In previously posted articles one and two, we were considering two different responses to difficult circumstances by two men, General Benedict Arnold, the swashbuckling Revolutionary War general and Moses, the liberator of Israel.
To test Moses, God proposed that he annihilate the Israelites and start over with Moses as the progenitor of a new nation. Let’s re-join the narrative.
Many factors would have prompted Moses to agree to the destruction of Israel and him becoming the father of a new nation:
- Moses had paid a great price and been unappreciated. “I’ve tolerated these miserable, complaining, critical Israelites almost from day one. They will never recognize my sacrifice, leadership or diligence.”
- Moses had been faithful while the people God was offering to remove had been unfaithful, so it made sense that Moses’ descendants would do better. “It is my spiritual duty and responsibility to go along with what God is proposing. Who am I to oppose the Almighty?”
- It was time for these selfish, ungrateful wretches to get what they deserved. “These faithless critics have hindered me long enough!”
- Moses was overdue for a cushy, posh assignment. “Forty years on the back side of the desert with the dust, bugs and heat. I am over 80 years old – by now my life should be getting easier.”
While God knew He was not going to destroy Israel, He seems to have been testing Moses. How would Moses respond? What else was Moses thinking? What were the other factors?
- Would his ego prompt him to agree with God’s assessment of the situation? “No. I refuse to see this situation only through the small lens of my life, emotions or feelings. More is happening than I am aware of. Many lives are involved.”
- How would Moses evaluate his responsibility in this situation? “I am not responsible for their attitudes; I am only responsible to keep my attitude – as the leader – honorable. I can only control what I do. I have to be more concerned about God’s reputation than myself. Therefore, I will not abandon the Israelites even though my conclusion as a sinner is they may deserve abandonment.”
- Would Moses indeed be better breeding stock than the Israelites had been? “No. I am a sinner like everyone else – no one is pure. We are all corrupt and vile, ruined and needy.”
- Would Moses cast the deciding vote for the destruction of the ungrateful Israelites? “No. Probably many Israelites did not approve of the golden calf; the (relatively) innocent people should not suffer for the idolatry of the few.”
- How much does God have invested in this motley crew? How much does Moses have invested in these people? “While I have a few decades invested in preparation for my role here and the wandering in the wilderness, God has been building this nation for hundreds of years5. It would take 400 years to generate a different nation of two million people, which would be time lost in advancing God’s reputation.” 6
What is the connection between not feeling appreciated (Benedict Arnold) and the greatest challenge a human ego has faced (Moses)? The challenge Moses faced would have been the perfect opportunity for him to do what Benedict Arnold did – sell out the Israelites and say to God, “Sure, go ahead, wipe them out – you will get a better nation from me.”
Whereas Benedict Arnold turned bitter and betrayed his country when he felt unappreciated, Moses refused to allow his emotions to overrule his good sense.
Moses the Liberator made two appeals. First, God’s reputation with surrounding nations would suffer if He destroyed the Israelites (Exodus 32:12)7. Second, he appealed to God’s previous promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to make their descendants numerous (like the stars of the sky) and give the promised land to them(verse 13).
When we have conflicts with other people, when we feel unappreciated, or when we are tempted to withdraw to protect ourselves from further hurt, others are involved. More is going on than we may realize. I have to consider other people – not just myself and my inner circle of confidants. Up close to the emotional heat of a given situation, we may miss the nuanced advances the Holy Spirit wants to achieve in our lives, the lives of others who are also involved and those who are silently observing (Yes, people are watching, hoping for a godly attitude. And we do not know who they are).
All who serve God have moments of feeling unappreciated. People will take, then turn around with their hand out for more with a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately attitude.
Increasing Our Sensitivity and Awareness of Others All things being equal, God Himself may arrange for us to feel unappreciated. This is a normal part of spiritual boot camp and continues to be a regular challenge of spiritual life.
Life has a way of exposing that our emotional hurts are areas in which we need to grow. That’s what God is signaling to us when we feel unappreciated.8 Having become hospitable, Jeanne’s (see the first article) next spiritual growth frontier was handling being unappreciated.
While General Benedict Arnold chose to betray the infant colonies, when Moses felt unappreciated, he made the sterling caliber choice to continue serving God.
Hebrews 12:3 tells us to “consider Him.” Everything that we pass through and everything the passes through us should sensitize us to the Redeemer. “Consider what our Lord Jesus went through” so we “do not become weary and lose heart.”
5. Raised in the Egyptian palace, or nearby, then 40 years as a shepherd on the back side of the desert before becoming the liberator on Israel.
6. Population estimate based on the census figures given in Numbers 26:51
7. This guy would have been an excellent lawyer!
8. See II Chronicles 32:1. Also realize that Jesus Christ was led by the Spirit into the difficulties and stresses of the wilderness temptation (Matthew 4:1). See Isaiah 45:7 and 55:8 & 9.