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by Dr. Mark Foley

Moses.File 6   Transitions to the Promise

Note 6.1   The Handoff   Numbers 27:12-23


Forty years moves quickly on the pages of the Bible. But time slows in a desert through a forty-year wait, particularly for one who knows what might have been. The story we follow contains no record of Moses’ personal thoughts through that time. We know of his humility; of his responsibility for those he was charged to lead; of his effective leadership through crisis; of his occasional anger; and of his dedication to God and his incredible obedience to God’s instruction. But I cannot help but think of the heaviness of heart he must have borne through each of those years knowing of the promise and opportunity missed including his own failure and its consequence. Numbers 20:12.


Moses was 80 years old when he led the people out of Egypt. He was 120 when the Lord turned them back to the promised homeland for the second time. Deuteronomy 34:7. As they neared the southern border to their new home, God told Moses that it was time for him to step down. There was to be a handoff of leadership responsibility. Numbers 27:12-13.


The critical importance of effective leadership transition cannot be overstated. The handoff process, attention to purpose, attention to Godly wisdom and humility by all involved, the character of the two principals . . . it all requires intentional care to preserve the health of the organization.


Give attention to the structure of transition from the seasoned forty-year tenured Moses to an exceptionally qualified successor, Joshua.


First . . . Purpose-directed humility. Numbers 27:15-17.

An effective leader will include with ongoing responsibilities a ready succession plan that will ensure organizational purpose in the event of incapacitation or necessary transition. History is filled with examples of pride-driven leaders who manipulated succession systems to preserve personal power, opinion, or legacy. If unchecked, such self-serving action will severely damage  the organization, crippling its effectiveness for years.


Note the purpose-directed humility reflected in Moses’ response to God.

  • He knew it was time.

  • He acknowledged God’s authority, God’s timing, and God’s succession plan.

  • He showed no resentfulness or self-concern.

  • He focused upon purpose…that God provide a worthy leader to guide the people.


Second . . . God identified the successor. Numbers 27:18.

Spirit-directed organizational leadership will operate with confidence that God is preparing a successor long before the new leader is needed. In this case, God’s appointed successor, Joshua, had two prime qualifications.

  • He had extensive experience. He served with Moses every step of the way as his executive operations officer.

  • He was spiritually qualified. God’s Spirit was in him.

Your organization may not have a spiritually-oriented purpose. But, as a Spirit-directed leader, seek God in the matter of succession giving attention to both qualifications. Remember this . . . God’s plan may not look like you think it should. Isaiah 55:8-9. He will have your successor ready according to His purpose.


Third . . . Endorsement by the outgoing leader. Numbers 27:18-19. Numbers 27:23.  

Moses’s endorsement of Joshua as his successor was both private and public. God directed Moses to go to Joshua privately, lay his hand on him in a powerful symbolic act of blessing, and personally endorse him in the role. Next, he was to publicly present Joshua to the senior organizational spiritual authority in the presence of the entire organization and commission him to lead the people. Private and public ceremony is important to effective transitions. Use both under the direction of the Holy Spirit in activating your succession plan.


Fourth . . . Structured transfer of authority. Numbers 27:20-21.

This step enacted the transfer in stages. Moses remained in the lead position for a while after this event, but the relationship with his trusted friend now included shared responsibility as Joshua began to take on expanded roles, not as Moses’ deputy, but as the new leader with authority established by God. The shared role would continue until Moses’ death and God’s initiation of movement into the new homeland.


Note that effectiveness in shared transitional leadership, then and now, is dependent upon the Spirit-directed humility and wisdom in each man.


As it was with Moses and Joshua, may it be with you and your organization.

Note 6.2   Remember How We Got Here: Part 1 - A Review of History   Deuteronomy 1:1-3:29


“Normally it takes only eleven days to travel from Mt. Sinai to Kadesh-barnea . . . But forty years after the Israelites left Egypt. . . ” Deuteronomy 1:2-3


The irony of that contextual statement set the stage for Moses’ final address to the people ending a long assignment that would wrap up in only a few days. What could have been an eleven day march to the promise took forty years. Now, they were encamped briefly in a staging area just northeast of the Sea of Galilee from which they would finally launch an invasion west across the Jordan river to claim God’s promise under the newly appointed leader, Joshua.


It is important to note that the 120 year-old respected leader was addressing an assembly of people ranging in age from newborn to 59. Only a few had personal experience with events that defined their lives prior to the desert detour, and they had been only children or teens at the time. Only three individuals there had witnessed the full story . . . Moses, Caleb, and Joshua. Thus, there was little first-hand knowledge of all God had done. The theme of his address is, “Remember,” and Moses broke it into three critical parts. The first is a review of history.


It is common for retiring leaders to rehearse their glory years. Often, it is a prideful exercise in self-satisfying legacy-building to prove that his or her time in the captain’s seat had value. Moses, however, was not endorsing his own legacy. Rather, his review of history was a critical exercise in purpose-driven leadership . . . reenforcing God’s authority, His purpose for the people-nation, and His provision.


