Bitter Water – A Lesson in Leadership

The other day I read the story of Moses leading the children of Israel out of Egypt, for what must be the umpteenth time in my life. It’s a good one! God calls a murderer who’s been in hiding for 40 years to stand before Pharaoh and request that the Israelites be freed from Egyptian captivity. He’s insecure, full of doubt, lacks confidence in himself and feels that what God is asking of him is far too great for someone like him to carry out. Sound like anyone you know?

Fast forward through all of the plagues, the water parting and Pharaoh’s army being destroyed as the sea waters are brought back together in a massive surge… Three days after this majestic exodus, God’s people are on the move. The hot desert air has gotten the best of them, and they are thirsty. Let’s read what happened.

Then Moses led the people of Israel away from the Red Sea, and they moved out into the desert of Shur. They traveled in this desert for three days without finding any water. When they came to the oasis of Marah, the water was too bitter to drink. So they called the place Marah (which means “bitter”). Then the people complained and turned against Moses. “What are we going to drink?” they demanded.
Exodus 15:22-24 (NLT)

Can you imagine finding an oasis in the desert only to discover that the water is too bitter to drink?!? The emotions they must have felt!

“Water! Yes! Finally something refreshing!.. Huh? What did they say? Bitter? The water is bitter? You’ve GOT to be kidding me!…”

Poor Moses! The responsibility for 600,000 men PLUS women, children and livestock rested on his shoulders. One verse earlier they were singing a song of victory, rejoicing in Moses’ leading them across the Red Sea, and now, all eyes, all blame, focused solely on him for the predicament they are facing.

Leaders, there’s a valuable lesson here. The celebrating that you’ll receive when you lead people into victory won’t necessarily be remembered when your leadership has led them into seeming hardship. Of course, Moses was simply following the direction of the Lord, but people won’t always recognize that. They may simply see the here and now and will blame the person at the top for the struggles surrounding them today.

Just as you can’t be flattered by other’s praise, don’t be discouraged when they react harshly.

Lead with integrity of heart as you follow the guidance of the Lord. He will be your comfort in the hard times and will be your encouragement in the blessed times.

Of course, God provided Moses with a solution to the problem… but that’s for another post…


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