Passing the Baton

Deut. 31: 1-8

Moses was a great leader. 

A man of remarkable courage and perseverance. Went before the Pharoah and demanded that his people be let go from their slavery – but Pharoah had a hard heart and it took a series of 10 calamaties including the final one where the first born sons died before he relented.

Took about 2 million people on a 40 year cross country tour of the desert – long, contentious and dangerous trip. He was the original recipient of the 10 commandments.  He was the unquestioned leader of his people. He is the major character in the book of Deuteronomy. 

Visited often with the Lord seeking direction for his people and then leading them through some difficult odds to finally reach the Promised land.

For forty years now, Israel had been following the only leader that they had ever known. But they are getting ready to go somewhere that he could not go.

After hearing the word of the Lord, he stood before his people and said these words:   Deut. 31: 1-8 

Deuteronomy 31

Joshua to Succeed Moses
1 Then Moses went out and spoke these words to all Israel: 2 “I am now a hundred and twenty years old and I am no longer able to lead you. The LORD has said to me, ‘You shall not cross the Jordan.’ 3 The LORD your God himself will cross over ahead of you. He will destroy these nations before you, and you will take possession of their land. Joshua also will cross over ahead of you, as the LORD said. 4 And the LORD will do to them what he did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, whom he destroyed along with their land. 5 The LORD will deliver them to you, and you must do to them all that I have commanded you. 6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” 7 Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the LORD swore to their ancestors to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. 8 The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

With the promised land in sight, the land they were to inherit before them, Moses was not permitted by God to go with them. I wonder how he felt.

Must have been a bitter disappointment – you can envision him standing on Mt. Nebo – looking across at the land of milk and honey – remembering the babies that had been born over the past 40 years, the ones he had married and buried, the times of crisis they had come through – now it was over.  The Lord says:  you don’t get to cross over Moses. 

There are some lessons here for us:

It tells us something about Moses

Moses wasn’t perfect:  32: 51 God told Moses: I can’t let you go in to the promised land because you broke faith with me; didn’t uphold my holiness – in other words you tried to take the glory due me and attribute it to yourself – when I told you speak to the rock; you struck it so it would appear that it was you who had the power and not God. 

Moses didn’t feel sorry for himself

It is easy for us when we don’t get our way to try to find people who will be on our side and feel sorry for us – he didn’t gather people around him who said   o poor moses – I feel sorry for you. 

It might have been tempting for Moses to blame other people – to cry out to God – this isn’t fair.  To plead with God to change his mind but he didn’t.  Do you know what he did? 

          Moses blesses God and others

          32:3  blessed the Lord  read 3-4 and he chastised those who were disobedient and warned them to follow God.   

          Chapter 33 he goes before God and brings down blessings not on himself but on his people. 

It tells something about God   vs. 3

The Lord himself will cross over ahead of you.

Isn’t it comforting to know that no matter what challenges we face, God goes before us. 

Viet Nam   patrols that went out to seek the viet cong   try to discover their positions  the leader of that group was called the point man – it was the most dangerous position in the army – first one the enemy would see – step on a mine – run into an ambush 

This verse tells us:  God is our point man – goes before us clearing the way – identifying the position of the enemy – making it safe for us to follow.

Vs. 3  God gives us victories it says he will destroy those nations already in Israel and you will get the spoils of the victory.  God does the work – we get the benefits.  Where else can you find that?

In the Nt we see the same concept applied to Jesus – he does the work – goes to the cross – pays the penalty for our sins and when we believe in him we get the benefits.

Vs. 6 tells us God will never leave you nor forsake you

No matter what you go through in life – some things will be very hard – God will be with you.  He reaffirms that in Hebrews lest we forget it.

It tells us something about ourselves.  Vs. 5-6

          We tend to fear

You can imagine that this was a fearful thing for the people of Israel – the 12 spies had returned to tell them :  these are frightening people – huge people – well armed – we don’t stand a chance.   Now they are being told to advance and conquer them.

So what is our part in this process:  vs. 5: Do what I ask you to do.  It is a persistent theme of scripture.  Follow me Jesus says:  walk in my ways   be obedient 

Usually we fear the things we don’t see more than the things we see.  In childhood, we fear the dark – unseen ghosts and boogie men out there somewhere.

As adults we sometimes fear the loss of our job; uncertain health, financial disaster. 

Fear can make us do crazy things; Fear paralyzes us – we can’t think straight – nerves get all jangled up – make poor decisions   our fear becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.

It takes courage to step out in faith – to face the enemy – to walk into the future

Life is very uncertain – God says: if you want to navigate safely through life, you can’t do without me.  Not only do we tend to fear:

          We tend to forget

early in this trip – when Moses left for a few days to talk with god – they thought he wasn’t going to come back – began to worship the wrongs gods – took gold fashioned new gods to replace Jehovah. 

Earlier in this service:  we took communion

It says something about Joshua vs. 7-8

Moses passes the baton of leadership to Joshua.  He repeats what he has just told the people because Joshua is probably feeling pretty inadequate at this time.

Just a few chapters later as we begin the book of Joshua – God speaks to him with the same message he receives from Moses:  be strong   courageous  I’m not going to leave you nor forsake you. 

Joshua recognized he needed God’s help

When the leader has the blessing and word of God he can speak with conviction and boldness knowing it is not his words but God’s words that he is passing on to his people.

God reaffirmed his goals with Joshua (vs. 7), our goals are the same as we had in the desert.  We’re going to take the land God provides for us – occupy it – worship God – raise our children in the faith – going to be a mighty nation.  And through us all of the world will be blessed – that fulfillment came later as Jesus was born to the tribe of Judah.


It says something about leadership

One minute film clip about team leadership.

In a team, group or organization, Leadership is always temporary 

For any organization to be successful, you have to keep passing the baton of leadership on to the next generation.

True in the business world:  Bill Gates doesn’t run Microsoft anymore – Jack Welch doesn’t run GE

True in the sports world:  Brett Favre had to pass the baton to Aaron Rodgers to lead the Packers.

True in politics:  had some great Presidents – only for a while – then they had to pass on the mantle of leadership

True in the religious world:  Paul – Peter – the apostles had to pass the baton to the next generation – kept getting passed down until we received it.

Having said that:  no one is irreplaceable

Moses had been leading for 40 years, he was now 120 years old – time to pass the baton.

Sometimes we think we are – this company couldn’t exist without me.    This organization will fall apart if I leave   not so.  Only God is irreplaceable.        

One of my favorite verses is Phil. 4:19  “My God shall supply all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

 But lets remember the story of Moses and Joshua.  God is in control – he goes before us preparing the way and He will lead us to victory through Jesus Christ our Lord.