“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9-11
In Deuteronomy 31:23, we are told that “the LORD commissioned Joshua the son of Nun and said, ‘Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the people of Israel into the land that I swore to give them. I will be with you.’”
Then in Joshua 1, the LORD commands Joshua:
Verse 6: “Be strong and courageous, …”
Verse 7: “Only be strong and very courageous, ..”
And, now, in verse 9: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
The repetition “Be strong and courageous” must have regularly come to mind as Joshua faced the daunting challenges of leading the people of God into the Promised Land. Yet, it isn’t only the great leaders of history who need courage. We all need courage to faithfully follow Christ in this present age. Every time I read through the book of revelation I am struck by the list of sinners at the end of the book who will be cast into the Lake of Fire:
But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.
I suspect that none of us would have put “cowardly” in the list at all let alone at the head of those sinners who will be separated from God’s mercy and grace forever. Of course, neither Joshua nor Revelation is talking about courage or cowardice in general. They are talking about the courage needed to follow Jesus, to meditate on all of God’s word so as to do it in a world that is frequently hostile to the things and people of God.
Where does such courage come from? Part of it comes from the confidence that the LORD has called and commissioned us to this work. That is what the LORD says to Joshua: “Have I not commanded you?” Every time you come across a command in the Bible that applies to you, you can say the very same thing:
- Are you struggling to raise your children to love the LORD and to obey His commandments? The LORD says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.”
- Are you a husband who is struggling to love your wife right now? The LORD says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.”
- In our current uncertain times are you struggling with contentment and the LORD’s command to cast all of your cares upon Him? The LORD says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.”
And a key part of the comfort we receive in knowing who has called and commanded us, is knowing that the LORD is with us always. As Adolph Harstad points out:
Joshua 1:9 is similar to Matthew 28:18-20. There Jesus first emphasizes his authority through the words “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.” Second, He then imparts His authority to His disciples through the imperative command “Therefore god and make disciples … baptizing … [and] teaching.” Third He promises His continued presence in the words “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Jesus’ promise of His abiding presence with His ministers assuages any fears they may have about their mission. …
The words of the LORD to Joshua, like Jesus’ words to His disciples, are strong assurance in order to produce great confidence for action. Though his task is huge, terror has no place for the LORD’s new leader. …
The LORD’s encouragement closes with the repeated promise of His abiding presence. Whereever Joshua will find himself, there the covenant God – “your God” (1:9) – will be. This all-encompassing promise provides fitting closure to all the words of promise, command, and exhortation that Joshua has just heard. While the same promise was part of several earlier assurances in 1:5, it is repeated here in 1:9 as the clinching reason for Joshua to discard all fear and proceed with strength and courage.
Joshua is about to serve the LORD and all Israel. However, Joshua’s service is a secondary matter. Of primary importance is that the LORD will continue to serve Joshua – and through His minister He will serve all Israel – through His assuring Word. Only for that reason, then, can Joshua serve.
MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 4
Q. What is God?
A. God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.