Simon Bolivar liberated 5 present day countries in South America from the tyranny of Spain. In this picture he is leading his army over the Andes mountains in the dead of winter to lead the surprise attack that broke the power of Spain.
His men were hungry, cold, and unprepared for the snow and ice. Many died. Many complained. In the end he became an international hero. But there was a high price to being the leader of the revolution.
Today's reading is dramatic. God sending His Spirit on a group of leaders. Bitter complaining. Moses asking God to kill him. Quail 3 feet deep. God burning up with anger. Dissension among the leadership. Miriam struck with leprosy. Spies sent out to reconnoiter. Demonstration of both boldness and fear.
I remember 3 years ago asking myself a question. "How did I get to this place?" I was the owner of a flourishing business involving nearly 100 people, an elder at a church of 3000 in the middle of upheaval, and managing 82 renters in properties I owned. Each of those three areas of leadership had bone crushing problems. I felt incapable of dealing with any one of the sets of difficulties. Certainly not all three at once.
So, I identify with Moses. His experience in today's passage starts with the people complaining about their hard life. God gets mad and starts to burn up the edges of the camp. The people cry out to Moses. Moses cries out to God. The fire goes out.
Then the people complain about the food (manna, given miraculously every day by God himself). They wanted meat. God gets mad. Moses asks God to kill him. It is too much, he says.
God has Moses set aside 70 leaders, and God puts His spirit in them as well. They are to share the load of leadership.
God promises Moses that He will give the people meat. This next interaction is just too good. I have to share it:
21 -22 Moses said, "I'm standing here surrounded by 600,000 men on foot and you say, 'I'll give them meat, meat every day for a month.' So where's it coming from? Even if all the flocks and herds were butchered, would that be enough? Even if all the fish in the sea were caught, would that be enough?"
23 God answered Moses, "So, do you think I can't take care of you? You'll see soon enough whether what I say happens for you or not."
God gives them meat. Quail piled 3 feet deep.
But He is also mad. The people were not rejecting Moses. They were rejecting God. God had provided this miraculous provision. Manna. "Nutritious. Delicious". (That phrase is my daughter - talking to her 3 year old...)
So in the midst of this amazing miracle - Quail so they could eat meat for 30 days, God sends a terrible plague.
They move on. So - problems are over and they all lived happily ever after?
Not exactly. Leadership consists of inspiring others to work toward a common goal. But it also involves continous problem solving. More to come...