Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss says even if you don’t feel qualified, you have an assignment from the Lord.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: The older women are to teach the younger women how to walk with God, how to love their husbands, how to love their children, how to be pure and keepers at home. That’s a task as we get older—we have a responsibility to take the baton and then to pass it on to the next generation.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, March 23.

God has given you some type of education, life experience, and expertise. Learn how to pass those gifts on to other women who need your input in their lives. Nancy’s continuing in the series Lessons from the Life of Joshua (Part 4): Following God’s Lead to Lead.

Nancy: If you’ve ever watched a relay race, a track and field event in the Olympics, you know that sometimes there’d be four runners, for example. One will run the first leg and the second will run the next leg, and one of the most important things in a relay race is the hand-off or the exchange of the baton, passing it from one runner to the next. An entire team can be disqualified for the whole race by dropping the baton or by making an illegal exchange, somehow an improper baton exchange.

Moses—who had led the people of Israel for forty years through those years of the wilderness, right up to the Promised Land—understood the importance of the passing of the baton, the passing of leadership from his generation to the next, the choosing of a successor who would lead the Children of Israel into the Promised Land and would shepherd them in the next chapter of their lives. So this passing of the baton is something that he handled carefully and prayerfully.

I think Moses knew that his race wasn’t finished until he had successfully passed the baton on to the next generation, and so he asked God, as we saw in the last session, to appoint God’s choice for a leader to succeed Moses. We read in Numbers chapter 27, verse 18, at Moses’ request, “Lord, who should the man be?” The Lord said to Moses, “Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him.” In other words, “He’s My selection. He’s not Moses—he’s Joshua, but he’s the one I have chosen to lead the people into this next era.”

Now Joshua’s entire life, to this point (which is what we’ve been looking at over the last several weeks), had all been preparation for this moment. He had been learning. He had been following. He had been worshipping. He’d been faithful in private, and now the baton was being passed. There was a transition to his mature years when he would be the leader of God’s people. Through all these years, Joshua had been saying, “Yes,” to God, and now God put His hand on Joshua and appointed him to this new calling.

As we continue in Numbers chapter 27, we come to the first of two or three official commissioning ceremonies—private and public. It’s not clear whether there were two or three, but there were at least a couple of different commissioning ceremonies, and the first of those we read about in Numbers 27. The other one or two we read about in Deuteronomy chapter 32.

Looking at Numbers 27, verse 19, God says (concerning Joshua),

Make him stand before Eleazar the priest and all the congregation, and you shall commission him in their sight. You [Moses] shall invest him with some of your authority, that all the congregation of the people of Israel may obey. And he [Joshua] shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall inquire for him by the judgment of the Urim before the Lord (verses 19–21).

The Urim . . . it’s not clear in the Scripture exactly what that was, but we know it was a part of the high priest’s breastplate, part of the outfit that he wore, and it was a means of his receiving divine direction. We don’t know how God did that, but God provided this priest who, by means of the Urim, would receive direction for Joshua as the leader. Continuing in verse 21:

At [Joshua’s] word, [the people] shall go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he and all the people of Israel with him, the whole congregation. And Moses did as the Lord commanded him. He took Joshua and made him stand before Eleazar the priest and the whole congregation, and he laid his hands on him and commissioned him as the Lord directed through Moses (verses 21–23).

We’ve been talking about this transition from Moses’ leadership to the era when Joshua would be the leader, and this hand-off of the baton, this transition, was a very important aspect of Joshua becoming a leader.

So God directed Moses to commission Joshua in a public ceremony that involved a symbolic and spiritual transfer of authority and responsibility. It wasn’t just a transfer of the title. Anybody can have a title, but to have the authority and the responsibility that goes with that, that’s a serious thing. This was a public commissioning so that Joshua would know and the people would know that the authority and leadership of Moses is being vested in you, Joshua, as the next leader.

The ceremony took place before Eleazar the priest and all the congregation, according to the Scripture we just read. Now, who was Eleazar? You remember, he was the third son of Aaron. Aaron was Moses’ brother, so Eleazar was Moses’ nephew, and Eleazar’s two older brothers—you remember this—Nadab and Abihu had been struck down by the Lord for offering unauthorized fire before the Lord. (see Numbers chapter 3.)

