Change is an inevitable part of life. It will come at you with maddening tenacity — nothing can stop it. The only question that remains is: How will you manage change? Moses and Joshua teach us that God prepares us the for the natural changes in life. He equips us to lead and manage change and then he guides us through the change.
Moses and Preparing for Change
God told Moses that the people are ready to take the Promised Land. This would be a massive change for the twelve tribes of Israel. They would move from being a nomadic coalition of tribes to a nation of sedentary agriculturalists. In reality, that transformation would take another one hundred years. However, the twelve tribes had already experienced major changes that prepared them for this major transformation.
Those who stood on the banks of the Jordan with their swords and war paint were the children and grandchildren of those who had stood on the banks of the Red Sea with Pharaoh’s army pressing down on them. They carried the same DNA, but bore little resemblance to their forefathers.
Born and bred in the wilderness they had learned to depend on God for everything – they had learned to stick together against threats, both internal and external – and, most importantly, they had learned to be brave and fight for each other and what was right.
Three Keys to Navigating Change
As they prepared to cross the Jordan and take hold of their inheritance, God (through Joshua) reminded them of the three keys to the success of this massive cultural shift.
1. God’s Promises (Joshua 1:3)
Joshua reminded them that God had promised to give them the land, and God never goes back on his promises. Cling to HIS promises.
2. God’s Presence (Joshua 1:5)
God promised Joshua that he would always be with them. God will never leave you or forsake you. He will go with you to the ends of the earth (Mt. 28:20). Cling to God’s presence.
3. God’s Precepts (Joshua 1:7)
God had given them his laws for life. Joshua reminded the people that if they lived according to God’s laws that they would be blessed. Success would come as long as they stayed close to the path God laid out for them. Cling to God’s Word.
The Twelve Tribes and Managing Change
John P. Kotter in his book, Leading Change, explains an eight-step process for managing change. 1 Moses and Joshua led the twelve tribes through all eight steps in the process on the way to victory in the Promised Land.
1. Create a Sense of Urgency
This is what they lacked on their first attempt. Moses delivered a speech that put a fire in them. Joshua encouraged them that the time was ripe – God was with them and the time had come. There was a new sense of urgency.
2. Build a Guiding Coalition
Moses spent forty years in the wilderness building a new generation that would be the driving force for change. The coalition was set and ready to follow their leadership.
3. Form a Strategic Vision and Initiatives
God took Moses to the top of the mountain and showed him the Promised Land from the Northernmost parts to the South – all the Land that he promised to give them. He gave Moses a song to sing to the people. Through visuals and the staying power of music, God formed a strategic vision in the hearts of the people.
4. Enlist a Volunteer Army
Not everyone wanted to live in the Promised Land. The tribes of Reuben and Manasseh wanted to stay on the Eastern side of the Jordan River. Moses was okay with that, but they had to help their brothers fight anyway. The volunteer army was complete. They went into the Promised Land united around one vision.
5. Enable Action by Removing Barriers
Joshua removed the two greatest psychological barriers to victory – crossing the Jordan and breaching the wall of the city of Jericho. He parted the waters of the Jordan and he brought down the walls of Jericho.
6. Generate Short-Term Wins
Jericho was the first win. The victory was short-lived, but it gave the people the confidence they needed to keep fighting. Short-term wins are indespensible.
7. Sustain Acceleration
As soon as they experienced victory at Jericho they moved on the city of Ai. They lost the battle, but learned the lessons of defeat and kept going. Sustained acceleration was the key.
8. Institute Change
Eventually, the Twelve Tribes of Israel began to settle down, each in its assigned area of the Promised Land. The life of farming and raising cattle was new to them and somewhat uncomfortable – they would still face many challenges in their new life – but, the change was beginning to crystallize and become familiar.
The move from Egyptian slavery to Promised Land autonomy — from nomadic tribal life to agricultural national life — was the greatest cultural and psychological shift in Israel’s history. It was vital for their future and paved the way for God’s blessings — not only to Israel but to the entire world. It was from this nation that the Savior would come to the world.
May the Lord be with you as he was with Moses as you navigate the changes in your life and world!