The Proverbial Leader
Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: Teach a just man, and he will increase in learning. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the Holy is understanding. For by me thy days shall be multiplied, and the years of thy life shall be increased. If thou be wise, thou shalt be wise for thyself: But if thou scornest, thou alone shalt bear it. Proverbs 9.9-12
A leadership role should never just fall into someone’s lap. A path of spiritual education is needed to equip men for the tremendous responsibility of leading God’s people. Joshua was no exception. He too needed to be challenged, encouraged, and made willing to learn from others. This godly man saw victories for God long before he was formally recognized as Moses’s successor.
In verse 9 a wise man is being instructed and a just man is being taught. Both men will increase their knowledge because of their willingness to learn from someone who is wiser than themselves. Back in Exodus 17.9-14 Joshua was already known for his reliability, for he had caught the attention of Moses prior to being called upon as Israel’s battle commander. He was now given the opportunity to grow further in spiritual things and see God’s hand at work. Furthermore, he was not alone for Moses was up on the mountain top doing his part in prayer to see Joshua succeed. A bond of spiritual loyalty and accountability had now formed between these men and a mentorship had started to grow. Godly leaders should be looking for youngermen who are showing signs of spiritual interest and actively encourage them, providing a model of behavior. If time was given over to true mentoring, our local assemblies would see the next generation strengthened and spiritual battles won for God.
Where should a spiritual instructor start with his student? As has been said many times in the book of Proverbs, ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ (v 10): this is the foundation on which to build. The scholar needs to have a teachable spirit, for our minds should always be open to instruction. Seeing the intimacy between God and Moses,Joshua understood that he too needed to stay near the presence of God. We read in Exodus 24.13 and 33.11 that Joshua ‘departed not out of the tabernacle.’ Taught the importance of reverence and obedience, Joshua received from Moses a training in sound principles which had a huge impact on his life. Godly leaders encourage others to stick close to God, not to themselves. When the teacher leads by example, both parties will benefit from the conformity to Christ that will follow.
Days are lengthened for those that seek after righteousness rather than selfish pleasures. Joshua certainly came into the good of this in Numbers 14.6,30,38; 26.65. As one of the 12 spies who went to spy out the land, he wisely followed the Lord and separated himself from the ten malcontent spies; as a result, his life was preserved in the thirty-eight years of desert wandering. Those who follow the Lord may be sure that He will bless them in the way. This may not mean a long life on the earth, but it will mean real enjoyment of eternal life both now and later. Incredible joy overwhelms a mentor when his mentee stands for what is holy and good, putting God first and seeing the blessing which follows (Rom 12.15).
No one but the individual can make the choice of following wisdom: the decision is yours and yours alone. Our life pattern, whether wise or foolish, will eventually be brought out into the open. In Numbers 27.18,22,23 Joshua’s spiritual character qualified him to be Moses’s successor. Since the wise man benefits from his wisdom in the same way that the fool reaps the harvest of his own folly, so Joshua’s evident wisdom led to him being recognized as Israel’s leader. Moses had put time, effort and many prayers in Joshua’s way. In so doing he helped to prepare him for leadership, leaving the people in the hands of a man ready to take on a heavy burden. If every godly man in the assembly would do the work of a mentor to the next generation,investing ample time and tears in prayer, what leaders would be raised up, ready to lead God’s people in the dark days ahead!