So here comes the next brother. Don’t you think he had some fear of the Lord in him as a priest—like, “You better do what God says and you better not do more than what God says”? Eleazar and his brother Ithamar had continued to serve as priests before the Lord.

In Numbers 20, at God’s instruction, Eleazar had been appointed to succeed Aaron as the high priest, and then Aaron had died on the mountain. You read about that, again, in Numbers chapter 20. So Eleazar continued to serve in the role of high priest throughout the days of Joshua.

Both Eleazar and Joshua succeeded powerful, “successful,” well-known leaders, Moses and Aaron, and they were stepping into big shoes—both of them. They had to know that, but when it was time for Moses and Aaron to move on, as it always is time . . . there always comes a point when the leader who’s been around for years is called on, and someone new has to take his place. When it came time, God raised up these younger men to lead the new generation to the Promised Land and through the conquest of Canaan.

So Moses laid his hands on Joshua. He commissioned him, and he invested him with some of the authority that God had given him—you read that in verse 20. That suggests to me that perhaps there was a gradual transition. Moses hadn’t died yet. It wasn’t quite time—there’s this space, this period of time where the baton is being handed off, and this is the beginning of that hand-off of the baton.

So Moses invests in Joshua some of the authority that God had given to him, and I believe that the full investiture of that responsibility comes in Joshua, chapter 1—which we’ll look at in just a few days—where God says, “Now Moses my servant is dead; now you are the one to take the people and lead them into the Promised Land” (verse 2, paraphrased).

I see that Joshua did not take this position on himself, and I think that’s very important for us to remember. He did not put himself in this position. He didn’t campaign for it; he didn’t vie for it; he didn’t politic for it; he didn’t lobby for it. God raised him up, but God found a man who was prepared, who was tested and proven, a man who was available, a man who was ready to be used.

You want to serve the Lord and fulfill His purposes for your life? It’s not so important that you find a position. It’s important that you are faithful where God has put you and that you be prepared for whatever God has for you in the days ahead.

Because Joshua had not campaigned for this position but was called and appointed by God, the neat thing about that is that he was not left to fulfill this job on his own. He didn’t have to depend on his own natural abilities, his own natural wisdom, his own authority. God provided for him apart from his own resources all that was needed. God put His Spirit within Joshua. The supernatural power and presence of God was what he really needed to do this job, and that’s exactly what God gave him. He had to be thinking to himself, “Who, me? I’m not qualified for this. I’m not capable of this.”

Over the years, as I’ve read many biographies of Christians that God has used in significant ways, it’s a common song they sing: “Who, me, God? Use me?” Moses had done it there at the burning bush. “Lord, I’m not capable of doing this. I can’t do this.” When you know you can’t, but you know God’s called you, then you know that God will give you the grace and the equipment to do what He has called you to do.

So God instituted a system of checks and balances for Joshua, for his own protection and that of the young nation that Joshua was going to be leading. Joshua was not called to function independently. You see the role here of Eleazar the priest. He would be inquiring of the Lord and getting direction from God and would be telling that to Joshua. God would also speak to Joshua—we see that through the book of Joshua—and then Joshua would speak to the people.

So Joshua had a lot of resources that God supernaturally provided for him. He had the legacy that had been passed on to him from Moses. He had been anointed, appointed, and enabled by the Spirit—no limit to His power. He was building his ministry on the foundation of years of walking with God and seeing God at work, so he had cultivated a life of faith and faithfulness.

He was now going to be assisted by the guidance of the Lord in each particular situation he would face, and that guidance would be received from the Holy Spirit, from the Word of God—we’ll see that when we come to Joshua 1—and through the help of the high priest, who would inquire of the Lord for him.

So between all those resources—the indwelling Spirit, the transfer of authority from Moses, God’s guidance through the priest—Joshua had everything he needed to lead the congregation, and you have everything you need to fulfill exactly what God has called you to do.

I’ve told you many times on this program, and I’m just going to say it again, because it’s always true, that I find myself in this ministry over and over and over again saying, “Who, me? Lord, I cannot do this,” and God always reminds me that out of my weakness, His strength can be manifest.

