Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: If you’ve not learned to be a good follower and to be faithful and content in that role, then chances are, when it comes your time to be the leader, you won’t be as effective as you might have been had you learned to follow.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, February 27.

Sometimes we get letters from energetic, smart young women who are eager to minister like Nancy does, but they’re in a season of following rather than leading. Find out why being a faithful follower could help you become an even more effective leader in the future.

Nancy: While I was studying and preparing for this series, I received a report of a national Christian leader who’d been forced to resign his position due to a pattern of sexual sin that he had kept hidden for years. It came as a huge blow, a huge shock, a huge source of grief to those who knew him or knew of him.

I was reminded that I’ve lived long enough now to see a lot of people start out well in the Christian life and not make it to the finish line—some even, sadly, in ministry positions. Some started out earnestly serving the Lord faithfully and effectively, but have fallen out of the race. Some were not in vocational ministry positions, but they started out loving Christ and wanting to please Him, and have not made it all the way to the end. There are various reasons; I’ve seen a lot of different reasons.

  • Sometimes it’s been personal sin, as in the case of this national leader.
  • Sometimes people drop out of the race because of discouragement; they lose heart and just give up.
  • Sometimes it’s temporal values that distract them. Where they once loved Christ with all their heart, now their heart and its affections are turned to money, position, prestige or the world—worldliness.

There are a lot of different reasons. But as we’ve been studying the life of Joshua, the thing that drew me to this study in the first place was the fact that I was struck by his faithfulness in the race over the long haul.

I started this study—and I said this at the beginning of the series—because my pastor was preaching on Joshua. He came to the end of Joshua’s life, when Joshua was 110 years old and was still being faithful, still loving the Lord and still strong in serving the Lord. And I’m saying, “How did he do it? How did he get there?”

There’s very little said in Joshua’s life that you could ever fault. There’s an incident with the Gibeonites—we’ll come to that in this series—but by and large, here is a man who was faithful to the fight, faithful to the Lord and faithful to the faith all the way to the finish line. His was a life of victory, a life of conquest.

We know him as the military leader who took the Israelites into the Promised Land and led them as their commander-in-chief as they defeated their enemies and took possession of the Promised Land. His life is a picture for us of victory over our spiritual enemies, in the spiritual battles we face with the world, the flesh and the devil. Here’s a man who ran the race all the way to the finish line and finished it successfully.

So we’re looking for insights throughout his life, starting with his early years—which is where we still are now—looking for insights into how he was victorious. How did he stay faithful? These learning years, before he became a leader, are crucial for understanding how he was effective later in life. He finished the race well because he started the race well. The way we run the race in our younger years has a lot of bearing on how we will run it in our later years.

I’ve often said, for example, that my goal in life has always been to be a godly old lady. I have this picture in my mind of this really sweet, gracious, loving, godly woman who just radiates the love of Jesus, with a gracious spirit and kind words. She’s fruitful and a prayer warrior—all these things. This is kind of the picture I have of what I want to be when I’m 85 years old. I don’t know that I’ll make it to 110—I don’t know that I’ll make it to 85—but however long God gives me, that’s what I want to be.

As I look at Joshua’s life, I’m reminded that you don’t just wake up at 85 or 110 and find that you’re that kind of person. I’m making choices now, as I have been for years and years, that are determining what kind of old lady I’m going to be, whether I’m going to make it to the finish line, and in what condition. So we’re looking at snapshots of Joshua’s life. We’re taking a look at each of the incidents, or many of them, in his life.

Starting with his life as a younger man, in fact, we’ve picked up where the Scripture does in Exodus chapter 17, when Joshua is somewhere between 40 and 50 years old. He’s called a young man then—and in comparison to Moses, who was 80, he was a young man—but that’s the age range that I’m in now. I’m approaching 50, and so I’m learning from Joshua’s life, from the choices he made. The patterns he established prepared him for his life’s work; they laid a foundation for a lifetime of faithfulness.

I’m trying to do what the Scripture says we should. In the New Testament we’re told that these Old Testament stories were given to us as an example for our learning so that we could learn from their mistakes and their successes (see 1 Corinthians 10:1-11). There are a lot of successes we can learn from in Joshua’s life.

