Moses had led the children of Israel for four decades. He was one constant for a people who had wandered in the wilderness as an entire generation died off, one thing they could depend on. But then he too was gone. The Book of Joshua opens by stating his death in a rather matter-of-fact manner: Moses was dead and now God spoke to Joshua. But we cannot underestimate the impact his loss surely had on a people who stood at the border of the promised land, preparing to go to war. The people were vulnerable, and this could have been a crushing blow for them, a demoralizing loss.
But God, of course, understood. He knew Joshua would need encouragement, and He knew the people would need it as well. But He also knew the people needed something else more—they needed Him. Good leaders are a gift from God. Great leaders are a blessing. But no leader, no matter how good he or she might be, is a substitute for God Himself. Moses was not who the Israelites needed. Neither was Joshua. Nor would it be any of the judges, Samuel, Saul, David, Solomon, any other king, or any other prophet. The leader the people needed was God, who would one day come in the form of a man—Christ Jesus, the One whom God provided to lead us out of bondage to sin and into the rest of salvation in Him.
Have you ever lost a significant leader? What was the effect of that loss on you and others?