan” without consulting God, we’ve ended up with a lot of egg on our faces, too.
The reason for this is very simple: In God’s kingdom, a great leader is first and foremost a fully surrendered God-follower.
A godly leader recognizes right from the start that they are not in charge and the mission is not about building their kingdom. God is in charge, and the ultimate goal is to build His kingdom. If I want to lead the people who are following me toward fulfilling their God-given mission in life, then I first need to know what direction God wants us to go.
This lesson applies to all leaders in all situations.
If you’re a Dad leading you’re family, the best place for you to start is by seeking God and asking Him which direction He wants your family to go and what purpose He wants the individual members of your family to accomplish. Once you’ve heard His direction, then you’ll know which way to lead.
If you’re leading a business, the most effective way to be successful is to ask God what vision and purpose He sees for your company and what roads He wants you to take to get there and then lead in that direction.
If you’re a church leader or a pastor, then you’re first priority as a leader needs to be catching God’s vision for your church, surrendering to His will, and leading your people toward His goals.
Whenever you find yourself filling the role of leader, you need to remember that your first responsibility is always to be a God-follower. To live close to Him and hear His voice giving you His battle plan which will move both you and the people you are leading toward fulfilling the mission He designed from the foundation of the universe.
What better purpose could you have as a leader than helping other discover and play their part in God’s plans for their lives? It all begins when you start listing to God’s orders and responding with a strong, clear,
“Yes, Sir, Thank You, Sir, We’ll Get Right on That, Sir.”