“Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua and had known all the work that the Lord did for Israel.” Joshua 24:31
We come to the end of Joshua with some grim foreshadowing of what is to come. In chapter 24, Joshua lays out the challenge to the people: choose whom you will serve. And all the people say, “We’ll serve the Lord.” (15-18)
Then Joshua dies, and verse 31 says that the people continued to serve the Lord “all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua.”
But how many were those days? Based on what we are about to read in Judges, they didn’t last long. And I have to wonder: did Joshua mentor anyone the way Moses mentored him? The first time we hear about Joshua is all the way back in Exodus 17:8-9. He is called Moses’ assistant in Exodus 24:13. He is with Moses on the mountain when Moses receives the Commandments from God (Ex. 32:17). And when Moses speaks to God in the Tent of Meeting, Joshua, “a young man” stays in the tent even when Moses goes back to the camp (Exodus 33:11).
But if Joshua invested in anyone from the next generation to that extent, we don’t read about it in Scripture. And so while the elders were able to keep Israel on track, we will see in Judges that when that generation dies, Israel goes off the rails in a big way.
Joshua did not pour into someone the way he himself was poured into.
The lesson for me here, both as a middle aged man and as a pastor, is to develop the next generation of disciples. I can look at my church and be content that all the leadership positions are filled. A full choir, no vacancies on any committees, all volunteer teams up and running. A healthy turnout at midweek prayer meeting. Good attendance on Sunday morning.
The problem is, with a few exceptions, they are all people my age or older. What happens when our generation dies out? What happens to the next generation when they grow up and their parents are no longer “making” them go to church?
Where is the next generation of leaders? On our worship team? In our volunteer base? What am I doing to invest? If I can’t point to anyone from the next generation that I am pouring into, then I fear I am making the same mistake as Joshua. And that the church will have the same results as Israel in Judges.