“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” (v. 9).- Joshua 1:1–9
Joshua, the immediate successor to Moses as the leader of the Israelites, is fittingly the second figure we are looking at in our study of the great men and women of the Bible. Here was a man given the Herculean task of leading the newly formed nation of Israel into the Promised Land and conquering peoples who, from a military perspective, were more sophisticated than the Israelites in terms of manpower, weaponry, and so forth. Is it any wonder, then, that God’s speech to Joshua on the border of Canaan is filled with exhortations for Joshua to be strong and courageous? (Josh. 1:1–9).
If Joshua embodied any godly trait, it was courage. Remember that he was part of the group of spies that Moses sent into the Promised Land in order to evaluate the strength of the Canaanites and to begin to develop a strategy for taking Canaan from the enemies of Israel. However, unlike most of the other spies, who could not see past the evident military might of the Canaanites, Joshua was confident that the Israelites could take the land. After all, had it not been promised to them by the one, true Lord of all? Along with Caleb, Joshua had the courage to face the Canaanites in the power of God (Num. 13:1–14:12). That made him an ideal candidate for the task at hand, namely, the conquest of Canaan.
As we consider today’s passage, however, we must note that the courage Joshua is encouraged to have is not exclusively military courage. That type of courage, of course, was necessary (Josh. 1:7, 9). But the Lord’s exhortations for Joshua to meditate on the law of God indicate that he was to continue to have the courage to take our Creator at His Word. At the end of the day, Joshua’s military success would not be determined by his plans; rather, His faithfulness to the Word of God would be the key to taking Canaan successfully (v. 8). If he lacked courage to lead the people in obedience, they would not complete their task.
God in His grace did not only command Joshua to be strong and courageous, but He also gave the leader of Israel visible confirmation of His commitment to go with His people and grant them success. We read of this in Joshua 5:13–15, which is the account of Joshua’s meeting with the Commander of the Lord’s Army at the gate of Jericho. Joshua recognized that this individual was no ordinary individual, that He could be either a powerful ally or strong enemy. This commander revealed that He was on Joshua’s side—or more appropriately, that Joshua should be on His side. If we are on God’s side, the victory is ours.
Many people have suggested that the figure Joshua meets in chapter 5 was a pre-incarnate manifestation of the Son of God. Whether or not that is the case, the important point to note is that we are to be courageous for godliness and that such courage comes as we place ourselves on the Lord’s “side” against evil. We can do that by faith as we study His Word and ask for His help so that we would love what He loves and hate what He hates.
Passages for Further Study
1 Chronicles 22:11–13