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Jan 08, 2023

Legacy Leadership

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Deuteronomy

Keywords: leadership, word of god, leaders, transitions, moving on


This message introduces several important considerations in studying Deuteronomy as well as frames the importance of this book to the leadership transitions we must all navigate in life. If you want to know how to choose good leaders, be good leaders and learn from the leadership challenges of the people of God in the past, this book is vital.


Legacy Leadership

Deuteronomy 1:1-18

January 8, 2023


If you’ve been following the national news this week, you’ve obviously seen the challenges a country like ours that is filled with independently minded people has in choosing leaders. 

            So much in every sphere of life depends upon good leadership.  Whether it’s a marriage and family, a business, a church or a government, life is either made better by good leaders or more difficult by poor leaders. 

            We’re launching into a new preaching series on the O.T. book of Deuteronomy today.  It’s a book that is all about preparing a new generation of God’s people for the new challenges that they will face in a new season of God’s blessing.  In that sense, Deuteronomy has so much to say to every new generation of God’s people.  Every generation has similar yet different challenges.  Every generation of God’s people can either learn from the successes and failures of their elders or not.  Every generation can choose to do better than the former—to be more obedient, more faith-filled, more God-connected…or not.

So your pastors thought that this foundational book for the people of God under the Old Covenant has a boatload of truth to teach and inform us about living our lives in the New Covenant age. We’ll be working our way, paragraph by paragraph, through this book that was written by one of history’s greatest leaders of all time, Moses.  It was written at the end of his life after 120 years of gaining wisdom.  It was sort of his “last will and testament” for a new generation of the people of God, his instructions about how to live a blessed life and how to embrace the inheritance God wanted to give them from property to the presence of God. 

So, since I get to lead off this series, just a few important things about this book you might not know.

  • It is 1 of the 4 OT books quoted most often in the NT (i.e., Genesis, Deuteronomy, Psalms, and Isaiah). Deuteronomy is quoted 83 times.
  • It is one of Jesus’ favorite books of the OT: He quoted repeatedly from it during His temptation by Satan in the wilderness.  It is probably the outline behind the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Matthew 5-7).

It was written largely by Moses himself. 

NOTE:  Just in case you happen to end up in some religion class in any of our supposed institutions of “higher learning”, be aware, that fact has been disputed by modern liberal theologians who trust what is called “higher criticism” of the Bible more than they trust the words of Jesus, Paul, Peter, the Early Church Fathers and thousands of years of Judeo-Christian history. 

ILL:  My struggle in a liberal Lutheran college with higher criticism.  [Refer them to sermon notes for specific references.]


  • Jewish Tradition is unanimous that the author was Moses. This is stated in the Talmud (Baba Bathra 14b), the Mishnah (Ben Sirach’s Ecclesiasticus 24:23, written about 185 b.c.), by Philo of Alexandria and Flavius Josephus.
  • Jesus quotes from or alludes to Deuteronomy and flat out states in the Gospels that “Moses said”/”Moses wrote” numerous times. ( 19:7-9; Mark 10:4-5 - Deut. 24:1-4, Mark 7:10 - Deut. 5:16; Luke 16:31; 24:27, 44; John 5:46-47; 7:19, 23
  • Paul asserts Moses as author on at least 4 different occasions in the N.T.: ( 10:19 - Deut. 32:21;  I Cor. 9:9 - Deut. 25:4;  Gal. 3:10 - Deut. 27:26;  Acts 26:22; 28:23
  • Peter asserts Moses as author in his Pentecostal sermon - Acts 3:22
  • The author of Hebrews asserts Moses is the author -  10:28; Deut. 17:2-6.

That doesn’t mean scribes along the way didn’t make some minor editorial changes/additions.  What it does mean is that if someone tells you that Moses didn’t write Deuteronomy, you might remind them that to hold to that opinion means they think Jewish history is a lie, that Jesus lied, that Paul lied, that Peter lied and the author of Hebrews lied.  I choose to believe Jesus, Paul, Peter and 40 centuries of Jewish and Church history over some liberal professor in some ivory tower in Germany or America who doesn’t even know Christ or trust God’s word!  Enough of that.  

Book Title:  We get our English title from Jerome’s Latin Vulgate which calls it “the second law” (Deuteronomium).

While Moses is being replaced by Joshua, the truth Moses wants God’s people to remember is that God’s special leader is actually being replaced by God’s written revelation. Human leaders will remain, but the written revelation is what will be emphasized as authoritative.

APP:  It has been the same for 40 centuries.  God’s human leaders come and go, but the Word of God abides forever!  As history has taught us, every one of us must measure every leader God puts over us by the Word of God.  We must know and be able to judge when leaders are truly acting as God’s righteous representatives in our lives and when they have overstepped their authority and may be leading unrighteously and demanding that we follow their wrongs.

