Requirements for Success

The events following Joshua’s installation as the new leader of Israel model proper relationships within an organization. To be truly successful, an organization must meet four requirements.

1. There is delegated authority.

Originally, when Moses led Israel out of Egypt, he and Aaron tried to rule the whole congregation by themselves. But God soon gave them assistance by creating a variety of subordinate officials.

First were the judges. When Moses’ father-in-law Jethro visited the camp, he discovered that all disputes were brought for judgment directly to Moses himself. Jethro suggested that Moses create a middle tier of judges to try most cases, sparing Moses for the hardest (Exod. 18:13-26).

Later, the burden of leadership was still too great for Moses, because the people blamed him for every inconvenience connected with living in the wilderness. They especially resented the manna, and wherever Moses went, he heard their complaints (Num. 11:4-15). The Lord decided to appoint another group of leaders to serve as a buffer between Moses and the people—a group of elders, seventy men who were filled with the Spirit of God (Num. 11:16-17). After the Jews returned from exile in Persia, they adopted a similar form of government. They reinstituted the office of elder and gave ruling authority to the Sanhedrin, a council comprising seventy elders under one leader.

Still later, Moses set up captains over thousands and hundreds (Deut. 1:15). Presumably these were the "officers of the people" (Josh. 1:10) who prepared the nation to cross over Jordan. Joshua’s use of the term "officers" shows that they were distinct from the elders and judges (Josh. 8:33; 23:2). The word itself means "someone who writes, a scribe." Yet the context makes it clear that these officers were military commanders. Evidently, the ability to write was viewed as an essential qualification for someone entrusted with enrolling and organizing men in an army.

Getting Practical

Middle layers

Likewise in any organization today, it is good to have a well-defined hierarchy of leadership. God wants churches, for example, to have deacons serving under the pastor. The value of middle layers of authority is primarily threefold.

  1. It relieves top leaders of excessive responsibility (Acts 6:1-7). Moses could not carry the whole burden of leadership. Neither can a pastor. He needs to concentrate on his spiritual duties. Except in a very small church, he should not count the money, or look at financial records to see what people are giving, or micromanage the budget, or supervise Sunday School classes, or direct the choir, or organize youth activities. These tasks belong to others.
  2. It allows other men to develop and exercise their gifts for the benefit of the whole organization. An organization under a dictator cannot run faster than he can run or climb higher than he can climb. Where many men serve as leaders, the strengths of one complement the strengths of another and free the organization from the limitations of one man. Thus, in the nation of Israel, Moses did not presume to oversee the building of the Tabernacle, but designated Bezaleel to lead the work (Exod. 31:1-6). Bezaleel and Aholiab were the master craftsmen, not Moses. Likewise, the operation of a church involves many tasks that are best performed by especially skilled individuals (1 Cor. 12:12-31). These tasks include the exercising of responsibility at intermediate levels of leadership.
         I once had a pastor who said that he wished he could clone himself to do all the jobs in the church, but since he could not, he needed helpers. I thought this statement a bit conceited. As choir director, I could not refrain from anticipating what would happen if he cloned himself to replace me. The result would have been a choir director unable to carry a tune.
  3. It prepares men to step into even higher callings. Steven and Philip began as deacons, but soon distinguished themselves as preachers and evangelists.
2. There is a shared commitment to honor and obey God.

In commanding the people to prepare to cross the Jordan, Joshua was carrying out the task God had given him (Josh. 1:10–15). God had not specified three days, but had left this detail to Joshua’s own good judgment, under the influence of the Holy Spirit. We have the same experience as Christians. We derive broad principles of guidance from the Bible and apply them as the Spirit leads.

The nation responded to Joshua’s direction with whole-hearted cooperation (Josh. 1:16-18). It is unclear in verse 16 whether "they" refers to the two-and-a-half tribes mentioned in the previous verses or to the whole nation. Likely it is the whole nation responding to Joshua’s assertion of authority as their new leader. They say, in essence, that they will accept his leadership and comply with all his commands. Moreover, they will enforce his commands by severely punishing any rebels. Yet their submission to Joshua is conditional. In recognition that God is the supreme leader of Israel, they will follow Joshua only if he himself is following God.

