The Passage of Authority
Joshua Appointed Moses’ Successor
The Lord said to Moses, “Go up this mountain of the Abarim range, and see the land that I have given to the Israelites. When you have seen it, you also shall be gathered to your people, as your brother Aaron was, because you rebelled against my word in the wilderness of Zin when the congregation quarreled with me. You did not show my holiness before their eyes at the waters.” (These are the waters of Meribath-kadesh in the wilderness of Zin.)
Jesus’ Authority Is Questioned
Again they came to Jerusalem. As he was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to him and said, “By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them?” Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin? Answer me.” They argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But shall we say, ‘Of human origin’?”—they were afraid of the crowd, for all regarded John as truly a prophet. So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”
Moses had been raised in the court of Pharaoh, learned to be a shepherd in the wilderness, and brought the Hebrew people the Law from God’s own voice and hand. No one was going to be able to replace him as a leader with those kinds of experiences and qualifications. Joshua was being raised up to be a good leader, but he was going to be a different kind of leader for a different chapter in the story of the Hebrew people.
There needed to be some kind of connection though. It would have been a very short chapter if Joshua had not followed the same God as Moses. Both Joshua and/or the entire people would have been overwhelmed and overrun without the God that Moses showed them and followed through the Red Sea, as well as 40 years through the wilderness. It was not simply the unique gifts of courage that Joshua had either. It was the effective way that Moses passed on the torch of leadership, which contained the values Moses had learned from God Himself. If Moses had chosen to stay on the pedestal that the people put Him on, their would not have been a second generation of the Israelites. They would have abandoned the vision and mission of being a “royal priesthood” and a “holy nation” and simply become Moabites, Amalekites, or Philistines instead. It would have been easier for them to do so.
So what were those values that Moses passed on to Joshua? The first one and perhaps the most important one was the willingness to ask God for help in anything and everything. Neither Moses, nor Joshua, were afraid to go face to face with God, even though everyone else was. They did it not out of privilege, but because they were lost without Him. They knew they desperately needed God in order to do anything.
Secondly, they trusted God’s advice (except when emotion took over and they tried to make things up themselves). Moses and Joshua valued God’s leadership over them and they let God lead.**
Joshua, it appears, had little trouble being accepted as a leader of the Hebrew people. Yet somehow Jesus, his New Testament namesake, had more challenge. Why would the Israelites have an easier time following Joshua than Jesus? Because Jesus did not have the same values as the people He was sent to save. Joshua, as well as the people he led wanted land, food, water, and shelter to start a new life in. He was not terribly picky as to where it would be either. The people in the time of Jesus were looking for similar things, although they were pickier about what location they wanted to be in… but Jesus did not come to give them land, food, water, or a place to make a new home in. He came to transform the world around us by changing us first.
One of the biggest lessons Jesus taught was forgiveness, and he taught that the whole concept of forgiveness breaks down if we want forgiveness ourselves, but refuse to forgive others. No one wanted to hear that, because, in all truth, they did not really value forgiveness. They, and we, all too often desire license to sin, excuse for our sin, and most importantly a way out of the consequences of sin, but we don’t want to stop sinning. We certainly do not want to let others get by with sinning against us, especially if we are not given the same leniency.
The real work of leadership, the kind that outlasts us, is the passing on of values. Joshua had it a little easier than Moses… and both had it easier than Jesus. If we are going to lead in the name of Christ though, we have to be sure we have received His values and are passing them on to those we lead.
What are the values of Jesus?
How are you sharing and passing them on to others around you?