Numbers 12:3 says, “the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth.”
If Moses wrote every word of the Pentateuch, it’s Moses himself testifying that he is humble. It reminds me of the quip about the city commission who gave a guy an award for being the humblest man in town … and then took it away because he accepted it!
In all seriousness, Moses wasn’t tooting his own horn. This inspired truth about his character gives us an important insight. Humility is an asset to godly leadership.
Humility is not Weakness or Silence
I can’t think of a more bold, uncompromising, confident leader than Moses, who led Israel out of Egypt. Moses guided the people through the wilderness, proclaimed the commandments of God, and warned of the consequences of disobedience. He didn’t just reveal, he exhorted. For example, on one occasion, Moses stood before the soldiers of Israel and boldly said,
Why then are you transgressing the commandment of the Lord, when it will not succeed? Do not go up, or you will be struck down before your enemies, for the Lord is not among you (Numbers 14:41-42).
In fact, God’s punishment for sin sometimes came through the hand of Moses, such as when,
Moses’ anger burned and he threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them … and he took the calf which they had made and burned it with fire and ground it to powder and … made the sons of Israel drink it (Exodus 32:19-20).
Humility is not shrugging your shoulders. That’s just complacency. It would be hard to tally up all the battles Moses won, all the enemies he defeated, all the evil schemes he withstood. It’s been said that leadership is all about knowing where you’re supposed to go, and convincing others to follow. Moses was humble, but he knew his destiny and his responsibility (Acts 7:25). He made the bold choice to serve God (Hebrews 11:24-26) and he admonished people to follow.
Humility Does Not Mean You’ll Always be Loved
The people of Israel were obstinate people. They often expressed their displeasure with their circumstances or with the rules by lashing out at Moses. Sometimes they even accused him of grandstanding and abusing his power. The family of Korah rebelled, saying, “why do you exalt yourselves above” the rest of God’s people (Numbers 16:3)? Dathan and Abiram thanklessly accused Moses of closing them off from the bountiful foodstuffs of Egypt and lording it over them (Numbers 16:13). After God Himself dealt with these rebels, the people grumbled again, blaming Moses for their deaths (Numbers 16:41)! On one occasion, even Moses’ brother and sister accused him of pride (Numbers 12:1-2)—the very occasion on which Moses asserted his humility.
Leaders must realize that people will say cruel things that are completely out of touch with reality. Like the Corinthian Christians did, who accused Paul of being wimpy (2 Corinthians 10:1) and stuck up (11:7). God’s leaders must do what is right, and must leave it to God to reveal the motives of each man’s heart in the end (1 Corinthians 4:5).
Humility is Pointing People to God, Not To Yourself
Moses never wished to attract attention to himself. Moses was concerned with making followers of God, not making followers of Moses. The one and only time Moses exceeded his authority—striking the rock rather than speaking to the rock (Numbers 20:11)—God put him in his place and Moses bore his punishment.
In fact, on one occasion, God was so fed up with Israel He announced His plans to destroy Israel and start over with Moses, transferring the promises of Abraham to him and making him into a great nation (Deuteronomy 9:14). A prideful man would have greedily welcomed this turn of events. But Moses loved the people of Israel, despite their flaws, and asked God to forgive them, falling on his face and interceding on their behalf (Deuteronomy 9:25-28).
On another occasion, Joshua got upset that two other men were prophesying in the camp. Far from being jealous, Moses said, “would that all the Lord’s people were prophets” (Numbers 11:27-30)! Nothing brought more joy to Moses than seeing God glorified.
Moses always had the people’s best interests in mind, which is why he often demanded uncomfortable things of them. Thus, we discover that Moses’ humility was bold leadership clothed in patient, true, loving concern for the eternal welfare of God’s children. —John Guzzetta