Numbers 10: Don’t Do It Alone.
“I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me.” Can you relate to these words spoken by Moses (Numbers 11:14)? Do you feel like you’re bearing a heavy load, that you can’t carry on? Do you have any burdens that feel too heavy for you? Moses might have been leading a nation of millions in an extraordinary situation, but really his human experience and emotional response is not so very alien. When you think about it, the people of Numbers are actually quite relatable.
Leadership is a heavy burden, a big responsibility, and it’s not meant to be done alone. Moses’ mistake was to try and do it all by himself. He was a uniquely gifted and capable leader, but he still needed help. His father-in-law Jethro tried to teach him the value of delegation back in Exodus 18, when he told him: “The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.” (v. 18). But some lessons have to be learnt more than once, because here is Moses trying to do it all by himself again.
In fairness, the people weren’t making it easy for him: they were starting the grumbling that will become habitual throughout Numbers, the first signs of the discontent that would dog them all the way through the desert and eventually even deny them entry to their destination. All has been well in Numbers so far, but in the first verse of chapter 11 the complaints start again, having lain dormant since the grumbles of Exodus. They complained about the hardships of nomadic life in the desert (v.1), and they complained about their food (v. 4-6). There’s more conflict, dispute and grumbling in chapter 12, in chapter 13, in chapter 14, and so on and on.
Now before we start to judge them, let’s first think how well any of us would have done in their place. Footsore, hot and bothered, camping in the wilderness, with a monotonous menu and an uncertain water supply, I think any of us would have struggled in that situation. I think all of us would have grumbled and begun to lose faith. That’s where the job of the leader becomes so important – to rally the people, keep them on course and focused on the vision ahead of them. That role is even tougher than what the people were going through, so let’s sympathise with Moses, and also pause to be grateful for our leaders who bear a similar burden for us.
It’d be easy to look at this and think that Moses should just have trusted God. Like the people, he’d had plenty of evidence of what God could do – was a little meat going to be too difficult for the God who parted seas and provided bread amid the bare rocks? Well, when you’ve got a million angry people yelling at you it’s perhaps not so easy to remember your theology and think clearly. Moses’ emotional response is entirely understandable. Yes, he should have trusted God, so should we all, but I think we’re all allowed a little rant and wobble before we remember that yes, we should trust God.
Now God provided the meat – more than the people bargained for (as an aside, there’s a mini lesson for us all here: be careful what you wish for) – but he also provided helpers for Moses. It’s really significant that God didn’t just step in and do everything for Moses. That’s important to remember when we hear people telling us to rely on God alone. Of course, it’s true that we should rely on God and lean on Him (Proverbs 3:5), but that doesn’t mean we should try and go it alone. If we only needed God, why are we not each on our own little worlds in holy solitude? We’ve been put here with other people because we need community and company. Something beautiful happens when we work together in pursuit of the designs of God. It’s almost like the whole of the church is greater than the sum of out parts.
God didn’t say, ‘Don’t worry, I’ve got this’, or ‘Leave it to me’, or ‘I’ll do it for you.’ No, what He actually said was: “Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you. I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone.” (vv. 16-17).
God reminds Moses of the importance of team-work and delegation. He doesn’t relieve, He recruits. He gives Moses a team to work with. Using people of good character, He empowers them with His Spirit and deploys them for action. Although the Holy Spirit is available freely to all believers now, it’s still true that to some God gives the gift of leadership (Romans 12:8; Ephesians 4:11-13), and it’s also still true that leaders should work together for the good of the people of God.
If you’re a leader reading this, don’t try and lead on your own. Ask for godly helpers to work alongside you. Don’t be afraid to share some of the load and delegate some of the responsibility. Not only can you just not do it on your own, but if you try and hold on to everything yourself, you’ll deny others the chance to grow and be empowered.
If you’re not a leader (and most of us are, in some way, before you discount yourself), maybe the lesson here is: don’t try and do life alone. Let your friends in. Seek help. Whatever you’re going through or struggling with, don’t do it alone. Get advice, accept prayer, share the load. If you can’t carry the burden alone, it’s because you were never meant to (Galatians 6:2). If you haven’t got a community of support around you, get one. Go to church, commit to a small group, prioritise time with people. God will always provide, but often He provides through other people. Don’t miss out on His deliverance just because you don’t recognise how it comes.
Let’s all take some advice from Numbers: don’t do it alone.
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