The long journey that had commenced with the first Passover in Egypt was coming to an end. The Midianites still had to be subdued, but Israel would shortly prepare to enter a new phase of their dealings with the Lord. Circumstances would be different from those of the past years, but there were enemies that had to be met, lessons to be learned, and further blessings yet to be enjoyed. As these new challenges were faced, the leader who had guided them and proven his worth was about to leave them. His years of service were almost over and the onerous burden of leading the people would fall on another man. Thus Moses is instructed, "Take thee Joshua and lay thine hand upon him".
As with Israel, so with assemblies today, leadership is a vital issue. Without it assemblies drift, with no clearly defined purpose and at times with little knowledge of the Word of God to guide the saints. Today, one of the great crying needs is for strong, spiritual, Scriptural leadership. There is an urgent need for young brethren to prepare themselves for this responsibility, and for older, spiritual men to nurture those who so do.
But what lessons can we learn from the man who led the next generation of Israel into Canaan. Note, first of all, that the choice would be no surprise. He was not a novice. Joshua had a long record that enabled Israel to have confidence in him. Forty years earlier he had led Israel to victory in the field of battle against the Amalekites (Ex 17.8-16), the first enemy to come against them after crossing the Red Sea. This was also the first mention of his name in Scripture, so Moses had observed how he conducted himself in his private life and had noted features that marked him out for leadership long before this was publicly acknowledged.
The second is that the choice was not based on family relationships. Moses did not turn to one of his own family. Joshua was not even a Levite, but was of the tribe of Ephraim. Family relationships should not be the basis of choice, but neither should such a relationship prevent recognition of true leaders.
The third feature is that Joshua had, since that victory, consistently lived in a way that was an example to others (Ex 24.13; 32.17; 33.11; Num 11.28; 14.6-9). With Caleb he urged the people to enter the land, prepared to go against the opinion of the majority when such a stand was necessary, yet not abandoning them when they refused. The record of both of these men is that they "wholly followed the Lord" (Num 32.12).
Assemblies today require competent, well-taught, mature overseers. Let young men take note of this need. To desire leadership (1 Tim 3.1) is not to seek "promotion" by being asked to "join the oversight". It is a sorry observation that there are not a few good overseers who are never asked to meet with those who take the place of overseers, but still they work to be a follower of the One who is the "Chief Shepherd".
The desire to serve the saints in any Scriptural capacity will drive the young believer to the study of the Bible. It impresses on the soul the need to listen to the teaching of the Word of God. Those who lead must be competent to teach and to have persuasions built on Scripture. This creates the desire to submit to and obey the Word of God. They do not vacillate but hold firm to teaching that is not based on tradition but on truth. Shepherding is not for a novice. It involves sacrifice of time and resources. It is demanding; worries and difficulties are promised; misunderstanding at times is guaranteed.
The Lord, however, takes note of those who serve His saints. Let young believers beware. The years can be frittered away pursuing the tinsel nothings of money, possessions, status symbols, and ease, or they can be spent pursuing what is of eternal value. Do not live in such a way that you gather all that your ambition sought materially, yet deep down, when it is too late to make amends, you realise that it is much, much less than second best. So live that your "profiting may appear to all" (1 Tim 4.15). Until the Lord comes may those who are young make each day one of sound preparation for the responsibilities of tomorrow.