“Be Strong and Very Courageous!”

(Joshua 1:6-9) “Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua was Moses General. God had prepared him for service and ministry through using Moses as His teacher. It was not so much that Joshua had learnt skills but that he had observed Moses way of doing this and it was not a matter so much of what Joshua had been taught but what he had caught. (Exodus 33:11) The time had come for him to lead the people of God into their inheritance. The task was beyond human ability and strength and both Moses and Joshua knew this to be true. Before Moses was about to leave he placed his hands upon Joshua to be filled with the Spirit of God and through this infilling of the Holy Spirit Joshua received God’s wisdom and power to do the work God had set out before him, a daunting task to follow in the steps of his master and teacher Moses. (1:9)

God knew Moses face to face and through Moses the Lord had done miraculous signs and wonders and Joshua knew that it would be a hard act to follow. Now after Moses had died the Lord spoke to Joshua as He had spoken to Moses. (1:1-2) God promised Joshua that He would give him and the Israelites the whole land of Canaan (Israel) to be their inheritance and promised Joshua that no man would be able to stand up against him all the days of his life, and that as God had been with Moses so He would be with Joshua and would never leave him or forsake him. (1:3-5)Three times in giving Joshua his commission the Lord said to him “be strong and courageous” and in one of these God said “Be strong and very courageous.”  He would need this strength and courage to lead the people into the Promised Land. (1:6)

It is one thing to be called by God and to be empowered by the Holy Spirit to work for the Lord Jesus the Messiah but something more to walk in that calling and gifting which are irrevocable (Romans 11:29) However success in spiritual matters is not automatically guaranteed because we have our part to play in that success as well. While God is sovereign He still requires obedience to His commands as laid out in his Word the Bible. Did not our Lord Jesus says; “If you love Me keep My commandments” (John 14:15) Obeying the Word of God is not a burden, as Satan would have us believe, but a delight. As the Psalmist writes; “Your testimonies are indeed my delight; they are my counsellors.” (Psalm 119:24) and again he writes; “I will delight in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word.” (Psalm 119:16) and yet again he writes; “Trouble and distress have found me, but Your commandments are my delight.” (Psalm 119:143) and then he writes; “I long for Your salvation, O LORD, and Your law is my delight.” (Psalm 119:74) 

How much do we delight in the Word of God? Is our Bible reading and study a burden or a delight? One thing we must also be aware of is that the more we seek to read, to love and to obey the Word of God the more Satan will try to distract us with wandering thoughts, pleasurably pastimes such as sport or being glued to the internet, or if he can get us pre-occupied with the things of this life that will squeeze out our quality time with the Lord.

Now Joshua had been trained by the Lord through his servant Moses and in this we see a foreshadowing of how our Lord Jesus trained His disciples. Of course when we feed on the Word of God we are spiritually feeding on the Lord Jesus Himself who is the eternal Word of God who became a flesh and blood human being and tabernacled among us. (John 1:1-2, 14) Joshua’s success would also depend on how faithful he would be to carry out all that God had commanded him. God had given him the power of the Holy Spirit but Joshua still needed to stay filled or controlled or empowered by the Holy Spirit if he was to be successful (Ephesians 5:18)

Unless we are filled with the Spirit moment by moment we will never have to power to overcome the world, the flesh and the devil nor to withstand the spiritual forces of wickedness in high places that constantly demand our time, our thoughts and our pastimes that go contrary to the Word of God. Some things, activities and pastimes in themselves are not bad or inherently evil, but when we allow a pre-occupation with them to encroach on our service and ministry and time spent with the Lord then we will lose spiritual power and not be able to overcome the wiles of the devil. We will in fact be committing the sin of idolatry if we allow them to control us. What did the Lord require of Joshua if he was to be successful in doing all of God’s will for his life and ministry? In looking at this we will see what God requires of us as believers in our Lord Jesus the Messiah if we would successfully complete God’s will for our lives. There are four things we can learn from what the Lord said to Joshua.

1) We are told “to be strong and very courageous.

The word “strong” means “to prevail” “to be firm” “to harden ones resolve” “to be resolute” and “to grow firm.” The words “very courageous” is connected to the word “strong.” It means to be “strong and alert” to be “brave and bold in ones actions even in the face of adversity,” “to strengthen oneself with a resolve” and “to persist in that resolve.” This of course takes the power of God because apart from His enabling power we will never prevail over the things the devil and his minions from Hades throw our way, especially in these last of the last days in which we are living as Satan is using everything he can to turn us aside from the Word of God.

As believers we must all contend with frustrations, disappointments, trials and tests of all kinds and daily fight against things like depression, mood swings and anxiety as we wrestle not against flesh and blood humans alone, but more so against the spiritual powers of wickedness in high places. Without being filled with the Spirit we will be vulnerable to spiritual attacks amd they can be very unpleasant to say the least.

2) We are told “to be careful to do according to all the law God has given us in his Word and not turn from it to the right or to the left.” 

One of Satan’s tricks is to get us to turn aside from the Word of God by suggesting to us that there are parts of God’s Word we can obey but that there are other parts that we can somehow put on the backburner of our hearts. Satan never tells outright lies but “dangles a carrot” as it were before our eyes that we might take a bite even though we know it is not spiritually healthy to do so. Usually he presents us with those things that we have a tendency to love more than God. When you consider the power of the media and the internet and the ease of acquiring things it is very easy for the flesh to take control.

