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Saturday, December 4, 2010

"Be Strong and Courageous" - Joshua 1:9

This post is written in response to an inquiry from a friend:
Pop culture knows Joshua as the man who “fought the battle of Jericho” where “the walls came tumbling down.” We do ourselves and God’s Word injustice by limiting our knowledge of this man of faith, courage, and leadership to a few verses from a children’s Sunday school song.

First, let me offer up a few descriptive words concerning this man of God. Then I will address the passage from Joshua 1:9. Joshua is spoken of as “Moses’ servant. He had been an excellent understudy of Moses throughout the exodus from Egypt up until Moses’ death. Joshua had seen God act on behalf of his chosen people, the sons of Israel. But unlike his contemporaries who had seen God’s mighty power and deliverance displayed time and time again but never perceived with eyes of faith, Joshua took God at His Word. God revealed himself. Joshua received that revelation through faith, and then acted upon what he believed. God said it. That settled it. Through unwavering faith, Joshua knew he could proceed with God’s directives. How many people do you know who will take what God says in His Word then stand by faith and courageously act on that word? Would it be one out of 603 thousand? This was the number of the “fighting men” over the age of 20 who originally left Egypt. And this number didn’t even include the women and children. It is safe to say that only 2 men out of 2 million people had a “saving faith” and were then able to enter this land of promise. These two men were Joshua and Caleb. All the others of their generation died in the desert, and sadly, because they would not take God at His word, they never received God’s promise.

Joshua’s name had originally been Hoshea, which Moses then changed to Joshua. (Numbers 13:16) This Hebrew name in Greek is Jesus. This holds a profound implication. Moses represented the law of God. The law is not what brings us into God’s promised inheritance, just as Moses himself was not able to enter the land of promise. Faith, through Jesus Christ, is what brings us into God’s inheritance. Joshua was the undisputed leader of the chosen people of God. “Joshua is the one who will cross ahead of you, just as the Lord has spoken.” (Deut. 31:3b) For those who believe God at His Word, Jesus is Lord.

So much more could be said about this but I’ll move on to the passage in Joshua 1:9.

This verse reads, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” The Lord repeats his admonition to be “Strong and courageous” in the preceding 6th and 7th verses as well. In the book of Deuteronomy, the book preceding the book of Joshua, the same account is given concerning the commission of Joshua as the leader of the people. Through Moses, the Lord repeats this same admonition, again in three separate verses. “Be strong and courageous!” Notice that this is a command. The Lord also repeats several times over that He will go before his people and deliver them before their enemies. They would have to fight, but they must fight knowing that God will give them victory over their enemies.

But the Lord declares something else even more emphatically. Look at the two verses right before the one in verse 9 of chapter 1. The Lord tells Joshua and the people, “be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.” (Then He re-iterates this same admonition in verse 8) “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it: for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.”

In other words, if the people would be careful to follow God’s words, then they could naturally be strong and courageous in trusting that the Lord would deliver them. The Lord wasn’t going to deliver just anyone. He was not going to deliver the inhabitants of Canaan who cared nothing about obedience to God and his rule in their lives. Nor was He able to bring the previous generation of Israelites into the land of promise, because they too were a rebellious and faithless people who would not take God at His Word. No. It was his chosen people who were following Joshua and abiding by His commands and standing upon His words who would be given victory. If they believed God through the words handed down to them through Moses, then it would seemingly be an un-daunting task to be “Strong and courageous” because they would then trust God to do what He says He will do.

Now, the owner of Joshua’s bookkeeping may or may not have given this much consideration when naming her business. I applaud her for wishing to associate her business with this command and promise of God. I also hope that she is a kinsman of Joshua in spirit and stands equally upon the contingency of verse 9 found in verses 7 & 8.

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