The verdict of history has not been kind toward those who appointed themselves as rulers over others. Napoleon famously crowned himself emperor rather than appear subject to the church. Other self-appointed dictators make up a Rogue’s Gallery of tyrants. Some cult leaders like Jim Jones led many other people to their deaths. True leadership depends on more than assigning oneself the title and position.
In our passage today, we see Moses as an adult. Having been raised since boyhood in Pharaoh’s palace, he appeared qualified for leadership. He was confident. He was proactive. He had an impressive background and training.
Moses was empathetic to the cause of the Hebrews. He identified himself as one of them. Though all of Egyptian privilege was his, he did not take advantage of it (cf. Heb. 11:25). Instead, he was moved to fiery compassion on their behalf day after day as he “watched them at their hard labor” (v. 11). He was confident that this situation could be remedied. Moses was proactive in his intolerance of injustice. He killed an Egyptian to right a wrong suffered by another Hebrew. This energy would certainly profit the Hebrews’ resistance movement!
Moses was a man of influence, and as the son of an Egyptian princess, he could demand audience with the Pharaoh himself. No man seemed better suited for the job of demanding the Hebrews’ release from slavery.
This Moses might be heralded as having everything needed for successful leadership: empathy, confidence, zeal, energy, influence, and training. What could be lacking? Why was Moses sent for another forty years into the Midian desert?
This Moses was not yet useful to God. He was prone to rashness. He recognized the Hebrews as his people, but had he acknowledged them as God’s people? He had empathy, but did he have faith? And was his influence as an Egyptian prince any more than a worldly measure of possible success? Moses had to learn what it takes to qualify anyone for leadership and service: a personal encounter with God.