Moses focused his review upon the forty-year detour, the rebellion that caused it, and God who kept His promise.


Here is the point. This retiring leader, with his final speech, was still driving purpose! His review of what God had done was preparing the people for what would come next. To do what they would be called upon to do, they needed to know that God held their future; that He would provide for their needs; and that He would fulfill His purpose for them. By pointing to what God had done, Moses was supplying them with future courage and trust.


You are a follower of Jesus. When your time comes to hand off leadership, let this example guide you. Tell the stories of your experience with God in the role. He led, you followed. He directed, you acted. He taught, you learned. He challenged, you trusted.


Your organization is composed of a diverse blend of folks focused upon the business mission and its rewards. Your exit story is about purpose . . . about how God led you, not them. It is a story you own . . . both the times you followed Him closely and the times you wandered. Your ownership of a God-story that is uniquely yours is the source of your lasting influence.


Much about your time in the lead role will be forgotten. New pieces will soon replace those you placed with such care. But those who hear your story will remember that you trusted God. And, at some challenging point in their future, they will remember your story, and the ripples of your faith will be what they hold to.   

As it was with Moses, may it be with you.

Note 6.3   Remember How We Got Here: Part 2 – Remember the Terms of Our Contract   Deuteronomy 5-6


The contract to which Moses referred in his final speech was essential to the continued existence of the people/Israel. It was at the heart of their organizational purpose and culture and foundational to every element of mission they were about to launch. Moses looked long and was exceptionally clear . . . there would be no future, no plan, no life apart from the contract as expressed in each of its ten specific and personally applicable terms.


There are two application points relevant to your organization in this part of Moses’s farewell speech.


First are the terms of the contract itself. You know them as the “Ten Commandments.” Deuteronomy 5:6-21. Here is a refresher of the terms . . .

  1. I am the One and Only Lord God of all forever. You are never to serve another.

  2. You are not to adopt or allow any object or symbol to take god-like status in your life.

  3. You are not to misuse the Lord God’s name.

  4. You are to preserve the holiness of the day the Lord God appoints as dedicated to himself.

  5. You are to honor your parents, their faith, and their culture.

  6. You are not to commit murder.

  7. You are to remain faithful and committed to your spouse.

  8. You are not to steal.

  9. You are not to lie.

  10. You are not to look to another’s spouse or possessions with desire.


These terms remain applicable to your business, and they inform effective organizational culture.


Some have tried to build such culture by printing and framing copies of the ten conditional terms to be hung in various places around a business campus. There is nothing wrong with that, but it is not particularly effective as a culture build tool.


What I find to be far more effective is your personal adoption of these terms and their observable demonstration as fundamental guides to your life. The influence of your life upon the network of organizational leadership and your observable incorporation of these values in shaping decisions is powerful. The trickle-down effect in the organization over time is transformational.


That leads to Moses’ second application point . . . generational responsibility to remember and keep the contracted terms. Look at these power-points in his speech and identify his emphasis upon multi-generational responsibility.



Moses was not giving a going-away speech; he was giving a going-forward speech. The retiring leader was pressing purpose and defining a future to be experienced by unlimited generations . . . an experience shared by we who follow Jesus.


As it was with Moses, so may it be with you.

Note 6.4   Remember How We Got Here: Part 3 – The Old Leader’s Conclusion . . . Purpose, Purpose, Purpose    Deuteronomy 7:9. Deuteronomy 34:1-12.


Our focus is upon discovery of keys to Moses’ effectiveness that can be translated into your work as a leader. Now we come to the wrap of his final speech and of his life.


To the end, Moses hammered one theme . . . “Understand, therefore, that the LORD your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands.” Deuteronomy 7:9


He was on auto loop with that theme from the first encounter with God at the famous burning bush to his last breath. If you are looking for something upon which you can hang your hope for effectiveness, that is it.


His focus and commitment to the primacy of God in his life was the source of Moses’ endurance through the years of work and his enduring influence ever since. It was his purpose, his work, his resource, his protection, his provision, his hope, his strength, his wisdom, his peace, his power, his confidence, his beginning, and his ending . . . the legacy of his life.


The Lord God is; I am not.

The Lord God has; I do not.

The Lord God can; I cannot.


Of Moses, the Bible records two singular and exclusive descriptions that are instructive to your role in leadership. . .


  • “Now Moses was very humble—more humble than any other person on earth.” Numbers 12:3

  • “There has never been another prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face.” Deuteronomy 34:10


Get that, and you get effective leadership.


In conclusion to our look at Moses, read the final piece for yourself. Deuteronomy 34:1-12.  What started on Mt. Saini ended on Mt. Nebo. On Saini, he met God. On Nebo, he saw the promise.


As it was with Moses, may it be with you.


This concludes the Leader.notes on Moses. I am going to take a short break from these Monday posts to do some research for the next subject.

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