I have been reading, studying, and comtemplating these verses over the past few days, and several times, just when I was “on a roll” with insight and comments, my writing time was interrupted. Twice it was because our Marine son (who’s in Afghanistan) either called or showed up on facebook chat. I put everything aside when that happens! These verses were also included in the envelope of paper “Scripture strips” about courage that I gave him before he was deployed. Yes, I was thinking about writing this blog even back then as I dealt with my fear for his safety. God is good and faithful and what a relief to be walking this path now instead of dragging my feet in disobedience! These verses are rich and ripe with spiritual nutrition, so I plan to digest them in little bites. 🙂
God says these four words to Joshua three times in this short passage. I believe God repeats them for a specific reason each time.
1. In verse 6, “Be strong and courageous.” Why? “because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them.” I’ve chosen you, God says, to accomplish my purpose, to help me fulfill a promise I made to your people. This is my work you’re doing, Joshua, so you’ll need strength and courage. I don’t know what kind of man Joshua was, but Walter Wangerin Jr., in his Biblical narrative, The Book of God: the Bible as a Novel, portrays him thus: “A small, studious man glanced up, then glanced around himself as if embarrassed to be singled out.” Later he describes Joshua as a nearsighted man. Was he timid, more academic than physically strong? Deuteronomy 34:9 tells us that “Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit (or Spirit) of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him.” He must not have been too timid because, after spying out the land, he and Caleb were the only ones who stood up to the people and claimed victory over the promised land and its giants. Perhaps in his own mind and sight, he was incapable of bravery, yet at least four times (see Deuteronomy 31:23, too), it’s recorded that God told him, “Be strong and courageous.” There’s so much comfort in the realization that this mighty man (or this man that God used mightily) needed frequent reminders. If Walter Wangerin is right, then I also admire Joshua for being “embarrassed to be singled out ” (like me) and for being so nearsighted (like me) and still doing what God asked him to do.
2. The second time we read these words, ‘very’ is added to courageous (v. 7). I wish I knew Hebrew and if the translators added this adverb because the word for courageous hee was slightly different. Regardless, the command is now followed up with a call to action. Not the ‘sharpen your spears, pack your bags, get out the map” kind of action, though. God says, “Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.” Do we ever doubt the importance of reading and knowing God’s word? I have, in the past, wondered if it really made a difference. But the key word here is not to simply read it, but to “obey” it! Going through all the Bible studies we possibly can won’t make a bit of difference in our lives if we don’t allow the Word to affect us and apply it daily. The “why” in this verse is so “that you may be successful wherever you go.” This is God’s desire – that as we focus on and follow His Word (don’t turn to the right or the left), we will find success everywhere we go. Some times we quibble about what that word ‘success’ means, but this is God’s word and God’s promise. Success for Joshua meant that their enemies would be conquered, the people would enter and live in the promised land, and that God would provide for all their needs. And so He did. And so He will for you and me.
(A look at the rest of this verse and the third repetition tomorrow.)