FRONT-PORCH GOSPEL: “You are no Moses, sir!”
Good week to all. Welcome to the “front porch.”
One day some years ago, my Houston friend Chuck Sears teased me while we were talking about the greatness of Zig Ziglar. As I talked of Zig and some of the attributes of his that I like to try to apply to my own work, Chuck quipped, “Oh, but you are no Zig Ziglar, sir.”
“No,” I quipped back, “not yet.”
Chuck conceded his point with a laugh, because of the optimism, I guess. But I must say that – while I answered quickly so as to put to rest any premature limitations – I realized the truth of my friend’s assertion. No, I’m no Zig Ziglar; but, then again, who is? It’s just that many folks I know are a great deal closer than I.
Thinking of that conversation now, some years later, I think I know how the old warrior Joshua must have felt during Bible times. I understand how easy it is to feel some degree of inadequacy because of so many great presenters, orators, speakers, preachers with whom I’ve crossed paths. Joshua just happened to walk in the footsteps for years of the greatest leader the Lord ever had! When you have to pick up the slack after such a man as Moses, you have a powerful amount of slack to pick up.
But, the good news for Joshua, and the good news for you and me, is this: You don’t have to “be” your great predecessor to do a great job. You really just have to be you – and lean on the Lord for the rest. In fact, our aim, in one sense, is not to reach the top but to reach the bottom. Read on.
“See you at the top” is the name of one of the early Zig-Ziglar books. But we’re about to see that the way to the top – in the Lord’s book – is strange, indeed. No one can deny that Moses certainly makes it to the top, spiritually. If any man ever reaches the pinnacle of spiritual excellence, this great leader does. So, when the Lord approaches Joshua with the news that Moses is now dead, we are interested in how the Lord depicts Moses. The Lord’s opening to Joshua in the first verses of Joshua may seem casual to us, but I doubt it is a small thing to Joshua. For in the very first sentence of what appears to be Joshua’s first direct conversation with the Lord, the Lord tells Joshua and tells us the kind of man He is looking for in His army. He says, “Moses my servant is dead…”
Above everything we can say about a great man such as Moses, that he is God’s servant is probably the most important. It seems to rise above every other attribute that Moses seeks to attain. At his core, Moses is a mere servant. We feel a little guilty using the word “mere” in that description; but maybe that word will remind us that a servant – at least in his own mind – is not someone eating high on the hog, as they say, but someone who gladly sits at the table with the common man.
I like that the Lord is the one to note that Moses is simply a servant – oh that he could see the same in us! – and, while He could have provided any number of striking epitaphs for Moses to show the world his value, the Lord chooses the humblest of descriptions. He could speak of Moses, the great leader – or, Moses, the man who stood boldly before the angry Pharaoh – or, Moses, the flamboyant example who took the Israelites in the palm of his hand and carried them to the edge of the Promised Land with tremendous zeal and resolve.
But the Lord waves off those and a long list of other colorful epitaphs that rightly apply to Moses, and speaks to Joshua in a way that is as if to say, “If you want to do anything at all in My service, friend, try serving.”
We can only surmise as to what Joshua is thinking as he realizes that the Lord has just passed the mantle. He’s the one who has to run the final leg of the race. The baton is squarely in his hands. We likely will not be far off if we suppose Joshua’s response is similar to that of Moses’ when the Lord gathers him around a burning bush and saddles him with one of the most difficult assignments the Lord has ever given a man.
Who can blame Joshua if he feels ill-equipped to step into the gap? To him, Moses is a hundred things he isn’t. Joshua has not stood for nearly half a century “face to face” with God repeatedly, enjoying a closer communion with God than perhaps any man who ever lived. He is not a construction genius who receives the intricate specifications of God’s tabernacle and has the brilliant ability to orchestrate the building of it with perfect precision. He is not the great leader Moses is, able to judge every matter – big or small – that arises in Israel’s camp. And Joshua certainly is not the as meek and mild as the man the Lord has just buried in the valley of Mount Nebo.
But, let us be clear, though – Joshua has his own abilities and graces, and the Lord is about to put those attributes to good use.
What Joshua is, first and foremost, is Moses’ minister. Joshua 1:1: “… the Lord spoke unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ minister.”
That’s right: Long before Joshua comes to this critical juncture in his life, he has worked as Moses’ right hand man. Joshua becomes Elijah’s Elisha, Paul’s Timothy or Silas, Peter’s Mark.
True faith, you see, is that servant who greets us at the door with a smile, kindly takes our coat, and then asks politely that we have a seat. “Sit over there by that pail of water,” faith says, “and take off your sandals.” They understand that “See you at the top” requires traveling a strange road.
To get to that road at the top – we have to take the road to the bottom.
Coach Steven Bowen, a long-time Red Oak teacher and coach, now enjoys his time as a full-time writer and preacher of the gospel. In addition to his evangelistic travels, he works and writes for the Church of Christ of Red Oak at Uhl Road and Ovilla. Their worship times are 10 a.m. Sundays and 7:30 pm. Wednesdays. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call or text 972-824-5197.