- Message: Once again today there is an interesting parallel between what we read in the old and new testaments. In Numbers 17 there was jealousy and rebellion going on over who was chosen to lead the people. There had already been a few episodes where rebels accused Moses of appointing himself to lead them and God had swallowed them up in the ground. This was even after he had anointed 70 elders with part of his spirit to help share the load. The accusations had continued so this time God had them each bring a staff to the tent of meeting with their names on them and God caused Aaron’s staff to not only sprout and produce leaves and flowers, but it even produced almonds overnight. So much could be said about that sign, but this was a sign to the people that God chose him and this was intended to stop the jealousy and complaining. In 1 Corinthians Paul called out the church of Corinth because they were divided in rivalry about who they were following. Some claimed Paul, some claimed Apollos, Christ or Cephas. Paul challenged them by asking “Is Christ divided?”. His point is that they were not supposed to be following a man. They were supposed to be following Christ.
- Command: Don’t put any person on a pedestal and don’t let anyone put us on one either.
- Promise: If we point the way instead of stand in the way, we ourselves and those we are leading will grow together.
- Warning: Jealousy and rivalry come when we want to stand in a place of God, or when we place someone else in that place.
- Application: In both the old and the new testament reading the people were distracted by the position of leadership and missing the point of who they were being led to. In both cases the leaders were not exalting themselves, but the people were elevating the status of their leaders to the point of jealousy and rivalry. When this happens the mission gets lost. I have personally seen plenty of unfortunate situations where people put so much focus on the person leading them that they stumble over them. When that leader makes a mistake, or something happens to that leader it shakes their faith and damages their relationship with God. I have seen people walk away from God because they weren’t actually grounded in God. They were committed to a leader or a personality. The footnotes in my bible talk about the divisions in the new testament church being similar to common phrases and slogans used to either affiliate themselves with a political party, or slaves identifying their masters. It’s important to note that this was not caused by manipulation from these leaders. It was the people looking to their leaders inappropriately in the place of God. Leaders have such a deep responsibility to make sure everything they say and do is pointed to Christ, and don’t allow people to flatter them with comparisons. Followers of Christ need to take personal responsibility for their own spiritual growth and never put a leader in the place of God no matter how inspiring or wise they are. Leaders are way-pointers. We are all influencing or leading someone, and we are all influenced by someone. We can all be caught up in this comparison trap and we have to keep our focus on Christ alone. If we point the way instead of stand in the way, we ourselves and those we are leading will grow together.