“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
In one form or another, Joshua hears these words from God on five different occasions at the end of Deuteronomy and the beginning of Joshua. And in other circumstances, the Lord will simply say to Joshua, “Do not be afraid.” It would seem that Joshua was in need of an extra dose of strength and courage in order to carry out his part in God’s Story.
As the book of Joshua begins, we find Israel at a critical juncture in her history. The great leader, Moses, has passed away. The people are poised on the brink of the Promised Land and they turn now to Joshua for leadership. The task is a challenging one: to occupy the land by purging the pagans who populate it. Deuteronomy 20:17-18 is God’s direct command to completely destroy these people and the task now falls to Joshua.
In order to fortify him for the days ahead, God makes some incredible promises to Joshua:
v3, “I will give you every place you set your foot.” All God requires is that Joshua step out in faith — He promises to take care of all the rest. Is God leading you to take some “first steps” today?
v5, “No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life.” No foe should cause Joshua to waver, for God promises that Joshua will endure. Is it possible that God is saying the same thing to you in your circumstances?
v5, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” God is saying He will never abandon Joshua. The Hebrew phrasing implies a sense of strength with regard to God’s hands. The idea of relaxing one’s hands is a sign of letting one’s guard down. And God is saying, “I will never do this with you, Joshua. I will never let my guard down. I will never relax my hands when it comes to you.” God is the God who always holds on, always keeps His promises.
v7-8, “Be careful to obey all the Law…meditate on it day and night.” Obedience to the Law of God is the key to success for Joshua. Victory here is not contingent upon military might but on obedience to the Word. Are there some of God’s Laws that you and I need to meditate on?
v9, “The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” God’s presence is mighty to sustain Joshua through these difficult days. In fact, it is God’s presence that is the source of all of Joshua’s strength.
As you move out from Joshua 1, you move into a very difficult section of Scripture. There’s no sugarcoating it — in several instances, God commands the people to completely destroy everything in the land. This isn’t Mr. Rogers’ stuff here. There’s a whole lot of bloodshed; a lot of corpses as you read through Joshua.
But here is where we close: Joshua’s story parallels another story, the story of another man named Joshua who was strong and courageous. But if the first Joshua’s story strikes you as a little bloodthirsty, then I hope you’ll stick around for the story of the second Joshua. Because rather than drawing blood, the second Joshua sheds His own. There aren’t as many corpses in the second story; there’s just one…and actually, that’s not even true. By the time it’s all said and done, there aren’t any corpses at all. That’s kind of the point.
Because the second Joshua had the same mission as the first — to bring us into the Promise Land.
Under Joshua’s leadership, Israel becomes a new creation: the slaves become heirs! And under the new Joshua’s leadership, you too can become an heir — an heir of eternal life!