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Big Shoes to Fill
Scripture: Numbers 14:27-30; Numbers 11:28; Numbers...
Track 13 of 14 in the Moses: A Man of Selfless Dedication series
Running time: 58 minutes, 17 seconds.

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Mike Nobis Speaker: Mike Nobis
Sunday School Teacher, Former Elder at Madison Park Christian Church. Mike is President of JK Creative Printers & Mailing in Quincy, IL. He is married to Pam and has three children, Tom, Tyler and Jennifer. Mike has three grandchildren: Ryne, Ivy and Alicia.

View all sermons by this speaker.

Big Shoes to Fill

There is nothing worse than to be the person who has to take over the role of a leader from a hero. It is even more difficult to have to follow a legend. The man or woman who follows a great predecessor is often forgotten even though he or she might be quite capable. Can you tell me who the following people are?

Andrew Johnson - Abraham Lincoln
Anthony Eden - Winston Churchill
Ron Harper - Michael Jordon
Nirmala Joshi - Mother Theresa
Elston Howard - Yogi Bera

Can you tell me who took over for General Douglas MacArthur when President Truman called him back home during the Korean War? Who is the new CEO of Microsoft after Bill Gates stepped down? The truth is, the individuals who take over the duties of the great men and women are usually quite different from their predecessors but are never the less appointed by God to do the job that needs to be done. Frequently God uses them to change the direction of the group or organization, which is not an easy or welcomed task but often a necessary one.

How do you replace a great man or woman? What do you do when it comes time to choose a successor for an effective leader? How do you conduct an effective search and make the right decision especially when the shoes you need to fill belong to a giant?

Every great leader eventually needs to be replaced. Even at times when we are surprised by the change, God is never surprised. When a man fades from the scene, nothing of God fades. He always has people waiting in the wings to take on the challenge. The question for all of us to contemplate is; are we ready for what God has in store for us? The question each one of us has to ask ourselves is, what is God grooming me for? Is there a change coming that will require me to step up and take someone’s place…maybe someone who is a giant in their field or ministry? Am I ready to be used by God?

The time has come for the great leader, Moses to be replaced. You will recall from last week’s lesson that Moses was barred from entering the Promised Land because he indulged himself in rage too many times, disobeyed by striking the rick for water and publically tarnished the glory that belonged to God. God said, “That’s enough”. Moses, you’re going to be replaced. I’m calling someone else. There is no question the change had to be very difficult for Israel and even harder for Moses.

Knowing everything that went on between Moses and God and Moses and Israel, what qualifications were needed in the replacement for Moses? What character qualities were needed in such a man to fulfill the plan of God for the nation of Israel? Who would you look for?

Numbers 14:27-30 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron: “How long will this wicked community grumble against me? I have heard the complaints of these grumbling Israelites. So tell them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the LORD, I will do to you the very things I heard you say: In this desert your bodies will fall—every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me. Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.

Who was qualified to take Moses place? Basically there were only two men who had the necessary credentials. Only two leaders received years of training at the feet of Moses and watched God’s hand in the lives of the people. These two guys were Caleb and Joshua. So why didn’t God name Caleb as Moses’ replacement? Why Joshua? What did Joshua have over Caleb that made him better for the job? It is very interesting that right up until the last breath of Caleb, he remained loyal and obedient to God and his people. But that quality wasn’t necessarily made Caleb the right guy.

Numbers 11:28 gives us a hint as to why Joshua was chosen over Caleb:

Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, “Moses, my lord, stop them!”

What was it that made Joshua more qualified? He might not have been more qualified than Caleb but he was the one who was groomed for the job. Caleb was probably just as qualified, just as courageous and godly as Joshua but Joshua was honed and mentored by Moses. What must it have been like to be the aid to or the understudy of Moses? What do you imagine Joshua saw on a regular basis? What advantage did he have over Caleb? Do you believe Joshua knew he was being trained by Moses to be his successor? What affect do you think that knowledge would have had on Joshua had he known he was going to take Moses place someday?

Numbers 27 will teach us very simple but powerful principle. It is one we must never forget and must always anticipate.

When a man of God dies, nothing of God dies.

Can someone tell me what they think this means? How does it work in the local church?
What can happen when someone of great faith, someone who is a great leader in the church decides to move on or dies or even worse, fails, what affect can these changes have on a congregation? Positive and negative?

God teaches us that when God moves a man on, like Moses and buries him on top of a mountain, nothing of God is buried with him. God remains hard at work; His plans move forward, His affairs are taken care of by other competent people He has trained specifically for that day. Too often churches think the end has come because a major leader has left. The mistake is the assumption that God had nothing to do with the change. When God makes these types of moves, the change always brings new opportunities, new direction and new, qualified leadership. It is easy to see tunnel vision, rather than see God at work in the lives of gifted individuals down through time.

What is the tendency of the church when a popular leader communicates that he or she is moving to a new ministry? Why? What are some of the opportunities to grasp? What are the dangers to avoid?

In Numbers 27, Moses is at the edge of death. God allows Moses to see the Promised Land from a distance but is not allowed to enter it himself. What a bittersweet moment that must have been.

Numbers 27:12-14 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go up this mountain in the Abarim range and see the land I have given the Israelites. After you have seen it, you too will be gathered to your people, as your brother Aaron was, for when the community rebelled at the waters in the Desert of Zin, both of you disobeyed my command to honor me as holy before their eyes.”

Guys, what would you do if you, while in your young years fell in love with a beautiful woman, only to hear God say, “Take one final look at her this evening for tomorrow she is going to marry someone else.” Or what if someone said to a hungry dog, “See this fresh T-bone? Well, you can’t have it.” Is this a cruel thing to do? Why would God do such a thing?