You may never have had a role model of what it means to walk with God over years and years. You might not have had parents who walked with God. In Joshua and other people like him in the Scripture, we can find a great role model.

We’ve already looked at Exodus chapter 17 at some length—the battle that took place against the Amalekites at Rephidim. Joshua learned through that incident that the battle is the Lord’s. He learned not to fight in his own strength, but in dependence on the Lord.

He learned an important lesson that he would need decades later when he became the commander-in-chief to lead the Israelites into Canaan: that is, you can’t fight the battle alone. It is under the banner of the Lord that we fight and win.

Years later, when he was going to face much opposition and powerful enemies, he would need to remember the things he had learned at that battle, which were written in a book, recorded so that he could go back and see that journal of God’s ways.

From Rephidim, the Israelites moved on to Mount Sinai. They’d just been out of Egypt a few months when we come to chapter 19. I want to give you a brief overview of several chapters here in Exodus.

In chapter 19, the Children of Israel come to Mount Sinai, where they’re going to be for eleven months—a very important season in the life of the Israelites. In chapter 19, Moses consecrates the people, and God comes down on Mount Sinai. God manifested Himself through thunder, lightning, a thick cloud that revealed His glory and a loud trumpet blast.

This is an awesome, fearful sight when God comes to visit. God displays His presence, His power and His holiness, and the people are warned, “Don’t come near the mountain; don’t touch it. If you do, you will die.” Why? Because God is holy. God’s presence is on this mountain, and you’re unholy, so you’re separated from God. You cannot come up on this mountain.

However, in the midst of that scene, God invites Moses to come up on the mountain and meet with Him as a representative of the people—showing the fact that God does want to have relationship with His people. God does initiate relationship, and we’re going to see that over these next few sessions.

So Moses goes up on the mountain to meet with God. In chapter 20, we read about God giving Moses the Ten Commandments. He starts out by saying, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me” (verses 2-3).

God is saying to His people, “I have redeemed you; I have established a covenant relationship with you. I am your God. You no longer belong to Pharaoh. You belong to Me. You are My people, and I am to be the only God in your life.” God says the same thing to those of us who’ve been redeemed out of spiritual slavery, redeemed from sin and from Satan. He says, “I am your God; you are My people. Now walk before Me in holiness. Let Me be your only God.”

Then, in chapters 20 through 23, God gives to Moses additional laws governing His people’s relationships with God and with each other. God has the right to give those directions and those laws, those instructions, because He’s our God. He’s our Redeemer. We belong to Him. So God gives these laws.

At the end of chapter 23, after giving Moses those laws, God makes the following promise, starting in verse 20: “I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared”—the Promised Land.

Verse 22: “If you carefully obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.” Then move down to verse 31: “I will give the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you.”

Now, in chapter 24—let me ask you to turn there if you haven’t already—beginning at verse 4, Moses writes down all the words that God has spoken in the preceding several chapters, then reads those words to the people. He reads God’s promises to the people.

Moses builds an altar, and he offers sacrifices on that altar. In so doing, he seals the covenant between God and His people with the blood of those offerings. This is the one occasion in Scripture where the blood is actually sprinkled on the people—a sign that God has covered people with the blood that can cleanse and forgive them, and that they can be rightly related to God in this covenant.

Joshua is Moses’ personal assistant. Joshua is stuck to Moses like white on rice. He’s like glue. He’s there. Where Moses is, Joshua is, and so Joshua has been hearing and seeing all of this. Joshua has learned early on, through these series of events at Mount Sinai, to reverence and fear the Lord. He has learned that God is a holy God. He’s not to be trifled with, but God is a God who desires relationship with His people.

Joshua has learned about the necessity of blood sacrifices—the only way that an unholy people can approach a holy God. He has learned that God is going to supernaturally take His people into the Promised Land, that God is going to be their Protector, their Defender, and their Commander.

I can assure you that years later, when God sends Joshua to be the leader of His people to go into the Promised Land, Joshua will remember these promises. He will remember, “I don’t have to do this alone. God is our Defender. God is our Protector. God is our Commander.”

