"So Moses appealed to the Lord, 'May the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the community who will go out before them and come back in before them, and who will bring them out and bring them in, so that the Lord's community won't be like sheep without a shepherd.' The Lord replied to Moses, 'Take Joshua son of Nun, a man who has the Spirit in him, and lay your hands on him.' " (Numbers 27:15-18 HCSB)
God has designed His creation so that everything produces "according to its kind." This means that apple trees don't produce avocados and goldfish don't birth goldfinches. Sheep have sheep--and guess what shepherds have? Spiritually speaking, they should sire more shepherds! Paul instructed Timothy, "And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." (2 Timothy 2:2 HCSB)
There is no success without a successor. Moses was a successful shepherd because Joshua was groomed to be his replacement. Even the best shepherd can only lead the flock so long. Someone must be prepared to take the shepherd's staff and lead them, for sheep must have a shepherd.
Joshua had learned from watching Moses work and listening to Moses' words. Moses had given him several responsibilities to lead under his watchful eye and Joshua had grown. The grizzled old veteran now had a vibrant young leader ready to lead the Lord's army. Joshua had exhibited commitment, character and competence, and now the time was near for him to fulfill God's call on his life.
There was no jealousy on Moses' part. There might well have been. For almost forty years, Moses had marched on toward the Promised Land. In heat of day and cold of night, amid criticism from his followers and challenges from his foes, on he had faithfully led Israel toward a land flowing with milk and honey. But, Moses would not be able to go there. It would be Joshua who would take the Israelis across the Jordan. Moses didn't have a pity party. He wasn't about building a name for himself. God had offered that to him, but he had refused--begging the Lord to spare Israel from the judgment they deserved. The shepherd's heart is for the flock--stinking, stubborn, straying sheep though they may sometimes be.
So, Moses will do all he can to make Joshua successful. He has poured himself into the man and now confers authority on him. "Moses did as the Lord commanded him. He took Joshua, had him stand before Eleazar the priest and the entire community, laid his hands on him, and commissioned him, as the Lord had spoken through Moses." (Numbers 27:22, 23 HCSB) In a public way, the old man of God was saying to the congregation--this is God's man, follow him.
Pole Creek has had a line of faithful shepherds who have led God's flock. I am sure that as each has moved on, the congregation missed them and wondered how they would do without them. But the church has survived and thrived. That proves how successful those shepherds were. They pointed people to Christ--the Good Shepherd--and He remains though lesser shepherds come and go. If a church crumbles when the pastor leaves, it shows the inferiority of the foundation--that is was built on a man and not the Master. Such a church deserves to die for it was a monument to the glory of a preacher rather than a tribute to the glory of God!
For almost seventeen years I have led you. Perhaps God will grant me seventeen more. Who knows? What I do know is there will come a time when I will no longer lead this congregation. If my ministry endures my tenure, it will be that I have raised up leaders who will step up in my place.
There is no success without a successor.