Then God commanded Joshua son of Nun saying, “Be strong. Take courage. You will lead the People of Israel into the land I promised to give them. And I’ll be right there with you.” Deuteronomy 31:23 (MSG)
The company that my partner and I now lead was founded and led for twenty years by the man whose name is still on the company. The general plan of succession had been well established for many years and the actual period of succession had relatively few problems in comparison to other companies with which I’m familiar. This did not, however, mean that there were no issues. For everyone involved in our small firm there was a period in which emotions ran high, even if they ran high under the surface. I can still remember grappling with feelings of anxiety, fear, and stress as everything changed.
Whether it happens in family, church, business, or community, change always creates all sorts of anxiety on a system. There are many kinds of change, but the change from a strong and instrumental leader to his or her successor can be among the most critical. Moses was not only a great leader, he was the leader for his people. While Aaron, and later Joshua, had been by Moses side for many years, it was Moses who led the people out of Egypt. It was Moses who stood up to Pharaoh. It was Moses who led the people through the Red Sea. It was Moses who met with God on top of the mountain. It was Moses through whom God had given the law. It was Moses who carried the staff. It was Moses who spoke with God’s authority. Now, at the most climactic moment since leaving Egypt, the people are standing at the river getting ready for the monumental task of entering and taking the Promised Land. For the first time in over forty years they will face a task without Moses. Moses is stepping down.
Imagine trying to step into those shoes.
It is no wonder that both God and Moses continue to remind Joshua and the people over and over again to be “strong and courageous.” The important piece of this commonly repeated encouragement is not the “strong and courageous” part, but the tag at the end: “I’ll be right there with you.” Moses may die, but the same God who led and empowered Moses would be right there to lead and empower Joshua. Tremendous change would take place in the leadership ranks, but God was the true leader of the nation – not Moses. And, God wasn’t going anywhere.
In times of profound change, when I’m feeling the stress and anxiety of things shifting all around me, it is good to know that God is a solid rock who isn’t changing and isn’t going anywhere.