“Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
A message for Joshua
Joshua was getting ready to take over for Moses, the one who had lead Israel for over 40 years and was revered by the People. As Joshua prepared for leadership, God had a recurring message for him. It is recorded three times in Deuteronomy chapter 31 and then repeated three times (as recorded in the first chapter of Joshua) after Moses had died,
First the Deuteronomy admonitions to be strong and courageous:
Verse 6 of chapter 31 says, “Be strong and courageous; don’t be terrified or afraid of them. For it is the Lord your God who goes with you; He will not leave you or forsake you.”
The next verse (7) echoes its predecessor, “Moses then summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, ‘Be strong and courageous, for you will go with this people into the land the Lord swore to give to their fathers. You will enable them to take possession of it. The Lord is the One who will go before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid or discouraged.”
As Joshua is commissioned, he is reminded again (as recorded in verse 23), “Be strong and courageous, for you will bring the Israelites into the land I swore to them, and I will be with you.”
Here are the Joshua verses:
Verse 6: “Be strong and courageous, for you will distribute the land I swore to their father to give them as an inheritance.”
Verse 7 puts it a bit more strongly, “Above all, be strong and very courageous to carefully observe the whole instruction My servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you will have success wherever you go.”
And maybe the most familiar verse (certainly it was/is to me) in the bunch: “Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Why does God say this so much?
I know in my own life, God often has to repeat Himself over and over again due to my *ahem* stubbornness. Joshua though? I don’t know. Maybe. After all, even those who have proven strong and courageous in the past benefit from a reminder once or twice.
Then again, maybe God was simply giving Joshua a super-charged encouragement boost before Joshua would need to lead the Israelites into battle after battle as they conquered and took possession of the land God had given to them.
What we do know
We don’t know why God repeated it, but what we do know is that to be strong and courageous was no suggestion. Nope, it was a command. Every time.
We also know that it was a completely reasonable command for an all-Powerful, completely capable and Mighty God to make. God even gives the reasons why this command should be followed in the verses.
*The Lord your God will go with you (3 times)
*The Lord will not forsake you (2 times)
*The Lord promised to give you this land.
*The Lord will go ahead of you.
Joshua goes on to live a life (as far as we know) that completely obeyed this command. Time after time he lead the Israelite army with strength and courage and, even today, remains a man we think of as a hero.
It’s a command for us too!
This command, though, is also for us, because we serve and know the same amazing God that Joshua did.
He will still go with us.
Even still, He will not forsake us.
He still keeps His promises to us.
He absolutely still has things for His people to accomplish and He still goes ahead of us to clear the way.
Choosing to Obey
For me, personally, I remember where I was when I realized a command was what was recorded in Joshua 1:9 (which I sort of see as a summation of all six of these verses). I was in a hotel room laying face down on the bed, with a broken and completely fear-filled heart.
We had just left our newborn son at a temporary foster care home until (we hoped) the courts would give us the O.K. to take him home forever. Though he was not born to me, he was my child from the moment we knew he was coming and we had been blessed to spend 2 days with him in the hospital, so this separation was extremely difficult for us, especially since the outcome was not guaranteed and was completely out of our hands.
It was there, as I prayed, this verse came to mind and I began to think about it. I realized then that it was a command. I had no choice but to obey and because my God is who He is, I could obey without question. I knew then and I know now, He can be trusted with every single detail of our lives, including court proceedings for adoptions. A little over a year later, I had to choose to obey this verse once more as I was wheeled into an O.R. for my first ever surgery to deliver our oldest daughter.
Both times, as I focused on obeying this command the strength of my God became obvious and I was no longer afraid. I could face whatever came my way with courage, because of the great power that comes from Him.
In both of those circumstances, God allowed us our hearts’ desire. We got the privilege of raising our son and our daughter (along with two other daughters later on). However, even when circumstances turn out differently than what we hope, we must still face them with courage and strength.
It is not easy. There are countless days when things leave me trembling and afraid. But today I am reminded of this verse, this command. That no matter what is happening in my life–big or small, good or bad, I can obey it. I must obey it. In the end, I do not have a choice. After all, it is a command and it is in obeying that command I can better see the One from Whom my strength and courage come. That’s a blessing I simply do not want to miss!
All-Mighty Father, You are so strong and You lend us Your strength when we need it. Lord, You have given us this command to be strong and courageous because You know we can easily accomplish it in Your power and because You know it is what’s best for us. I love You and I trust You and I do not want to give into fear. Today, I choose to obey and be strong and courageous. You are with me wherever I go and I am so, so grateful. Amen.