The book of Deuteronomy is sort of Moses’ last counselling session with the nation of Israel. He had led them for forty years and they were now on the verge of Jordan; Canaan was literally in their line of sight.
Sadly, the verge of their breakthrough was also the end of the road for Moses. His leadership tenure was coming to an end and it was time to pass on the responsibility of leading the people to Joshua.
Recently, I was reading the Deuteronomy 30 and 31 and questions started swimming around in my head about this hinge point in Israel’s history and how all parties involved would have felt.
What was Moses thinking on the verge of Jordan? Was he bitter that he never got to see the ‘conclusion’ of his life’s work? What about Joshua, was he excited to take on the task or had he gnawed off his nails out of nervousness. Last but not least, the people – what in the world was Israel thinking, giving that they’re not winning any awards soon for being the worlds most submissive citizens.
40 years of prayer, endurance, insults and rough sleeping in the wilderness and this is what it comes to. I’m at the threshold of victory but the Lord himself bars me from entering. Funny how I’ve interceded for Israel on several occasions to save them from dreadful consequences of their sins, but in my own hour of need, I have no advocate.
Will this people make it without me? I’ve put up with their stubbornness, pettiness and lack of faith but will Joshua, the son of Nun be able to do the same? Will a young man like Joshua care about maintaining the ancient landmarks and commandments of Yahweh? Will he erase my legacy? I wish I could finish this mission and watch Israel take possession of Canaan but I know the God that I serve; He’ll never leave His people. He is too invested in Israel’s success to abandon them.
I may not see the other side of Jordan but I can offer Joshua my shoulders (counsel) to perch on as he prepares to take on leadership. Who would have thought a stammerer condemned for a life in obscurity would boldly stand before the great Pharaoh and declare God’s word? Yahweh, Your name be praised! Freely I have received, freely I now give. Joshua will need all the encouragement he can get; it is a long yet rewarding road ahead.
Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that I’d be taking over from our great leader Moses. How do I lead a nation who beside God, have sworn allegiance to Moses? Moses’ DNA literally flows through Israel. Will they not question my legitimacy?
It is one thing to go fasting and praying with Moses for forty days, it’s another thing to suddenly be in charge of a whole nation. I have spent years in Moses’ shadows that I think the spotlight might blind me. Do I even know who I am or what I am capable of outside Moses? I feel so vulnerable. All my fears and insecurities are quickly floating to the surface and threatening to drown me.
Can I really do this? I’m not as spiritual as Moses and I definitely can’t claim to have God on speed dial like he does.
Haaannnggg on a minute! What’s the worst thing that could happen if I fail? I have to believe that God has been preparing me for this by letting me shadow a great leader like Moses. It’d be a great shame if I let my insecurity rob me of this great opportunity. Rather than mope around, I’ll go spend whatever little time Moses has left glued to his coat-tails so I can keep gleaning from his wisdom.
If God says I am the right man for the job, then I guess I am.
The People’s Perspective
Hmm…Joshua seems nice; he’s young, charismatic but can we really trust him? These young ministers can be slippery snake oil salesmen. Will he keep the standards or dismantle everything Pa Moses has built over the years? Joshua wasn’t even born when the Red Sea parted; he doesn’t have a clue about what we have been through and what is at stake here.
Moses was a full-time leader – never took a break and we could call on him anytime! Would we have the same access to Joshua? Can we trust this ‘microwave’ generation of leaders to be committed and have the spiritual and mental stamina it takes to lead a great nation like ours. This is a definitive and nerve racking moment in our history. If only God had let us put the decision to a vote; maybe we could have chosen someone else.
The only leader we’ve ever known is dying, leaving us with an unknown novice to lead us to an unknown land with giants. There are just too many variables at play here. God, surely you can just spare us another year with Moses just until he leads us into Canaan and then you can take him. Is that too much to ask, God?
The simple purpose behind this re-imagination of the transition of leadership in Israel is to illustrate the point that transitions are a very scary and nerve wracking experience. Everyone is nervous – including the incumbent veteran. All parties involved are suddenly faced with a series of ‘what ifs’ as the change of guard looms.
If you have lost a precious thing/job/relationship/loved one, you’ll be familiar with the dreaded sense of ‘what if’ as you do your best to adjust to the ‘new normal’. How do I carry on and manage the transition from being married to widowed? From being employed to jobless, single to married…and the list goes on. How do we carry on without the comfort of the familiar, away from what we thought defined us.
Only the voice of God could calm the nerves of Moses, Joshua and the people. That is the only constant when everything is in flux. The world is attempting to transition from stringent lockdown to a post lockdown scenario and I must tell you nervousness abounds. As excited as we are to possess Canaan and go back to our normal pre-Corona lives, a nagging voice in the back of our minds asks us, “what if there is a second wave? Can you really trust these leaders?”
The definitive factor that made sure the transition (though fraught with tension) was not aborted were the words God whispered in Joshua’s ears; “be strong and of good courage…He will be with you, He will not leave you not forsake you; do not fear or be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:6,8).
Moses’ insecurities could have caused him to create all sorts of problems for the President-elect, Joshua. He could have kicked off big time and fuel fires of civil unrest to disorientate Joshua and assert his superiority as ‘the Moses who speaks to God face to face’, but he didn’t. Joshua could have frozen in fear and refuse to come out of the shadows even though he was the warrior Israel would need in the next phase of their journey.
Change is scary but don’t let it unleash the worst in you. Be gracious and hold on to the one thing no transition can take from you, the voice (friendship) of God. Wrapped in what seems like a threatening unknown is an opportunity to grow and do things differently. Wrapped in the scrawny 40something year old Joshua is the warrior who will later boldly command the sun to stand still.
Wrapped in the painful package called Covid-19 are opportunities to reflect, change and re-strategise. Don’t miss it.
Whether you are the departing leader, incoming leader or observant citizen waiting with bated breath to see what ensues, remember this: “for this great God is [your] God forever and ever. He will be [your] guide until [you] die” (Psalm 48:14 TLB).
Seasons come, seasons go but God remains firmly on your side. Until you die.