Will Rogers addressed Congress during the early days of World War I. At the time, there was great concern about German submarines and their stealth capabilities. As he spoke to the nation’s leaders, Rogers humored them with the declaration that he had solved the Uboat problem. “All you have to do,” he informed them, “is boil the oceans. When the water becomes unbearably hot, the submarines will come to the surface, and then you’ll have them!”
“And how are we supposed to boil the ocean?” asked a congressman.Without hesitation Rogers quipped, “Listen, I’ve come up with the solution. I’ll leave it to you to work out the details.”
Many Problems Are Complex. Rogers’ humor reminds us that we can’t solve the complexities of life with simplistic solutions.Human beings are complex creatures, and our circumstances are complex. Our problems need to be understood in context and in perspective:
• If all we knew of Noah was his problem with alcohol in Genesis 9, we would assume he was a down-and-out loser. Yet, he was described by God as a “just man, perfect in his generations” (Gen. 6:9).
• If all we knew of David was his adultery with Bathsheba, we would never assume that he was, for the better part of his life, “a man after [God’s] own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14).
• If all we knew about Saul of Tarsus was his effort to kill Christ’s followers, we would never expect him to become the writer of half of the New Testament.
The same is true of Moses. If all we knew about him was the anger that occasionally consumed him, we wouldn’t see what an important example he is for all of us.
We All Struggle. You and I know our own faults more than anyone else. Outside the home we may give the appearance of being in control. But our spouse, children, and closest friends often see another side of us. How happy we can be that some of our most embarrassing moments are usually known by only a few people!
Moses was not so fortunate. This highly educated and capable leader had some of hislowest and most regrettable moments recorded for all time in the Bible for all the world to see. As a result, those who take the time to read his story discover a man who lost his temper and better judgment at critical moments. He seems to have fought a battle with anger his entire life—a struggle he sometimes lost, and sometimes won. Yet in spite of his personal weaknesses, God used him to:
• Deliver his people from the bondage of slavery in Egypt.
• Lead the people of Israel to national identity.
• Establish the laws and structures of a brandnew culture. • Lead the Israelites to become a worshiping community committed to a God long forgotten. • Advise and counsel the entire nation.
• Lead purposefully and effectively in the face of great criticism from his constituency. By any standard of evaluation, Moses had an amazing track record. Yet, along the way, he was afflicted with an Achilles’ heel of anger. It dogged his steps his entire life.
We All Are Vulnerable. I believe the concept of an Achilles’ heel is precisely what the writer of the New Testament letter to the Hebrews was talking about when he said:
Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us (12:1).
“The sin which so easily ensnares us” is the problem. Peter struggled with impulsiveness, Solomon with a wandering eye, and Abraham with a manipulative spirit. What is it for us? What is that easily ensnaring weakness that threatens to trip us up at critical moments in our lives? For Moses, it was clearly anger.