I had a conversation with the director of a Bible camp one time about what it means for the next generation to take ownership of something. She was struggling with how to encourage a new generation of campers to take ownership of the campground and its future moving forward. One of the keys to that transition is that there has to be willingness on two fronts: a willingness from the new generation to take ownership and a willingness from the old generation to release ownership. In these two chapters of Numbers, there isn’t anything left of the old generation, they’ve all perished in the wilderness, as God promised they would. And so the next generation is taking their place on the East side of the Jordan, looking forward to taking possession of this land that their parents and grandparents had told them about.
In the midst of this transition, one last member of the old generation remains. Moses. As God promised back in Numbers 20, Moses would not be allowed to enter into the Promised Land, and in Numbers 27 God lays out for Moses how that promise will be fulfilled. Notice that Moses does not complain, he does not whine about his impending death, he does not try to negotiate or bargain with God. Instead, notice that Moses’ chief concern is for the future well-being of the nation of Israel. His only request is that God would appoint a new leader, someone faithful and strong who could lead Israel into successful possession of the Land. Moses shows a healthy attitude in the face of being replaced. We could all learn from his example here. There are times and seasons for things in life, the Bible makes that clear in several spots, and yet we tend to fight those seasons. We don’t like to recognize when our effectiveness in a position has come to an end and it is time for someone else to take things to the next level. We don’t like it when something that worked so well in our lives shows that it will not work so well in the lives of others. We don’t like it when a program we spent so much time and energy building up has to be entrusted to the next set of leaders.
And yet these transitions are necessary and, believe it or not, healthy. Healthy for the old generation to let go , healthy for the new generation to take ownership, and healthy for growth and sustainability. Moses shows us how to make the transition gracefully. Perhaps letting go of ownership reminds us of our mortality, something we don’t like to admit to. Perhaps letting go of ownership has to do with pride. Perhaps letting go has to do with trusting the next person to do as good or perhaps a better job than we’ve been doing. In any case, we all know of situations where a perfectly good organization, idea or program turn sour because someone held on too long and necessary growth did not happen.
One thing we must trust in when we come to those moments of transition in our lives, and the in the life our churches: it is God who is in control. God appoints and anoints Joshua to take Moses’ place. God’s plan for Israel is fulfilled. God’s provision sees the establishment of Israel as a nation. We must keep our eyes and our trust firmly fixed on the Lord, trusting that he will be faithful to the next generation, just as he has been faithful to us.
- What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
- What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
- Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
- How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
- What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?
Tomorrow’s Reading: Numbers 28-30