Satan will seek to divert us ever so subtlety from the narrow path that leads to life into the broad path that ultimately leads to spiritual death. As it is written; “a little leaven leavens the whole lump (of dough).” Satan will always mix truth with error and lay them side by side. (2 Peter 2:1) As it has been said; “there is always cheese in the rattrap.” He will suggest to us that we can obey God’s Word most of the time but because we are creatures of sin and habit we cannot obey the Word of God. If we would be spiritually successful then we need to have a resolve not to turn from God’s Word to the right or to the left. While we will miss it at times, and we all do, the desire of our heart will be to be obedient children to a heavenly Father and a Lord and Saviour who together with the blessed Holy Spirt love us dearly and have only the very best in mind for us.

Of course we always need to remember that God’s definition of success is different from the world’s definition and it is the same with His prosperity as well. In God’s estimation prosperity and success is to have successfully fulfilled His good, acceptable and perfect will when we have submitted to it fully. (Romans 12:1-2) Doing God’s will is not easy and at times our flesh will scream at us to go in the opposite direction and through this Satan will try to wear us down emotionally, mentally and physically if he can, but if we cry out to God and keep praying in the Holy Spirit the Lord will see to it that Satan is driven out of our affairs.

If we submit to God because we love Him and resist the devil, and keep resisting while drawing near to God at the same time, Satan will flee from us. (James 4:7)  The problem we all face in times of temptation and the cravings of the fleshly nature is that we do not persist in resisting Satan, we give up and the victory is lost! It takes courage to resist and everything in this world is aimed at making us not resist but “to go with the flow” because it is easy and pleasing to our fallen fleshly nature.

3) We are told “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.”

Now prosperity and success in life are God’s blessings and He does prosper his people according to His infinitely good, acceptable, perfect and loving will. He will always give us what we need not what we think we need or demand it of Him. A successful commander needs to know his enemy but more so have a strategy for battle to defeat his enemy. Joshua and the Israelites had enemy strongholds to pull down and the enemy were far greater in strength and military strategy and hardware than the Israelites were.

Added to this there were giants in the land to be conquered. By meditating on God’s Word day and night and making it a daily discipline Joshua would be instructed on battle tactics and He was. The idea of meditating is likened to a cow chewing its cud over and over again. Meditating on God’s Word is chewing on it continuously. In the spiritual life we need to know our spiritual enemy but also how to defeat him and the strongholds we need to demolish with the sword of the Spirit in our live and in the lives of others. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

God’s Word will not only reveal Satan’s tactics but also how to counter attack him and defeat him every time. The Word of God is our instruction manual to show us how to wage spiritual warfare against the enemy of our souls and his cohorts from hell! God’s Word is part of the spiritual armour we have been given. When we are born again we are enlisted into the Lord’s army. When we are baptised or filled with the Holy Spirit we receive the weapons and armour we need to fight the fierce and relentless spiritual battles that lay ahead.

We need to put on the whole armour of God, piece by piece every day of our lives. Added to this we must also pray continuously in the Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 6:10-18) Praying in the Holy Spirit will build us up in our most holy faith, keep us controlled by the love of God and give us the spiritual strength we need to wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus the Messiah to bring us into the full measure of the eternal life, which we already have dwelling in us through the Holy Spirit. (Jude 1:20-21) Added to this we must also confess God’s Word, quote His promises and have faith in what He has said in His Word because this will develop our faith and confidence in His divine benevolence towards us. (Romans 10:19)

4) We are told; “Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

We know that Joshua and the Israelites were facing overwhelming odds as there were giants to be defeated. The former generation of Israelites never entered the Promised Land because of unbelief. Only two of the former generation entered into their inheritance, being Caleb and Joshua along with the new generation of Israelites. All who have been born again, filled with the Spirit, justified and washed in the blood of the Lord Jesus, and through the same atoning blood redeemed from the power of Satan and from the grip of sin, still have spiritual battles that lay ahead.

Things are not going to get better as we see the end of this present age rapidly coming to a close. In these matters of spiritual warfare let us remember that we are not alone for the Lord our God, the Triune God Himself, being the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit will be with us wherever we go. Did not David write: “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me.” (Psalm 139:7-10)

Strength and courage are needed more than ever in these last days as Satan “ups the ante” on his attacks because he knows that his time is now short. Only God can give us the strength and courage we need because without these blessings from the Lord we won’t make it. If we are to face what is coming on this world we have the comfort in knowing that God never expects us to fight Satan and his minions in our own strength any more than He expected Joshua and the Israelites to fight their enemies in their own strength. This is why we need fellowship in the Holy Spirit with other Spirit filled Bible believers. If we cannot stand together we will find it almost impossible to stand alone against the flood-tide of lawlessness (Torahlessness) saturating the world.

The secret to Joshua’s success was to obey the Word of God, to confess it every day over every circumstance he faced, not turn from it to the right or to the left, but to meditate on it day and night, so that in doing this He had the full assurance of faith that he was able to prove God’s good acceptable and perfect will for his life and ministry for the Lord. Of course he faced anxiety at times I am sure as he contemplated handling the giants and the fortified cities but he was looking only to the Lord and His strength alone. And so God says to us as He said to His servant Joshua. “Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go!”