Their example teaches us the proper obligations of both leaders and followers. It is a leader’s duty to do right according to God’s will, and it is a follower’s duty to accept leadership in line with God’s will. In a fallen world, we sometimes find ourselves subordinate to ungodly people—perhaps to parents or bosses who are antagonistic to the things of God, perhaps even to unsaved military commanders, judges, or rulers. Yet we must view all legally constituted authorities as ministers of God (Rom. 13:1-2). Even so, however, they lose the right to our obedience if they dictate anything contrary to God’s Word—that is, if they require us to do anything offensive to the conscience of a Christian.

3. Everyone recognizes that it is in the organization’s best interest to have a strong leader.

After hearing the Lord’s charge to be strong, Joshua took decisive action. He told the whole nation that he wanted them ready to move within three days. The whole nation responded by urging him, "Only be strong and of a good courage" (Josh. 1:18). Why was this their desire? They remembered the past. Throughout the early years of wandering in the wilderness, the nation had suffered constant turmoil stirred up by conflict between Moses and multitudes of disgruntled followers.

At Mt. Sinai, when Moses was meeting with God on the mountain, the people made a golden calf to worship. When Moses returned, the Levites rallied to Moses’ side and slew three thousand of the revelers (Ex. 32:1-29). Later, the people grew tired of the manna and complained bitterly, and God sent an abundance of quail along with a plague that destroyed many (Num. 11:4-10, 31-34). When the Lord ordered them to move into Canaan, they refused out of fear of the inhabitants (Num. 14:1-10). Then certain leading men of the nation—Korah, Dathan, and Abiram—joined together and challenged the leadership of Moses, claiming that they stood as high in God’s favor as he did. But God opened the ground and swallowed up Dathan and Abiram, and He sent a fire that consumed Korah (Num. 16:1-35). Years later, as Israel approached Canaan, the people complained again about the food, and God sent fiery serpents among them (Num. 21:4-9). Then when Israel had reached the east side of Jordan, they drew near the nation of Moab, which schemed to draw the people of God into corruption. Many Israelites sinned by joining in worshiping the Moabite gods. Among the men, many committed immorality with the daughters of Moab (Num. 25:1-9). God again sent a plague, which ceased only when Phinehas rose up and slew two of the sinners, an Israelite man together with the Moabite woman he had brought into the camp.

At each point of crisis, Moses stood firm as God’s representative. When pressed by a demand contrary to God’s will, he never yielded or compromised. As a result, God never withdrew His presence from the nation, and Moses kept God’s backing as their leader until they reached the verge of the Promised Land.

It is evident why the godly elements in the tribes wanted Joshua to be strong. To manage a large nation of strong-willed people, he could not be weak, especially in dealing with rebellion. For that reason, the tribes particularly admonished him to maintain discipline, and they promised to enforce it. Without discipline, the nation would fracture into tribes that would go their separate ways, never realizing God’s plan to become a single nation under His direction.

4. All dealings are conducted with personal integrity.

Some time before, after the nation had utterly destroyed the Amorites on the east side of the river, the tribes of Gad and Reuben together with the half tribe of Manasseh looked at the vast territory now vacant and desired it for themselves (Num. 32). The people of these two-and-a-half tribes had great flocks and herds, and the land where the Amorites had dwelt, the land of Gilead, was ideal for grazing. They therefore came to Moses with the request that this land east of Jordan be given to them as their portion among the tribes.

Moses’ first reaction was anger. He thought they were proposing to stay behind while the remainder of Israel crossed Jordan and confronted the Canaanites. He warned them that their defection from the army would demoralize the other tribes and discourage them from attempting the invasion, with the result that they would again incur the Lord’s wrath. Instead of taking them into the land, He would leave them in the wilderness. The two-and-a-half tribes replied that they were willing to help in the military campaign. After building shelters for their families and folds for their flocks, the men of war would leave their homes behind and cross fully armed into Canaan with the rest of the nation, and they would not go back until the war of conquest was over. Moses accepted their proposal, cautioning them that failure to keep their promise would be a grave sin against the Lord (Num. 32:23).

