This passage captures God’s instruction to Moses on how to manage an aging Levite workforce. The insights in this passage contrast how retirement is viewed by those of us living in a capitalistic culture. The Levite’s point of transition represented a shift in their influence, not an end to their contribution.
Biblical Perspective On
The Bible is a great place to start when planning succession
Although it doesn’t include a “How To” section for succession planning, there are stories to learn from and principles to apply. Each of the passages below provides a unique angle through which to consider a transition. I have given a brief overview of each to help you get started, but don’t let that be a substitute for digging into the text for yourself. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list of passages that relate to the broader topic of succession. I chose these because they serve as on-ramps to issues that tend to be overlooked in the typical planning process. May the Spirit of God use your time in the Word to give you much-needed insight and perspective.
Numbers 27:12-23 and Deuteronomy 3:23-29 are parallel passages that provide different insights into the moment God confronted Moses with his need to identify a successor. Even though Moses experienced great frustration in leading Israel, his concern for their long-term well being eclipsed the desire to protect his personal legacy.
Pisgah marked a profound shift in the way Moses understood his identity as the leader of Israel. Climbing Pisgah, his primary focus was to lead Israel into Canaan. Coming down from Pisgah, his primary focus had shifted to preparing his successor and Israel for the day he would no longer lead them. A careful look at verses 23-26 reveals this had been something Moses struggled with for quite some time.
This is the last recorded prayer of King David. Unlike Hezekiah, David’s passion for the Lord burned bright to the very end. It is not the words of this prayer that make it unique. It is not so different than many other prayers of reflection that can be found throughout history. What makes this prayer special is the point in David’s life in which he uttered it. Indeed, prayers offered at the end of one’s life carry a particular, sacred weight.
After almost losing his life in battle, David’s men told their aging King he would no longer be fighting on the front lines. They were concerned his diminished energy and strength would lead to his death. His men were willing to tell their leader he had become a liability in battle. Their motivation was respect and admiration, not a desire to get rid of him.
To truly appreciate this specific passage, you must read the full account in 2 Kings 18 – 21:9. Hezekiah’s story stands as an example of zeal and passion diminishing over time. At the age of 25, he dared to destroy the Bronze Serpent that Moses built some 700+ years prior (2 Kings 18:4) because it had become an idol. By the end of his career, he was willing to trade Israel’s future for his personal comfort. His zeal was gone.
Solomon’s concerns about handing over his leadership, as expressed in these verses, have echoed through the hearts of leaders throughout history. Understandably, people who invest their lives in something often lament the fact that someone else would eventually step into their shoes.
Peter wrote this letter with the awareness that his time on earth was coming to an end (2 Peter 1:14.) In it, he distilled his wisdom and perspective into 61 verses. I would think a leader with his experience could have filled an entire bookshelf with insights and learnings. Perhaps there is something to be learned from his brevity and focus.
Read these letters from the perspective that Paul is equipping his successors. Perhaps he feels a sense of urgency because he knows his time on earth is short. Or, Paul takes the idea of developing younger leaders seriously. Regardless of his motivation, you can sense how important it was to prepare these men to lead in his absence.
Bible Passages Resource
This downloadable resource contains the passages listed above, along with questions to consider. We encourage you to work through this on your own, with your spouse, other ministry leaders, and trusted advisors.