Portrait of a Godly Shepherd

by Nancy Leigh DeMoss

There is no marker on the tomb of one of the greatest leaders who ever lived. In fact, no one even knows where he is buried.

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he penned the story of his own life and that of his congregation, in what we know today as the Pentateuch. He is refered to simple as "Moses, the man of God" (Deut. 22:1; Psalm 90 title).

The life and ministry of this humble man of God provide rich instruction and insight for those who seek to lead the flock of God today, whether in a home, a church, or a ministry.

1. Moses was a servant of God.

His obituary in the final chapter of Deuteronomy reads: "So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord" (34:5). The greatness of this man lay in his willingness to live and die as a servant.

The New Testament tells us that Moses, like the Lord Jesus, was faithful to the One who appointed Him (Heb. 3:2). Moses did not take upon himself the leadership of this great "church" in the wilderness (Acts 7:38). In fact, there were times when he gladly would have relinquished the responsibility. But from the moment he first encountered God in the burning bush, he was a called man, sent by God (Deut. 34:11).

2. He experienced a vital, growing, intimate relationship with God.

When Moses first met God, he knew little of the heart, character, or ways of God, but over the next 40 years, he never stopped growing in his understanding of the One who had called him. He was willing to pay a price to cultivate a relationship with God.

Early in the morning, in protracted times of fasting, Moses frequently forsook the company of family and friends to spend extended time alone in the presence of God. As a result, he enjoyed an intimacy with God that few ever experience. The Scripture tells us that the children of Israel saw the acts of God, but to Moses alone were revealed the ways of God. The intense union and communion that he shared with God produced an anointing and power that most of us only dream of.

3. He revered and obeyed the Word of God.

Moses was a man who took God's Word seriously. Over and over again, we read that telling phrase: "as the Lord commanded Moses." He devoted his life to learning, doing, and teaching the Word of God. He did not merely obey God in regard to major matters, but understood the importance of applying the Word of God to the most insignificant details of everyday life.

Moses learned the hard way that his position did not make him an exception to God's Word and that, as a leader, he faced greater accountability and stricter judgment when he failed to obey the Word. Like two million other Israelites who died in the wilderness, Moses was prohibited from entering into the Promised Land-all because of a single incident where he yielded to his flesh rather than obeying the Word of God.

In Moses' final series of sermons to his congregation, he made repeated fervent appeals in relation to this whole matter of obedience: "Hear now, O Israel, the decrees and laws I commanded you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God" (Deut. 4:1, 2, niv). You can almost hear him pleading, "Listen to me! I know! I struck the rock when God told me to speak to it. I want to do everything I can to spare you from experiencing the painful consequences I have reaped from that one moment of disobedience."

4. He cherished the glory of God above his own reputation or advancement.

On at least two occasions, God responded to the rebellion of the Israelites by threatening to wipe out the whole congregation and begin a new nation with Moses as its head (Ex. 32:10; Num. 14:12). In both instances, Moses refused God's offer and pleaded with Him to have mercy on the people, not because they deserved it, but because he was concerned about God's reputation among the heathen nations. Moses was not in the ministry for personal gain or recognition, but was jealous for the glory and reputation of God.

5. Opposition drove him to intercession.

Moses could have written the original textbook on dealing with conflict in the church. He certainly had plenty of illustrations! Again and again, when the people were dissatisfied with their circumstances, they attacked their leader. They were a cantankerous, contentious lot, and Moses bore the brunt of their petty carping. But he was wise enough to know that their issue was not really with him, but with God. So time after time, when faced with the whining, disgruntled mob, whose demands he could not possibly meet, Moses fell on his face and cried out to the Lord.

Some men become cynical and throw in the towel in the face of opposition. But Moses saw adversity as an opportunity for God to display His power. It pressed him closer to the heart of God, and molded him into a meek man who interceded earnestly on behalf of the very people who made his life difficult.

6. He got angry over the things that make God angry, but responded meekly to personal insults and attacks.

With many men, it is just the other way around. Moses loved God passionately and was deeply disturbed when the people trampled on His holiness. He trembled at the Word of the Lord and was greatly grieved when His righteous laws were disregarded.

However, Moses was quick to overlook offenses against himself. He barely bothered to defend his own reputation, for it mattered little to him in comparison with the character and glory of God.

