God said to Moses, “Climb up into the Abarim Mountains and look over at the land that I am giving to the People of Israel. When you’ve had a good look you’ll be joined to your ancestors in the grave—yes, you also along with Aaron your brother. This goes back to the day when the congregation quarreled in the Wilderness of Zin and you didn’t honor me in holy reverence before them in the matter of the waters, the Waters of Meribah (Quarreling) at Kadesh in the Wilderness of Zin.”
Moses responded to God: “Let God, the God of the spirits of everyone living, set a man over this community to lead them, to show the way ahead and bring them back home so God’s community will not be like sheep without a shepherd.”
God said to Moses, “Take Joshua the son of Nun—the Spirit is in him!—and place your hand on him. Stand him before Eleazar the priest in front of the entire congregation and commission him with everyone watching. Pass your magisterial authority over to him so that the whole congregation of the People of Israel will listen obediently to him. He is to consult with Eleazar the priest who, using the oracle-Urim, will prayerfully advise him in the presence of God. He will command the People of Israel, the entire community, in all their comings and goings.” (Numbers 27:12-21)
“Who knows whether the one who comes after you will be wise or a fool?” So said the author of Ecclesiastes. Moses knew he was going to die before he could lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land. He knew that he would not be there to guide them in their conquest against the Canaanites. He had been the one to stand before Pharaoh and ten times tell him to “let my people go.” He had led them through the sea, and into the wilderness. He had held their hands through their grumbling and fear. He had prayed to God on their behalf and stood up for them when even God seemed ready to give up on them. And now, just as they were about to reach the place God had promised them, facing even more and possibly worse problems, he wasn’t going to be there for them. Would his forty years of ministry be for nothing? Would it all fall apart without him?
God let him know who would take his place; he reassured him that just as God had been with Moses and had helped him lead an obstinate and difficult group of human beings through a nightmare, so God would be with Moses’ replacement, Joshua, just as much. And just like Moses had succeeded because of God’s presence, so Joshua would succeed and for just the same reason. The human leader might change, but the real leader—God—wasn’t going anywhere. God remains the same generation to generation. Our children will do just fine. God will stand by them just as much as he stood by us.