One of the most well-known characters of the Old Testament is Moses, and understandably so. His story tells of princesses and river rescues, burning bushes and holy ground, parting waters and stone tablets, and leading the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to freedom. But not so much attention is given to Moses’s second-in-command, Joshua, the man who actually led the Israelites into the Promised Land after Moses’s death.
Joshua’s story can be found scattered from Exodus through to Deuteronomy, but the time from when he took over from Moses until his death is outlined in an Old Testament book of Joshua that is dedicated solely to his life. In this book we can read of the more familiar stories of Rahab and the Battle of Jericho, but what of Joshua himself? What was he like as a person?
Joshua’s resume as a soldier and a leader is outstanding. He showed prowess as a military leader while being a channel for answered prayer (see Exodus 17:8-13). He also exhibited a strong faith and incredible courage (see Numbers 14:8-9). Joshua was a man highly qualified by nature, training and experience who followed the calling of God and lived in His favour.
One thing that stands out to me at the moment, however, is the point when Moses realises that his time is coming to an end and he commissions Joshua to take over his leadership. At the at the end of Deuteronomy (31:6) Moses first says to the Israelites: ‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of [the enemy], for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.’
And then Moses speaks directly to Joshua (31:7-8): ‘Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their forefathers to give them…The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.’
And when we come to chapter one of Joshua, which takes place after Moses’s death, God himself delivers the words ‘be strong and courageous’ three times, with the final inclusion stating: ‘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.’
Be strong and courageous.
It’s a phrase I’m hearing a lot at the moment as people respond to the genuine concerns around the spreading of the COVID-19 virus. But the part that makes the difference between this phrase being a cliche and it being an expression – a command – in which we can find true hope and encouragement is the promise that comes with it. The promise of: ‘The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you…wherever you go…He will never leave you nor forsake you.’
For all of Joshua’s competence and credentials, it was God’s presence that enabled him to be strong and courageous. And for all of God’s promises in the Bible, they apply to us in the same way that they did to these people thousands of years ago.
We don’t have to be strong and courageous on our own. It is not a vacuous command that leaves us alone to conjure up some brave feelings that we have to convince our hearts are true. There is a reason that we can be strong and courageous and the reason is clear – because the Lord our God will be with us wherever we go. He will never forsake us – come what may.
Friends, Joshua faced many enemies many times, but his strength and courage was found in the Lord. Today I invite you to take encouragement from the words of this great man of God: ‘Do not be afraid of [the enemy]. The Lord is with us.’