Now we come to chapter 24 of Exodus, verse 12. Over these next few sessions, I want us to look at two passages that give us a key insight into what made Joshua an effective servant and leader over the long haul and how he stayed faithful. Exodus 24, verse 12:

The LORD said to Moses, "Come up to me on the mountain and wait there, that I may give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.”

God had already given Moses the Ten Commandments and other assorted laws earlier. But now God’s saying, “I’m going to inscribe these laws on stone so that you can have them to teach the people.” We see in this passage God’s invitation. God says, “Come up to Me on the mountain.” This is a reminder that God desires fellowship with us—communion.

But God is holy, and we are sinful. Sin separates us from God. God said to the people, “Don’t touch the mountain, or you’ll die.” This passage, this invitation, shows us that God is a reconciling God. We cannot come to God; we cannot draw near to Him unless God takes the initiative and extends the invitation.

If you’re a child of God, it is not because you initiated the relationship with God. You say, “But I grew up in a Christian home. I heard about God all my life, and I chose to follow Christ.” You only chose to follow Christ because God chose you and said, “Come up to Me.” God extends and initiates the invitation. Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44). God is the one who draws us. He issues this invitation.

And what is it an invitation to do? God says to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and wait there.” Some of your translations say what is probably a more literal translation, “Come up to Me on the mountain and be there” (NKJV). Just come and be with Me.

That word wait or be probably comes from another word that means "to breathe." It’s just to exist, to be. It’s a different word than is used in verse 14, where Moses says to Aaron and Hur, “Wait here for us.” That’s a word that means to tarry, but this word, “Come up and wait,” just means “Come up and breathe.” Just be here; just sit here.

It reminds me of Mark 3, verse 14, where the Scripture says Jesus appointed twelve apostles so that they might be with him, and then that He might send them out to do their ministry. First they were just to be with Him.

I came across a book recently entitled Wasting Time with God. No agenda. That’s hard for busy people in this 21st-century world. We think if you’re just sitting there, if you’re not doing something—even if you’re with God—that it’s wasting time. And we don’t like to waste time. But God says, “Come and just be with Me.” That’s the invitation.

Why? Verse 12: “That I may give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.” God wanted to give Moses His Word, written instruction for the people. But Moses had to pull away from his normal routine, from the busyness of life as the leader of these people, to be with the Lord up on the mountain.

And what was Moses response to this invitation? Verse 13: “So Moses rose with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God.” God says, “Come up and be with Me.” What does Moses do? Immediately, with no delay, he gets up, and he goes with his assistant to the mountain of God.

He didn’t let busyness keep him away. He surely had many things to do as the leader of these two or three million people that he was responsible for.

He also didn’t let fear keep him away. Do you think you would have been eager to come up on that mountain if you’d just seen this incredible display of God’s glory and power, with lightning and thunder and voices and clouds? Or do you think you might have said, “Uh . . . I’m not sure that I should go up on this mountain.” He didn’t let fear keep him away.

He didn’t let anything keep him away. He realized that it’s a privilege to be invited to draw near to God, and one that we ought to take advantage of at every opportunity.

It brings to mind the passage in Psalm 65, verse 4 that says:

Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in Your courts! [That’s a happy state. That’s a joyful place to be. The psalmist goes on to say,] We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple!

What is the psalmist saying? “It’s so good to be with God, to be invited to come near to Him, that I have no reason to wander off looking for satisfaction anywhere else. Everything I need, everything I want, can be found in His presence.”

Or as Psalm 73 says, “For me it is good to be near God” (verse 28).

Why would you not say yes? When He says, “Come. Draw near to Me,” why would you say:

  • I’m too busy.
  • I’ve got other things to do.
  • I don’t have time.
  • I’m afraid.
  • I don’t know that I can get in to Your presence.
  • I have sinned.
  • I don’t know that I can come.

When God says, “Draw near to Me,” why wouldn’t we say yes? Why wouldn’t we go as Moses did?

Is that where your heart desires to be—near God? “Come up to Me on the mountain and be there.” Is that where you love to be? Do you consider it a privilege to be near to God, to waste time with God, to be with God, to pull away from other routines in your life at points and just breathe with God?

