Are you investing in people to take over for you? Or will your efforts stop with you? It might be a volunteer position in your church. It might be a job at work. It might be a leadership role in your family or on your sports team. You’ve served and worked and given much of yourself. What will happen when you are gone? Will it all fall apart?
Our final installment of Deuteronomy chapter 3 is found in verses 21-29, and there we find Moses in the very position I describe above. Moses has invested his life leading this group of people, the nation of Israel, to their new home. He knows his tenure is about to finish. Will the 40+ years he has given be worth it? I wonder how much Moses reflects on the fact that he grew up a prince of Egypt. I wonder if he thinks “Man, I had it good there. And I gave it all up for this?” I wonder if he ever fears that his life’s work will be wasted. Will Israel survive without Moses leading them?
Moses is about transfer leadership to Joshua. As we read Moses’ conversation with God about this transfer of leadership, we’ll find some concepts very applicable to followers of Jesus and the task he has given us, to make disciples. Do you remember that task God has given those of you who are his followers? Many times Jesus said things like “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,” or “Go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Is it possible that can we learn about the task of making disciples from Moses and his relationship with Joshua, even though Moses lived more than a thousand years before Jesus?
I see at least three discipleship principles we can learn from Moses’ in Deuteronomy 3:21-29. I believe we apply these principles to our own lives, as we seek to make disciples as Jesus commanded us.
First, Moses reminds Joshua of what God has done. This is a way to build Joshua’s faith for the conquest to come. Notice the personal words: “God will fight for you.” Moses wants Joshua to place his faith in the Lord. He wants Joshua to know the personal relationship with God that he has known.
Second, Moses reviews his own failings, perhaps as a warning to Joshua. Moses is called the most humble man who ever lived in Numbers 12:3. I think Moses’ willingness to publicly review his faults is one way he shows he is humble. So in Deuteronomy 3:23-27 Moses discusses his sin and punishment, possibly because he does not want Joshua to fall into the same trap. Here Moses is not only demonstrating for Joshua that a leader can be vulnerable and honest, but also that a leader needs to avoid pride, practicing humility, and giving God the praise and glory for everything.
Third he commissions Joshua, encouraging him in front of the whole nation. Here is Moses telling the people what God said, so all the people knew that Joshua was going to be the next leader. Moses is managing this significant transition that is about to take place. He is leading the people to buy in to this transition, to take the trust they have placed in Moses, and give Joshua that same trust.
Moses led the people for 40+ years. Will the people trust Joshua? Will this transition work? It is incredibly difficult to have a revered leader transition to a new guy. Even if the new leader is familiar and known to congregation.
It seems to me that most of the Israelite nation would have expected Joshua to take over. I highly doubt it would have been a surprise. Given nepotism, and how prevalent that can be in some societies, perhaps people wondered if Moses’ children or family were going to be the next leaders of Israel. The fact of the matter is that Joshua had been at Moses’ side for a long time, and the people knew that.
You know what, though, even if the vast majority assumed that Joshua was going to be the next leader, the transition can still be hard. I suspect not everyone was pleased. In nearly any leadership transition, people can be downright upset, and they leave. Those people feel little to no connection to the new guy.
So Moses needs to prepare the people, and he needs to invest in Joshua.
How are you investing in the lives of those around you?
And who are you investing in? Who is going to take over for you? This could be in your business, sports team, volunteer organization, family, church? This applies in many ways. As we think about Jesus call to make disciples, we his followers can look at these three principles and apply them to the task of discipleship.
Be intentional. Invest your life in the lives of others, so that more and more people come to know Jesus, and be his disciples who make more disciples.
You are Moses. Who is your Joshua?
And also consider that you are Joshua. Who is your Moses? Who is investing in you?