Before we move into Joshua, can we take a moment to consider the passing of Moses, the end of his prophetic leadership ministry, and the transfer of authority to his faithful assistant Joshua. Having just witnessed the chaotic, bizarre, and at times frightening transference of governance in our neighbour to the south, I was struck by the biblical narrative as I read Deuteronomy. Consider the consequences Moses faces for his sin at Kadesh: he cannot lead the people into Canaan, or even enter himself. How easily could he have succumbed to an impotent bitterness over the balance of his life: angry at either God or himself. Yet what a picture of godly leadership we see throughout the book as he lovingly and firmly lays out the requirements upon the next generation if they are to successfully enter the Promised Land, and live faithfully within it. He leads courageously to the very end, leaving us with the beautiful picture of filling Joshua with the spirit of wisdom through the laying on of hands.
And this is where we find Joshua in chapter 1, verse 1. The leader he faithfully served alongside before and throughout the wilderness wanderings was dead. He and Caleb alone remained of the older generation. He had seen first hand the nation’s struggles with disobedience and unbelief. If Israel’s greatest prophet failed to lead them in, how was he to? You have to admit, Moses is a tough act to follow. Chapter 1 in Joshua is known for God’s encouragement to his new leader, for three times he exhorts: “Be strong and courageous”. What are we to see, understand, apply, and praise as we consider courage this week.
Something to See:
If we were to take the advice found in the ‘self-help’ isle of our favourite bookstore we would see a presumed connection between courage and self. We are advised to believe in ourselves, trust our instincts, affirm ourselves, and above all, be true to ourselves (as we understand our ‘self’ to be). God shows us a very different foundation to courage: himself. The first thing he says after the basic instruction to “prepare to cross over the Jordan to the land”, is the reminder that he has given the land. “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. (Joshua 1:3)” Joshua is instructed to look not to himself, but to the promises of God. He has given (and promised) the land (1:3), and “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. (1:5)” The first key to Christian courage is knowing and trusting God’s promises.