Imagine being commissioned as the new leader of a very large organization. Everyone is optimistic about the future of the organization and your ability to lead it. You have a strong track record and confidence is high. It’s an exciting day to launch a promising future.
Now consider Joshua’s inauguration as he replaces Moses as the leader of Israel (Deuteronomy 31). God gives Joshua his marching orders to lead Israel into the promised land. However, God also informs him that after the people have tasted all of the good things God has for them, they will “turn to other gods and serve them, and despise me and break my covenant.” He says that He knows even now what they are inclined to do, and as a result, “many evils and troubles” will come upon them. Moses says to the people (v29), “For I know that after my death you will act corruptly and turn from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days, for you will do that which is evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking Him to anger with the work of your hands.”
Not the prediction most leaders would want to hear about their organization. You might say Joshua was being told that he was being setup for some significant degree of failure.
I can’t say I would be real excited about taking that assignment. But Joshua’s personal “success” was not his decision making criteria. He knew what God expected of him and obedience to that call was what mattered.
Twice Joshua is told to be “strong and courageous” (v7, v23), and that despite the problems foretold, he would bring the Israelites into the promised land — the role God had ordained for him to play. “The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (v8)
Would I be willing to be obedient even if I knew those I was leading were going to turn away? I hope that God’s promise that “I will be with you” (v23) would be the only measure of success I need.