Series: Moses CEO Leadership in Changing Times Part I: Who Me? C. Gray Norsworthy Johns Creek Presbyterian Church January 4, 2015

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1 Series: Moses CEO Leadership in Changing Times Part I: Who Me? C. Gray Norsworthy Johns Creek Presbyterian Church January 4, 2015 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, I will go over and see this strange sight why the bush does not burn up. When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, Moses! Moses! And Moses said, Here I am. Do not come any closer, God said. Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. Then he said, I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. The LORD said, I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt. But Moses said to God, Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt? And God said, I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain. Exodus, 3:1-12, NIV In addition to all of the church services, presents and special meals, our family has created another Christmas Day tradition we go to the movies. Based on the crowds at the Regal Cinema, we are not the only ones. How many of you went to see a movie over the Christmas break? We went to see two movies: Unbroken -- which was very inspiring, and Exodus: God and Kings. I went to see the second one not only because it was based on the story of Moses from the Bible, but as preparation for this series of messages we begin today. I have to admit my view of that movie was biased by a Wall Street Journal article I had read earlier called An Exodus Not Found in the Bible. (By Charlotte Allen) The author contends that Director Ridley Scott has let his self-professed atheism infiltrate and ultimately flatten out his Moses movie. She adds, This Moses is a 21 st -century skeptic who, instead of becoming the instrument of God in freeing the 1

2 Israelites from bondage, sits back and calls God cruel and inhumane for visiting plagues upon Egypt. In the movie, Scott depicts God as a 10 year-old brat with a Cockney accent who seems really mad at everything hardly the God of the real Old Testament story and certainly a long way from the Jesus we meet in the New Testament. If you want to get the real story, go read from the book of Exodus which is what we are going to do today and in the coming weeks. I believe Moses is one of the great leaders in history who had to adapt to a changing world over a period of forty years. For any of us who lead, Moses has some things to teach us about how God views good leadership. When we think about leadership today, Moses may not be the first name that comes to mind. I believe that Moses has a great deal to teach us about leadership. There are so many books, articles, and seminars about leadership that it has become an industry unto itself. It seems like every CEO feels that he or she has something to say on the topic. As someone who enjoys reading such books, I do believe there is some good information out there, but for the next few weeks I want us to focus on this figure from the Bible named Moses. And while Moses is considered an important figure in three of the world's great religions: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam -- his story begins in very humble circumstances. Moses was born to a family that was enslaved in Egypt. At that time, the Israelite people were becoming numerous and were beginning to be a threat to Pharaoh and the Egyptians. Pharaoh orders all the male Hebrew babies to be killed. In that wonderful Bible story, we remember the baby Moses being put into a basket by his mother and floated down the river so that Pharaoh's daughter would find him as she bathed in the river. Pharaoh's daughter wants to raise this baby as her own, even though she knows he is a Hebrew boy under the decree of death. Moses' sister comes along and offers to find someone to nurse the child for Pharaoh's daughter. And Moses' real mother is the one who ends up taking care of him. Yet, he is also raised in Pharaoh's palace, which no doubt gave him access to some education he might not otherwise have had. So, Moses grows up. One day he wanders outside of the palace to visit his fellow Hebrews. He sees one of the Egyptians beating a Hebrew. Moses checks to see that no one else is around and then kills the Egyptian and hides his body. Pharaoh finds out about it and starts searching for Moses. Moses flees to another country, Midian, where he will live as an alien in a foreign land. While he is there, he marries and has a son. It is during this time that Moses has his encounter with God and a burning bush. As we read earlier, Moses encounters a bush that is not being consumed as it burned. Obviously, this gets Moses' attention. God speaks to Moses out of the burning bush calling him by name. Moses responds, Here I am. God tells him to come no closer because the ground is holy. God then goes to identify who God is: This is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Moses then hides his face because he was afraid to look on the face of God. God tells Moses that God has seen the misery of God s people in Egypt and that God has come down to deliver them. God then says that Moses is to be the one who is to go to Pharaoh and bring them out. God then promises to be with 2

3 Moses. God tells him to remember this sign of the burning bush and where it took place, so that the people can come back to this mountain to worship God. Now we may hear that story and think it is pretty remarkable -- and it is. But why does God choose Moses for such a task? Was it because he grew up in Pharaoh's palace? Moses may have picked up some skills in the Pharaoh's palace, and those in Pharaoh's palace might remember who Moses is, but he is also a wanted murderer -not the best person to send to represent God's people. Yet, that question is one we may all want to ask -Why was Moses chosen? For that matter, why is any one of us chosen for a particular task? You may remember that in J.R.R. Tolkien's, The Lord of the Rings. Frodo, the main character, has been chosen for the task of destroying the ring that can control the whole world of Middle Earth. At one point early in the story, when Frodo discovers he has been chosen for the task, he says to his mentor, the wizard Gandalf, Why did it come to me? Why was I chosen? Gandalf replies, Such questions cannot be answered. You may be sure that it was not for any merit that others do not possess: not for power or wisdom, at any rate. But you have been chosen, and you must therefore use such strength and heart and wits as you have. Later, Frodo says, I wish the ring had never come to me... I wish none of this had happened. And Gandalf once again counsels his young friend, So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us. Why was Moses chosen? No one can say for sure -- except that in God's wisdom, Moses was the right person for the job. One of the reasons I think that looking at the life of Moses can be beneficial for us today is that perhaps we can relate to Moses. Sometimes, I find it hard to relate to Jesus. I think, in part, that is because Jesus is both divine and human. I know that Jesus is fully human and has gone through the same things that all humans go through, but he is also God. Sometimes I have a hard time relating to him in that way. But Moses was simply human - like you and me. For some reason I can often relate more to his challenges than I can to those of Jesus. Maybe that is one reason why Moses is a good role model for those who wish to learn more about leadership. As we look at the life of Moses in the coming weeks, we will see many different skills of Moses emerge that respond to the various challenges he must face leading his people. Moses is not just a one-dimensional leader. His leadership is as complex as the changing situations he faces in leading the people of God. What is most prominent in this story is Moses' feeling of inadequacy. If we had more time today we could read on in the following chapters of the book of Exodus about how Moses responds to what God is asking him to do. While his first response to God's voice was commendable, when Moses says, Here I am, -- he soon moves into a series of five objections that express his reservations over this monumental task. 3