            That godly, wise discernment is never more important than when there is a transition of leadership as there was here in Deuteronomy. 

APP:  While I plan to be here at Mosaic until I die (not necessarily as lead pastor, however), this is something Mosaic and every church with a senior leader needs to embrace.  The Word of God must be so deep in our hearts that we can just sense the depth or shallowness of someone’s true devotion to God’s truth.  It’s not just about someone being able to teach well or preach well.  It’s about knowing that when they do that, the Word of God has already convicted them, already shown light on their soul, already enlivened and fed and formed them.  Can you sense that the Spirit of God through the Word of God has transformed them in some way?  Or is their teaching/preaching merely theologically accurate, merely exegetically sound, merely enjoyable and even entertaining?  That is a difference you as God’s people must train yourselves to discern and distinguish. 

Why study O.T. Historical Books?

I Corinthians 10:1-6

For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.  Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.

            Paul is talking about this very book of Deuteronomy.  God set out this history of His people so that they would be “examples for us”—both good and bad.  Modeling is one of the most powerful ways of teaching.  Deuteronomy is modeling to all humanity how people of all ages and cultures need to respond to God, to His Word and to His working in history unfolding right before our eyes. 

            So, let’s dive into the passage today and see what it has to tell us about truth that will transform us.

Deuteronomy 1

1 These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel beyond the Jordan in the wilderness, in the Arabah opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth, and Dizahab. It is eleven days' journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-barnea. In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses spoke to the people of Israel according to all that the Lord had given him in commandment to them, 

after he had defeated Sihon the king of the Amorites, who lived in Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, who lived in Ashtaroth and in Edrei. 

We’ll get to these two victories in Deut. 2-3 in a few weeks.  But why would Moses mention these victories right out of the gate in Deut. and more extensively in chapters 2-3?  (To remind an untested generation of new kingdom warriors that God had already given them proof of His presence and power on their behalf, enough proof to step out even more in faith in the days to come.)

Beyond the Jordan, in the land of Moab, Moses undertook to explain this law, saying, “The Lord our God said to us in Horeb, ‘You have stayed long enough at this mountain.’ 

            The entire nation is camped on the east side of the Jordan River.  They are ready, after 40 years, to head into the Promised Land where they will have to do battle to take territory God had promised to them 5 centuries earlier.  (Again, this is, I think, metaphorical in some degree for what we experience in sanctification under the New Covenant as we mature in Christ in this life, fighting spiritual battles to defeat the world, the flesh and the devil.)

What mountain?  (Mt. Sinai where God encountered them some 38 years earlier, gave them the Law, where they sinned by worshiping the golden calf, my murmuring against Moses, etc.)

‘You have stayed long enough at this mountain. 

APP:  God doesn’t want either yesterday’s encounters with Him or failures before Him to captivate and control us.  God is constantly calling His children to “move on” into new faith exploits, new territory, new triumphs and testings. 

            What would our walk with God be like if our spiritual maturity was only as vivid as this month’s or this year’s experiences with God?  We all know people who, when asked to share what God has done in their lives, seem to only be able to talk about what God did 10, 20 or 50 years ago when He first saved them.  I want to hear how God is still saving you this year, this month, this week.  Or are we “staying too long” at the mountain of our past spiritual experiences? 

Turn and take your journey, and go to the hill country of the Amorites and to all their neighbors in the Arabah, in the hill country and in the lowland and in the Negeb and by the seacoast, the land of the Canaanites, and Lebanon, as far as the great river, the river Euphrates. See, I have set the land before you. Go in and take possession of the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give to them and to their offspring after them.’

            God is inviting His people to “take a hike”, not away from Him but with Him into the very places God had promised to bless them, be with them, grow them and expand them.  Yes, those were places filled with big, hairy, scary “Amorites.”  Yes, that was an expanse of land that stretched north into Lebanon, south to the Negev, east to the Euphrates River and west to the Mediterranean Sea.  It was frankly larger than they ever lived into and took control of. 

APP:  Isn’t that what our Christian life is like?  Hasn’t God promised more to all of us than most of us live into?  Isn’t the righteousness, holiness and sanctification God has said He will be going before us to develop in our lives bigger and grander than what most of us are willing to entertain?  And doesn’t our life in Christ have some pretty big ‘giants’ of sin or selfishness or temptation that God promises to vanquish if we will suit up, saddle up and step into the battle?

            God’s promises to us in the New Covenant are SO much superior to what He promised the Israelites under this Old Covenant.  They are available to every one of us, every day, in every part of our lives.  Are we willing to fight the battles that will be required to enter into them?  I hope to our dying day!