7. He was not afraid to confront those who violated the Word of God.

Moses was not afraid of being labeled extremist or fanatical when dealing with disobedience in the congregation. He understood the necessity of confronting sin head-on and of purging evil out of the camp, so that the presence of God would not be forced to flee. He realized that sometimes severe measures were necessary to show how seriously God took sin. Even when his own nephews were destroyed by God for what seemed like a minor infraction, Moses defended God's actions.

8. He determined to walk with God, even when that meant walking alone.

As you read the life of Moses, you see a solitary man-a man who stood with God, even when everyone else was on the other side of the line. Moses' values were God's values, and they were very different from those of the people he served. All they seemed to care about was what they were going to have for dinner; they were driven by fear; they never really had a heart for God. Moses, on the other hand, was motivated by faith. He had seen the glory and the goodness of God. All that really mattered to him was that God's name was exalted on the earth. He didn't care whether or not he ever had another meal, as long as God was glorified.

Virtually no one, including his own brother who was his closest associate in the ministry, operated from the same heart as Moses. No one, that is, except for Joshua. And it was to this younger man that Moses turned when preparing to die.

9. He developed leadership for the next generation.

Withing the first year after leaving Egypt, Joshua surfaced as an aide to Moses. Early on, Joshua demonstrated an unusual heart for God. Following the example of his mentor, he would linger in the tent of meeting, where God had spoken with His servant (cf. Ex. 33:7-11). Before he died, Moses reproduced his heart in this faithful man. Then, at God's direction, Moses passed on the baton to Joshua, that he might lead the people into the Promised Land.

Moses did not merely pass on his position to Joshua. The Scripture indicates that he laid his hands on Joshua and passed on the spirit of wisdom and the mantle of godly leadership that God had given to him throughout his ministry. Then he publicly commissioned his successor and charged both the people and their future leader to be faithful to God (cf. Num. 28:18-23; Deut. 31:7-23; 34:9).

10. He bore a remarkable resemblance to Jesus.

Perhaps this is the quality above all others that distinguished Moses as a great leader. God revealed to Moses that he was merely a type of a Prophet yet to come, a type that would one day be fulfilled in Christ: "the Lord said unto meI will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put My words in his mouth" (Deut. 18:17, 18).

Moses' life and ministry pointed people to Jesus. Moses had been faithful to the One who appointed him, even as one day, the Lord Jesus would be identified as a faithful Servant (cf. Heb. 3:1, 2). As Moses submitted himself to the will of God, so would the Lord Jesus delight to do the will of His Father. As Moses had spoken to the people the words which he received from God, so Jesus would come to this earth to speak words given to Him by God (cf. John 8:28). As Moses' face had revealed the reflected glory of God, so in the face of Jesus we would see the glory of God (2 Cor. 3:7-18; 4:6).

As we evaluate our own lives and ministries in the light of God's Word, we would do well to ask ourselves the following questions:

1. Do I have a servant's heart? Am I a faithful servant? Am I conscious of having been called and sent by God?

2. Is my relationship with God growing and deepening? Am I spending sufficient time alone with God to know Him intimately? Am I growing to know the ways of God?

3. Do I love and honor the Word of God? Is there any aspect of God's Word that I am not fully obeying? Do I seek to apply the Word of God to every detail of my life?

4. Am I willing to sacrifice my own reputation for the sake of God's glory? Is my service for God tainted by any motivation for personal gain, recognition, or advancement?

5. How do I respond to my critics? Do I intercede for those who oppose my leadership?

6. Do I hate sin? When I get angry, is it generally because I am jealous for God's character or because I have been personally wounded? Do I respond meekly to personal insults and attack?

7. Do I tend to back off from confronting sin issues, for fear of "rocking the boat" or being misunderstood? Are there any issues in my sphere of influence that I need to deal with?

8. Am I willing to risk rejection and popularity to walk with God? Does anything matter more to me than seeing God's name and character glorified?

9. Who am I helping to develop and prepare for future service and spiritual leadership? Are there any areas of my walk that I would not want to see reproduced in those who follow me?

10. Does my life remind people of Jesus? What specific areas still need to be conformed to His image?

In a sense, there will never be another leader quite like Moses. But in another sense, we have God's promise: "As I was with Moses, so I will be with you" (Joshua 1:5). The God of Moses is our God; He is faithful. May we, like Moses, be His faithful servants.

Used by permission

Nancy Leigh DeMoss is the director of Publications and Women's Ministries and the editor of Spirit of Revival magazine for Life Action Ministries, Buchanan, Michigan.