Deuteronomy 9:24-26 “Ye have been rebellious against the LORD from the day that I knew you. Thus I fell down before the LORD forty days and forty nights, as I fell down at the first; because the LORD had said he would destroy you. I prayed therefore unto the LORD, and said, O Lord GOD, destroy not thy people and thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed through thy greatness…”
One of the greatest challenges of spiritual leadership in the home, community, and church is how to properly process the rebellion toward God of those we lead. Too often we take it personally or attempt to “put them in their place”-all while the proper response should be primarily prayer, as modeled so consistently by meek Moses.
In Deuteronomy 9, Moses provides a recital of Israel’s rebellious history with God as a “stiff-necked people” (v. 6b). While Moses was fasting for 40 days and 40 nights on Mount Horeb and therefore was completely dependent on God, the people were feasting. While Moses was receiving the Ten Commandments by the finger of God, the people were breaking several of them by worshiping the golden calf.
The end of this chapter provides three prayerful responses of Moses to the rebellion of those he attempted to faithfully lead:
Prayer helps to us to be deeply moved by the perpetual sins of God’s people. (15-21)
After Moses discovered the blatant sin of Israel for the umpteenth time, he is still emotionally invested where the prayerless leader tends to be numb or cynical. These supplication-sustained, robust responses include: anger (15-17a), brokenness (17b), fasting (18), mediation (19-20), and purging (21). Wow! After all the insolent Jews has put Moses through, he still cared with tears and intervention.
A good test of how well you are praying for those you lead is the following question: “What do you feel when those ‘under you’ are ultimately rebellion against God’s Word, Spirit, or counsel?” If your response is anything less or more than a pure, passionate reflex to draw near them with grace and truth, something also is wrong with you spiritually. Before you talk to anyone else about the rebels in your sphere of influence, talk to God. Keep talking to God about them until you can authentically intervene like Moses.
Prayer reminds us that leading in a fallen world will always involve friction. (24)
After this painful review, Moses is completely justified in concluding that at every significant turn in their history the Israelites had been rebellious. Moses’ leadership was primary conducted in a wilderness environment characterized mostly by wandering, heat, struggle, thirst, and hunger all brought upon Israel by their revolt on the threshold of the promise land. We too live and lead in a fallen world caused by man’s rebellion; prayer is the only antidote that can sustain our soul in these pervasive conditions.
In leadership, it not usually just the failure but the frequency of those same failures that most frustrate us. There is only one way to consistently process those rebellious, repetitious patterns properly-a daily commitment to the discipline of prayer. From a sanctified perspective, those regular irritants from your children, coworkers, church members provide inescapable catalysts to go to the throne of grace every day! An easy day of full compliance tends to be a prayerless day; a day characterized by resistance tends to point the spiritual leader to supplication.
Prayer refocuses our hope in the redeeming greatness of God. (25-26)
These verses record one of the model prayers in the Old Testament. The mention of the 40 days and 40 nights recalled Moses’ fasting (v. 18) and indicated his sincerity as well as his understanding of the situation’s gravity. He was consumed with God’s glory and reputation on the earth. He did not plead for Israel on the basis of any merit of hers. Rather he “reminded” God that Israel was His own inheritance. Therefore, in the light of His promise to the patriarchs, God’s destruction of Israel would call into question His ability to fulfill His promise (v. 28). This prayer contained no self-seeking on Moses’ part. Instead it was out of concern for God’s reputation and a desire for Him to demonstrate once again His redemptive grace.
Simply put, the answer for human rebellion is divine redemption. Prayer alone reminds us of that irrevocable maxim. Whining, lecturing, lashing out, gossiping, guilt-tripping, and even quitting will not bring the rebel to their knees. Don’t throw those carnal tirades with those you lead; pray for them as well as before them. Prayer keeps your hope in a God who has and still can redeem the most extreme prodigal.
To pray for someone is to gain/sustain God’s gracious perspective on even those who resist His authority. Though he had an isolated lapse of rage that moved him to smite the rock when he should have spoken (prayed) to the rock (type of Christ), Moses otherwise stayed within the boundaries of spiritual leadership for an oft-unruly mob only through intercession. Could it be that your leadership only truly begins after those under you begin to rebel and you insist on praying?
Like Paul who sought to lead the rebellion-prone Corinthians, may we leaders pray for this spirit “And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved (2 Co. 12:15).