(The Information & Edification Series – Batch 9)
When it comes to the Lord’s work, he knows best how to train his soldiers. He knows best of what diet they should partake, what environment they should be placed in and what circumstances to have them experience, so that he can develop the traits and competencies that he desires to develop in them and have them learn what he wants to teach them.
Mind you, sometimes the one being trained for some great divine purpose is not aware that he or she is being trained at that present moment and for what exactly but God knows and that is enough. Sometimes the path that God chooses for the training ground is not a path that the one required to undergo the training would have taken, if given the choice because it is not a path of comfort and ease. Yet, the trainer knows best and those who have submitted themselves to his teaching often emerge skilled, fit and prepared for the master’s use.
It is evident for example, the kind of intense training that God allowed Joseph to go through, en route to the promotion that he had in store for him. He was destined to be what people refer to as the Prime Minister of Egypt but his lessons started in a pit, when his brothers betrayed him. In all that Joseph went through, while operating as a slave in Potiphar’s house and then as a prisoner in prison, God was moulding him and developing him and maturing him. Among other courses, it appears that Joseph was trained through his hardships, in humility, patience, complete and utter dependence on God and faith in his absolute sovereignty. In terms of skills, he was allowed to develop his management, organization and leadership skills, maintaining a good work ethic, commitment, faithfulness and fidelity to his supervisors. Personally, he was also provided with a training ground to exercise fairness, grace, forgiveness, mercy and compassion.
David was also required to undergo training. After he had been anointed by Samuel to be Israel’s second king, God devised a plan and orchestrated things, so that David was summoned to spend time at king Saul’s house. For, God had purposed that David was to succeed Saul as king one day and he therefore set about, it seemed, to give David the opportunity to experience royal life and its protocols. In so doing, David was allowed time to learn the ropes, so-to-speak, given that he would one day be placed by God on that very throne. God therefore placed him in the Palace and had him work closely with king Saul, who, although he did not suspect it at first, began to realize that it was David that was to be his replacement.
David received training there, while serving as a player of music, to soothe Saul whenever he was provoked by an evil spirit.
His training was not just limited to the Palace though. It most likely started even before David had been anointed, when he served as a shepherd and attended to his father’s sheep. It is clear from his account to Saul, when he told him courageously that he would go to fight Goliath, that the Lord had taught him great one-on-one lessons there, one being that faith in God was what he needed to be victorious in every battle. It appears that David learned well from those experiences with the Lord. For, he applied the lessons learned while attending to the sheep and having to protect them from danger in the form of a lion and a bear, to treating with the challenge faced by the giant Goliath. So well had David learned, that with God’s strength, he brought that giant down, based on what he knew to be true about God and his power.
Later on, after spending some time around king Saul and royal life at the Palace, God seemingly changed the course content, requiring him to leave the comfort of that place and to go out into the wilderness. For many a day, David found himself on the run, hungry, tired and hiding in caves and mountains, from Saul who in his jealous rage, wanted him dead.
This too was part of the lesson, though it brought no comfort to David at the time. For one, it taught him humility, complete and utter dependence on God and of his faithfulness and love for those who serve him. The troubles and trials he faced while running from Saul, while not pleasant, served to strengthen his relationship and increase his intimacy with God. This was a beautiful thing, though procured through discomfort and pain. It was also necessary. For, it was important that the next king of Israel have a deep and genuine relationship with God and his wilderness experience enabled him to build on this.
Moses also underwent God’s training. As a baby, he was spared from death, God allowing him to survive, when other male Hebrew babies were being slaughtered. By design, he took him as a child, straight into king Pharoah’s house, through Pharoah’s daughter who desired to adopt him as her own son.
While at the Palace, Moses was trained in royal kingly life and received the best secular education available to the Egyptians, which I believe was in furtherance of his role of being the one-day God appointed spokesperson for the Israelites before Pharoah and the one-day appointed leader, to take the children of Israel out of Egypt and through the wilderness, en route to the Promised Land.
