Moses’ Great Good-bye (Deuteronomy 31:1-7)

  • part of this past week was spent beginning to organize and pack my library for the big move
  • one of my favorite sections in my library is on the subject of leadership
  • I dusted off some of my leadership books, and reflected on some of the titles: Lincoln on Leadership, The Leadership Style of Jesus, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Leadership, and even Winnie the Pooh on Management
  • now you know what your pastor does during the week – reads Winnie the Pooh books in his office
  • as a general observation, I believe that many Christians in the church minimize the importance of leadership for the church
  • many people do not say what is painfully obvious: the church needs great leaders
  • Paul wrote words which we don’t emphasize enough:
  • (Romans 12:8 NLT) If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously.
  • I honestly believe that one of the greatest leaders in Biblical history is Moses
  • after four hundred years of slavery, Moses was the man appointed by God to lead an estimated two million stiff-necked sinners through the wilderness for forty years
  • you think you have a hard job?
  • what pastor hasn’t wanted to preach on a verse such as this one:
  • (Deuteronomy 31:27) For I know how rebellious and stiff-necked you are. If you have been rebellious against the LORD while I am still alive and with you, how much more will you rebel after I die!
  • Moses really didn’t have an easy job
  • what’s also hard to understand is how Moses disqualified himself from entering the promised land
  • in Numbers 20, we read that God told Moses to speak to the rock, to command water to come out of it
  • Moses, however, struck the rock – not once, but twice
  • and Moses even took credit for the miracle, saying that he brought water out of the rock
  • it seems unusually harsh at first, but Moses disqualified himself from eventually leading the people into the promised land
  • he would only see the land of Israel from a distance, but would never set foot in it – not until thousands of years later, anyway, when he appeared with Jesus in the transfiguration
  • and here’s a question for any good leader, not to mention their followers
  • what’s a leader to do when it’s time to hand over the reigns?
  • I wonder if Moses was ever tempted to say, “Ah, that’s it. I quit. Somebody else can lead this cantankerous group of people”
  • not long after Moses and Aaron disobeyed God, Aaron died before entering the promised land, probably as punishment for his sin of rebellion
  • I think Moses had a hard time accepting that he would never set foot in the land beyond the Jordan
  • in fact, God in effect told Moses not to bother him anymore about the matter:
  • (Deuteronomy 3:23) At that time I pleaded with the LORD:
  • (Deuteronomy 3:24) “O Sovereign LORD, you have begun to show to your servant your greatness and your strong hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do the deeds and mighty works you do?
  • (Deuteronomy 3:25) Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan–that fine hill country and Lebanon.”
  • (Deuteronomy 3:26) But because of you the LORD was angry with me and would not listen to me. “That is enough,” the LORD said. “Do not speak to me anymore about this matter.
  • talk about unanswered prayer
  • God didn’t just say no, he said, “Don’t bother asking me again”
  • but Moses didn’t just quit
  • he did what every good leader aspires to do – he finished well
  • if you’ll turn with me to Deuteronomy 31, you’ll see that Moses took three steps to help Israel as he faced his impending death
  • these three steps are contained in his great good-bye, contained in this passage, and are applicable to any leader today:
  • STEP NUMBER ONE: A GOOD LEADER PREPARES PEOPLE TO FUNCTION WITHOUT HIM
  • read with me:
  • (Deuteronomy 31:1) Then Moses went out and spoke these words to all Israel:
  • (Deuteronomy 31:2) “I am now a hundred and twenty years old and I am no longer able to lead you. The LORD has said to me, ‘You shall not cross the Jordan.’
  • (Deuteronomy 31:3) The LORD your God himself will cross over ahead of you. He will destroy these nations before you, and you will take possession of their land. Joshua also will cross over ahead of you, as the LORD said.
  • Moses is making his retirement speech, right before he dies
  • perhaps many of the people always assumed that Moses would lead them right into the promised land
  • but now Moses tells them, “You’re going to have to function without me. My leadership is coming to an end.”
  • and the big question is this: “What are you going to do when I’m done being your leader?”
  • don’t forget how dependent the Israelites were on Moses
  • no one had ever known any other leader
  • when Moses started as leader, the people were still slaves in Egypt
  • now that entire generation had died off, and those who were about to enter the promised land were an entirely new generation who had never been led by anyone else but Moses
  • it would have been incomprehensible to think of crossing the Jordan River without Moses leading the way
  • the mark of a good leader is really what happens when they’re not there
  • every leader knows that one day they won’t be leader anymore, but if they’ve been effective, the people they’ve led will function even better once they’re gone
  • the real test of a leader is what happens when they’re no longer leading
  • some leaders make the mistake of making themselves indispensable
  • you’ll remember that when Moses started off, everything revolved around him
  • got a sheep problem? call Moses
  • have a dispute with your neighbor? line up for Moses
  • at that time, Moses was literally indispensable
  • they couldn’t get along without him
  • if Moses was sick one day, everything came crashing to a halt
  • kind of like some churches
  • is there a problem with the piano bench? call the pastor
  • is there a video to be returned to the church library? give it to the pastor
  • trust me – this happens!
  • Moses took steps to correct this situation, which we’ll discover in a minute
  • but other leaders make the same mistake today
  • in preparation for his death, Walt Disney made some movies, in which he recorded instructions for his employees after his death
  • how would you like a boss who tries to manage you even from his grave?
