I’m a really big fan of Moses.
His life is so long and filled with so many different adventures that it feels like a 10-part book series. Not only is he hidden as a baby from the Pharaoh of Egypt, but then he gets found by an Egyptian princess and his own mother is hired to take care of him. And then he tries to help a Hebrew slave and ends up killing an Egyptian and fleeing the wrath of Pharaoh. And then he becomes a shepherd for several decades and encounters God in a burning bush. And then he goes back to Egypt and has an epic showdown with the Pharaoh, complete with ten very intense plagues. And then there’s the parting of the Red Sea, and then there’s bread from heaven, and then there’s impossible battles…forty more years….lots of Israelite complaining…
This is one person’s life! Isn’t that wild?
Ever since the burning bush, I’m sure he had these words echoing in his mind: “I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land…flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:17). The Promised Land. They were always headed there, getting closer every day.
It was even within reach, but then the Israelites refused to trust God to give it to them, so they were made to wander in the desert another forty years. Forty. Years. All that time, Moses kept faithfully guiding them, serving them, praying for them, interceding for them, and patiently loving them.
And then, during these added forty years of wandering, Moses makes a mistake: he speaks out in anger and seems to confirm to the Israelite nation that it’s actually he who has been leading them this whole time instead of God (Numbers 20:10). He fails the test. He’s no longer allowed to go into the Promised Land (Numbers 10:12).
My heart aches with these verses. I know what it’s like to speak out of passion and ruin something and regret it so deeply but the words already took effect. Another reason to love Moses: he doesn’t make excuses. He doesn’t blame the people for his impatience. He takes responsibility and, with it, the consequences.
He continues to lead the children of Israel, knowing that he is guiding them towards a reward that he will have no part in. He continues to intercede for them (Numbers 21:7), organize them (Numbers 26:2), and seek wisdom from God for them (Numbers 27:5).
Then there’s another test, which to me may have been the hardest of all: God tells him to transfer his leadership, his position, to someone else (Numbers 27:18). Never mind that it’s Joshua, someone who has faithfully stood by Moses through the rebellion of many. It’s still someone else. This someone else is going to get the reward, the promised land, the ending of all that Moses has worked towards for decades upon decades of hard work. Not only does God tell Moses to transfer his leadership; He tells Moses to affirm Joshua’s leadership in the eyes of all of Israel.
Humanly speaking, Moses has plenty of good reasons to not help Joshua. Moses had to earn the people’s respect the hard way, so why should Joshua have it easy? Moses could’ve spread rumors, complaints, or even just understandable sighs about Joshua taking the last leg of the journey. He could have done so many little things to undermine his successor, make his life difficult, or just to give him an added taste of what he’d been going through for so long.
But he didn’t. Instead, “Moses did as the Lord commanded him. He took Joshua and made him stand before Eleazer the priest and the whole congregation, and he laid his hands on him and commissioned him as the Lord directed through Moses.” (Numbers 27:22-23)
Such simple, humble obedience.
Moses was not focused on getting the glory. He didn’t clamor for recognition of his complete life’s work. He obeyed God. He passed on his leadership. He admonished, reminded, led, and encouraged the people.
I want to be like Moses. I want to be indifferent to my part in the story God is writing as long as I’m in it, as long as I’m in Him. I want to be content. I want to step out of the way for others to lead well and to only use my influence to affirm and encourage them. Lord, may it be so.