Failing as a Leader – Week in Review

Failing as a Leader – Week in Review

Sometimes as the leader you have just had it. Two weeks ago I talked about your team failing – now I want to talk about YOU failing. What does it look like when the leader fails the team?

Numbers 20:2-13

Background: If you remember Moses lives his life in 3 – 40 year segments.

  • First 40 – As a Hebrew he grew up in Pharaoh’s Palace – He was groomed to lead a nation.
  • Second 40 – Moses spent Second 40 yrs Learning to live in the Wilderness.Question: What was the turning point? What event caused Moses to move from the Egyptian palace to the desert wilderness?

    Answer: Moses has an anger problem – he saw an Egyptian soldier mistreating a Hebrew slave (which was a legitimately frustrating situation) so Moses killed the Egyptian and buried him in the sand. Moses knew what he was doing was wrong, yet Moses couldn’t exercise emotional self control right at this critical leadership moment. *Log that in your Memory*


  • Third 40 – Moses lead a nation through 40 years in the wilderness. Its amazing how God pieced together the first 2 events so Moses was prepared. God does that in your life as well – He is using situations today to build you into the leader he wants in the future.

When you turn to Numbers 20 you are in year 39th year of Moses living and leading in the Wilderness – He is almost at the finish line. The first generation – those who God rescued out of Egypt yet constantly grumbled against God & Moses – they are all gone. Now it’s the second generation, these are the ones who will enter the Promised Land.

*NOTE*: Chapter 20: 1 – Miriam, Moses sister, dies in Chapter 20:22. Aaron, Moses’ right hand man, also dies. We are right at the end of Moses’ life. It’s been 39 long years in the wilderness. The potential for emotional distress for Moses is very high.

Now there was no water for the congregation. And they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. And the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Would that we had perished when our brothers perished before the LORD! Why have you brought the assembly of the LORD into this wilderness, that we should die here, both we and our cattle? And why have you made us come up out of Egypt to bring us to this evil place? It is no place for grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, and there is no water to drink.”
(Numbers 20:2-5 ESV)

What’s immediately disappointing in these verses? The people are still the same! The second generation picked up all their parents’ bad habits. Still grumbling. The Problem: They don’t like how God runs things.

As a leader, you have to know this can’t be surprising. People can change, but when you are dealing with the public or large groups of people, you will need to be prepared for this as a leader. If you move from one family to another, one business to another, one church to another , one culture to another – you will find difficult people to lead.

Question: As a leader, husband, father, church, or business, are you really praying for those you lead, despite their attitude?

Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock.
(Numbers 20:10-11 ESV)

Let’s dissect what went wrong.

  • First – Moses speaks to the people instead of the rock. (We know Moses clearly heard the Word of God (vs. 8) but we can immediately see Moses veering off course. It seems that God just wants Moses to speak to the Rock and then Walk away….that will be the object lesson God gives to the people…. But Moses can’t resist the opportunity to say something to the team.
  • Second – Moses calls them a name – “Rebels” – Prov 29:11- “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.”

I am sympathetic to Moses being worn out. He has HAD IT! Yet his frustration, his anger, his weariness, all come spilling out of his mouth.

– “Shall wewe….WE bring water for you out of this rock? Moses struck the rock twice (Twice? Maybe God gave Moses one chance to turn around?)

  • First – Again we see Moses abandoning God’s instructions (If the leader abandon’s the instructions of God, then there is little hope the people will remain steadfast to God’s Word.)
  • Second – Moses slips himself in the place of God. “We” – “Moses strikes the rock”
  • Third – Aaron where are you? Help a Brother out! Reel Moses back in!
And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.”
(Numbers 20:12 ESV)

Numbers 20:12 – God’s Response

  • “You didn’t believe in me”  What does that mean? Moses suddenly forgot about God. Moses didn’t trust in God’s Word. Moses’ Words prevailed over God’s Word (in his mind). This is HUGE! —- Where did this begin (Genesis 3) Moses didn’t Trust God…So Moses’ Words prevailed – How often does that happen to you?
  • “You didn’t uphold me as holy/separate in the eyes of the people” – Moses, your leadership is supposed to be spot-lighting me to the unbelieving people – instead you are spot-lighting yourself. How do you spot-light God in your leadership?
  • Therefore… shall not bring this assembly into the Land..” OUCH! WOW – 39 years of leading the most stubborn group of people and in the last year you fail and you miss out on crossing the finish line. Why? Is this too harsh?

Answer: Judgment on leadership is more strict because of the fact that of all people leaders should know better. James 3:1 says, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment.” Jesus declared the principle that “to whom much is given much shall be required” (Luke 12:48).

Adam and Eve were in the Promised Land (Garden) and were thrown out. Why?

  • Direct disobedience to God’s word
  • Adam’s word prevailed over God’s word
  • Adam wanted to be like God – God spot-light.

Moses is leading them back in the Garden – God doesn’t want the same type of leadership first thing back in.

Jesus Leadership: Moses isn’t the Savior. When all hell breaks loose around Moses – he breaks down and trusts his words over God (We all understand) So we need someone, that when all Hell is breaking loose God’s Word will prevail over their desires. Like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Question for Reflection
  1. What is one primary way in which you need to grow in dealing with your own failure?
  2. When you are Hungry – Angry – Lonely – Tired (HALT) What can you do to avoid leadership failure?
  3. In a business environment, one especially driven by profit or success: How do you spot-light God rather than yourself?

Friends and Brothers,

Paul Phillips
Pastor, Christ Community Church

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