July 7, 2007

Follow the Leader

In my old nature, I complain. The soup is too cold. The weather is too hot. The neighbor’s dog is too loud. The mail didn’t come on time. Blah. Blah. Blah. Apart from the grace of God, nothing would suit me.

The alternate to this vice is thanksgiving. God brings that into my life in surprising ways. Instead of smacking me for the whining, He continually blesses me. Then I am struck by grace and become grateful. I know He does this because of Jesus. It is not the way He worked in the Old Testament.

In Numbers 16 and 17, the people complained about their leaders, Moses and Aaron. God was so angry with their griping that He told Moses, “Get away from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment” (Numbers 16:45).

Moses sent Aaron to quickly make atonement for the people because, “Wrath has gone out form the Lord. The plague has begun.” Aaron ran, and even though 14,700 died for their griping, “he stood between the dead and the living; so the plague was stopped.”

When I read this, I tried to remember when God taught me to respect church leaders. I can’t, but I know that I do. Perhaps having leadership jobs made me realize that all leaders have challenges that followers do not fully understand. If they did, they would encourage them, not belly-ache.

In the narrative from Numbers, God asked Moses to prove to the people that He knew what He was doing in His choice of leaders. The heads of all the families were take twelve rods and place them in the tabernacle. Then He said, “The staff belonging to the man I choose will sprout, and I will rid myself of this constant grumbling against you by the Israelites.”

The staff of Aaron sprouted. It not only sprouted, but put forth buds, produced blossoms and yielded ripe almonds! This was to be kept “as a sign against the rebels” so their complaints could be put away from God, “lest they die.”

The people got the message. They were terrified, and so they should be. If a person cannot follow a human leader appointed by God (and the Bible says He is responsible for setting up all leaders) then how can they listen to and follow God?

I read a statement years ago that has stuck with me. It said something like this: If a child will not obey their parents, then they need to learn obedience to their teachers. If they will not obey their teachers, then they must listen to higher authorities, perhaps the police. If they will not listen and learn to obey the police, then they may well fall into the hands of the Living God. Teach your children to listen and obey.

Obedience to God is expressed by obedience to those in authority. Scripture has much to say about who that is, in the church, in family life, in society. Leaders need our support and prayer. They also need us to follow them. In that process, He protects me from foolish leadership because He will deal with those who lead amiss. They are responsible to God for their leadership and all their decisions.

However, if I am griping and complaining about what they do, then I make them responsible to me — and by doing that, I then become responsible to God for my failure to do what I am told and fall in the direct path of His discipline.

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