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When "Leaders" are Broken
By Gordon MacDonald

"One day, after Moses had grown up … he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, 'Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?' The man said, 'Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?' Then Moses was afraid…" Exodus 2:11-14

Moses spent the first forty years of his life in the palace of the Pharaoh. There he was undoubtedly exposed to the highest levels of Egyptian culture and education. And yet, it was not until he witnessed the plight of the Hebrew slaves that he had a real awakening: “and [he] watched them at their hard labor.”

The implication of the sentence is blunt: Moses had been exposed to virtually everything but the sufferings of his people, the Hebrews, as they labored as slaves. At that moment, he became aware of the massive injustice, and he was instantly filled with a drive to do something. This drive of mysterious origins was a call, a divinely originated sense of purpose that would press him to lead his people out of Egypt.

Seeing an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, Moses sprang into action. He killed the Egyptian and buried his body in secrecy. The next day, the hostile retort of two Hebrews made it clear to him that his actions of the previous day had become common knowledge.

There's a very powerful lesson for the generous giver. Killing the Egyptian seemed to be a justified expression of his sense of call: to be a rescuer of his people. Furthermore, he apparently thought that somehow his action would cause the Hebrews to look at him as a leader. He could not have been more wrong.

This is a story of a man who wanted to achieve God's purpose in the wrong way. Furthermore, it is the story of a man who thought he could achieve influence through violence. Wrong on both counts. Instead of a rising leader, we see a disillusioned forty-year-old man running for his life. He is fearful, confused, full of doubt. Thinking he'd done the right thing, he'd failed completely. His anger and willfulness had betrayed him.

God did not attempt to stop this set of events. He let the man fail. And then he let him "simmer" in the desert for forty more years while he received a second education: how to do right things in the right way and to learn, once and for all, that power, connections, and influence are not God's way. Sometimes it takes forty years for a generous giver to learn that.


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