Moses – Reluctant Leader

Was leading and teaching the nation of Israel a dream come true for Moses? Not so much!

Moses (Moshe) was a socially awkward shepherd, with a disability (a speech impediment) he was very self-conscious about. He didn’t apply for the job and he didn’t think anyone would heed his words.

And Moses answered and said: ‘But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice; for they will say: The LORD hath not appeared unto thee.’

Exodus 4:1

Moses said to the Lord, “I beseech You, O Lord. I am not a man of words, neither from yesterday nor from the day before yesterday, nor from the time You have spoken to Your servant, for I am heavy of mouth and heavy of tongue.”

Exodus 4:10

But Moses appealed to the LORD, saying, “The Israelites would not listen to me; how then should Pharaoh heed me, a man of impeded speech!”

Exodus 6:12

So what does God do? God gives Moses the power to perform miracles with his staff and recruits his brother Aaron (Aharon) “the Levite” to help him speak.

God tells Moses “I will be with your mouth and with his mouth, and I will teach you what you shall do.” God gives Moses all the support and resources he needs to self-actualize and feel empowered to fulfill his life’s work. We are all sustained from moment to moment by the power of support and a support system.

When we’re feeling unsafe and unsure, we need someone to believe in us and help us reach our full potential.

Moses was a passionate man, but he was also unsure of his worth. He was a humble shepherd, refugee and asylum seeker in Midian when God called him, not a macher (big shot) as he had been 40 years prior in the land of Egypt. He didn’t have a spotless record. He killed an abusive man in Egypt, causing him to flee and find refuge with the Midianites, a group of nomadic tribes from the northwestern regions of the Arabian Desert.

God could have selected his confident and articulate brother, Aaron the High Priest, for the job, but God chose Moses, a self-conscious, socially awkward person with a speech impediment and a ‘past.’

The Moses story is replete with meaningful messages. His trusted friend and mentor was not a member of the Israelite tribe, it was his father-in-law, Yitro, the Midianite Priest. When Moses was burning himself out, working day and night with the Israelites standing in line for his counsel, Yitro expressed concern for his health and the health of the people waiting in line. Moses was a micromanaging workaholic…Yitro taught him how to ‘delegate, delegate, delegate’ instead.

Yitro genuinely cared about Moses and helped him be a better leader without trying to exploit, usurp or upstage him. Yitro was the kind of fam we all need.

Moses had been living the isolated life of a shepherd, with his new family in Midian, when God suddenly called him up to redeem the tribe he hadn’t seen in 40 years. Once they are reunited and freed by Moses to write their own stories, he faces familial disapproval as an Israelite man from a priestly tribe in an interfaith and interracial marriage with Tzipporah, Ethiopian priestess of Midian, daughter of Yitro, the Midianite priest. 

And Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married; for he had married a Cushite woman. And they said: ‘Hath the LORD indeed spoken only with Moses? Hath He not spoken also with us?’

Numbers 12:1-2

Moses had his own unique work to do in the world, as we all do, but he often felt devalued. Even his beloved sister Miriam and his brother Aaron gossiped against him and caste doubt upon his merit, wondering why God picked him over them

Perhaps you’ve had a close and beloved family member gossip disparagingly about you. If so, you know it’s an agonizing soul-wound and betrayal of trust that we carry with us for life. Trust is the foundation of every relationship. Perhaps you know what it feels like to be belittled and discredited, or told you don’t have what it takes.

The Moses story reinforces everything we need to self-actualize in life…a support system, a trusted mentor and someone who believes in our abilities, even when we do not or are discouraged from actualizing them.

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54 Portions / The Wild Pomegranate Tree


10 thoughts on “Moses – Reluctant Leader

  1. Pingback: Parsha Bo: Torah Portion of the Week | 54 Portions (Soul Talk)

  2. Perhaps we all need to start with a little ego before showing greatness with our hearts toward the creator & humans like ourselves.

  3. I like this story! Unlike many arrogant types with inflated egos that purport to be leaders we see too often today, God selected Moses because of his humility and the fact that Moses would allow God to lead and would listen. Would that we had such leaders today who had such humility and who would seek God’s guidance to lead!

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