That’s what gives God glory—not when people see our natural talents and abilities, and they say, “Oh what a great leader,”—but when they see our weakness and the power of God being displayed, and they say, “Oh what a great God. If God can do something in her life, if God can use her, then God maybe can do something in my life.”

I’ve been inspired over the years by the examples of great servants of the Lord who felt as I do—that they are weak and inadequate—but who ran to God and got grace and strength and power to do what God called them to do. God has called us to serve Him, to serve His people. Many of you have families that God has called you to serve, or you’re serving in areas of responsibility in your local church. God has given you that calling.

Listen, moms, motherhood is a divine calling. Wives, being a wife is a divine calling. Single women, by God’s choice and design, that’s a divine calling. That’s a gift from the Lord, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7. God has called you to serve Him, many of us in this room in different spheres and seasons of life, but you’ve got God’s calling.

I’ve got God’s calling, and to go along with that calling, God has given us His Spirit; He’s given us spiritual gifts; He’s given us His Word; He’s equipped us with the counsel, the covering and the protection and guidance of men of God, as Joshua had Eleazar.

If you had to rely on your own strengths, your own gifts, your own efforts, wouldn’t you just give up? Wouldn’t you say, “I’m going to do some other calling, but not this one”? But you don’t have to rely on your own strength. You don’t have to rely on your own gifts. Neither do I. God has given us all that we need to fulfill His calling in our lives. I don’t know about you, but that strengthens me. That encourages me. That lets me know that I can press on because it’s not me, it’s His power in me.

Even all that God had provided Joshua, Joshua certainly knew (as we’ve said already) that he was stepping into humongous shoes. Who could ever fill the role of Moses? The answer is: no one. God had Moses for that era, and then God had Joshua for the next era. Joshua had to know there was no way he could be another Moses. In fact, we read in Deuteronomy, chapter 34, if Joshua weren’t already insecure, this could make him insecure.

Deuteronomy 34, beginning at verse 10:

There has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharoah and to all his servants and to all his land, and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel (verses 10–12).

You know when those words were written? At the end of Deuteronomy, at the death of Moses, just as the people are finishing grieving the death of Moses, and just as Joshua is taking the baton to lead the nation into the next chapter. The Scripture records there has never been before, or since, a man like Moses, a man that God has used in such a significant way. Imagine being Joshua and hearing those words. What an act to follow.

That’s where we tend to get into the danger of comparing. “I could never be like so-and-so. I could never do this like so-and-so.” Some of you are looking at how some older woman you know has parented her children, and you’re thinking, “I just don’t have a clue about how to do this.” God didn’t give your children to that other woman. God gave your children to you, and God didn’t call you to be that other woman.

Honestly, I’m a little embarrassed to tell you this, but I listen to some of the other Bible teachers, some of the other women that God is using in this country in a significant way, and I listen to some of them, and I think, “Oh my goodness, what am I even doing in this job?” I look at some of the talents and gifts and abilities that God has given to other people in ministry, and I think, “I don’t have that same set of skills.” I’m not those other people.

Joshua couldn’t compare himself to Moses. There was no comparison. He had to be secure in the fact that God had chosen, called, and equipped him to lead the people through this next period, and if God had wanted Moses to take the people into the land, God would have kept Moses alive for that purpose. God took Moses, and in His providence and wisdom maybe one of the reasons was God didn’t want Moses to get the credit for this amazing thing that happened with a newer, younger leader.

God had chosen and called and equipped Joshua, but I think God also knew that Joshua needed the encouragement and the affirmation of the older leaders speaking into his life, and so we read in Deuteronomy 1. 

As Moses rehearses the sequence of events of what has taken place, just before the Children of Israel go into the Promised Land, God says to Moses:

Charge [or command] Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he shall go over at the head of this people, and he shall put them in possession of the land that you shall see (Deuteronomy 3:28).

God said to Moses, “There’s something you need to give besides the job, the title, the responsibility—you need to teach him, instruct him, and encourage him and strengthen him for this task,” as God had done for Moses over all these years. “What I have given to you,” God is saying to Moses, “you need to pass that on to Joshua.”

