“Be Strong and of Good Courage”
6 Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:6-9
As the life Of Moses came to a conclusion there was the need for a new leader. Just before his death, Moses “laid his hands” on Joshua and commissioned him to take over leading the Israelites. “Now Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him; so the children of Israel heeded him, and did as the Lord had commanded Moses. But since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face” (Deut. 34:9). Talk about some pretty big shoes to fill. But Joshua knew Moses was a sinner, made mistakes, got angry, became discouraged, and was just a man. Joshua began his leadership at the age of at least sixty. Making him and Caleb the oldest two men in Israel.
Joshua most likely had some doubts about starting this new job. What if the children of Israel did not accept him as Moses’ successor? What if he failed? God knew how to encourage him. He gave the new leader a promise of blessing and protection in Joshua 1:1-5. Next, God gives him words of encouragement in verses six through nine.
“Be Strong and of Good Courage”
The phrase “be strong and of good courage” is found four times in the first chapter of Joshua (1:6,7,9,18). The repetition is for emphasis. When Moses summoned Joshua, and in the presence of the people, he gave the same words of encouragement (Dt. 31:7,8; 31:23). This was the counsel Moses had given to all the people (Deut. 11:1–9) In fact this is a very common phrase used throughout the Bible to encourage others. This phrase is used in Psalms for confidence in the times of trouble. “Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the Lord” (Ps. 31:24; also see 27:13-14). “David said to his son Solomon, ‘Be strong and of good courage, and do it; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord God—my God—will be with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you, until you have finished all the work for the service of the house of the Lord’” (1 Chron. 28:20). Hezekiah’s used it in preparing the people to withstand the Assyrian (2 Chr. 32 7). The term is always used within a context of God’s presence and support. It is even found in the New Testament. Paul wrote, “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13).
Both strength to carry the heavy responsibilities and courage to have the resolute nature to keep on keeping on are essential in leading God’s People. Joshua already showed this when he was a brave spy sent out into Canaan with Caleb.
Results of “Being Strong and of Good Courage”
■ Promises of God Received
God reminds Joshua “for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.” The book of Joshua involves two sections. The first part is about the conquest of the Land of Promise and the second part is the allotment of the land to the Israelites. God is seen as trustworthy, proficient and reliable. The promises are not given without effort on the part of the beneficiaries but are to spur them on to action. They had to take the land.
■ Pursuing the Word of God
God spoke directly to Moses. Moses speaks to Joshua through his Law. Joshua is to pursue the Law of Moses as the new leader. This involves several things…
First, pursuing the Law of God involves Observation: “do.” Joshua was to live by obedience to the written Word. Thus, a threefold mention of the law of Moses in these verses. The ten commandments were not just to be shut up in the ark and never read and practiced. Joshua would require the same duty of observing the Law when He gave his final encouragement to Israel (Josh. 23:6). All Christians must “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22).
Not just part of the Law is to be observed, but “all” of it. Obey God’s Word in its entirety. Carrying the idea of Completion.
The next command “do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left” speaks of the Perfection of our obedience to the Law. This command is found throughout the Old Testament (Dt. 2:27; 5:29; 17:11:,20; 28:14) and required in the New Testament (Rev. 22:18-19). Joshua was not at liberty to add to or take away from the Law.
Joshua was to speak the Law verbally or quote it audibly. Verbalization is seen in the command “shall not depart from your mouth”. Why read the Law out loud? Man’s mind tends to wander. Audible reading of the scriptures helps keep the mind focused.
Next, Meditation is involved in pursuing God’s Law: “but you shall meditate in it.” Meditation implies reasoning about the Word and deducing things from it. It means “to murmur to oneself in a low voice.” According to Wilson “it implies what we express by one talking to himself”. Thus, meditation is not just silent contemplation. Finally, pursuing God’s Word entails Continuation: “day and night”. The blessed Godly man’s “delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper” (Ps. 1:2-3).
■ Prosperity & Success
By pursuing God’s Law in this manner God promises Joshua: “that you may prosper wherever you go.” God is not promising the financial security of the Health/Wealth Gospel. The Hebrew terms refers to a compensation due to military success.
Rewards often result from keeping God’s Commands. A lifetime of victory is assured to a militant Joshua. The key to his success was found in his obedience to God’s Word not his or the Israelites’ military might.
In verse eight God says, “then you will have good success”. This shows that success is still conditional.
■ Presence of God
The reason for Joshua’s future success, strength, and courage is given: “for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go”. God will not leave him in a lurch and forsake him. After all, throughout the wilderness wanderings, God gave them a gargantuan visual aid in the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire demonstrating His presence.
When a parent is present the child’s fear fades. Fear freezes forward movement (see Matt. 25:25). The awareness of God’s presence fires one up to action.
Not only does the presence of God dispel fear, but it also combats discouragement. The term “dismayed” in verse nine means “to become discouraged.” But like the song we sing “Be not dismayed whate’er be tide, God will take care of you.”
Joshua’s name meant “the Lord is salvation” and salvation involves being strong and of good courage like Joshua. If we fail to cross the river and possess the promised blessings of God, we will remain in a spiritual desert. God is not looking for people with self-confidence but people with God confidence.
– Daniel R. Vess