The first chapter of Joshua has always been a favorite of mine. The phrase “Be strong and courageous” is repeated four times in this chapter. Were the circumstances Joshua faced, as the newly appointed leader of Israel, so daunting, that God wanted to make sure Joshua REALLY understood it would take LOTS of courage and strength to get the job done? Or was Joshua so full of fear and self-doubt, that God was giving him a “much-needed motivational talk?” When I put myself in the story and think about all Joshua was facing in the big picture of God’s plan and promise for His people, Israel, it was probably some of both and a whole lot more.
The first time God says to Joshua, “Be strong and of good courage…” (vs. 6), is after reassuring him, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you, I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Now those are some powerful, courage-building words of reassurance.
Second time (vs. 7), God says, “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law…do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.” This time, it’s a directive with some additional instructions and insights for doing the assignment.
God says it a third time (vs. 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.” This is a restating or reminding of the directive with some specific guidelines for navigating the circumstances and more reassurance.
The fourth time the “courage” words are spoken, the people say the words to Joshua, after hearing his directions on how they are going to take possession of the land God promised them. This one puzzles me a bit at first glance. Seems like a better ending would be God declaring from the heavens in a reassuring BUT strong, firm tone to all of them – BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS! A deeper look seems to convey the people confirmed Joshua had heard from God and affirmed their commitment to walk into God’s plan and promise with him. Words of encouragement and affirmation were shared with each other – a great practice for all God’s people to engage in.
It’s a great story, but even better, it’s a true story about real people. Real people, like you and me, facing circumstances today that are daunting, and we need God’s reassurance that He is with us and will be with us everywhere we go. People, like you and me, that are dealing with uncertainty, unknowns, and fear. People, like you and me, in need of direction and wisdom for navigating the sometimes messy stuff of our lives. People, like you and me, with “spiritual short-term memory loss,” needing ongoing reminders and repeated reassurances that we are not alone…God is with us…God is with me!
Is there a specific challenge or fear you are facing today? Is there someone in your life that you could bring courage and strength to through prayer and affirming words that God is with them? Let’s receive and share His good word – “Be strong and be very courageous!”