FOUR LEADERSHIP LESSONS
1. LEADERS LEAD DIFFERENTLY IN NEW STAGES OF THE JOURNEY
Moses and Aaron face a crossroads on their journey out of Egypt. If Exodus was a journey out of Egypt, Numbers is the story of the journey into the promised land. But the transition from a slave people coming out and being free is difficult. Freedom is not freedom for every person to do that which is right in his or her own eyes but freedom to become a loving, just, good community. And this starts with how people within the community treat one another. In leadership, we must know what stage of an organization's journey we're on. Leading people out of bondage of a particular toxic culture is one thing. Leading the organization into the promised land is yet another. Leading people in bondage, leading people in exodus, leading a people in wilderness, and leading people in a settlement of peace each require different leadership strategies.
2. LEADERS HELP INDIVIDUALS PLAY A ROLE IN SUCCESS OF THE TEAM
Another important aspect of leadership is playing a role that is cast for you in the organization. Use whatever analogy you want, team, nature, cooking, when a player doesn't know the role he or she is to play, the team doesn't win. If an ant tried to be a bird, the ant would not succeed. If a bowl is full of only flour, there will be no bread until the other ingredients are added. Moses was incredulous that the Levites were not content with the role they were playing in the life of Israel. "Is it too little for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to allow you to approach him in order to perform the duties of the Lord's tabernacle, and to stand before the congregation and serve them . . . yet you seek the priesthood as well? Therefore you and all your company [250 men] have gathered together against the Lord. What is Aaron that you rail against him?" (Num 16:8-11 NRSV)
3. LEADERS PREPARE THE CONGREGATION FOR SEVERITY OF CONSEQUENCES FOR THE CHOICES HUMANS MAKE
Leaders sometimes have to get away from toxic, destructive people, exile those people and let them do their own destruction elsewhere so that others in the organization are not harmed. In this severe story, God is displeased with the mutiny and calls on Moses and Aaron to separate themselves from the mutineers. To illustrate the severity and resolve of Moses' leadership, look at what he says about the deaths of the people who have rebelled against the Lord and Moses and Aaron, in Num 16:28-30, “This is how you shall know that the Lord has sent me to do all these works; it has not been of my own accord: If these people die a natural death, or if a natural fate comes on them, then the Lord has not sent me. But if the Lord creates something new, and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up, with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into Sheol, then you shall know that these men have despised the Lord.” The ground opened up and swallowed those 250 men.
4. REFINED BY LEADERSHIP FIRE, LEADERS BECOME READY TO PUT THEIR LIVES AT RISK FOR THE SAKE OF GOD AND OTHERS
After the 250 men were killed, the congregation was still in an uproar. The event did not bring fear but more rebellion. A plague came out from the Lord and people started to die. Moses told Aaron to take his censer bowl full of incense and carry it quickly to the congregation to make atonement for them. Aaron ran into the middle of the assembly where the plague had already begun and made atonement for the people. "[Aaron] stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stopped" (Num 16:46-50 NRSV). Fourteen thousand seven hundred plus the two hundred fifty died in what the NRSV calls "the affair of Korah" and what some scholars have dubbed "Korah's Rebellion." What happens next in Num 17 is an affirmation of Aaron's leadership and something that would be commemorated in the Ark of the Covenant for years to come. Leaders of the twelve ancestral houses are asked to bring their staffs, the sign of leadership, with the name of each head of the tribe on the staff. Moses put the staffs in the tent of meeting before the Lord. Later when Moses returned inside the tent, the staff of Aaron had budded, produced blossoms, then produced ripe almonds! The Lord said to Moses, "Put back the staff of Aaron before the covenant, to be kept as a warning to rebels, so that you may make an end to their complaints against me, or else they will die." People continued to fear saying, "We're all going to die!"
Lord, may these texts encourage good leadership and discourage bad leadership in us. Amen.
Greg Taylor preaches for The Journey: A New Generation Church of Christ. Greg's wife, Jill, teaches math at Broken Arrow High School and Tulsa Community College. Greg and Jill have three adult children, Ashley, Anna, and Jacob. Greg is the author of many books, including his latest co-authored with Randy Harris, Daring Faith: Meeting Jesus in the Book of John.