Last week I said that we need to learn how to embrace our limitations or we risk spending the good portion of our lives feeling frustrated and stressed out. It is my contention, that if we are going to learn how to live happy/holy lives to the glory of God, we must learn how to embrace our limitations.
First off, let me remind us that having limitations is not bad. It is a result of being created. Everything created is meant to function within its limits. Engines break down at certain speeds and temperatures. They run out of fuel, oil, and other fluids. These are not bad engines, they are simply engines that were created to function within certain limits. The same is true with us, we were created to function at certain speeds and temperatures. We need food, water, and sleep. If we run low on any of these things we begin to break down. But the Human Being is so much more complex than an engine. We were created "imago dei" in the image of God, and therefore, we have a complex body and even more complex soul. We are an embodied soul full of contradictory desires, complicated emotions, and mystifying thoughts. The reality is, the more complex something is, the more opportunity there is for it to break down. So it is of vital importance for us to embrace our limitations. To ignore them, would be to ignore the oil light on the dashboard of your car. Eventually, you will break down and the break down always costs more than the preventative maintenance.
Today, I would like to look at three "warning lights" from the life of Moses regarding his limitations.
In Exodus, 17, Moses' emotional dashboard light goes off.
Moses briefly loses faith in God, and the people of Israels' complaining gets the better of him. He loses his patience and cries out to God, "What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me." The man who watched God split the Red Sea, and kill the Egyptian Army through the raising of his staff, is now afraid of the very people that he is leading to the Promised Land. More than that, "God's people" have been denigrated to "this people." What happened? Moses is getting tired. He's getting worn down. His attitude and emotions are the first things to go. Moses is learning the hard lesson that he is emotionally limited. When he is emotionally depleted, the complaining of the people seems more personal. The stress and pressure of leadership feels far too much to bear and he sins as a result. But it was in the Midst of Moses' emotional limitations that God gives grace through Jesus. God speaks, and then uniquely, the only time in scripture, He stands before the people, and tells Moses to strike the rock with the "Rod of God." The Apostle Paul says in 1 Cor. 10, that this Rock was Jesus. So it is in Moses' emotional limitations where the grace of Jesus is put on full display. The people and Moses both deserve judgement for their lack of faith, but instead, Jesus stands before them and takes a blow that gives them the waters of grace.
Later in Exodus 17, Moses' physical dashboard light goes off.
The Amalekites attack the people of Israel and they are outmatched. So God gives Abraham a unique battle strategy. Lift up the "Rod of God" above your head, and as long as it is up the Israelites will be victorious. If it falls down, the Amalekites will prevail. It doesn't take Moses long to realize, he's not superman. He has physical limitations and he cannot keep his hands raised for long. As Moses tires, and his hands come down, people begin to die. Now it should be noted, that God can do whatever He wants. He could've given Moses supernatural strength to keep his hands permanently lifted. But He didn't, instead, God gave Moses, Aaron and Hur to support him in his efforts. It was in Moses' physical limitations where God's grace was found in the support of friends. Moses' limitations reminded him that he needed others and so do we. We are all physically limited and need others to come along side of us. We all need help.
In Exodus 18, Moses' relational dashboard light goes off.
Apparently, it was bring your Father In Law to work day. Moses' Father In Law, Jethro was inspecting the way that he was leading the people, organizing the fledgling nation, and structuring his day and gave the encouraging pronouncement "What you are doing is not good." Moses was working from sun up to sun down. He was having meeting after meeting. He was the touchpoint for every single person. If they wanted to hear from God, they had to meet with Moses. Jethro, quickly saw that this was not good. We are all relationally limited. This would wear out Moses, prevent new leaders from being developed, and discourage the people seeking justice because it would take forever to stand before Moses and have him hear your case. Jethro, gives a lesson in leadership 101, he says recruit and delegate. Find men with a competency for leadership and godly character and hand off leadership responsibilities to them in proportion to their relational capacities. Some should lead 10's, 50's, 100's, and 1000's. Let them judge the people, and you deal with the difficult cases that are beyond their ability. Moses was learning his relational limitations. This is a lesson we must learn as well. We cannot have a thousand friends, no matter what Facebook tells us. We must embrace our relational limitations and live within them.
If you want a more comprehensive treatment of these three lessons on limitations from the life of Moses you can watch the two sermons I preached below.