Moses is one of my favorite characters in the Old Testament. He steps into his leadership role at a rather advanced age and does so with great reluctance. Yet, despite his reticence, he enters into his responsibilities to both Israel and the Lord with his whole heart.
Along the way, his leadership is marked by some amazing high points—the parting of the Red Sea, the ratification of the covenant between the Lord and Israel, the filling of the tabernacle with the glory of the Lord. He also suffers some painful low points in his role as leader of Israel—the grumbling in the wilderness, the golden calf incident, the forfeiture of the opportunity to enter the Promised Land.
Moses, then, is an exemplary leader in many ways. Through good times and bad, he remains fully committed to his God and his people. One specific respect in which his leadership example is worthy of note is the way in which he integrates his intimacy with God and his role as a leader. Moses enjoyed a particularly intimate relationship with God. Exodus 33:11 reveals that the Lord spoke to Moses “face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend.” The face-to-face nature of the relationship between the Lord and Moses suggests a striking depth of intimacy and immediacy in their relationship, redolent of a profound friendship. The two interacted on a very close, intense, personal level.
At the same time, much of the relationship between Moses and the Lord revolves around the people of Israel and Moses’ role as their leader and as the mediator between Israel and the Lord. Moses’ personal relationship with the Lord is characterized in Exodus as primarily for the sake of Israel, rather than only for the sake of Moses himself. Most often Moses’ interaction with the Lord relates to issues concerning Israel, not to issues concerning Moses alone.
Thus, it is in Moses’ role as mediator that the majority of his interaction with Yahweh takes place. Their relationship as portrayed in Exodus was primarily for the benefit of Israel. Yet it was the personal, intimate friendship with God that empowered Moses to fulfill the role to which the Lord had called him. Moses’ role as leader and mediator feeds his personal relationship with God. It motivates him to interact with God over Israel’s fate and thus to discover a deeper knowledge of the nature of God. And his personal relationship with God enhances his ability to speak and act on Israel’s behalf.
Authentic personal spirituality is not intended for the benefit of the individual alone. Its true expression will involve movement outward toward others. Personal intimacy with God fills the individual to overflowing, so that the spillage from the individual’s life results in ministry to others.
God longs for us as leaders to follow the example of Moses. Moses doggedly and determinedly pursued God. And in the process, he personally was blessed and became a friend of God. Yet he pursued God not for his own sake alone, but in order that Israel, too, might enjoy a blessed and fruitful relationship with God.
The Lord also invites us into a relationship of intimacy with him. He pursues us diligently, longing to bless us and count us as his friends. As we respond to God’s eager pursuit of relationship with us, enjoying his grace and compassion, we are empowered and compelled to bring those under our care to the Lord as well, seeking his guidance as leaders and imploring him to enable us to lead those under our care to that same place of joyful intimacy and abundant fruitfulness.