IL 4/26/23: Failure

IL 4/26/23: Failure

(Audio Transcription Below)

This morning I want to talk about FAILURE. Sometimes as the Leader you have just had it! So you rant and sometimes throw your team under the bus. Watch how this guy starts his press conference & then how this SIU coach throws his whole team under the bus. 

Numbers 20:1-13

And the people of Israel, the whole congregation, came into the wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people stayed in Kadesh. And Miriam died there and was buried there. 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.” Then Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the entrance of the tent of meeting and fell on their faces. And the glory of the Lord appeared to them, and the Lordspoke to Moses, saying, “Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle.” And Moses took the staff from before the Lord, as he commanded him. 10 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?” 11 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. 12 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.” 13 These are the waters of Meribah,[a] where the people of Israel quarreled with the Lord, and through them he showed himself holy.”


If you remember, Moses lives his life in three, 40 year segments. 

  • First 40 – As a Hebrew, he grew up in Pharaoh’s Palace – groomed to lead a nation. 
  • Second 40 – Moses spent his second 40 years as a shepherd learning to live & lead in the wilderness. What was the reason Moses had to flee Egypt? Moses had an anger management problem – he saw an Egyptian soldier mistreating a Hebrew slave so he killed the Egyptian. Moses knew what he was doing is wrong, yet he couldn’t exercise emotional self-control at the critical leadership moment. Log that in your memory…old habits never die
  • Third 40 – Moses led a nation/shepherded a new kind of flock through 40 years in the wilderness. 

Numbers 20 – When you turn to Numbers 20, you are in the 39th year of Moses living and leading in the Wilderness – He is almost at the finish line!

NOTE: Chapter 20: 1 – Miriam, Moses sister, dies. (Ch 20:26) Aaron, Moses’ right hand man, dies. This puts Moses in an emotionally fragile situation. The potential for emotional distress for Moses is high 

HALT – Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired…You should HALT when you are about to do something foolish! In Numbers 20, Moses might have been experiencing all 4 of these symptoms.

  • Numbers 20:2-5 – 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. Problem: They don’t like how God runs things: (Grumbler – Danger, effectively saying: I don’t like how God is running things).

As a leader…you need to know & it can’t be surprising. If you move from one family to another, one business to another, one church to another, one culture to another – one generation to another – you will find yourself (your issues/anger) and you will find difficult people to lead. We share the same problems as our ancestors.

So don’t foolishly think: When will I, my wife, family, employees, congregation…finally mature and be DONE with these problems? You will be dealing with them forever! *SET realistic expectations!* 

  • Number 20:6-9 — Moses and Aaron repeat an action they had done many times before. They go before the Lord and fall on their face on behalf of the people… This is great leadership! The people should have been on their face before God…instead it was the leader! 

As a leader – Husband, Father, Church, Business – are you first praying for those you lead despite their attitude? 

(Numbers 20:10-11) — Let’s dissect what went wrong 

  •  “Hear now you rebels” — First: Moses speaks to the people instead of the Rock. Moses is supposed to speak to the Rock but he just can’t resist the opportunity to say something to the team. *Ever happened to you? You just have to say something first…DANGER! 
  • 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! Moses is like the Basketball Coach! Yet his frustration, his anger, his weariness, all come spilling out of his mouth.

NOTE: When you start calling someone names or labeling them, you know YOU have a problem. If you are a leader and you are calling someone names….then you have a low EQ. 

  • “Shall we bring water for you out of this rock? And Moses struck the rock twice (Twice…Maybe God gave Moses one chance to turn around??) – “Struck” … Same word used when Moses “Struck” the Egyptian. Moses’ emotions ride shotgun….He abandons God’s instructions. If the leader abandon’s the instructions of God, there is little hope the people will remain steadfast to God’s Word. 
  • (vs. 10) Moses slips himself in place with God. “WE, WE” – “Moses strikes the rock” Moses steps in the line of Glory meant for God. (See Num 20:13) Ps 106:33 – “By the waters of Meribah they angered the Lord, and trouble came to Moses because of them; for they rebelled against the Spirit of God, and rash words came from Moses’ lips.” Moses spoke as if whole event depended on Him, Not God! 
  • (Numbers 20:12) – God’s Response to Moses: 
    • “You didn’t believe in me” — What does that mean? Moses suddenly forgot about God or didn’t believe God existed? 

Moses didn’t trust in God’s Word. Moses’ words prevail over God’s Word. This is HUGE!!!! 

  • “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. 
  • “Therefore…you 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?

Judgment on leadership is more severe 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.” 

Adam/Eve in the Promised Land (Garden) were thrown out – Why? 

  1. Direct disobedience to God’s word 
  2. Adam’s word prevailed over God’s word
  3. Adam wanted to be like God – God spot-light 
  4. Adam banished from the Garden/Promised Land

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

We aren’t surprised to find these words from Moses at the end of his life as he was passing off Center Stage: Deuteronomy 8: 

“Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands …to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” 

God wants to lead his people by His Word….not by a stick…like they had known in Egypt. 

Moses Failed but was not a failure: Deuteronomy 34 – “No prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, who did all those signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.” 


1. Talk about a time when you were in an emotionally fragile place which made you vulnerable to failure. 

2. How do you continue to lead (yourself, family, business) when those you are leading don’t seem to change? 

3. What response by Moses most resonated with you: veering off course of God’s Word, anger and name calling, and/or stealing God’s glory for yourself? 

4. Discuss God’s punishment of Moses. Does it seem too harsh? What does this say about what God values in those he puts in leadership positions? 


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