Commentary from the Torah portion on leadership and transfer of authority

We had a wonderful week in Finland. My wife, Marcia, is with me and it has been such a joy to see the young generation take charge and leadership in the Restoration Movement in Finland. We started with the annual seminar in Karmel Koti. This seminar started more than 30 years ago, and it was 25 years ago dedicated to the memory of Maria Tucker, Dr. Tim Tucker’s loving wife who died in a car accident. Every year several hundred brothers and sisters from all around Finland gather for an intense week-end of study and worship and fellowship in the middle of Finland. Karmel Koti is the name of the place. It was established as a Kibbutz by Paavali Toivio and our dear sister Ahuva Ben-Maier contributed significantly to making Karmel Koti a central gathering place for all those who pray for Israel and stand with Israel on Biblical bases. This year was very special for Marcia and I, it was special because the younger generation, the children of those pioneers who took a stand in the 1980’s and committed to Biblical faith in place of the main Lutheran tradition of the Finnish nation, are now picking up the leadership. We see this happening all through Finland. The young families with little children, some of whom we actually preformed their weddings, are up there leading, organizing, leading worship, teaching, and just taking their place as leaders. This is also happening in Israel, and in Brazil.

I wrote the above paragraph because it also has to do with the Parasha (The weekly Torah Portion) Parashat Beha’alotcha, Numbers 8:1-12:16. The majority of this Torah portion deals with leadership and transfer of authority and sharing authority.  The portion starts with the role of the Menorah the seven lights candelabra made of pure gold. This is important for the understanding of the first three chapters of the book of Revelation. I have already written about this in the past. From the Menorah, the texts take Moses to the consecrating of the Levites for the service to God in the Tabernacle. There is an elaborate ceremony that is both a job description and a setting a part of the tribe of Levi for the service of the Almighty God. Today leadership in both Messianic circles and in churches is doing their best to be casual and non-formal in their service and relationship to the LORD and also to the congregation. In Israel during the days when God dwelled in the middle of the Camp and His presence was visible by day and by night – it would be a sin to be casual with God’s things and service in His presence.

From there the Torah takes us to the beginning of the wondering of the children of Israel in the wilderness led by the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. As soon as the children of Israel hit the road – they start complaining about the Mana and the leadership and Moses also complains to the LORD and says: “So Moses said to the LORD, “Why have You afflicted Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have laid the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I beget them, that You should say to me, “Carry them in your bosom, as a guardian carries a nursing child,’ to the land which You swore to their fathers? Where am I to get meat to give to all these people? For they weep all over me, saying, “Give us meat, that we may eat.’ I am not able to bear all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me. If You treat me like this, please kill me here and now—if I have found favor in Your sight—and do not let me see my wretchedness!”” (Numbers 11:11–15 NKJV)

Moses was so tired of leading the people that he could not continue. His situation was so serious that he said to the Lord: If You treat me like this, please kill me here and now—if I have found favor in Your sight—and do not let me see my wretchedness!” Imagine that Moses the great leader is asking God to kill him and take him out of his wretchedness. Leadership that is sincere and caring can be a true burden that at times is hard to sustain. Note that this happened after Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law left the camp and now Moses has no one to lean upon and get encouragement.

God tells Moses, to gather the 70 elders of the people and to bring them to the Tabernacle and share his anointing with the elders of the people. A great leader no matter how strong and powerful a leader is can’t lead alone for a sustained period of time. He must learn to share his anointing and gifting with other qualified personal. The 70 elders receive the commission and they now much stand side by side with Moses to lead the people of Israel in the wilderness.

It seems that just as soon as the elders are appointed to share the anointing of Moses Miriam and Aaron, the sister and brother of Moses wake up and they too feel that they deserve leaders like Moses. “Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman. So they said, “Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?” And the LORD heard it.(Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.) Suddenly the LORD said to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the tabernacle of meeting!” So the three came out. Then the LORD came down in the pillar of cloud and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam. And they both went forward. Then He said, “Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream. Not so with My servant Moses; He is faithful in all My house. I speak with him face to face, Even plainly, and not in dark sayings; And he sees the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid To speak against My servant Moses?” So the anger of the LORD was aroused against them, and He departed. And when the cloud departed from above the tabernacle, suddenly Miriam became leprous, as white as snow. Then Aaron turned toward Miriam, and there she was, a leper. So Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord! Please do not lay this sin on us, in which we have done foolishly and in which we have sinned. Please do not let her be as one dead, whose flesh is half consumed when he comes out of his mother’s womb!”  So Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, “Please heal her, O God, I pray!””  (Numbers 12:1–13 NKJV)

Note that the first thing that Miriam and Aaron attack is Moses’ personal life. He married an Ethiopian woman. The second thing that they attack is the exclusivity of Moses as the leader of Israel. Miriam’s claim was very typical: “We are also leaders!” Who made you a Sultan here, we have the same abilities. We too hear the word of the Lord! Why are you our little brother so full of yourself we too are qualified to lead just like you. Well, the Lord left the Tabernacle and the cloud departed from them. Miriam became a leper. At that point also Aaron realized their sin and confessed that they have done a foolish thing and have sinned. Moses cries out to the LORD and asks for God to heal Miriam his sister.

Here too is a great lesson for leaders who are called by God to lead HIS people.  Leadership in God’s Kingdom is not a private, professional job. It is a calling from God and leaders have to allow God to demonstrate His power and His approval of their leadership. Even when there is dissatisfaction in the camp and even if it comes from insiders and even family – the graciousness of God’s love and grace has to be the most visible quality of the leader. Let us all learn leadership from Moses and also learn to share the anointing and inspiration with the other qualified men and women in our congregations and ministries.

Yeshua learns from this story about Moses and Miriam that if you speak evil and act presumptuously you become more impure than if you eat without washing of your hands or even more impure than if you eat lobster, shrimps, or bacon. What comes out of your mouth is more defiling than what goes into your mouth. This is taken from this story of Moses, Miriam and Aaron. Leprosy is one of the most defiling and impure things in the Bible.

This article originally appeared as a part of The Jerusalem Prayer List by Netivyah Bible Instruction Ministry, June 15, 2017, and reposted with permission.