Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Mar 22 2019 - Numbers 27:12-23 – Joshua appointed as Moses' successor

Today we come to the last of our readings in the Book of Numbers and to the end of Moses' leadership of the Israelites.

You will remember that Moses had lost his temper with the Israelites who were complaining over a lack of water. Instead of speaking to a rock as God had commanded, he had struck it twice with the staff of God to obtain the water God promised to provide. The disobedience of the Israelites had resulted in them being unable to enter the Promised Land; all the adults who had been rescued from Egypt – with two exceptions – ended up dying in the desert. Because of Moses' disobedience, he also will die without entering the Promised Land, though he is permitted to look at the land from a nearby mountaintop.

There are many instances of notable servants of God who were honoured and commended by God but who, towards the end of their lives, fell away tragically. Remember Noah, Moses, David and Solomon. They stand as salutary lessons to us. They remind us of the need to go on running the race set before us and to finish well and finish strong.

It must have been a great disappointment to Moses on the borders of the Promised Land to be reminded of his rebellion and its cost. He was aware that, at least at that moment in the desert, he had failed to lead the people of God as he should. He had become like them in his anger with the Lord rather than setting them an example of unfailing obedience. So, as he faces his death, his great concern is that another leader might be found for the people of God. He wants someone who will be a faithful shepherd of the Israelites.

God tells Moses that Joshua, son of Nun is the man he has chosen to succeed Moses as leader of the Israelites. Joshua had been the leader of the Israelite army when they had defeated the Amalekites. He had also been Moses' assistant (Exodus 24:13), tutored in the task of leadership by Moses himself. Joshua was also one of the explorers of the Promised Land. He and Caleb were the only explorers who returned urging the Israelites to go in and possess the land; God had promised it to them and he would give it to them. Joshua seems to be the ideal successor to Moses.

But if Moses had failed in some areas of leadership, how could Joshua hope to live up to the task? It will only be by the help and enabling of the Spirit of God.

"Jesus" is the Greek version of the name "Joshua". Joshua, by God's help, did a good job leading the people of God. But we have a far greater Joshua. Jesus possesses the fulness of God's Spirit. He never rebelled against God but was always perfectly obedient to his heavenly Father, finishing the work entrusted to him by the Father and finishing well. In his earthly ministry he had compassion on the crowds because they were like "sheep without a shepherd" (Matthew 9:36, cf. Numbers 27:17). He came to seek and to save these lost sheep; he even laid down his life for them.

There is no-one else like Jesus. He alone is able to be a faithful shepherd over all whom the Father has entrusted to his care. He will not permit any of them to be snatched from his hand or to be lost but will bring them each one into the inheritance God has promised them. We shall not simply gaze at it from afar, we will enter it in triumph through Christ who has gone to prepare a place for us.

Father God, we thank you for the Lord Jesus, the Good Shepherd of the sheep. Left to ourselves we would soon stray away from you. Help us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and, strengthened by your Spirit, to go on following and serving him. Use us to bring many others into the great flock of the people of God.

Peter Misselbrook