“If you can keep your head while others are losing theirs and blaming it on you… yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, and – which is more – you’ll be a man, my son.” – Rudyard Kipling

As we follow the post-exodus Israelites, we come to their first major obstacle.  After Pharaoh finally relented and allowed Moses to take the people out of Egypt, we find that he has a change of heart… again.  Only this time, he has to go after the Israelites because they were actually able to leave before he changed his mind.

The Egyptians get in their chariots, call up the army and head after the Israelites.  It’s not long before the Israelites look back and see that the Egyptians are bearing down on them, and they start to panic.  Here is how the story goes…

10 As Pharaoh approached, the people of Israel looked up and panicked when they saw the Egyptians overtaking them. They cried out to the LORD, 11 and they said to Moses, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us? Why did you make us leave Egypt?

12 Didn’t we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt? We said, ‘Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!’” 13 But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the LORD rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. 14 The LORD himself will fight for you. Just stay calm” (Exodus 14:10-14).

You would think that after 400 years in slavery, these people would be a little more grateful for their freedom.  You would think that after seeing what happened in Egypt, the plagues and miracles, that they would be able to trust in the Lord at this point.  You would think that after being led by the Lord as a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night, the Israelites would realize that everything was going to be all right.  You would think… but they freak out.

They start crying out to the Lord.  They start complaining to Moses.  “Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt?  What have you done to us?  Why did you make us leave Egypt?”  Don’t you love that?  “Why did you make us leave Egypt?”  Yeah, because Moses was the one that wanted to take you away from your cushy jobs as brick makers.  You wanted nothing to do with freedom or release from captivity.  I know it sounds like I’m ranting a little bit here, so let’s get to the real question at hand: what does this have to do with leadership?

Moses’ response is fantastic.  People all around him are freaking out, losing their cool and going out of their minds.  He says, “Don’t be afraid.  Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today….  Just stay calm.”  Wow.  As a leader, you have to be able to keep a calm head, even in the most difficult of situations.

Moses had no idea what was going to happen.  All he knew was that the Lord had brought them this far, and He wasn’t just going to let them die in the wilderness like this.  (Of course, later on… well… that’s a different story for a different day.)  As a leader whose identity is found in Christ, you are called to keep your head, even while those around you are losing theirs.

I’m not saying that leaders are supposed to always know what to do, either.  Read the story again, Moses did not know what was going to happen.  He just trusted in the Lord, and the impossible happened.  Even when things look bleak, even when it seems like everything and everyone is stacked against you, as a leader who is called by God, you must keep a cool head, and listen for the Lord’s direction in the midst of the madness.