#084: When Weak Leadership and Rebellion Leads to Wandering

By all accounts Moses was a pretty great leader for the people of Israel. But on a couple of occasions, he fell woefully short as a leader.

Leadership, Wandering

One time was when God told Moses to go confront pharaoh. Moses kept whining about not being able to speak well enough to pull it off (Exodus 4). God gets tired of Moses’ excuses and sent Moses’ brother Aaron in to speak on his behalf.

Sometime later Moses secured the Israelites’ release from pharaoh, led them out of Egypt, crossed the desert, and was just about to enter the Promised Land when his leadership skills failed him again. The result was the entire nation wandered around in the desert for another 40 years!

The narrative is seen in Deuteronomy 1. Moses and the Israelites are on the edge of the Promised Land, and Moses encouraged them, saying here is the land God promised us, let’s go take possession of it, don’t be afraid. So far so good.

But then we see that the Israelite leaders all came to Moses with what seemed like a reasonable request to go spy out the land, and the routes they should take (Deuteronomy 1:22). Here’s where Moses erred. He didn’t stand his ground, based on God telling to go take possession of the land. He simply said “ok” to the leader’s request, and appointed one from each tribe to head out on the mission to reconnoiter the land.

Numbers 13 carries a slightly different account of this narrative suggesting that it was God who told Moses to send out the spies. The Scripture doesn’t give us a clear indication, but my supposition is that with the Israelites’ history of doubting God’s power, He allowed them to take the intermediate step of spying out the land, rather than simply taking possession of it as He told them.

The idea that God allowed the spying adventure rather than directing it, seems to be reinforced in Deuteronomy 1:26 where Moses reminds the Israelites that the trouble they face is a direct result of their rebelling against God by not trusting God to lead them into the Promised Land.

Regardless, the spying mission is carried out. The 12 men set out on what was about a 500-mile exploration of the Promised Land. They came back with a glowing report about the land but expressed fear of the people living in the fortified cities. Only 2 of the 12 spies, Joshua and Caleb, had the courage to say, let’s go, we can do it.

The remaining 10 spies stirred up the entire nation of Israel that night, millions of people, causing them to fear for their lives, doubt God, and even wish they were back in Egypt living as slaves under Pharaoh!

What do we learn about leadership from Moses in this narrative?

1) Trust God. When God promises to do something, as leaders we must trust Him, knowing that He alone has the power to fulfill His promises. God always does what He says He will do!

2) Maintain your conviction. Moses allowed the leaders, who he had just recently appointed, to pull him away from God’s command to go up and take possession of the Land.

3) Reject advice that is contrary to God’s instruction. God had clearly told Moses what to do and demonstrated over and over that He had the desire and the power to guide the nation into the Promised Land. Yet Moses accepted the leader’s plan to spy out the land, and that ultimately led to their fear of being able to do what God had commanded.

4) It is better to follow God than popular opinion. Moses went along with the majority of the spies, rather than standing strong with Joshua and Caleb.


Several times in this narrative we see Moses consulting with God, and getting God’s direction, but Moses doesn’t trust God enough to follow through with strength and courage. He allows the naysayers and people filled with fear to keep him and the nation of Israel from attaining God’s best for another 40 years.

Eventually, the Israelite’s were allowed to enter the Promised Land, but not until that entire generation of fear-filled, doubters had died in the desert. God’s plan will not be thwarted.

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Have there been times in your life when you sought and received God’s direction, but lacked the courage to trust and obey? Have there been times when you allowed the seemingly good advice of others to pull you away from what God has directed you to do? What was the result of not following God’s plan?

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Category: Personal Development | Dependence on God

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