Scripture says that “Moses rose with his assistant Joshua.” This is the first of four references in the Old Testament to Joshua as Moses’ assistant. As we’re studying the life of Joshua, it’s interesting to me that he is often called Moses’ assistant. That’s how he’s referred to. His goal was not to be in charge, to be the top dog, to be the head of this organization. His goal was to be faithful in doing whatever his leader needed him to do, and he was content in doing that.

That was the best possible preparation for one day being the leader himself. If you’ve not learned to be a good follower and to be faithful and content in that role, then chances are, when it comes your time to be the leader, you won’t be as effective as you might have been had you learned to follow.

There’s no evidence at this point that Joshua has any idea of what God has in store for him. I think that as far as he knew at this point, Moses was going to be the one to lead the Children of Israel into the Promised Land. And Joshua was content to serve him, to be his assistant, to be in that number-two role.

Moses rose with his assistant Joshua and went up into the mountain of God. What was the mountain of God? That was Mount Sinai. As you think about Mount Sinai, apart from God’s presence and glory being on the Mount, remember that it was just another mountain. It was like any other mountain, with nothing special about it, until God came there. But in the presence of God, Mount Sinai became the "mountain of God," as it is often referred to in the Scripture. It was the mountain of God because God was there.

Let me remind you that any place you meet with God becomes sacred. It may be your bedroom, maybe a closet where you meet with God, maybe in your car, maybe in your office, maybe in a prison cell, a hospital room, or a hotel room. Ultimately, it’s your heart that becomes the mountain of God. Wherever you are, that place becomes sacred when your heart is going to meet with the Lord.

Under the old covenant, the Israelites did not dare to draw near to God. They had to go through Moses as their representative. But under the new covenant—the covenant of grace, the covenant sealed with the blood of Jesus Christ—every believer is invited to draw near, to come up to the mountain and be with God. Because of the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf, we can draw near to God.

So God says to you, if you’re His child, “Come up to Me on the mountain and wait there. Be there. I want to meet with you. I want to give you My word.” My prayer is that our response will be that of the psalmist’s in Psalm 27 verse 8: “When You said, ‘Seek My face,’ my heart said to You, ‘Your face, LORD, I will seek’” (NKJV).

Let’s bow our hearts, and if that’s your desire right now, would you just say to the Lord, “Lord, I want to be with You. I want to have those times of just being apart and alone and away with You.” Sometimes it may be in the middle of a crowd, but your heart can draw away to just be with Him. Thank God for His invitation to draw near, and ask God to give you a heart desire and love and longing just to be in His presence.

O Lord, when You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, LORD, I will seek.” Amen.

Leslie: What a great reminder. God doesn’t want you to get lost in a blur of activity. He wants you to take the time to truly know Him. It was crucial for Moses. It was crucial for Joshua. And it’s crucial for you.

Spending time alone with God in prayer and in the Bible can have serious consequences. A woman wrote to us about that. She said:

I was an ardent atheist for over ten years. I was hostile and cold towards God. Evangelical Christians were at the top of my most-reviled list.

Well, she bought a Bible because she figured she’d need to know how to better argue against Christians. She writes:

I began reading that Bible every day. My heart began to change. I was softening. The Word was changing me. It still amazes me the power that lies in that book. On the fourth of July, Independence Day for my own self, I invited Jesus into my life. I was born again that second. I got off my knees and knew that my life as I had known it was over.

The following Monday I was looking for Christian podcasts when I was led to Revive Our Hearts. I’ve listened every day to your podcast from July 7, 2008, to this day. Revive Our Hearts has deepened my faith, convicted me, challenged me, and most of all, encouraged me. The Lord has used you so powerfully in my life.

We’re so thankful that God allows us to be part of the growth process for listeners like her, and we’re also thankful for the listeners who make that kind of ministry possible by donating to the ministry. When you help us in this process of teaching and discipling women with a gift of any amount, we’ll say thanks by sending our current series on CD. It’s called Lessons on the Life of Joshua (Part 2): Learning to be Teachable. Donate at our website, ReviveOurHeartsRadio.com. If you’d rather call, the number is 1-800-569-5959.

Worship and practical work are not exclusive. When you’re moved by the awesomeness of God, it leads to practical action. We’ll talk about it when Nancy picks up the story of Joshua on Monday on 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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