Numbers 27:12-22, Deuteronomy 31:1-23, Proverbs 15:18–29
A relay race requires timing and teamwork. As the baton carrier approaches the next runner, that runner must start running. The two must match stride and pace so that the baton can be handed-off smoothly. Rarely will a relay team just start off, even if all are excellent runners. As a team, they have to know each others’ style, pace, and rhythm to allow for the smooth transfer. Joshua had first been a warrior. Eventually, he became Moses’ assistant and was usually with him. He supported and defended Moses. He grew from a follower to a leader. Once the wilderness journey was over, it was time for Moses to relinquish authority. Though Joshua was a ready and available choice, that does not mean he was the right choice. Joshua may have even been Moses’ choice. Moses, however, asked God to select the leader that would succeed Moses.
When we look to hand off a project or dream that we have spent time, heart, energy, pouring our lives into it, we want to make sure it lives on. We can often find ourselves choosing a person that at the time of succession is the right person, but in the end, is the wrong person. Our emotions and connections can guide us in choosing the wrong person. When it comes to spiritual and other things of importance, turning outside of ourselves is never foolish or weak. In fact, when it comes to truly important things, relying on ourselves is foolish and a sign of insecurity (weakness).
Moses knew that while he was unable to continue to lead these people, they still needed a leader. As God was the one who called him in the desert to save the people of Israel, it makes perfect sense for him to look to God for the next leader. There is always a risk, however, leaving it to God. You may not get your way. Moses was probably relieved that Joshua was chosen. Joshua had years of experience walking with Moses, and now the baton could be passed well from one leader to the next. Moses commissioned Joshua as God commanded. It is here that the runners are running together, with one handing off the baton. Yet, they are still together, going in the same direction, at the same pace.
After more formation of the community with rules and practices are delivered, Moses begins his final farewell. All of Deuteronomy is a long good-bye.
Joshua is once again brought before the community for the transition of leadership. The first was the commission. Joshua may have spent many years with Moses as his aide (perhaps even thinking about leadership). Then Joshua became the designated successor. When that occurred, Joshua had to learn to become the leader he would be. No longer could he hide (so to speak) behind Moses’ robes as an aide (not that Joshua seems to have been the type). The reality of what was going to happen hit. Now, this time his presence in front was going from commissioned leader to actual leader. Moses was now the emeritus (honorary) leader, and Joshua the true leader of the Israelites.
Moses tells Joshua to “be strong and courageous.” This is part of a reminder to Joshua to continue to be what he was when he was young, especially now that he (Joshua) is responsible. The final verse (23) has God commissioning Joshua. Again, God is doing the assigning. Also, God, too, tells Joshua to “be strong and courageous.” Go, Joshua, take the mantle of your mentor and lead my people into the Promised Land.
1) Often who follows us is as important as what we gave them to carry. What are you handing off to those who follow? Who are you deliberately teaching/leading to follow?
2) Joshua is effectively commissioned 3 times. Why is it important to see each of these 3 times as foundational to transition, change, and growth?
3) Have you ever seen a relay go badly? In a race, that can rarely be recovered. Life doesn’t work that way (usually). How can we prepare for a bad relay, and what can we do to help it not happen?
FD) Big life changes can be hard and scary. This change was big for Joshua, and probably scary. What does “be strong and courageous” mean to you?