Acts 7:22 states “And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.” When he became a man though, despite the pleasures of royal life as a prince in the Egyptian Palace, he rejected this life and lifestyle because he valued a spiritual relationship and walk with the God of his fathers, more.
Hebrews 11:23-27 states:
- “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.”
Nonetheless, Moses received the lessons and training that God required of him while in Egypt and when he fled to Midian to escape king Pharoah because he had killed a Egyptian and king Pharoah was angry with him, he continued to be trained by God. In Midian, he attended to his father-in-law’s sheep and as seen in David’s experience while tending to his father’s sheep, this came with many valuable lessons.
I would guess that some would have been on being responsible, caring for and protecting those entrusted to his charge and leading or guiding the sheep safely. Later on, God had a work for him that involved leading and guiding his people the Israelites, out of Egypt, through the wilderness and en route to the promised land and so this lesson of caring for the flock was important.
For these three people: Joseph, David and Moses, the training that God subjected them to in preparation for the work and therefore the purpose that he had created them for, it is important to note that it was not overnight. It wasn’t a quick thing. It took years of training and God, the faithful teacher was patient, as he took them through from one course to the next. What he needed to build in them, as men of character, nobility and strength, required time and therefore, could not be hurried.
God also knows how best to have his children mentored while they are undergoing their training. He often places them with the godly man, whose place he intends for them to one day, take, so as to continue doing what he had them doing, for his glory. God is very much about succession planning and he is skilled at placing and aligning interns alongside his seasoned servants, so that they can be schooled in certain areas.
This was seen in the case of Joshua, who was mentored by Moses, not by coincidence but by God’s design. In Deuteronomy 3:28, God told Moses at one point to encourage Joshua, knowing that the young and inexperienced intern would sometimes need encouragement, not yet shaped and chiseled fully by the measure of his predecessor’s experiences.
When he informed Moses that he would not be going over Jordan to the Promised Land, thereby informing him that his leadership over his people the Israelites would be coming to an end, God told him “But charge Joshua, and encourage him, and strengthen him: for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which thou shalt see.”
What was beautiful to note in Joshua and Moses’ relationship, as God had the leadership transition from Moses to Josua, is that there was no competition between them. There is no record of Moses fighting to hold on to power or him being insecure and feeling threatened by Joshua’s existence.
This oft happens in the political landscape, where the understudy desires to hold the reins of power perhaps too quickly and therefore prematurely and where the teacher desires to seemingly never relinquish control, although age is catching up with him. As a result, there have been many cases throughout time and still continuing today, where the understudy and the one he studied under, engage in public fights, trying to slander and discredit each other, all so that they can grasp or hold on to leadership.
This was not the case with Moses nor with Joshua. In this kind of spiritual mentorship that the Lord designed and ruled over, there was no competition and no strife. It was God’s desire that Joshua replace him and Moses put up no opposition. He wanted to enter the Promised Land and petitioned to the Lord in relation to same but he accepted that Joshua was to be his replacement.
Admirably, Joshua also patiently awaited his turn. He knew that he needed not hold the reins of leadership (which was a serious and somber responsibility) possessively and before he was due to do so. He understood that he would take up the mantle at the time that God was ready and had divinely appointed for him to do so. He therefore never tried to usurp Moses’ authority or to slander his name behind his back. He did not try to overthrow his leadership through any surreptitious and clandestine action or conspiracy. He was simply content to learn at his feet.
Moses on the other hand, content to be within the master’s will and never having loved the responsibility of leading the children of Israel to begin with, did not try to downplay, discourage, belittle or suppress Joshua, as leaders are wont to do today. In short, on both sides, there was no envy, no jealousy, no ill-will, no struggle to assert or maintain control, no eagerness for power and no competition, only a desire to see God’s purpose for his people fulfillled.
In Deuteronomy 31, Moses, knowing that his time was coming to an end, had no problem informing the people of Israel that Joshua was to be their next leader. In so doing, he helped to accommodate a smooth transition of leadership, by ensuring that the people knew and therefore accepted that Joshua would be their next leader. He also went further and in obedience to God, provided encouragement to Joshua.