4 His first objection is found when he says, Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt? Moses thought of himself as a genuine nobody: Who me? I don't have the authority to speak to Pharaoh. God, you must have the wrong guy. But, God knows that Moses is the right man for the job. Moses then goes on to ask who is authorizing this mission. In other words, Moses needs to know who this God is who is sending him to Pharaoh. In a sense he is seeking God's name. And God tells him: I am who I am. (Not the most common name.) Moses is to tell Pharaoh that I am sent him. Now, most of us know how that encounter with Pharaoh goes, but by telling Moses the name of God, it gives Moses the authority and the courage to go forward. But, Moses also has some other objections: He fears the rejection of his own people -- that they will not follow him or accept his authority. As you know, this will be an on-going struggle between Moses and his people. It is not one we are going to talk about today, except to note that early on, Moses voices this to God. Moses then gets down to something very practical. He tells God that he does not speak that well. If someone needs to go speak to Pharaoh, then for sure someone else is needed who is eloquent. Moses tells God that he is not that person. At this point many of us can relate to Moses. If you have ever been asked to speak in front of a group, or to address an important person, then you know how unnerving that can be. As a person who is called by God to speak to people every Sunday, I am often amazed that God chose me to do this. I look around and see those who seem to speak effortlessly in front of crowds. But for some of us, this is not what we feel we are naturally good at, nor does it come as easily. So, I can relate to what Moses is saying here. Moses' final objection at this point is perhaps related to his not being able to speak well when he says that he needs someone else to go with him -- to speak for him to Pharaoh. At this point God gives Moses his brother, Aaron, to go and speak for Moses. We need to remember all of these objections when we think of Moses as a leader. Moses felt incredibly inadequate to do what it was God was calling him to do. When we feel the same way, just remember Moses. However, we also need to remember where the strength to do what Moses was called to do came from. Moses was not chosen because he was the best and the brightest. While Moses began by saying to God, Here I am, -- he quickly moved to saying in effect, You ve got the wrong guy and here s why. But, God reminds Moses that the source of Moses' ability to lead is God and not Moses. In verse eight God says, "I have come down to deliver them..." God is going to act through Moses, but ultimately it is God who is working all of this out. The source of Moses' leadership rests not in his own abilities, but in the God who can use whatever Moses has to offer to do what needs to be done. 4

5 Keep in mind that this leadership task is in response to a real need. The people of Israel are enslaved and are being oppressed. Moses didn't just wake up one day and say, "I think I want to be a leader. Now where can I find some followers?" No, God drafted Moses because there was a need. Genuine leadership is always in response to a genuine need. The great leaders throughout history emerged because there was a real need -- Churchill, Lincoln, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr. all responded to the needs of their times. Today, I believe there are needs on all levels of life for good leaders. From the very top positions of government that affect the lives of billions, to the smallest group of four or five seeking to come together and respond to a particular need -- our world is crying out for good leadership. I will go a step further and say that God is crying out to us for good leaders to hear the call to use whatever God has given us to serve others as leaders. And leading is serving. Ask anyone who leads well and they will tell you that being an effective leader is about serving others. How do we know we are called to lead? Well, not many of us have encounters with real burning bushes. However, I believe that many of us have symbolic burning bush experiences in our lives, but instead of stopping to check them out like Moses did -- we just keep on walking. One rabbi said that the burning bush was not a miracle, but a test. It was a test of Moses attention span. In order to notice that a bush was burning but was not being consumed, Moses had to stop long enough to notice. God was checking to see if Moses could stop and pay attention long enough to see what God was doing. If we will pay attention to the events of our lives as we make this journey of faith, many of us will discover God calling to us through the circumstances of our lives to trust God and lead -- no matter how ridiculous it may look and no matter how inadequate we may feel. To those of you who are already leading, I want to say, Keep it up! You are doing something very important, so keep it up! And for those of us who are still walking on the journey, who think we may hear a voice from a burning bush, I want to invite you to slow down and go check it out. Who knows? It may be the voice of God calling you to do something that needs to be done -- something you never thought you could do, but through God's grace you can! In the strong name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen. 5

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