Do you ever get tired of waiting for “your turn” to do something great? Do you always feel that you have to take a back seat to others, that while you believe you’re ready to take on more responsibility, the rest of the people around you just can’t seem to see it? Or, do you ever feel like too much time has passed, and that it’s too late to do what you’ve always wanted to do?
I wonder if Joshua ever felt that way. We’re not sure how old he was when he first began to serve as Moses’ helper, but likely around forty years of age when the Israelites left Egypt. He was more than just an assistant. He went with Moses up on the mountain into the cloud of God’s presence and saw Moses receive the tablets with the 10 Commandments from God’s very hand (Genesis 24:12-18). He regularly spent time with Moses in the “Tent of Meeting,” lingering in the presence of God long after Moses had finished his conversations with God and left (Exodus 33:10-11). He was Moses’ choice to lead the armies against the Amalekites as they made their way towards the Promised Land (Exodus 17:9). Perhaps his most notable accomplishment to date was being chosen as one of the twelve men chosen to spy out the land, but one of only two age twenty and above to survive the wilderness journey of forty years.
In Numbers 27, Moses is preparing for his pending death. God tells him that Joshua’s day has finally come. No longer to be “second in command” or the man who stands in the shadow of others, Joshua is commissioned as the new leader of this vast people and charged with the incredible responsibility of taking possession of their new home. They will fight battles against enemies, but he will also have to settle conflicts between his people. It was a huge responsibility.
Joshua was always the man God had in mind to lead the people into Canaan. He had prepared him by giving him time to serve in leadership while being mentored closely by Moses. He had the experience, skill, knowledge, and spiritual maturity – all things that had to be developed over time, with patience and persistence. We know from reading the stories of the wilderness journey that Joshua had plenty of opportunities to turn back from serving God and give up like many of his fellow Israelites. He stayed true to the course, serving faithfully right where God had placed him until God saw fit to promote Moses to heaven and move Joshua into the role he left behind.
You might have had a picture of Joshua as a young man leading the people into the Promised Land, but in fact, he was likely an 80-year-old man! We would be ready to retire and sit on our front porch, giving such responsibility to the younger generation, but Joshua was not deterred. He had been preparing for this job his whole life.
Two takeaways. First, we ought to be patient when we’re in the “preparation” stage of serving God. God never wastes a moment of time, and if we’re always anxious to move to the next step, we may miss what He’s trying to do in this season. Second, don’t be so quick to think you’re too old to start something new. Just because the world says it’s time to retire doesn’t mean God agrees. If He’s given you the inspiration, will, and opportunity to move into a new role for His kingdom work, put your faith and trust in Him to accomplish it, and move forward! He may have saved some battles with your name on them, for such a time as this!