By Roy Ciampa, Ph.D.
Armstrong Chair of Religion, Samford University
MOSES AND JOSHUA
Moses’s life would soon be over, and leadership for the next generation would be needed.
We have lessons to learn from the way Joshua was prepared to lead once Moses’s ministry had ended.
Seek God’s direction in who will carry on after you. (12–17)
In verses 12–14, Moses is reminded that he will not be able to enter into the promised land; he could only see the finish line from a distance.
Most never have a personal warning about their impending death as Moses did.
We are reminded not to wait until the end to prepare leadership that will continue in our absence since we never know when “the end” will come for us (see Ps. 39:4). We must constantly work to prepare gifted leaders to advance God’s Kingdom purposes.
That the Lord “gives breath (‘ruach,’ Hebrew for breath, wind or spirit) to all” reminds us that God intimately knows and cares about each person He has created. This is related to the fact that Joshua is “a man who has the Spirit (‘ruach’) in him.”
God provided Joshua with the spiritual qualifications for the task ahead of him as a reflection of His care for all His people.
Leaders are often described in the Bible as shepherds, and in verse 17 the leadership role that Moses has filled — and that Joshua will fill — is described in language taken directly from the role of a shepherd.
Disciple and empower the one you mentor. (18–20)
Joshua had been one of the men chosen to spy out the promised land and one of only two of them who trusted that God would give Israel success. Moses had worked with Joshua for more than 40 years and had seen his faithfulness and developed him as an effective colleague in the work given to them by God.
People who have been blessed by the work of a great leader often have difficulty adjusting to new leaders when they begin.
It is important for established leaders to use their influence to publicly endorse and empower qualified and capable newer leaders so that they don’t have to build up their credibility from scratch.
The Lord directed Moses to do this for Joshua. In this case, the very deliberate process entailed Moses laying his hands on Joshua and commissioning him, not in some private setting, but in the sight of all the people.
Publicly affirm God’s work in the life of the one you mentor. (21–23)
God reinforces the directions given in verses 18–20.
The way verses 22–23 repeat much of the language found in verses 18–19 emphasizes Moses’s careful obedience.
“Take Joshua” in verse 18 finds its response in “he took Joshua” in verse 22.
“Lay your hands on him” in verse 18 finds its perfect response in the words “laid his hands on him” in verse 23, and “commission him” in verse 19 is matched by “commissioned him” in verse 23.
The importance of affirming God’s work in the life of Moses’ successor is stressed by the repetition of the precise language used in God’s commands.
The importance of preparing younger leaders extends from the time of Moses to our time and even to the end of the age. It requires prayer, planning and intentionality.
May God help each of us recognize how we can mentor those God might use when our days are over.