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.

Photo by Josh Sorenson on

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.


READING Exodus 14

Providentially, my posting of this devotion falls during the COVID-19 pandemic when pastors are leading their people through a time of anxiety and fear. I pray Moses’ example may encourage you.

Moses led the people of Israel through a crisis. “The Egyptians were marching after them, and they feared greatly” (v. 10).

The people vented their anxiety by blaming Moses for their circumstances. He addressed their fear by focusing them on God. Moses spoke profound words to them, turning their focus from himself and from the Egyptian army to the One who would deliver them. “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (vv. 13-14).

Moses’ exhortations to the people are a good model for ourselves and for the people we shepherd:

Don’t be afraid. This was a reassurance God often gave people when about to move forward in following His commands and receiving the fulfillment of His promises. See Gen 15:1; 26:24; Joshua 1:9; 8:1. We can confidently guide people we minister to with the very same words.

Stand still. Hold your position. Don’t let fearful circumstances move you from where you stand. “Sometimes the people of God are told to take their stand, passively and quietly awaiting the mighty deliverance of the Lord” (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, electronic ed., p. 394). We can encourage our people to remain confident and hold their position in grace during trying times (Romans 5:1-5).

See the salvation of the Lord.  Watch God work! He is the source of victory. He will receive the glory. Our deliverance may not be circumstantial, but it will be eternal.

Help me not to fear present circumstances or future possibilities and what may happen to us. We are moving forward by your leading. You have promised to take care of us. Help me to encourage my people to hold our position in you and to watch you work.

I direct my anxiety, my expectations, and my trust to you. Help me encourage others to do the same.

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