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Falling on your face: Lessons in leadership from Moses


Renata Sedmakova | Shutterstock

Tom Thomas - published on 07/29/21

Let us learn more about leadership from one of the greatest servant leaders of all time (arguably second only to our Lord Jesus Christ).

“They banded themselves together against Moses and Aaron:“You have gone too far …” When Moses heard this, he threw himself face downward on the ground.” (Numbers 16:3-4)

Have you ever faced a situation in life where you were entrusted to lead people on a mission with a vision of a better future?  

Initially, people may commit themselves to following you. However, later on, when difficulties are encountered on the way and the vision starts looking hazy to them, they start doubting your leadership and rebelling against the well-laid out plan, wanting to strike out on their own. There are others who think they could do better in leading a team or even to go back to the place of origin, no matter how miserable that might be. 

This could be a situation one might be facing in one’s professional life or even in a home or a family. It seems like a familiar scenario these days, as people are less and less patient and more restless for instantaneous results. What do we do in such situations? From where can we draw inspiration? Who can put a handle on such a situation?

When leadership comes to such an impasse, there is a solution for a leader, a solution as old as Moses, the man who led the Exodus ages ago. He fell on his face in front of the Lord.  There was rebellion among the people of God, whom he was leading to the Promised land.   A study of how he faced such rebellious situations, hundreds of centuries ago, gives us a blueprint of what we can do in similar situations. In a situation where one is humanly expected to react or retort against those complaining, we see such a remarkable action from Moses in those ancient times. This is described in the Sacred Scripture at various points of the journey of the people of God: Deuteronomy 9:18 with Exodus 32;  Deuteronomy 9:25 with Numbers 14:5; Numbers 16:4; Numbers 16:22; Numbers  16:45; and Numbers  20:6.  

Instead of acting in a human manner and speaking up against those accusing him, Moses listened to them and fell on his face in front of the Lord. And what a wonderful transformation that the Lord brought about in Moses — from being a hot-headed murderer (Exodus 2:12) to a reluctant leader of the people of God (Exodus 4:13), to being the meekest man on the earth (Numbers 12:3).

What a remarkable physical sight it might have been for those around him to witness him falling prostrate on the ground in prayer to the Lord without reacting to the situation as a normal human being would react. His response is the key to great leadership for us. It does not matter if there is a situation we have to encounter where someone is being unreasonable as Korah was with Moses  (Numbers 16:3). Listening to them first is very important, and then falling on your face before the Lord, as Moses did, is the second act.  While it might be physically impossible to fall down on our face on the floor in a tense situation in a corporate boardroom or during a heated argument at home, for example, one can always retreat into the inner tabernacle that is present within us, and be in silent prayer in the Holy Spirit, imploring the Lord not to judge the person or persons for their actions but to place them before the Lord.  These few moments of internal falling down before the Lord will transform situations and ensure that whatever team we are chosen to lead will not stray from the God-given plan.

So, next time someone in your team or family rebels against you, clamp down on your instinct to react and say something against the situation. Rather, do what Moses did: fall on your face before the Lord and place the situation in front of Him, and He will listen to you and do something about it. 

Numbers 20: 12 describes the pitfalls of leadership when we do not do what the Lord commands us to do. Moses in Numbers 20:10 added his own harsh comments to the people, thereby incurring the displeasure of the Lord upon him and Aaron at Meribah.  So let us understand that even Moses was not infallible in leadership when he listened to his own wisdom and did not lean completely 100% on the Lord.

John C Maxwell, a Christian author who has written many books on leadership, has this to say, “The measure of a leader is not the number of people who serve him but the number of people he serves.”

Let us learn more about leadership from one of the greatest servant leaders of all time (arguably second only to our Lord Jesus Christ), who led more than two million people from slavery on a 40-year journey through the formidable desert into the Promised Land. Reading the Books of Exodus and Numbers in particular reveals much to us by a careful study of the same.  

Inspiration from Moses makes us better leaders at work and at home. Don’t be afraid to fall on your face in difficult situations!

BibleSpiritual Life
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