In Deuteronomy 31:1-3, it says:
- “And Moses went and spake these words unto all Israel. And he said unto them, I am an hundred and twenty years old this day; I can no more go out and come in: also the Lord hath said unto me, Thou shalt not go over this Jordan. The Lord thy God, he will go over before thee, and he will destroy these nations from before thee, and thou shalt possess them: and Joshua, he shall go over before thee, as the Lord hath said.”
In verses 7-8, it further says:
- “And Moses called unto Joshua, and said unto him in the sight of all Israel, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou must go with this people unto the land which the Lord hath sworn unto their fathers to give them; and thou shalt cause them to inherit it. And the Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.”
What a beautiful contrast is this, to what often happens in the earthly political realm! No bickering, no in-fighting, just people clearly focused on getting God’s work done and passing the baton to the next one entrusted by God with the mantle of leadership. How much easier would it have been for king Saul, if he had just accepted God’s will and not tried to hunt David down like a dog, so as to prevent him from replacing him.
An admirable relationship involving mentorship and training, much like that pertaining to Moses and Joshua was also seen with Elijah the trainer and Elisha, his understudy. In 1 Kings 19:16, God told Elijah, who had expressed weariness with his life’s journey, “…and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room.”
It was clear therefore to Elijah and Elisha, that Elisha was to be the prophet of God that would continue Elijah’s work when he was gone.
Elisha was humble though, as every understudy should be, eager not for power or to replace Elijah but to learn as much as he could from him, given that he (Elijah) knew more than he knew and had had much more experience with God than he had had. Elishah wanted to emulate and even surpass the godly life that Elijah had lived, so that it would redound to the glory of God and so he made it his duty to watch and observe him, while serving humbly as his servant.
In 2 Kings 3, Jehoram’s servants stated, that during Elijah’s life on earth, Elisha poured water on his hands. Although God purposed for him to be Elijah’s replacement therefore and had Elijah anoint him at one point, God had him serve Elijah in a lowly office that was without prestige and pomp, him being mentored while attending to his practical lowly duties. Elijah therefore provided assistance to Elijah as a servant would his master but at the same time, he was learning the ropes. He was learning about Elijah’s character, how he handled issues and what it was to be a mighty prophet of God.
Mind you, it is important to note that Elisha was not being trained on how to become a prophet. Contrary to many false teachings today, one cannot be trained to be a prophet through any earthly school. It is God that called persons as prophets and equipped them with the spiritual gift of prophecy and this is what he did with Elisha. In his case though, although God had clearly called him to be a prophet and had had him anointed accordingly, he used Elijah instrumentally it seems, to help Elisha with the stirring up of his gift, which would come to the fore in due course, that being after Elijah was taken by God from the earth.
In serving so closely with Elijah and refusing to leave him, Elisha was able to see when Elijah was taken up by God into heaven and by faith, he received as he had requested: A double portion of the spirit that was upon Elijah. Elisha did not want this for himself so that he could boast, throw around his spiritual weight and intimidate others or swell his chest in pride. Instead, one sensed that he wanted to serve God to the best extent that he possibly could and to bring him the highest level of glory. He seems to have reasoned, that if he could have double the spirit that was on Elijah, which was excellent, that he could do even greater works and be more of an influence for God’s glory, not his own.
Whatever Elijah did therefore, he wanted to exceed him, not so as to be competitive but out of his love and devotion for God, he wanted to excel even more. In seeing Elijah taken up to heaven, he was granted his heart’s desire, which confirms that his motive was pure. Had he had ulterior and selfish motives, God, knowing the heart of all men, would not have granted it.
The Word of God states that when Elijah was taken up, that Elisha “took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him” (2 Kings 2:14). This was a literal taking up but it also held metaphorical significance, as Elisha was taking up the mantle as a prophet, in place of Elijah, to continue on the good work that he had been doing for God.
With Elijah’s mantle, it says that Elisha “smote the waters, and said, Where is the Lord God of Elijah? and when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over. And when the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho saw him, they said, The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha…” (2 Kings 2:14-15).
(Written on 10th January, 2024)