According to the popular YouVersion Bible App, “the bible verse that was shared, bookmarked, and highlighted most often by the global Bible App community in 2017” was Joshua 1:9: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” In the context of this verse, Joshua has been appointed to succeed Moses as the leader of Israel, and the Lord is giving him commands to start him off.
God commands Joshua to “Be strong and courageous” three times in this first chapter. Why did God repeat this command?
While the Bible doesn’t explicitly reveal trepidation in Joshua, the job before this new Israelite leader was a daunting one. He knew the capriciousness of the Israelites, having assisted Moses for decades. He knew—having spied out the land forty years earlier—the size of the armies of Canaan, the fortifications around their cities, and the tendency for the Israelites to become paralyzed with fear. If I had to lead such a fickle group of people into battle against seasoned warriors, I’d be a bit nervous. It is likely that Joshua had some fears in his heart, but fear did not make him a coward. Courage is not the absence of fear, but the willingness to act in spite of it.
Courage is not the absence of fear, but the willingness to act in spite of it.
This same chapter holds the key to why Joshua could feel strong and courageous: “Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.” (Joshua 1:5)
Joshua knew his predicament, but he knew and trusted the faithfulness of God far more. He had seen how God took care of Moses and honored him before all the people. Joshua had faith that God would keep all His promises, especially when He said, “I will not leave you or forsake you.”
For Joshua, and for us, our strength and courage are fortified through trust in the awesome God we serve.
To be courageous in all the ways that count, it is imperative to know the Lord. Throughout the scriptures we see God make promises and fulfill them. The rainbow that appears in the sky after a storm is a long-standing emblem of His promise to never again destroy the earth by water. That shimmer in the sky isn’t a mere scientific phenomenon—it is a powerful reminder of God’s faithfulness. Who else has the ability (and willingness) to keep a promise for thousands of years?
He kept His promises to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, to Joseph, to Joshua, and to all the righteous men and women who came after them. If you’ve been wanting to have a focus point for your study this year, keep a list of every time God makes a promise, noting the book, chapter, verse, and promise. When you come across it’s fulfillment or repetition, write it across from the original promise(s). I’ve only gone from Genesis to Joshua and I already have a page and a half in 8-point font!)
Just as God promised to be with Joshua, He promises to be with us. Hebrews 13:5-6 is one of my favorite passages: “Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”
Before you set out to boldly change the world, begin with small acts of bravery:
Don’t be afraid to train your children. It’s rarely easy, but when administered with love, prayer, and godly wisdom, it has powerful effects!
Don’t be afraid to share the gospel; we demonstrate our love for others when we share the saving message of Christ.
Don’t be afraid to steer clear of situations that lead to sin; shine your light even if it means fewer promotions or diminished popularity.
Don’t be afraid to give to others as you have opportunity; helping others is giving to the Lord and He honors those gifts.
Do we believe the Lord is always with us? Do we still believe it when everything seems wrong around us? Do we have confidence in His promise even in times of trouble? Do we still reach for Him in times of prosperity?
Choosing to walk with God will always demand courage, but He doesn’t make us stand alone. He is always near us, dwelling in our hearts. God gives us all that we need to trust Him. If we love God with our whole heart, walking beside Him day in and day out, we—like Joshua—can courageously say, “Choose this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)
Elihu Anderson is a surviving California native currently thriving in West Texas. When she isn’t writing for Elihu’s Corner, she is teaching, researching, walking, and book-worming with a cup of chai. Visit Elihu at elihuscorner.com