Of all the prophets in Israel’s history, Moses was arguably the most significant. After all, he led God’s people out slavery in Egypt and to the borders of the Promised Land. He wrote the first five books of the Bible. Yet, couched in Numbers 12, is a description of Moses I know I have read several times, but noticed for the first time recently.
At the beginning of Numbers 12, Aaron and Miriam, Moses’ brother and sister, spoke out against Moses because of his Cushite wife, and attempted to elevate themselves to his place of leadership, saying “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses?” (Numbers 12:2) It is in verse 3 where we see this surprising description of Moses, “Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.” The passage does not just describe Moses as meek, but more meek than ALL the people on the entire earth. That is a fairly strong statement.
Clearly, this is not a negative trait in God’s eyes. For one, on the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5) Jesus taught often of humbling oneself and the apostle Paul tells us that Jesus “made himself nothing” and “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death.” (Philippians 2:7-8) Furthermore, in this text God rebuked Aaron and Miriam, descending in a pillar of cloud to the entrance of the tent of meeting, and said:
Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses? (Numbers 12:6-8)
The Lord sets Moses apart from the other prophets, particularly Aaron and Miriam, and emphasizes the special relationship He has with Moses. Moses is faithful, meek, humble; qualities the Lord elevates over what man determines as important or special in their leaders.
Remember that at the beginning of Exodus, Moses tried all he could to talk himself out of the role God called him to fulfill. By contrast, Aaron is apparently a good speaker, possibly a little more dynamic, so the Lord allows Moses to use Aaron as his mouthpiece. Of course, Moses was not always meek. In Exodus 2, raised as a member of Pharaoh’s household, Moses kills an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave. Moses’ meekness was a quality the Lord shaped in His servant during his many days in the land of Midian where the Lord prepared him for a great work.
We live in a day and age where eloquence, charm, and a slick, polished image will get you far, help you earn a lot of money, and gather a large following. Even in the church, we see the lure to ‘celebrity’ pastors. Do not get me wrong, some of these men are godly pastors, faithfully teaching the Word of God. (John Piper comes immediately to mind.) But as Christians, we ought to remember that God’s criteria are different than our own. God tells us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” (Isaiah 55:8) He looks at the heart, just as he told the prophet Samuel, “the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16: 7) What makes a good leader and pastor in God’s eyes is not necessarily eloquence, a slick appearance, or the ability to attract a large following (though these may certainly be found in such men) but Christlikeness: faithfulness, meekness, and humility. That is a man after God’s own heart.