            One more thing about the transition that was taking place then between the generations and the transition that is taking place today in the church in America.  What must it have felt like for parents who knew they would not live to see the battle in the Promised Land but their children would have to either fight them or settle for something inferior to God’s promises? Do you suppose some of those parents worried about what their children and grandchildren would face?  Do you suppose they wondered if they were up to the task, the battles, the giants, the paganism of the Promised Land? 

APP:  Parents and grandparents, do you feel that today about future generations?  About the future of the church? 

            Someone sent me a couple of weeks ago this short challenge from a youth pastor in Louisiana, Alex Cravens.  It was a divine reminder of what God is up to in our generation when it comes to the battles that await the next generation in the Kingdom.  Alex wrote,    

“Don’t feel sorry for or fear for your kids and grandkids because the world they are going to grow up in is not what it used to be.  God created them and called them for the exact moment in time that they’re in. Their life wasn’t a coincidence or an accident.

Raise them up to know the power they walk in as children of God.

Train them up in the authority of His Word.

Teach them to walk in faith knowing that God is in control.

Empower them to know they can change the world.

Don’t teach them to be fearful and disheartened by the state of the world but hopeful that they can do something about it.

Every person in all of history has been placed in the time that they were in because of God’s sovereign plan.

  • He knew Daniel could handle the lion’s den. 
  • He knew David could handle Goliath.
  • He knew Esther could handle Haman.
  • He knew Peter could handle persecution.
  • He knows that your child can handle whatever challenge they face in their life. He created them specifically for it!

Don’t be scared for your children, but be honored that God chose YOU to parent the generation that is facing the biggest challenges of our lifetime.
Rise up to the challenge.
Raise Daniels, Davids, Esthers and Peters!
God isn’t scratching His head wondering what He’s going to do with this mess of a world.

He has an army He’s raising up to drive back the darkness and make Him known all over the earth.

Don’t let your fear steal the greatness God placed in them. I know it’s hard to imagine them as anything besides our sweet little babies, and we just want to protect them from anything that could ever be hard on them, but they were born for such a time as this.
~Alex Cravens   #CarryTheLight”

This is the kind of perspective all of us need to have about what we are doing in our day for the Kingdom of God.  God has called and equipped each of us for just the time in history in which we’ve been placed.  We can sit around and grouse, moan and complain OR we can trust God enough to keep fighting the battles and keep taking new territory for the Kingdom of God.  What do you want to be remembered for?

Moses continues:

“At that time I said to you, ‘I am not able to bear you by myself. 

That’s a common feeling/reality for anyone who has to lead.  It may be in a marriage…or friendship…or church…or family…or community, etc.  If you are humble enough to know your own weaknesses, you will come to that place where you realize, “I don’t have what I need to do right by these people.  I’m not enough in myself.”  The sooner we really feel that and realize that, the better it will be for those under our care/leadership.

10 The Lord your God has multiplied you, and behold, you are today as numerous as the stars of heaven. 

Notice that multiplication of God’s people has always been God’s plan.  This is why Christ is delaying His return:  He wants more people to be saved and become part of His forever family. (See 2 Peter 3:4-10.)  This is one of the reasons why God has left each of us here today:  He wants his children to multiply…and we do that by raising godly families and by sharing Christ with everyone we possible can and inviting them to join God’s forever Family.


  • Parents/grandparents, if you have children/grandchildren, GOD has done that. He has given them to you and they are your divine assignment.
  • Everyone, God wants His family/the church to become as “numerous as the starts of heaven.” We participate in His divine family multiplication when we talk about Jesus and the Gospel with friends, neighbors, classmates, work associates and strangers.  We engage in divine multiplication when we invite people to come and take a look at God’s family, the church.  Check us out!  See if the love we share is something your heart was made for.  Consider the claims of Christ upon your life!  ALL of US are called to “be fruitful and multiply” spiritually until God takes us home.

11 May the Lord, the God of your fathers, make you a thousand times as many as you are and bless you, as he has promised you! 

But this kind of healthy, God-inspired growth will create burdens for everyone from parents to pastors.  Here Moses reveals to us just how he felt.

12 How can I bear by myself the weight and burden of you and your strife? 

Ever get tired of hearing your kids argue?  Bicker?  Be mean to each other?  Yes, parenting both physically and spiritually is a “weight and burden” at times, especially when there is strife (which there will always be in a family to varying degrees). 

            So, now Moses rehearses what he did to manage the load.

13 Choose for your tribes wise, understanding, and experienced men, and I will appoint them as your heads.’ 14 And you answered me, ‘The thing that you have spoken is good for us to do.’ 15 So I took the heads of your tribes, wise and experienced men, and set them as heads over you, commanders of thousands, commanders of hundreds, commanders of fifties, commanders of tens, and officers, throughout your tribes. 16 And I charged your judges at that time, ‘Hear the cases between your brothers, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the alien who is with him. 17 You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God's. And the case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.’ 18 And I commanded you at that time all the things that you should do.

