READING Exodus 17:1-7


Leaders sometimes receive sharp criticism from the people they serve. Exodus 17:2 says, “The people quarreled with Moses.” “Quarreled” denotes strong opposition and verbal attacks. It is even defined as “verbal combat” (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, p 845).

Verbal assaults on leaders often arise out of people’s needs or perceived needs. The need may be legitimate, like water in this case, or the complaints may be driven by selfish desire.

There is certainly a time to express concern to leaders. But the manner in which people do it is important. In this case, it is evident the Israelites were not trusting God. They blamed Moses for leading them to a barren place rather than believing that the God who delivered them from the Egyptians by parting the Red Sea could also provide them with water to drink.

Moses responded by turning to God. People’s harsh demands push leaders to rely on God for help. The word “cried” in verse 4 means to call out for help in great distress. Spiritual leaders do this often!

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary observes, “One of Moses’ most characteristic and praiseworthy traits was that he took his difficulties to the Lord (Exodus 15:25; 32:30; 33:12-16; Numbers 11:2; 12:13; 14:13-19.)”

His request here included an element of self-preservation. “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me” (v 4). Now I would be concerned for my safety too. *But we do have to be careful of being overly concerned with how people’s verbal attacks affect us. It’s easy for leaders to take it personally when they feel the sting of people’s displeasure. It helps to realize people don’t necessarily feel personal animosity toward us. We are the objects of their intensity, but ultimately they need to develop trust in God and graciousness when communicating with others.

Father, I tend to take people’s complaints and objections personally. Please help me keep in mind that they may have a good point to make. If they’re communicating in a sinful way or if their words arise from a selfish heart, help them to grow.

Then there are those who are just harsh. You know who they are. Help me respond as graciously as possible. Give me wisdom to address sin when needed. Vindicate my leadership if you wish. Ultimately I entrust myself, my ministry, and these people to you.

*My interview with Scott Owen includes helpful insights on responding to criticism.


READ Exodus 15:1-18

This is Moses’ and the Israelites’ song of praise after God performed the spectacular work of delivering them from the Egyptians by opening the Red Sea.

God did a spectacular work yesterday. If you are a preacher of the Word, He enabled you to declare eternal, soul-saving, life-transforming truth. He brought the dead to life, made holy the profane, caused the simple to be wise, changed darkness into light.

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Just as God miraculously opened the Red Sea for the Israelites to escape from the Egyptian army, He worked spectacularly through His Word as you ministered it.

He accomplished His purpose, displayed His power, performed His work, and built up the church and caused it to grow.

Regardless of how you feel about yesterday, if you even merely read Scripture to people, God was doing a great work. If you explained it, applied it, and exhorted people to heed it, then you provided the means for supernatural work in individual lives.

So look back and, like Moses, praise God for His glorious character (Exodus 15:6-7), His matchless power (11), and His steadfast love (13).

You have enabled me to do hard, even impossible things that are your will. You strengthened me to share your wonderful Word.

I lift my praise to you for your glorious character, matchless power, and steadfast love. I praise you for the spectacular ways you have delivered me and guided my life. Thank you for using me in the lives of others who will praise you as well.

You reign, forever and ever. Amen.


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The world is in crisis. We’re all being forced to change. As my pastor shared in our online Bible study tonight, we can become frustrated with circumstances, people, and ultimately God.

This week I transitioned from being a classroom professor to an online teacher, from an office to working at home, from unloading a car full of groceries to wondering if my wife will find what we need next time she goes shopping, from a familiar routine to what in the world will happen next.

As I began today I thought about how I should live and grow during the uncertain times ahead. I can be frustrated, discouraged, anxious, grouchy, and lazy. Or I can meet each day and every new challenge with positive attitudes and practices I develop by God’s grace. I made a list of qualities I hope to display during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Flexibility – A statement came to mind today: During this crisis I intend to maintain the essentials and embrace change. I will keep doing the things that should never change – basic attitudes and practices of life. But I will eagerly learn new things and adjust to the new normal that life presents right now.

During this crisis I intend to maintain the essentials and embrace change.

Self-Discipline – When routine goes away, good habits and practices can drop too. I can easily allow important disciplines to suffer. Working by myself diminishes accountability. I intend to follow a schedule, maintain my task list, work when it’s time to work, rest when it’s time to rest, and be careful about wasting time.

Creativity – Life will likely be less busy with many activities curtailed, leading to more discretionary time. I want to enjoy a simpler life, but also invest free hours in creative endeavors. This may include writing, home projects, or who knows what. Hopefully some of it will be lasting and will benefit others. According to Phil Cooke, “having your world turned upside down can often be the best spark for your creativity.”

According to Phil Cooke, “Having your world turned upside down can often be the best spark for your creativity.”

Learning – The end of college as we know it (at least for a while) has pushed me to learn new skills, technology, and methods. Great! That will make me a better teacher. I will learn more during the weeks ahead about myself, my marriage, the subjects I teach, the world, crises, and hope. I’m ready. Educate me!

Love – Speaking of marriage, this crisis will test relationships. Spouses and kids used to being together only a few hours a day will tire of each other fast or learn to love more deeply. My wife and I do a lot together, but both of us working at home will take that to a new level. I believe my love for her will grow. I also intend to show love in needed and new ways to my mother who lives with us, neighbors, and church family members.

Trust – I’ve never really had a problem with Jesus’ instruction to “not be anxious about tomorrow.” Until this week. I’m not worried about getting sick and dying. Of course I would grieve deeply were that to happen to someone I love. But I know the One who died and rose again has prepared a place for me and will take me there when I die. No problem there. It’s living I worry about! I find myself anxious about daily needs and how bad conditions will get. So I plan to grow my faith in God’s promises and care. I will pray for Him to take care of me and those I love. I trust He will be the good Father I know Him to be.

How do you plan to live and grow in these tumultuous times? Tell me about it in the comments.