First of all, God is not a being that mocks nor is He cruel. You never see in scripture Moses submerged I self-pity. He never blamed God for the difficulties in his life. God was not teasing Moses but giving him a blessing. He was showing Moses that He keeps His word. For forty years God had been telling Moses that he was going to lead the people to the Promised Land. God allowed Moses to realize the promise before he died. He did not die without first knowing and seeing the promise fulfilled.

We can’t imagine what Moses must have felt standing there looking out over the Promised Land. From Mt. Nebo, Moses would have been able to see a large portion of the land. What had to be going through his mind standing there? What would have been going through your mind?

Describe for me the land Israel was about to enter and posses? What were the opportunities and blessings? What were the dangers to avoid?

Canaanites were a godless people. From what we know from archeology, Canaan was one of the early places pornography got its start. They practiced wholesale perversion. They were pagans and worshiped dark spirits. Moses knew they were wicked to the core. They were a fierce enemy with high walls, iron chariots and modern weapons of the day. Israel had no permanent defenses while the enemy lived in heavily fortified cities. They were everything the 10 spies said they were 40 years before. They were large, tough and giant like people.

Moses realized that the leader who would take his place had to not only be a leader who would protect them from military defeat, but would protect them spiritually as well. But knowledge is one thing, action is another. In his last moments on the earth, Moses demonstrated once again that he could excel in both areas. In his last official act, listen to how a man of unselfish dedication to God thinks ahead.

Numbers 27:15-17 Moses said to the LORD, “May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all mankind, appoint a man over this community to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the LORD’S people will not be like sheep without a shepherd.”

Moses knew that the next leader needed two irreplaceable qualities. In his prayer he asked God to find someone who could fulfill what was required.

He Had to Be a Man of God’s Choosing

Moses requested that his successor be God’s own choice. Now that sounds awesome and to most Christians, that seems logical. But is one thing to think that way and another to actually live it out!

What temptation would confront a man like Moses in this situation? How about a church? A church looses a good, qualified leader. What temptations need to be avoided when looking for a successor? Strong leaders tend to wrestle with the desire to appoint their own successors. Church leaders when looking to find a successor tend to look for leaders much like themselves or someone who will continue to move the church in a direction they desire. What is the danger, the consequences when we pick successors over God’s own choice? How do we know the difference?

If you search the Bible and find when God switched leaders, you will see a very interesting pattern. In almost all cases, God chose to pick a different kind of leader to bring a whole new dimension that would otherwise remain undeveloped. Moses was wise and asked God to choose the man, to pick who He wanted. Moses didn’t give God 4 or 5 choices and then say, “Choose a card.” Instead, Moses simply said, “I have no suggestions. You make the man known to us and we will appoint him.”

All this is important when we consider who God is. In this passage, how does Moses describe God? He said: May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all mankind…

Why is this part of the passage significant? What makes God a better judge in picking the right man for the job? God sees straight through to the spirit of a man. God is not fooled by the outward appearance. God looks at the more important qualities.

Do you remember when Samuel was going about looking for the next king of Israel? Samuel thought he found the right man. But God said no to his choice and said the following:

1 Samuel 16:7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

Samuel learned firsthand several centuries after Moses what can happen when picking a leader based on outward appearances. Saul was physically attractive, a warrior and a man who looked the part but deep down inside he was a spiritual wreck. God chose the next king; He chose a man after His own heart, David. What is interesting, Samuel was looking for a man who was just like Saul. God didn’t let him make the same mistake twice. God chose someone no one would have considered. God picked a young shepherd boy, a teenager even overlooked by his own dad.

A Man with a Shepherds Heart

I love how Moses explained the next qualification.

Numbers 27:17 to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in

Based on this description, what kind of man was Moses asking for? Did the situation Israel found itself in require a leader different than Moses? If so, how so? How had their situation changed? What obstacles laid before them that was different when Moses first began his ministry?

I want you all to think a minute about your ministry. Some of you will say I don’t have one but if you really think about it, we each have at least one. But in all the ministries that are in the church, they all have one thing in common that is important. PEOPLE. No matter how God gifted you, your ministry is primarily about PEOPLE. The problem with a lot of Christians is they forget that fact. So many get involved with the nuances of their ministry, they forget why they are in ministry in the first place, the PEOPLE.

This morning when you walk into worship, I want you to sit down and just sit and look around at all the people. Don’t do anything else but watch them, especially those you don’t know. I want you to ask yourself this question while watching them, why don’t I know who they are? What is more important this morning while sitting in worship than to go over to someone you don’t know and touch them, connect with them in some way. That my friend is ministry in its simplest form. That is exactly what Moses was asking God for in his successor. He wanted a man who would connect with the people, be their shepherd, lead them in and lead them out. To always be out in front of the people so they know he cares for them just like God cares for them.

There are three points I want to share with you when God makes a transition in leadership.

1. When God removes, He replaces: When a man of God dies, nothing of God dies with him. This is important to remember. Ministry doesn’t end with the leader. For the church, ministry is done by the church.

2. When God appoints, He approves: When God takes control, He also blesses. He approves when we seek his counsel for a replacement and He blesses the decision.

What is it like to be chosen by God? How awesome to know that God Himself picked you for a specific job?

3. When God sustains, the leader succeeds: What is fascinating about Joshua, God sustained Joshua’s life and not once does the Old Testament ever record one of Joshua’s sins. I’m sure Joshua sinned but the Bible is clear, his life was not characterized by gross failure. His success was due to God’s sustaining him.