Summary: Instruction given to congregation experiencing pastoral transition.
I want to begin this morning by asking Denise to modulate from the key of C to G.
(Play a couple of times)
In music the modulation from one key to another is called transition.
(Play a few more times)
You are hearing in the notes something that is now happening in the life of our church—transition.
The step between initial labor and delivery in child birth is also called transition. When something is being born there is a transition involved.
The basic definition of transition is a “passage from one state or stage to another.” We are now experiencing transition this Sunday and next Sunday. It is a historic time in the life of our church. Today I preach my last sermon as Senior Pastor of this church. Next Sunday I will become Pastor Emeritus—not Senior Pastor. Next Sunday Pastor Jay will be installed as Senior Pastor and a new stage in the life of Grace Chapel will begin.
In that context we want to draw instruction from an outstanding transition in the Bible: the transfer of leadership from Moses to Joshua.
I. We begin with God’s Instruction to Moses on the matter. That’s in Num 27:18-23 “18 So the LORD said to Moses, "Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay your hand on him. 19 Have him stand before Eleazar the priest and the entire assembly and commission him in their presence. 20 Give him some of your authority so the whole Israelite community will obey him. 21 He is to stand before Eleazar the priest, who will obtain decisions for him by inquiring of the Urim before the LORD. At his command he and the entire community of the Israelites will go out, and at his command they will come in." 22 Moses did as the LORD commanded him. He took Joshua and had him stand before Eleazar the priest and the whole assembly. 23 Then he laid his hands on him and commissioned him, as the LORD instructed through Moses.”
1. Notice this process began with a word from the Lord to Moses—“So the LORD said to Moses...” God ordered this transition. It was not something Moses thought up. It was not initiated by the congregation. It was initiated by the LORD speaking to the current leader, Moses. Pastor Cho (of Seoul, Korea) used to say that the key to his ministry success was very simple: “hear and obey.” That’s what we see Moses doing in this passage. He hears from the Lord and he does what he is told to do—verse 22 “Moses did as the Lord commanded him...” That’s a good way for a transition to begin.
God began the process with the current leader instructing him to pass the baton.
2. Notice how God directed the whole press for this transition.
a. God chose the replacement. “Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit...” God told Moses who the next leader was to be. I am not opposed to pulpit committees if they can hear and obey God. But no man and no committee of people have the right to choose spiritual leadership. That is God’s right alone and we are simply to respond to His choice. It is not a political process. It’s not a popularity vote. It’s not even something a person can earn. While talking about the call of God on Jesus as our High Priest the writer of Hebrews lays down an important ministry principle: Heb 5:4 “No one takes this honor upon himself; he must be called by God, just as Aaron was.” Joshua was called by God to step into the lead after Moses. Stepping into the pulpit and into spiritual leadership is not a career move but a step of obedience to God. God alone can call and equip us for such an awesome task.
Notice the description God gives of Joshua—“a man in whom is the spirit...” Joshua didn’t earn a leadership position but he did allow God to prepare him for a leadership position. In our study of the first chapter of Acts we found that the most important equipping for leadership is to be filled with the Holy Spirit. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8) Joshua was a man filled with the Spirit as that was available in his day. If you want God to use you then get full of the Holy Spirit—amen?
b. God also chose how the transition was to be communicated to the congregation.
Verses 19 & 20 “ Have him stand before Eleazar the priest and the entire assembly and commission him in their presence. 20 Give him some of your authority so the whole Israelite community will obey him.” Why make such a big deal out of all this? Why not just meet privately with Joshua and tell him to take the lead? Moses was to publicly hand the authority to Joshua “so the whole Israelite community will obey him.” There was to be no confusion about who was in charge. The position was not up for grabs. It was publicly and officially handed to Joshua. Other authorities were to confirm the appointment. “Have him stand before Eleazer the priest...” Joshua would be working with Eleazar and that relationship would be important. But the essential thing was that the entire assemble witness the transfer and respect the new leadership. Next Sunday evening we will be doing this at Pastor Jay’s installation service. Our District Supervisor and Divisional Superintendent will be part of the process. But you are also part of the event and I encourage you to be there.