            Moses is talking about the need for leadership that leaves a legacy and structure that supports strength. 

Notice how easily these wise words of Moses could be applied to the people of God today.

  • “Choose for your tribes [families/churches/home fellowships?] wise, understanding, and experienced men….” This speaks to the TYPE of leaders we all need in our lives.

The church is called to recognize/choose its own leaders (see 1 Timothy 3 & Titus 1), not just any leaders but men of measurable maturity and character. 

  • 15--“…heads over you, commanders of thousands, commanders of hundreds, commanders of fifties, commanders of tens, and officers, throughout your tribes.” Now we’re talking structures that support strength in the church.  God has always given plenty of freedom in the kinds of structures He allows us to adopt.  Even under the Old Covenant Moses is talking about, they got to choose this structure of “thousands, hundreds, fifties, tens.”  The N.T. church models everything from elders, bishops, deacons and pastors to congregational involvement in decisions and ministry.  You cannot find one, exclusive, commanded form of church leadership.  But you do always find some sort of call to structure that sustains strength among God’s people.
  • 16-18—HOW leaders are to lead. They must exercise judgment over disputable, divisive, contentious and conflicted issues and people.  That “referee-ing”, mediating or arbitrating must be done with…
    • A listening ear/heart (“hear the cases”, vs. 16),
    • Righteous judgment between people (vs. 16)
    • Impartiality (vs. 17) that doesn’t look at race, social status, wealth, etc.
    • Conviction that you as a leader represent God, not your own interests. “You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God’s.”  Leaders desperately need to remember that they act as God’s ambassador, not their own boss.  This singular, simple concept will protect leaders and people from abusive, self-serving leadership.  When leaders understand that they will answer directly to God Almighty for the judgments they hand down…and everyone recognizes that God is working through these kinds of leaders in a family, church or nation, then wonderful fruit and blessing is in store.  When we forget or ignore that, everyone suffers. 

Let’s summarize all Moses is saying to us about LEADERSHIP

Leadership that leaves a LEGACY: 

  • Is chosen and recognized by the community. “13 Choose for your tribes… .”
  • Is proven and seasoned. “…wise, understanding, and experienced men….”

This is effectively what every one of us does every week when we choose to be a part of a local fellowship/family of God’s people. Hopefully, when you decide to become part of a church, you are consciously choosing every week to, in some measure, benefit from the chosen leadership of that church.  Whether those leaders are teaching-leaders or governing-leaders, counseling-leaders or praying-leaders, we should be able to say, “These leaders, though imperfect and still growing themselves, are ‘wise, understanding and experienced,’…and I chose to live under their leadership.”

APP:  Do you have that in your life right now?  Is someone/ several people serving as “head” over you—giving guidance, making judgment calls, helping you avoid dangers, snares and traps?  Are they wise by God’s standard (fearing the Lord, discerning, just, righteous, etc.)?  “Understanding” of life and people?  “Experienced”/old enough to have gained wisdom?  There is a great danger in our overly-independent culture of living independent, unsubmitted lives.  That is not serving our nation well presently and it will not serve any of us well personally. 

  • Is impartial and concerned only with representing God’s judgment, truth, wisdom and character, (vs. 17).

Structure that Supports Strength

The structure Moses proposed apparently had a dual function:

  • It worked as a civil, organizing structure for the resolution of internal problems.
  • It served as a military structure for the defense and advancement of the nation.

APP to the Church: Structure that Supports Strength…

  • Works functionally to provide growth and resolve conflicts.
  • Works cooperatively to protect and equip the people for victory.

If the church (or family, or home group, or Bible study) has a good, biblical, wise, fair process for growing and resolving conflict, everyone is blessed. 

And if that leadership is leading well, that church/family/group will be protecting the growth of the church while also advancing into new spiritual territory—doing battle with the forces of darkness, overcoming spiritual giants in the land and creating a safe, healthy place for God’s people to multiply and grow. 

APP:  Am I that kind of person/leader/member?  Leaders are raised up best in places where everyone is seeking to develop the character necessary for godly leadership.  We ALL should be seeking to develop our maximum capacity for leadership.  We all should be striving to become “wise, understanding & experienced” when it comes to life.  That’s just the kind of person that becomes a leader that blesses. 

30 seconds to let God impress on us 1 or 2 things from this passage He is calling us to pursue. 

PRAYER about…

  • Growing in wisdom, understanding and healthy experience. Being the kind of person who will be leading others well.
  • Practicing and submitting to a structure that resolves challenges well and takes on new battles.
  • Finding, following & replenishing good people and structures.