I am so thankful as I read that passage for those older men and women, some of them I’ve known, some of them in heaven now, some of them I’ve just read about in books, but those older men and women of God who have encouraged, who have strengthened me to fulfill God’s calling in my generation.

I think of my parents; I think of teachers, of leaders, pastors, people who have spoken into my life and have given me a vision for how God wanted to use my life. They couldn’t do it for me, but God said to Moses, “Joshua is the one who will take the people to possess the land that you can see, so encourage him in that.”

What was Moses asked to do? I think he was asked to paint a picture for Joshua of how God wanted to use him, to inspire faith in the heart of this new, younger leader.

Some twenty years ago now when the founder of our ministry . . . I’ve referenced him earlier in this series. He died in his early 40s. When he was still living, I was in my 20s, I remember there were some older Christian leaders at the time who were passing off the scene. They were dying and going to be with the Lord, and some had been just spiritual giants and wonderful spiritual leaders in the evangelical world. I remember our founder saying to me and to some of our staff, “The time is coming when it will be our turn, and we need to be ready to pick up the baton.”

Now that wasn’t to say that all of us would have positions as leaders of the evangelical world. It was just that God has a mission and a purpose for each of our lives, and we can’t just keep looking to the older people to fulfill that. We need to be becoming those older people and picking up the baton so that we can provide a model of godly leadership for the next generation to follow.

Over the last 20 years as I’ve pondered those words, I’ve become so conscious of the fact that now I’m an older woman. I was a younger woman then. I was looking up to all the older women. Well, now I’m an older woman—not an old woman, but an older woman—and there are younger women who are looking to me for wisdom and guidance and spiritual leadership and understanding of God’s Word.

That’s a huge responsibility, and all of us, as we become older women—that’s not just for public teachers that that’s supposed to be the case—the older women are to teach the younger women how to walk with God, how to love their husbands, how to love their children, how to be pure and keepers at home (see Titus 2:3-5). That’s a task as we get older. We have a responsibility to take the baton and then to pass it on to the next generation.

We each need a sense of continuity and connectedness to previous and future generations, taking the baton from the previous generation, passing the baton of faith and grace on to future generations.

You and I are just running one leg in the relay race. We’re not the whole race. We’re just one leg of it. If we could only get a vision for the fact that we are part . . . that one little leg that we run, and we run so hard, and we get out of breath, and we think we can’t make it, but that one leg we run faithfully is a part of God’s grander, greater, eternal redemptive plan.

You’re not isolated at your point in time. You are part of a continuum of faith. Moses passed it to Joshua; Joshua passed it to the next generation; they passed it to the next generation; Jesus passed the baton to His disciples; and Paul said to Timothy, “[The things] you have learned from me . . . entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).

It’s so selfish of us just to live for the current moment and for our current generation without being conscious that we are part of a great, long relay of faith and playing well our part in picking up the baton and then passing it on.

As an older generation, we need to be inspiring, preparing, encouraging, strengthening, affirming the next generation. Mothers, that’s what you’re doing for your children, and when I meet little girls, I’m sometimes thinking—when I see little girls who have a heart for the Lord—I’m thinking, “The next Elisabeth Elliot is out here somewhere . . . only God knows who she is, where she is.”

I want to encourage those children, bless them, and somehow in some small way be passing on the baton of faith to the next generation, giving them a vision for how God wants to use them as a part of His kingdom and His plan.

Leslie: We’d like to send you a gift that will remind you why it’s so important to pass God’s truth to the next generation, just like Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been describing. That gift is a Leaving a Godly Legacy bookmark. On one side you’ll read Scripture about the importance of investing in the next generation. On the other side you’ll read seven principles for parents who want to effectively pass the baton.

When you support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any amount, we’ll say thanks by sending a set of five bookmarks. You can keep one as an important reminder of all you’ve heard today, and then you can pass the rest on to other parents.

We also include Nancy’s current series on CD. It’s called Lessons from the Life of Joshua (Part 4): Following God’s Lead to Lead. Ask for the CD series and bookmarks when you donate any amount. Just call 1-800-569-5959, or visit ReviveOurHeartsRadio.com.

Tomorrow we’ll pause in our study of the life of Joshua to learn from his associate, Caleb, another real hero from the Bible. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

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