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A Parenthesis

There is a verse in the Bible. When it comes to mind, I often forget where it is because it is in Numbers and I don’t venture into Numbers often enough to remember. But I’m in Numbers currently as I have run out of other books of the Bible to read, and there it was –

This verse in parenthesis: “(Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)” Numbers 12:3.

What an odd verse?

The context is that Moses was losing the confidence of the people, particularly his right hand man, Aaron and wife, Miriam. You can tell by this time in the account that Moses was losing confidence in Moses as well! Hence this parenthesis about his humility.

What is it about God that he “opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble?” (That’s Proverbs 3:34 and 1 Peter 5:5). Why did God choose Moses to lead a nation when obviously he didn’t want to? Trust me. There were others who did. You read Numbers and you will see that there were plenty of other Israelites who would have gladly taken charge. God destroys them, and over and over He affirms Moses.

“When a prophet of the LORD is among you,

I reveal myself to him in visions,

I speak to him in dreams.

But this is not true of my servant Moses;

He is faithful in all my house.

With him I speak face to face,

Clearly and not in riddles;

He sees the form of the LORD.

Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” Numbers 12:6-8

I honestly don’t get it – why does God choose the humble over natural leaders? Or is that really the question?

What if natural leaders are humble?

I recently read The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. She was a leader of the Dutch resistance to Nazi Germany during the occupation of World War II. Her story is incredible, but what speaks most loudly is her utter and absolute ordinariness. Corrie is so humble – and yet in spite of it or is the truth because of it – she was able to lead one of the most effective underground operations in the country.

Now, I am not humble. I like leading. I like attention. I entertain delusions of grandeur. But there is another part of me – a part that is in touch with my ordinariness. It’s the part that resonates with men like Moses and women like Corrie Ten Boom.

It is a part of me that hopes that humility can be cultivated.

As Peter writes in the verse after the one I earlier quoted: “Humble yourself, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”

That humility can be acquired gives me hope. What gives me even more hope is that God works humility into us. That is part of His purpose – part of our true nature – the one He is helping us become – the person He has created us to be.

Maybe this is the point…

That the best leaders are followers.

What they follow…now that is the question isn’t it?

Ned Erickson

Ned is the Founder and Executive Director of the Winston-Salem Fellows, a non-profit dedicated to equipping people to live seamless lives as they grow into the men and women they were created to be. He is the author of four books, including the critically acclaimed novel Clay. He, his wife, two children, dogs, rabbit, guinea pig, turtle, and chickens live in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

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