Transition of leadership
Numbers 27: Set a man over this community to lead them.
The twenty-seventh chapter of Numbers feels a bit out of place. After it we get back to the details of the law and descriptions of battles fought by the Israelites on their wilderness journey. This chapter, though, is about dividing up the land once they arrive in Canaan and here in this passage we read of the mantle of leadership being passed from Moses to Joshua. This doesn’t diminish the story any, but it’s interesting that it feels as though we’re peeking ahead a bit. The Lord tells Aaron and Moses that the sun is setting on their lives. Because of their behavior at Meribeth they won’t enter into the Promised Land. The primary concern of Moses at this point is not that he’ll not set foot in Canaan but is rather that a new leader will have to be chosen. The natural selection for this job is the one the Lord makes. Joshua, an assistant of Moses will take up the responsibility of, and be granted the gifts for, leadership. A new generation will possess Canaan and their leader will be from that generation. This transition of power is one of the things that work right for the people of Israel. There’s no stubborn holding on by Moses (something I’m impressed with, considering he’s been in charge for forty years) and there’s no coop from Joshua. The people accept the change without dividing up into the “Moses did it better” and the “Joshua’s our guy” camps. I’m convinced that this is how things are supposed to work in the Kingdom of God. I also understand that it’s harder than it looks. It takes careful, intentional, grace-filled effort for one leader to step down and another to step up. When it works, as it does in this passage, it’s a beautiful thing.
Take Away: During times of transition we need a double portion of God’s grace.
Turning the page
Exodus 1: A new king came to power in Egypt who didn’t know Joseph.
Joseph lives to be 110 years old and when he dies he’s honored as a great hero in Egypt. Not only did he save Egypt from the impact of a horrible famine but in so doing, he consolidated the power of Pharaoh. His family settles within the borders of Egypt in the land of Goshen and they prosper too, especially in number. Less than 100 made the journey to Egypt, but now they number in the thousands. I’ve turned the page from Genesis to Exodus and traveled through time — over 300 years. Things are so different that it takes me awhile to get my bearings. The descendants of Jacob, also known as Israel, now nearly outnumber the Egyptians and they, who came freely to Egypt, are now enslaved there. No one’s talking about Joseph and the miracles associated with his life – his story is forgotten. The dramatic change of fortunes for the people of Israel serves as a reminder that things do, indeed, change. It’s true for political figures who can watch their popularity go from high to low or for investors who can watch the value of their investments nose dive or for us individually who can see an overnight change of status. As I begin reading Exodus I’m reminded of this. However, I’m also reminded of something else. The main figure in the story is unchanged. God is still at work here. In my life the Lord is my firm foundation. “All other ground is sinking sand.”
Take Away: Life has plenty of ups and downs, some more dramatic than others, however, in the face of all the uncertainty the Lord remains our firm foundation.
Acts 18: Paul had finally had it with them and gave it up as a bad job.
Paul spends a lot of time in Corinth, likely over two years. In the beginning he focuses his ministry on the Jews living there and has some success. However, others become more and more entrenched in their rejection of his message. At some point he decides there are more productive ways to minister in the Name of Jesus and ends up next door to the Jews’ meeting place at the home of Titius Justus. There Paul sets up shop for at least 18 months, preaching about Jesus and establishing a church in Corinth. After working primarily with the Jews Paul realizes that continuing to do so is not a profitable use of his time and energy. In his case, there’s a better place right next door. How often do we get so locked into a certain way and place that we continue to try to ride a horse that’s long dead? As the truism goes: “when the horse is dead it’s time to dismount.” Some churches are still trying to do things the way they were done in 1950 and they wonder why what worked so well then no longer packs any punch today. They blame others who aren’t on board for not being spiritual enough or yield to living in a defeated shadow of yesterday. Paul decides that continuing to do what he has been doing is no longer effective so he changes his approach, opening the way for a long and productive ministry. His message remains the same, but his method is upgraded. The mission is permanent but the method is fluid.
Take Away: We must not confuse the message with some transitory method.