Along with Simon Says, another childhood game was Follow the Leader. Everyone lined up behind the “Leader” and followed them, mimicking the leader’s actions. Failing to gets you kicked out of the game. Climbing over chairs or under tables was a good way to lose players, but no matter what the leader did, if you wanted to stay in the game, you had to “follow the leader.” I laugh at our simple form of entertainment compared to today where a 2-year is more technologically advanced than some adults.
In Deuteronomy 31, we are at the end of Moses’ life. He is 120 and the Israelites are coming to the end of their 40 years of wandering in the desert. Moses knows his time is short and as he shifts his leadership to Joshua the son of Nun, he is preparing the Israelites to enter the land they were to settle in.
This is the land they had been hearing about their entire lives. It was the land of milk and honey, meaning it was a rich land that would sustain their needs. When they left Egypt, it was a short two weeks journey from slavery to the Promised Land, but what should have taken half a month ended up taking 40 years with a whole mess of heartache. An entire generation perished in the wilderness because of their unfaithfulness and refusal to take the land (see Numbers 13 and 14). Joshua and Caleb were the only two of the previous generation to exit Egypt and enter the Promised Land.
Moses is giving his final speech to the Israelites and tells them that even he will not enter the Promised Land, but to assure them they would have a leader, he says:
“The Lord your God Himself crosses over before you; He will destroy these nations from before you, and you shall dispossess them. Joshua himself crosses over before you, just as the Lord has said…Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” Then Moses called Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and of good courage, for you must go with this people to the land which the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall cause them to inherit it. And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.”
Deuteronomy 31:3, 6-8 (emphasis added)
God Himself would be their leader into the new land. Now, I have followed many leaders in my life and I am sure that God beats them all. If Moses showed up today and told me that God was going to lead me into the next stage of my life, I would hop in line and follow every move He made. Well, I like to tell myself that, but it’s probably not true. I have a bit of Israelite spirit, so I would probably complain and question just like my long distant ancestors, but still, the Lord is the Leader. He was going to take the Israelites home. Can we really think of a better leader? What a comfort that the God who created the entire universe wants to take our hand and lead us?
You go before me and follow me.
You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too great for me to understand!
Psalm 139:5-6 New Living Translation (NLT)
This got me thinking about leaders or lack of them. I’ve had good leaders and bad leaders. I’ve had leaders who were incredibly smart but who led badly. I’ve had leaders who didn’t lead at all and leaders who were easy to follow and made the journey sweet.
Maybe you don’t have good examples of leaders in your life. Maybe the leaders who are supposed to be guiding you have shirked their responsibilities and you wonder if they would lead you into disaster instead of blessing. Sometimes our leaders bail on their duties: parents, husbands, pastors, teachers, bosses, our government representatives including the President, can sometimes make us feel like we are following a 5-year-old climbing over fences and through weeds.
Maybe you look at these leaders and you wouldn’t follow them to the end of the block much less into the next season of your life. But, this concept is not new for a Christian because God is always the leader in our lives. Often the issue is, we don’t follow. See, there are two parts to Follow the Leader, the leader and the followers. As much as we need to have good leaders, we also need to be good followers. Each must do their part for the relationship to work.
See, you don’t have to do what the leader does. You can bail at any time and you are out of the game. Same with the walk of a believer. We don’t have to follow God. Sadly, in verse 16 of this chapter, we see the Israelites will indeed be led into the land they are to inherit, but they do not follow the Leader. They rebel and forsake God, breaking the covenant they made with Him.
I want to follow the Leader. I’m just not great at it sometimes. While He may never make me crawl through bushes or climb a tree, He will ask me to walk through some hard things at times. But the amazing part is, He goes first. He shows me it’s not as complicated as I think. He reminds me it’s as simple as when I was a child. He shows me I can do it. He waits for me to conquer my fears and follow Him. He never leaves me. He won’t forsake me or abandon me. He leads me to my inheritance and hopefully, I follow.