Deuteronomy 31: Life on Life Discipleship
OK, I confess. I totally love Joshua. I love reading about him, studying his actions and teaching my children about him. We even named one of our boys after him. As you can assume, I have been very excited about today so we can chat about “Josh the Posh” and you can go all crazy over him too; but then I remembered-this is a study on MOSES. So, the hundreds of amazingly cool things we can learn about God through His exciting spy/warrior/leader/servant Joshua will have to wait for another day….sigh.
Don’t get me wrong, Moses is equally incredible. As we have obviously seen over the past few months, the lessons from his life have been very impactful. From before this man was born God was revealing Himself as compassionate and loving, always in control and willing to use ordinary people to accomplish His extraordinary plans.
Deuteronomy 31, thankfully, gives us a unique opportunity to look at them both. This was the moment in history when these two great men of God reach a critical point in their long relationship and where we can explore the Lord’s beautiful plan of discipleship.
7 Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the LORD swore to their ancestors to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. 8 The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
The emotion in Moses’ voice as he gave this command to Joshua must have been obvious. It was an admission of acceptance of his own fate as well the commissioning of a dear friend. I imagine the tears that flowed that day were bittersweet; full of both joy and regret, excitement and fear. These friends knew they would soon say goodbye. One would head to the Promised Land on the other side of the Jordan and one- the Promised Land on the other side of eternity. Recounting what they had been through together over the past 40 plus years helps us understand just how strong their ties to each other were. Let’s carefully look at the nature of their relationship and witness how God used it to accomplish His purposes.
We cannot be certain when these two men met, but we can immediately take notice of the importance of their relationship. In Exodus 17:8-14 we read how Moses instructed Joshua to lead the Israelite soldiers in a battle against the Amalekites. Joshua was able to overcome the enemy by the sword, but only while Moses’ hands were held up (assumingly in prayer). From this incident, they both obviously recognized the Spirit filled connection between them, for throughout the books of Exodus and Numbers, we find Joshua constantly at Moses’ side, now as his aide (Ex 24, 32, 33 and Num 11). In Numbers 13 and 14 Joshua is identified as one of only two people who would be permitted to enter the Promised Land because of his great faith-the kind of faith that doesn’t happen accidentally, but is learned. In Numbers 27:15-23 it comes as no surprise when Moses asks the Lord for a new shepherd to lead His people after his death that God appoints his protégé, Joshua. Coincidence? I think not…
You see as Moses was going along for the past 40 some odd years leading God’s people out of Egypt and through the dessert, he was also leading Joshua. We do not have an abundance of detail, but it seems obvious that Joshua was always there; following behind Moses as Moses followed God. Moses prayed for Joshua when he was fighting the enemy, showed him the importance of a personal relationship with the Lord and gave him leadership responsibilities along the way to exercise the skills he was learning (Numbers 34:17). Then, according to the Lord’s providential timing, Joshua was ready to be the leader when it was time for Moses to hang it up. Their friendship is truly a model of discipleship that we see repeated over and over again throughout scripture; most perfectly represented in Jesus’ relationship with the 12 disciples.
About 12 years ago we started attending Chestnut Mountain Presbyterian Church in Georgia where we used to live. It wasn’t long before a woman named Gwynn befriended me and asked me if I wanted to do a bible study with her and a few other ladies my age. For the next few months we would all meet at her house, sit on her carpet and wrestle with our infants (we each had babies within a month of each other). During this time however, we would also listen to her and each other, pray for each other and study the Word together. I was being discipled and I didn’t even know it. Although Gwynn had been a Christian her whole life and had a ton of biblical knowledge and advice, she was not a religious scholar. Instead she was merely a dear friend who was faithfully trying to live out the scripture in Titus 2:
3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.
Since then, I have witnessed this model of discipleship in my church and among Christians and have seen God work mightily in others who are willing to become “Moses-es and Joshuas.” Our church has an outreach ministry where we pick up dozens of young people who otherwise would not attend church. This ministry has come with complications, I won’t lie to you! But it also has come with get reward. Do you know when we see a young person turn their life around and start making decisions based on a desire to glorify God? When someone in our congregation singles one out, builds a relationship with them and starts teach them about the Word. Dropping kids off in bus loads is a start, but the real fruit comes when someone invests time in just one “Joshua”-making him ready to one day lead others to the Promised Land. I know this because I am living proof. Thank you Mom, Carol, Grandma, Gwynn, Shirley, Vikki, Katie and Dee, my sweet Jessica (I’m crying now!) and many others for showing me the unspeakable blessing that comes with life on life discipleship. I miss you all!!
So be strong and courageous! Walk down to where the youth group meets at your church and look for the girl sitting by herself and start talking. Is it going to be awkward and intimidating? You bet it is! And be prepared-she won’t talk back at first, but keep at it. Leading others in this Christian life is a sacrifice and a challenge, but God can equip you as easily as he did Moses. Or maybe you are being called to be a Joshua right now. Either way, following their example is ordained by Your Father and He plans to reap His Harvest through those of us who are willing to obey Him in this discipline. I have attached a video of one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite Christian musicians. You might be a little shocked when you hear it, but pay attention to the words-they are right on and your kids will love it!
Your homework for next time is to read Deuteronomy 32.