Be Strong

“Be strong and of a good courage”Joshua 1:9

People are a fearful lot. From our earliest days, fears both real and imagined have stalked us and caused us to scream, cry and run to the comforting arms of mom. As we get older, the shape and content of our fears may change, but fear still gnaws at our existence at every turn. A close call in our cars causes our hearts to pound nearly out of our chest with fear as we contemplate what might have become of us had we been a second or two earlier or later. For those of us with children who depend on us, this fear is compounded when we think of what would become of them had the unthinkable happened. Who among us has not recoiled in fear as we hear of a person our own age who is stricken with a dread disease and must fight for their very lives? And those who have travelled the path of serious illness know all too well the agonizing fear that accompanies every doctor visit, every scan and test as they await their results. Fear is our constant and unwelcome companion.

Fear, while commonly understood by all and every one of us, was not meant to be our natural condition. Man was made to live in peace and perfect knowledge and fellowship with his Creator. But the fall into sin of our first parents Adam and Eve so corrupted their holy and righteous natures that when God looked for them in the garden, the scriptures tell us that they hid from God. “I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” Genesis 3:10. The first reaction of man after the fall was fear. The beautiful and loving relationship they had known with God was replaced by fear and dread of God, so much so that they foolishly attempted to hide from God. This history aptly illustrates the effect that sin has in our lives. God is “of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity” according to Habakuk 1:13. God is so holy that He cannot bear to even look upon sin. He burns in righteous fury at all sin, and must punish sin. Sin separates us from God. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;” Romans 1:18. Our fearful natures then, are part of the judgement of God on creation for the fall into sin.

But, you might protest, why have you chosen the verse you did for the title of this article? Does not God also tell us not to fear? To be of good courage? Indeed He does. The history of Joshua 1 is instructive as we face our fears. The Israelites in Joshua 1 certainly knew fear. They had just completed 40 years of wandering in the wilderness while an entire generation with the exception of just two men, Joshua and Caleb, died in the desert. Their beloved and revered leader, Moses, had just died and the Lord had appointed Joshua in his place. Now this motley band stood at the edge of the promised land, a land of walled cities and giants. Well trained and equipped armies awaited them on the other side of Jordan. If ever fear was justified, it was in this situation.

In the face of seemingly overwhelmingly good reasons to fear (and to flee), God tells Joshua not to be afraid and to be courageous 5 times in the first 9 verses. Was God simply being a cheerleader and trying to pump up Joshua against seemingly long odds? Was God here simply advocating the power of positive thinking to His servant? The keys to Joshua and Israel’s success are revealed in verses 7-9: “Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.

This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” In the way of obedience to God would Israel be successful. In the keeping of God’s commands would all the cities become theirs, and the armies in those cities would be destroyed.

As for Israel in the Old Testament, so too it is for us in the New Testament. As believers, we too have our fearful situations to face. We face the well trained and motivated army of Satan who tempts us to lay down our arms and capitulate to his side. We face the great walled cities of the unbelieving world, who mock us at every turn as we seek to be obedient to God. And always we face our greatest enemy, our wicked and sinful nature who encourages us to forsake God and walk our own way. As we walk through this veil of tears, the answer to all these fearful obstacles is the same as for Israel of old: God’s word and faith in His Son Jesus Christ, who is the Word made flesh and dwelt among us. When we take God’s word into our mind and hearts, when we place our faith and trust alone in Jesus Christ and His atoning death on the cross, God’s promise to us is the same as it was to Israel in Joshua 1:9. “Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”

We will never be able to obey God perfectly on this side of the grave, or to know His word as we should. So long as we stand on this side of Jordan, we will continue to fall short. But our confidence lies not with our half-hearted obedience or our all too weak faith. God’s people’s confidence lies only and always in Jesus Christ and Him crucified. And not just crucified for sin in general, but in Him crucified for my sin. In this knowledge we can face whatever fears come our way with the assurance that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28. May God give His people grace then,as in the words of the well known hymn, to trust and obey.

Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet,
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way;
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.

Categories Articles | Tags: | Posted on April 29, 2013

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