  • some leaders never prepare their people to function without them
  • and the greatest compliment you could pay me as a pastor is to function well without me
  • if I’ve done a good job, this church won’t miss a beat while I’m gone
  • because a good leader has led his people to own a vision, and build a structure to accomplish that vision, so that even when the leader is no longer there, the vision and the structure to reach that vision are still present
  • Moses vision? it came from God, and it could be summarized in three words: the promised land
  • the structure to accomplish that vision? Moses clearly outlines that structure in chapters 31 and 32
  • if I’ve done a good job as a pastor, you’ll know our vision
  • because it won’t be my vision – it will be the vision that God has given us corporately
  • and it won’t die after I’m gone
  • the vision can be summarized in four simple words, “Bond, Grow, Serve, Win”
  • and if I’ve been a good leader, the structure of teams to accomplish this vision will outlast me
  • but if I’ve been ineffective as a leader, our vision and the structure to accomplish the vision will disappear soon after I’m gone
  • the biggest compliment you could pay me as a pastor is that you are strong and courageous after I’m gone, and that you accomplish the vision God has given us, even witho ut my leadership
  • STEP NUMBER TWO: A GOOD LEADER PREPARES LEADERSHIP TO OUTLAST HIM
  • I love what Moses does, in verse Deuteronomy 31:7
  • (Deuteronomy 31:7) 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 forefathers to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance.
  • (Deuteronomy 31:8) 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.”
  • (Deuteronomy 31:9) So Moses wrote down this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel.
  • remember how everything used to revolve around Moses?
  • one day his father-in-law, Jethro, suggested that he find, recruit, and train other leaders to assist him in his leadership responsibilities
  • the results were dramatic
  • soon other leaders were there to help him carry the load
  • this gave added strength to Moses, and enabled the needs of the people to be met
  • after God made it clear that he wouldn’t enter the promised land, Moses began to take additional steps to transfer the leadership
  • in Deuteronomy 3:21-22, Moses takes Joshua aside and assures him that God will give him great victory after he’s gone
  • Moses commissioned Joshua as the new leader and encouraged him in that role
  • and now, in Deuteronomy 31, Moses publicly encourages the people to follow Joshua
  • in other words, he could say, “Don’t be dependent on me. There’s the promised land, and there’s your new leader. You’re still following the same God, so be strong and courageous”
  • a good leader prepares people to function without them by discovering those with leadership potential, training and encouraging them, and eventually turning leadership over to them
  • I grew up with the model of pastoring that said, “The pastor does everything. The people show up to pay his salary and watch him work”
  • as I began to read the Bible, I discovered that this is the exact opposite of what God intends
  • according to Ephesians 4:10-11, God’s design is that pastors equip the people to do the work of the ministry
  • in other words, my job has been to prepare you to do ministry that will outlast my leadership
  • I’m attracted to a story I heard of a large church pastor who preaches and lives this model
  • he came to a baptismal service
  • those who had a role in leading a person to Christ were actually in the water, doing the baptizing
  • in the middle of the service, somebody approached the pastor and said, “Who are you?”
  • that church had reached the point where the pastor had equipped the people so well to do the work of the ministry, that he became almost invisible
  • the church was able to function quite well, because he had raised up leaders to lead the church without him
  • some of you have been leaders in this church, and have done a good job
  • you will be tempted to rest a little after I’m gone
  • but let me tell you: this church needs your leadership – not just when a pastor is leading the people, but especially when he’s gone
  • I’ve tried to develop leaders while I’ve been here, and now I challenge you to lead – and may your leadership long outlast mine at Park Lawn Baptist Church!
  • FINALLY, STEP NUMBER THREE: A GOOD LEADER ELEVATES GOALS THAT ARE BIGGER THAN HIM
  • have you ever heard of “BHAG?”
  • it’s pronounced “beehag,” and it stands for “big hairy audacious goals”
  • don’t worry – it’s not a term that I invented
  • a recent study from a book called Built to Last concludes that businesses that thrive over a long period of time have goals that are so big and audacious, that somehow these goals propel the company to thrive over a long period of time
  • in other words, if you want an organization to outlast the leadership of one individual, don’t set small goals
  • Moses left behind a big goal for the Israelites to pursue:
  • (Deuteronomy 31:3) The LORD your God himself will cross over ahead of you. He will destroy these nations before you, and you will take possession of their land. Joshua also will cross over ahead of you, as the LORD said.
  • Israel had a goal that would outlast Moses’ leadership
  • that’s a mark of a good leader
  • I think you can accurately describe the goal that Moses left as BHAG!
  • as I close this morning’s message, I want to leave you with a BHAG that will outlast my leadership
  • why did God put this church here sixty-nine years ago?
  • why did God put us in the middle of a community with ten thousand residents within a three-minute drive?
  • pretty simple, but also big, hairy, and audacious:
  • to bond together as God’s family
  • to grow together in obedience to God’s commands in our everyday life
  • to serve God using our unique gifts
  • and to win others to Christ
  • God has put Park Lawn Baptist Church here, I believe, for a strategic purpose
  • and to accomplish this purpose will take all the courage and strength you could possibly muster
  • now is the time for strong and courageous people to step forward, to own the goal that God has given us, and, with God’s help, to enter the promised land – with or without Moses, with or without Pastor Darryl
  • my prayer is that you’ll thrive without me, that there are leaders here who will long outlast me, and that the goals we’ve set together – which we believe are God’s design for this church – will propel this church forward for many years to come
  • let us pray
Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash

I'm a grateful husband, father, oupa, and pastor of Liberty Grace Church in Toronto. I love learning, writing, and encouraging. I'm on a lifelong quest to become a humble, gracious old man.
Toronto, Canada