In hindsight, we suspect that the two-and-a-half tribes were wrong in their choice of territory. By taking land outside of Canaan on the east side of Jordan, they were settling for second best. They put themselves on Israel’s exposed flank, where in later years they found it difficult to hold off invaders. The best lot fell to Judah, the tribe that would produce the Messiah. Judah was centrally located with protective shields on two sides: desert to the south and the Dead Sea on the east.

One of Joshua’s first acts after assuming command of the nation was to remind the two-and-a-half tribes of their promises to Moses (Josh. 1:12–15). At the same time he reiterated Moses’ assurance that if they fulfilled their commitment, the nation would recognize their title to the land east of Jordan. Since they responded by joining in a pledge of cooperation (Josh. 1:16–18), we see that they did not argue with their duty. Nor did they shrink from performing it. When the moment finally came to cross the Jordan, the first in procession were 40,000 armed men of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh (Josh. 4:12–13). Joshua’s purpose in placing them first may have been to guarantee that they would not melt away from the rear, leaving the other tribes to fend for themselves.

The incident illustrates integrity on both sides. Although leadership had changed hands, the two-and-a-half tribes kept their word. They did not view the passing of Moses as an occasion for renegotiating their obligations or as an excuse for shirking their obligations. They might have thought that they could take advantage of a new man who had not yet consolidated his power. Instead, they chose to please the Lord by honoring their commitments. Likewise, having inherited Moses’ agreement with these tribes, Joshua did not try to change the terms. He let the agreement stand unchanged. He too took the path of integrity.

The Need for Integrity

Getting Practical

Changing not

Today many people do not honor their commitments. Employees are prone to absenteeism. Students are not faithful in doing their homework. Citizens feel no obligation to vote or to assist good candidates. Even in churches, some people are undependable in carrying out their responsibilities. Others are lackadaisical about their church attendance.

Lack of commitment extends even to the most sacred of social relationships. There was a time when to break a marriage was unthinkable. Even to break an engagement was disgraceful. Nowadays, marriage is a revolving door. But God says that He approves the man “that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not” (Ps. 15:4).

Pondering a Question

Must we honor all commitments?

No. Two kinds may be broken.

  1. We need not keep a commitment to disobey God. To renege on it is a sin, but not so great a sin as to keep the commitment. To follow through on a promise out of line with God’s will was Jephthah’s mistake (Judg. 11:30-40). He killed his daughter just to keep a vow he should never have made, and having made it, should never have kept, though he sinned by breaking his word.
  2. Certain kinds of promises and vows can be overruled by an authority figure. According to the law of Moses, a father could negate a vow made by his daughter, and a husband could negate a vow made by his wife (Num. 30:3-8). Likewise in modern culture, a father can overrule his daughter’s promise to marry a man, or his wife’s promise to donate $100 to a charity, or his child’s promise to attend a party. Such promises can be broken without anyone incurring blame for dishonesty, although there may still be blame for foolishness or for failure to consult the father.

Delving Deeper

Integrity defined

What is integrity? It is one face of love. Mark it down. A man who lacks integrity is a man who loves mainly himself.

Please forgive me if I use myself to illustrate the connection between integrity and love. Over the years I have taken many unpopular positions, and I have held to them at some personal cost. I have often been misunderstood. Some people have accused me of being stubborn, rigid, hard to get along with, out of date, fanatical, Pharisaical, etc. I have lost ministry opportunities. Few of my writings have been accepted for publication.

This was the price of my decision to resist compromising trends across a wide spectrum of issues. I have rejected Contemporary Christian music (CCM). I have argued at length that the best policy on television is to get rid of it. I have opposed dating and boy-girl relationships in high school. Against easy-believism, I have insisted that repentance is required for salvation. I have objected to the church forsaking the conviction of previous generations that these are the Last Days. The list goes on.

Has my persistence in holding to my positions been an exercise in self-will? No, it has been motivated by love—love first for my own children and grandchildren, secondly for others that God has entrusted to my care. I have had a father’s heart for them all. I know that the Bible is an authentic revelation of the mind of God. Therefore, I believe in the depths of my heart that the only way those I love will gain blessing and joy is to bring their lives into line with the Bible.