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.
Four times this refrain is repeated in Joshua chapter 1. Joshua has just taken over from “the Lord’s servant Moses,” and he might be a bit nervous. The people are adjusting to this new leadership, and they could be tempted to hesitate. Most importantly, they’re finally preparing to walk into the Promised Land, and they have to trust that God is making easy what would otherwise be impossible: Inhabiting the land that up to this very day was inhabited by mighty-looking armies.
It’s repeated again and again: Be strong and courageous.
We should note, amidst all the the things that could frighten God’s people, could dismay God’s people in this event, it was also the event of fulfillment. This was the moment when God followed through, when his faithfulness became manifest in actual historical events, to a greater extent than this generation had yet seen. It wasn’t things going wrong that called for strength and courage; it was, in fact, thing going marvelously right.
So it is in our living to God. Even things going right can require strength and courage. Sometimes the great changes for the better—in our churches, families, friendships, workplaces, in our very selves—offer fear and dismay, but as the people of God, clinging to God’s promises, we can choose strength and courage. So often we’ll be so glad we did.
Yet, there’s one more twist in this preparatory story. The last ones to receive this charge—“be strong and courageous!”—have already received their land of inheritance. The Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, they’re not waiting to enter the Promised Land, because they’ve already received their Promised Land. They’re going to settle on this eastern side of the Jordan, the very land where these preparations for crossing and possessing are taking place. Yet, Joshua reminds them of the strength and courage they have committed to on behalf of their brothers:
And to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh Joshua said, “Remember the word that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, saying, ‘The Lord your God is providing you a place of rest and will give you this land.’ Your wives, your little ones, and your livestock shall remain in the land that Moses gave you beyond the Jordan, but all the men of valor among you shall pass over armed before your brothers and shall help them, until the Lord gives rest to your brothers as he has to you, and they also take possession of the land that the Lord your God is giving them. Then you shall return to the land of your possession and shall possess it, the land that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you beyond the Jordan toward the sunrise.”
And they answered Joshua, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you, as he was with Moses! Whoever rebels against your commandment and disobeys your words, whatever you command him, shall be put to death. Only be strong and courageous.”
So, too, when our lives seem comfortable, we must not forget the strength and courage demanded by our responsibility to our brothers and sisters who have not yet found peace. So, too, our own satisfaction is not our full satisfaction, because we care about those with whom God has called us. If your life doesn’t seem to require courage, consider drawing near to those to whom you belong, who belong to you, as part of one body in Christ, for, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:26).
Be strong and courageous and be there for your brother. “Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”