One of my favorite characters in the bible growing up (and still is) was Joshua. I loved all the stories. I sat captivated by the flannelgraph cut-outs of him and the wall of Jericho as the Sunday school teacher told the story. He was a man I wanted to be. He was a leader, a man’s man, strong, courageous, fearless, obedient and triumphant in battle. But it wasn’t until I became an adult and had some life experiences to draw on, that I saw Joshua 1:6-9, in a different light
“Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. 7 Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
I know what you are about to read isn’t what most would pull out of these passages and I may be completely off my rocker on my view here but bear with me. I found certain phrases to be a bit shocking, amazing really and oddly enough, comforting. The idea that a great and mighty man of God such as Joshua was told, “Be strong and courageous” gave me reason to pause and ponder. Why would God tell Joshua, of all men, to be strong and courageous? Ok, so aside from the obvious, “…because you will lead these people…” I came up with two reasons.
- God knew His plans for His people and what it would take to execute and accomplish it.
- God knew Joshua wasn’t strong and courageous enough for the purpose into which He had called him.
Keep in mind that Joshua was already strong and courageous when he was told to “Be strong and courageous” in verse six, so being told again in verse seven, “Be strong and VERY courageous” is a wee-bit alarming, at least to me it is. The additional adverb doesn’t help the matter; made me envision Joshua sitting there with a concerned, quizzical look on his face thinking, “What lies ahead that will require me to be ‘very’ courageous?” Of course that’s just me. The reality is, Joshua probably smiled and said, “Bring it!”
But God wasn’t done yet. He really wanted to get Joshua’s attention when He calls Joshua out on the carpet in verse 9 by asking him a question, “Have I not COMMANDED you?”
Now, as a parent I have employed this tactic many times to get my message across and generally speaking, anytime I ask, “Did I not TELL you ____?” it’s not going to bode well for my child. I can assure you, when I was younger and heard my parents ask this, it did not bode well for me either. I was scared and paid very close attention and the message came across loud and clear. I just could not imagine the feeling or fear I would have if God asked me the same. Reminds me of the verse in Job 38 where God tells Job to “Brace yourself like a man and answer me…” (I envision God adjusting His robe out of the way, squaring up and coming at me face to face) I don’t know about you but if I was Joshua or Job, “Fear of the Lord” would certainly be in abundance but mostly it would be in my shorts.
Back to Joshua; so God has his attention and now tells him a THIRD time, “Be strong and courageous…” but if we read further, we see that God also tells Joshua not only what to be, ‘strong and courageous’ but goes on to tell him what not to be; ‘do not be terrified or discouraged’ He ends the verse with a promise, “for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
How cool is that? And you’re thinking, “Ok whatever, I have no clue where you are going with this.” Well there are two points I get form this passage.
- God knows what His plans are for you.
Why do you suppose God has to tell Joshua to be strong and courageous? Because He knows that what lies ahead will require Joshua to be even stronger and more courageous than he already is. God sees the big picture; he knew what plans he had and saw the future of His people. He knows the plans he has for us and he sees our future. Grant it, we are not being asked to lead millions of people across deserts and mountains, fighting battle after battle like Joshua; but you know as well as I do, life sure does feel like one battle after another sometimes and it sure is a lot easier if we are prepared. God wants you prepared. Three times God tells Joshua to be strong and courageous in preparation for the future.
Could it be that whatever it is God has been telling you is in preparation for what lies ahead?
What is God telling you to be or do?
- God will never ask you to be or do anything that you cannot accomplish.
As a parent, would you be so mean to tell your child to do something you know they can’t do? Why would God then ask the same of you? He wouldn’t. It may be difficult for your child to do what it is you have told them to do but you also know you will be right there to guide them, offer encouragement and give protection if needed. Does God not do the same? It may be difficult, overwhelming or even impossible in your eyes but be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified or discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Being strong in the Lord is trusting totally in the Lord’s strength and not our own strength.
“9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Read verse 9 again, let it sink in. Write it on your heart and believe.
So go ahead, take a deep breath, and relax. Take joy in the knowledge that God knows the plans he has for you (Jer. 29:11), he knows your future and is preparing you for it. Be encouraged in what God has asked you to be or do…… because you can. Be strong and courageous.