There is always more that I want to draw out from a text than I do during our Sunday evening gatherings and last night was not an exception to that.
There is a line in verse one of Joshua 1 that has so much weight to it that I could not deal with it along with everything else we talked about, though it might be the most important: "Now it came about after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD..."
Leader, but More than Leader
If we know anything at all about Moses, it is that he was a leader. He was the one who went into the Tent of Meeting, heard the voice of God from the center of his overwhelming glory, and then went to shepherd a messy, stubborn group of people, following his command. There was no question that he led. But the Lord did not call him "My leader."
The title given to Moses was "my servant." And it was an honored title.
Long days in the wilderness first shepherding sheep, then shepherding people created something in the heart of Moses: lowliness. This was not his time to further his career or to make a name for himself, but a calling into a bigger picture. The only one who was qualified to fulfill Moses' role was one who was a servant by heart, shaped by trials and encouraged by Good's greatness.
The Servant They Looked For
Moses dies then Joshua (the servant's servant) takes over. After Joshua they look for other leaders. Some were in the mold of Moses, but most were proud, self confident, and lived God-lessly even while proclaiming God's greatness.
The people of Israel always wanted strength in their leader, but often didn't realize where it came from. Over and over they desired this strength but didn't see that the real source of strength was not in stature or oratory ability, but in a contented lowliness that knew (KNEW!) that no one could rival God's glory...and delighted in having a lesser place than His.
In multiple chapters in Isaiah, a "servant" is spoken of, one who would be humble, yet effective. One who would be beautiful, but despise by many. One who would live out the strength of the Almighty to transform his world, but do it as a servant, not a despot. One who was so affected by the greatness of character of God than he would joyfully become nothing for God's sake. This servant would be like Moses, but (somehow) greater than Moses.
Not From the Outside...
Power is longed for, fought for, purchased and hoarded. Power is often the downfall of many who started off with a somewhat honestly desire to do some sort of good. Lord Acton said something like "power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely," and that is true for all who would grasp for it.
But, real power does not come from grasping for it feverishly...even with "good" intentions. Real power cannot be fought for or won from someone else. A bizzaro power that subtlety destroys from the inside out can be grabbed, but real power comes from a very different source.
...But from the Servant Himself
When Jesus took off his disciple's sandals to wash their feet (see John 13:1-5) his disciples saw his power in a way that grasped them. The same man who spoke truth to powerful rulers and who called for "peace" from raging waters was joyfully and authentically doing something that only the most powerless persons in their time should do: serve. They could see (in part) in that moment that the real power wasn't bent on ruling, lording, and controlling others, but loving them with no thought of their own upward mobility.
But he wasn't done yet. No, the depth of his powerful lowliness was not yet expressed. Hours later, instead of using his infinite power to coerce and control, he gave himself to selfish power. Selfish power saw weakness where Jesus was teaching them strength. Selfish power saw poetry of power in Jesus while his real power displayed his humility.
Jesus emptied himself. Jesus took on the form of a slave. Jesus became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Selfish power tried to destroy the source of his power, but only displayed it beautifully in a way that the world could see. (see Philippians 2: 5-11)
Israel was looking for a servant like Moses, but more than Moses. Moses was lowly because he saw Glory and could not compare himself to the Glorious One.
Truer and Better
Jesus, though, is the truer and better servant. He is not true and better because he was looking outward to a greater glory- there is no greater glory.
His servant heartedness is his glory. His lowliness displays his power. Our hearts long for a servant, who is powerfully lowly.