November 25, 2016
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
Moses had died (see Deuteronomy 34:5-8) and Joshua was commissioned to take oversight of the children of Israel, to lead them into Canaan, the Promised Land. They were still encamped “…in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho.” (Numbers 36:13). And “…the LORD spoke to Joshua…saying…” (Joshua 1:1)…
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.
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall med-
itate 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. Have not I 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 1:7 through 9).
The first thing that strikes me is what is the reason for the needed courage? It would be understandable if God told Joshua that he needed courage because he was about to lead Israel across the Jordan River and engage in battle strong nations! (See the spies’ report in Numbers 13:27-29; 32, 33). It would also be reasonable to surmise that Joshua needed courage to assume the leadership of about two to three million (often rebellious) people! It had been Moses in that position as the able leader for the last forty years! But for what does God tell him to be strong and very courageous? To observe to do according to all the law! In other words, the LORD was telling Joshua he needed courage to obey Him!
Do we need courage to obey God? Yes!
• First, we need courage to observe His Word! The word observe in the Hebrew means “to guard; generally to protect, attend to…” (Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary). Why do we need courage to observe His Word? Because of the extent…
✞ …of the Word! Before Moses died, he completed writing the Pentateuch – the first five books of the Bible. According to Rabbi Simlai, who lived in the third century AD, there are 613 laws in these five books. That is a lot of do’s and don’t’s with which to be familiar!
Since the close of the first century, the New Testament canon is complete. We have a lot more of God’s Word than did the Israelites of Joshua’ day! And it is our job to master the Bible as much as we can, and that’s a daunting task – a life-long task! Most Christians, it seems, are frightened by this challenge, and we need courage to tackle it!
✞ …of the time commitment involved! Again, I quote the first part of verse eight of our featured Scripture: “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night…” Day and night! What time is left? (See the blog from September 23, 2013 – How Do I ‘Think On These Things’?). It reminds me of what God told Moses in Deuteronomy 6:6 and 7:
…these words, which I command you today shall be in your heart;
you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of
them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when
you lie down, and when you rise up. (See also Deuteronomy 11:18-
21; Psalm 1:2; Colossians 3:16).
• Second, we need courage to believe His Word! Joshua had been Moses’ assistant for decades. During that time he had observed on many occasions the unbelief manifested by the Israelites! Perhaps the most egregious example is one in which he was an active minority participant on the believing side. In Numbers, chapters 13 and 14, Joshua and Caleb were the only two Israelites (out of possibly up to three million) who believed God’s promise to give the new nation the Promised Land of Canaan! Yes, the Canaanites were strong, but Jehovah God was stronger! And it also took great courage to believe such a promise, and to stand against the vast majority who would not believe and so rebelled against the LORD! (See Numbers 13:30; 14:6-10; 32:12).
The world does not believe God! And many of those who name the name of Christ do not wholly believe Him! We are called to stand fast in the promises of out Lord – especially when in the face of opposition! (See I Corinthians 16:13; Philippians 4:1; I Thessalonians 3:8; II Thessalonians 2:15)
• Third, we need courage because of the extent of the battle revealed in His Word! But didn’t I just say above that it was not the challenge of driving out the Canaanite heathen for which Joshua needed courage? Yes. But the battle of which I am referring is the spiritual battle to which the LORD calls every one of His children! This personal battle is certainly implied in the Pentateuch (see Deuteronomy 1:26, 32, 43; 9:23).
But the battle against Satan and his demons is much more clearly spelled out in the New Testament! (See II Corinthians 10:3-6; Ephesians 6:10-18). It takes courage to face this spiritual war! Also, that battle is more than just against the devil and his forces. It is also against the two natures – the old sinful nature, and the new godly nature – that every Christian possesses! We must learn to gain the victory is this aspect also! (See Romans 7:14-8:1; Galatians 5:16, 17).
So, if we (as well as Joshua) have courage to fight and win the battles described above, we will also experience the victory the LORD promised His soldier at the end of Joshua 1:8: “For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”