Joshua to Succeed Moses: Numbers 27

12 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go up this mountain in the Abarim Range and see the land I have given the Israelites. 13 After you have seen it, you too will be gathered to your people, as your brother Aaron was, 14 for when the community rebelled at the waters in the Desert of Zin, both of you disobeyed my command to honor me as holy before their eyes.” (These were the waters of Meribah Kadesh, in the Desert of Zin.) 15 Moses said to the LORD, 16 “May the LORD, the God who gives breath to all living things, appoint someone over this community 17 to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the LORD’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd.” 18 So the LORD said to Moses, “Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit of leadership,[a] and lay your hand on him. 19 Have him stand before Eleazar the priest and the entire assembly and commission him in their presence. 20 Give him some of your authority so the whole Israelite community will obey him. 21 He is to stand before Eleazar the priest, who will obtain decisions for him by inquiring of the Urim before the LORD. At his command he and the entire community of the Israelites will go out, and at his command they will come in.” 22 Moses did as the LORD commanded him. He took Joshua and had him stand before Eleazar the priest and the whole assembly. 23 Then he laid his hands on him and commissioned him, as the LORD instructed through Moses.

1. This is perhaps the most difficult time in the life of a new organization – transition to new leadership. Drucker: “Succession has always been the ultimate test of any top management and the ultimate test of any institution.”

75% of all family businesses do not make it to the third generation
58% of nonprofit chief executives and their boards had not discussed succession – even though 40% of the CEO’s intended to leave their job within two years. Organizations, large and small, are equally challenged and equally unprepared for leadership changes.

Drucker: True greatness is the leader who himself has strength and leaves behind strength.

2. What was the need for a transition?

It was not Moses’ age – but his anger – that would keep him from entering the Promised Land. Anger that detracted from his trust of God.

Water From the Rock: Numbers 20:1-12:

1 In the first month the whole Israelite community arrived at the Desert of Zin, and they stayed at Kadesh. There Miriam died and was buried. 2 Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. 3 They quarreled with Moses and said, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the LORD! 4 Why did you bring the LORD’s community into this wilderness, that we and our livestock should die here? 5 Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!” 6 Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the tent of meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the LORD appeared to them. 7 The LORD said to Moses, 8 “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.” 9 So Moses took the staff from the LORD’s presence, just as he commanded him. 10 He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. 12 But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”

Moses had been plagued with a fiery temper all his life:
Exodus 2 – killing the Egyptian
Exodus 8 – anger with Pharoah
Exodus 32 – anger at idolatry and the golden calf
Numbers 11 – anger at grumbling and whining
Numbers 16 – anger at Korah’s rebellion
Numbers 20 – striking the rock is the final in a series of outbursts

The relationship of the leader to the people needed to change in the next generation. The task was different. Moses never wanted to lead. He was always in a conflict with them and always torn between saving them and destroying them. He would plead with God for them and then turn around and tell God to give up on them.

3. The Forbes article by Stephen Miles on Succession Planning: How To Do It Right

Stephen Miles has written four basic steps for succession planning. How can we apply those to this passage?

a. Fully engage the stakeholders. “You need a fresh look at the company by a board that is engaged and leading the process year in and year out, not just when a crisis requires it to spring into action.” Israel knew for years that Moses was not going to enter the Promised Land – ever since he struck the rock years ago. (Numbers 20) This transition was not a surprise.
b. Assess your internal candidates. All the internal candidates except Joshua and Caleb had been killed in the rebellion of Korah.
c. Conduct a stress test and simulation. Joshua had been fighting battles and accompanying Moses into stressful situations since he was a youth.
d. On-board the successor. “The most neglected step when it comes to succession planning is preparing for what happens after the successor is named. In this effort, directors have to remember that the search for a “ready now” candidate is a fool’s errand.” Joshua has been prepared for years. Not only that, but Moses gave him “a portion of his authority” and created a leadership team with Eleazar. Joshua was not the sole leader.

4. What was the situation Moses described to Joshua?

24 After Moses finished writing in a book the words of this law from beginning to end, 25 he gave this command to the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD: 26 “Take this Book of the Law and place it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God. There it will remain as a witness against you. 27 For I know how rebellious and stiff-necked you are. If you have been rebellious against the LORD while I am still alive and with you, how much more will you rebel after I die! 28 Assemble before me all the elders of your tribes and all your officials, so that I can speak these words in their hearing and call the heavens and the earth to testify against them. 29 For I know that after my death you are sure to become utterly corrupt and to turn from the way I have commanded you. In days to come, disaster will fall on you because you will do evil in the sight of the LORD and arouse his anger by what your hands have made.”

It was a description of the relationship Moses had with the people for his entire life. There had been conflict and misunderstanding from the very beginning. The people thought he wanted to “lord it over them” and he saw them as stiff-necked and rebellious. Look at their response to his killing the Egyptian. Look at their issue with him during Korah’s rebellion. As with most relationships like this they were both right.

Farewell speeches tell us a great deal about leaders. Read Paul’s in Acts 20:25-35

25 “Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. 26 Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. 27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God,[a] which he bought with his own blood.[b] 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.
32 “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. 34 You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

Both Paul and Moses at the end were concerned about the same things all their lives: Moses with the people destroying themselves through their own corruption and Paul with false teachers coming in and destroying the young church.

5. But look at the record of Joshua’s leadership following the death of Moses. At the beginning there is a steady repetition of “fear not” and “do not be afraid” but there are no instances of his being afraid. Everyone is rightfully concerned with his ability to fill the shoes of Moses but it turns out – as it often does – that Joshua is a different type of leader altogether and his relationship with the people is different as well.

His actual leadership is far different from that of Moses. There is not only no fear but no conflict with the people, no anger, no wavering or complaining to God about his role, no push back from the people about his “lording it over them”, no rebellions on the part of the people or his own family – like Moses. Nothing, really, but success in a very difficult situation – conquering enemies and dividing up the land between the tribes. His partnership with Eleazar lasts for a lifetime as they both die at the same time.

Look at his farewell speech: The people actually recommit themselves to God.

14 “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15 But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” 16 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the LORD to serve other gods! 17 It was the LORD our God himself who brought us and our parents up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled. 18 And the LORD drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the LORD, because he is our God.” 19 Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the LORD. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. 20 If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.” 21 But the people said to Joshua, “No! We will serve the LORD.” 22 Then Joshua said, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the LORD.” “Yes, we are witnesses,” they replied. 23 “Now then,” said Joshua, “throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.” 24 And the people said to Joshua, “We will serve the LORD our God and obey him.” 25 On that day Joshua made a covenant for the people, and there at Shechem he reaffirmed for them decrees and laws. 26 And Joshua recorded these things in the Book of the Law of God. Then he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak near the holy place of the LORD. 27 “See!” he said to all the people. “This stone will be a witness against us. It has heard all the words the LORD has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God.” 28 Then Joshua dismissed the people, each to their own inheritance.

6. In the end, it is more difficult to follow Joshua than Moses. Read Judges 2:6-13:

6 And when Joshua had let the people go, the children of Israel went every man unto his inheritance to possess the land. 7 And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the LORD, that he did for Israel. 8 And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being an hundred and ten years old. 9 And they buried him in the border of his inheritance in Timnathheres, in the mount of Ephraim, on the north side of the hill Gaash. 10 And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel. 11 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim: 12 And they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger. 13 And they forsook the LORD, and served Baal and Ashtaroth.

So…in the third generation they fail and they continue to fail during the whole period of the judges until the time of Samuel. It’s a true story of leadership transition for all of us who find ourselves in similar situations.

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