Mentoring and Team Ministry: Moses and Joshua

[Photo: courtesy of Adventist Review]

There are profound lessons that emerge from the mentoring that Moses gave to Joshua and from their team ministry. H. Blackaby and R. Blackaby (2004) point out that, “Alexander the Great took the army his father Phillip had meticulously trained and organized and with it he conquered the world” (p.177). Similarly Joshua faithfully followed Moses for 40 years as his assistant before he could become one of Israel’s greatest leaders (Num 11:28). H. Blackaby and R. Blackaby further suggest that,

Moses was not the easiest person to assist. He was poor at delegation (Exod 18:13-27). He could not always handle those with opposing opinions (Num 13:28-14:5). He was susceptible to outbursts of anger (Exod 32:19; Num 20:10-11). Nonetheless, there is no record of Joshua complaining about Moses. On the contrary, he repeatedly defended his leader’s honor and reputation (p.40).

Joshua’s experience in working with Moses suggests that he had a good attitude. He in no way worked in competition with his mentor. As a trainee he faithfully discharged the duties that were assigned him by Moses. His attitude helped him to learn from the experience of his master. He must have concentrated on the strengths of his mentor which made it possible for the two to maintain a close working relationship.

Lessons from Rephidim

Joshua is first mentioned in the Bible when the Amalekites attacked Israel at Rephidim. Moses commanded him, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.” (Exod 17:9). To Moses victory depended on the Lord. Numerous leadership principles emerge from this passage:

Delegating Authority

Moses empowered Joshua by delegating some of his authority to him. This gave Joshua the opportunity to choose able men to go and fight with him. Mentoring requires leaders to let go of some of their responsibilities. When I first went for driving lessons my instructor took the passenger’s seat and gave me full control of the vehicle. That is what Moses did.

Team Ministry

Even though Moses was the leader he did not stand idle. Instead they worked as a team, “As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning” (Exod 17:9, 11). After the war was won God instructed Moses, “Make sure that Joshua hears it” (:14). God wanted Joshua to know that victory was not a one man show. Under God’s direction different team members played an important role until the enemy was overcome.

Trust in Divine Power

Joshua had confidence in Moses and he trusted God. Even though Moses assigned a dangerous task to him, he did not hesitate to obey because he trusted the One who was higher than Moses. God was busy shaping Joshua into the future leader of Israel. He wanted him to know that spiritual battles are not fought by the sword but by the Spirit through prayer and surrender to Him.

A Lesson from Mt. Sinai

At Sinai the Lord summoned Moses to go up the mountain to receive the tablets of stone. He went up the mountain with his aide Joshua (Exod 24:13) and spent 40 days and 40 nights together. Henry (1706-1721) comments, “Joshua was to be his successor . . . and thus he was prepared for service.” Moses was committed to the training of his successor and Joshua was committed to learning.

Lessons from the Twelve Spies

Moses changed the name of his aide from Hoshea to Joshua – Jehovah is salvation (Num 13:3, 16). The new name was prophetic. It pointed to Jesus who was going to successfully lead His people to heavenly Canaan. At the wilderness of Paran the Lord instructed Moses to choose 12 men from each of the tribes of Israel to go and spy the land of Canaan. Joshua represented the tribe of Ephraim. This assignment produced the following results in Joshua’s ministry:

  1. It enhanced his training

He learned not to follow the majority but to stand for the truth.

  1. It tested his faith

Joshua and Caleb addressed the assembly, “Do not be afraid of the people of the land…Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us” (Num 14:9). This address was a demonstration of Joshua’s faith in God. The same God who delivered Israel from the Egyptians was at work to give them the land of Canaan.

  1. It focused him on the bigger vision

“The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good” (Num 14:7). Joshua and Caleb focused their attention on the land of Canaan. Because they fully trusted God, they refused to allow any obstruction to deter them from their ultimate destination.

Moses successfully prepared Joshua to succeed him. The Lord acknowledged this to Joshua, “Be strong and courageous, for you will bring the Israelites into the land I promised them on oath, and I myself will be with you” (Deut 31:23).

God used him to part the waters of the Jordan, to take Jericho without any battle and to command the sun and moon to stand still so that he could annihilate enemy forces. The experience of Moses and Joshua confirms the words of LePau (as cited in Coutts, 2008), “we had better be about the business of learning how to follow as much as learning how to lead” (p. 17). H. & R. Blackaby (2004) sums it up this way, “Joshua was a good assistant. Joshua succeeded a great leader. Joshua’s past prepared him for the future(p. 55). Joshua’s success as a leader is marked by the fact that throughout his lifetime he led Israel to serve the Lord (Joshua 24:31).

Paminus Machamire is a Seventh-day Adventist Pastor who currently serves as a Vice President of the Southern Africa -Indian Ocean Division.

This article is excerpted from A Project Proposal Presented in Partial Fulfilment of the Requirement for the Degree Doctor of Ministry by Paminus Machamire June, 2010.

Blackaby, H. T. & Blackaby, R. Called to be God’s leader: How God prepares His servants for spiritual leadership. Nashville TN: Thomas Nelson, 2004.

Henry, M. Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible, 1706-1721. Retrieved from  https://www.studylight.org

Coutts, J. (2008). A theological approach to pastoral leadership today. Ministry: International Journal for Pastors, 80(11), 14-19.
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