• The Explore the Bible lesson for Jan. 6 focuses on Numbers 27:12-23.
Have you ever attended a funeral service that made you think about your life, family and future? Did you change due to the experience? Did you become a better spouse, son, daughter, etc.? How long did that change last? I have attended many funerals and—in every single one—I have left with the urgency to do something or change something in my life. And to be honest with you, that change doesn’t last long.
When Moses was confronted with the reality about his death, he decided to do something remarkable about it. Moses could have relaxed, or he might have asked God for a personal request. Instead, he decided to set aside his personal agenda for the benefit of the people.
Facing Death (Numbers 27:12-14)
The author of the book of Hebrews reminds us all people are destined to die once (Hebrews 9:27). It doesn’t matter who you are, one day you will perish. This passage tells us that it was Moses’ turn to face his fate, as his brother Aaron did (20:22).
When Aaron died, God called him and his son Eleazar alongside with Moses, to go up into a mountain. This same pattern is repeated in this episode, but this time, with a different character. God instructed Moses to go up a mountain in the Abarim range so Moses could see the Promised Land. I can’t imagine being at the top of this mountain, seeing the land that God promised Abraham years ago and not being able to enter it. After all Moses went through with the people in the wilderness, God remained faithful to the judgment he pronounced earlier. Moses saw the land before he was “gathered to his people”—a phrase that indicates someone being reunited with the people that have died before them. Its common use can be seen in passages such as Genesis 15:15; 35:29 and 49:29.
Moses’ death was the fulfillment of God’s judgement declared in Numbers 20:12. Moses and Aaron did not trust God enough to honor him as holy before the Israelites. And now, Moses faced the consequences of his actions.
Looking to the Future (Numbers 27:15-17)
This passage highlights one important point—the heart of a true leader. Moses had one final request, not seeking his own benefit but the benefit of the people. He asked the Lord, the God who gives breath to all living things, to appoint someone over the community. This is what servanthood is all about. This act of “caring for others” demonstrates the true quality of a leader is to prepare the next generation of leaders. For a Christian, it means investing in others for the sake of the church and the gospel. How are you or your church preparing the next generation of leaders?
Moses was preoccupied about Israel’s future. He wanted to make sure the people had a leader—someone who could represent them before the Lord and lead them into the Promised Land, a leader who could protect them like a shepherd. Shepherds and sheep were used as a metaphor elsewhere in the Bible. The decisive metaphor of a shepherd was used by Jesus when he told his followers: I am the good shepherd (John 10:14). Moses finished his life caring for the people. Are you and your church living with a future in mind?
God Provides (Numbers 27:18-23)
In the previous section, we experienced Moses’ character and attitude towards the future. He died knowing God had a plan for the people. In this last section, God gave Moses his final instructions.
Moses took Joshua, son of Nun, and laid hands on him. The NIV translation adds a particular epithet about Joshua, spirit of leadership, to emphasize that Moses’ successor was a person well qualified for the job. Joshua stood before the priest and the entire community, just as Aaron stood before Moses and Eleazar and later Moses stood before God.
The next episode is an echo of what happened to Aaron before he died. When Moses, Aaron and Eleazer went up to Mount Hor, Moses removed Aaron’s garments and put them on his son Eleazar (20:26). This event accentuated the passing on of the baton of leadership and responsibility before the Lord. When Joshua stood before the assembly and the Lord, God told Moses: “give him some of your authority…”. Try to picture this scene in your mind. Moses is pouring, providing, investing (ESV translation) some of his power on Joshua. Sometimes I wonder why God allowed Moses to give him only “some” of his power, particularly taking into consideration that the task ahead was not a walk in the park.
God did not abandon his people. He commissioned a clever leader to take his people into the Promised Land. Who are you investing in? Who is the next Joshua who will lead when you’re gone?
Jaime Cortez is discipleship pastor at First Baptist Church in Athens, Texas.