Zelophehad’s Daughters (27:1–11)
From this sad episode in Moses’ life we are reminded once again that the holiness of God is not something to be trifled with; we must stand in awe of it. His holiness is absolute; it does not bend this way and that to accommodate our sinfulness. But then, what hope is there for us? If by one sin the great Moses was prevented from entering the promised land, how will any of us be able to enter our promised land, the kingdom of heaven?
The answer: through Jesus Christ. He has already entered heaven on our behalf (Hebrews 9:24), and He will come again and take us to the place He has prepared for us (John 14:1–3).
15–17 As in the past, Moses didn’t think of his own fate but of his people’s fate. He asked God to appoint someone to be their leader in his place. This leader was not to be chosen by Moses or elected by the people; he was to be appointed by God.
18–23 So the Lord said, “Take Joshua” (verse 18). Today we don’t have a Moses with us to hear the Lord’s voice directly; we have the Holy Spirit. Today we have a number of methods for choosing a leader, but they all come down to hearing the Holy Spirit’s voice: “Take this person.” Whether our leaders are chosen by election or by appointment, they must all in the end be chosen by God, or else they cannot be successful in forwarding God’s purposes.
Joshua was a natural choice: he had been Moses’ assistant from the beginning (Exodus 24:13; Numbers 11:28); he had proven himself in battle (Exodus 17:8–13). He (and Caleb) had already spied out the promised land (Numbers 13:8, 16; 14:6–9). But there was a special characteristic of Joshua that God noted: the spirit was in him (verse 18). Many scholars believe that the “spirit” referred to in verse 18 is the Holy Spirit;92 but if not, it was at least a special spirit of wisdom that would enable Joshua to be an effective leader (Deuteronomy 34:9). However, we do know from other passages of Scriputure that the Holy Spirit was actively involved in the equipping of Old Testament leaders and empowering them for service (Numbers 11:25; 1 Samuel 16:13); this surely must have been the case with Joshua also.
The transfer of leadership was symbolized by Moses laying his hands on Joshua in front of Eleazar the priest and all the people (verses 22–23). Eleazar would obtain the Lord’s guidance for the nation through the use of the Urim93 (verse 21); thus Joshua would always be able to know the Lord’s will.
Although Joshua was the true successor of Moses and become a great leader of Israel, he was never the equal of Moses. In all of Israel’s history there was never a leader as great as Moses (see Deuteronomy 34:10–12). But one day God would send a leader greater than Moses (see Hebrews 3:1–6), and his name would also be Joshua, which means “the Lord saves.” The name Joshua in the Greek language94 is “Jesus.” This Jesus, then, would be the ultimate successor of both Moses and Joshua, and He would bring to fulfillment the work they had so ably begun.