“Be strong and courageous.” Joshua 1:6-9

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.)

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No fear, no flinching. Deuteronomy 31:8 (take 2)

The passage I addressed several days ago stayed with me and would not let me go. Since the last post I’ve had 6 opportunities to have coffee or lunch and to ‘heart-share’ with many friends, both old and new. What a gift! Because they were all women, I was reminded of our propensity to have more words than our male counterparts, which led me to the Amplified Bible version of the verse I’m revisiting today. The ‘extra’ words add depth and insight.

“It is the Lord Who goes before you; He will [march] with you; He will not fail you or let you go or forsake you; [let there be no cowardice or flinching, but] fear not, neither become broken [in spirit — depressed, dismayed, and unnerved with alarm].”

Picture God as the trailblazer, as well as the one who is marching by your side. He does both without failure, falling, or forsaking.  Instead of flinching, put one hand in front of you to grab on to Him and one hand beside you, tucked into His arm as He steadies you along the path.  It is not God’s wish for you to be broken in spirit, depressed, dismayed or unnerved.  If you have experienced any (or all of the above) emotions like these, let God take them, and instead of concentrating on the dark path, put your focus on Him.

Yesterday I played for a male chorus as they sang a beautiful rendition of “Give Me Jesus.”  The second verse says, “And when I am afraid……..(repeat several times)…. Give me Jesus!”  Simple words, but they sing in my soul.   This led me to one of my favorite verses, Zephaniah 3:17. “The Lord your God is with you; He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you; He will quiet you with His love; He will rejoice over you with singing.”

May all who read this sense God’s great delight in you, feel quieted by His love, and know that He is singing with joy over you today.

“The Lord Himself goes before you….” Deuteronomy 31:7-8

I noticed there were a few recent posts that were marked “draft,” so I just published them. One may be a repeat. Forgive me – I’m a newbie!  Usually I’m writing late at night, so I’m probably not entirely coherent.  I’m so relieved that I’m not getting graded on this project :).

Speaking of projects, in the verse I chose for today, Joshua is getting a HUGE assignment. Here it is: “Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, ‘Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their forefathers to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”  So Joshua is supposed to take these cantankerous people who’ve just wandered in the desert for most of their lifetime and divide the land (which they really don’t own yet) among them.  How is he supposed to do that?

Sometimes we complain or worry about not knowing what the future holds. Joshua was facing many unknowns here, too.  Moses’ instructions? Be strong, courageous (opposite of discouraged), and then act. I’ve heard the phrase “do it afraid” before, which means that you plow through the fear. Being afraid should not be an excuse to avoid action.  Moses said “you must go” and “you must divide” the land. There was a plan, even though the implementation, the details, the blueprints, were not completely laid out.  His conviction, however, was that God would go before him, would be with him, and would never leave nor forsake him.

A friend of mine said today, “I feel so lost.”  She’s in a difficult situation with hard decisions to make, decisions that will impact her future and that of her children.  Are there any clear answers? Not at this point.  But the next time I see her, I’ll remind her to continue being strong and to act on the things God does make clear in His word.  The only way to not be discouraged is to trust that God is going before and alongside and that He will never, ever leave.  Joshua followed and God showed him what to do, step by step.  He’ll do the same for you and me.

“Fear not, for God has come to test you…” Exodus 20:20

Moses brought this message to the Israelites after they saw the thunder and lightning, heard the trumpet blast, and saw the mountain in smoke. Verse 18 says they “stayed at a distance” and “trembled with fear.” Imagine being close to an erupting volcano, combined with fierce thunder and flashing lightning. Their fear of God is palpable as they say to Moses,”Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.” (v. 19) They had witnessed His miraculous power before in the parting of the Red Sea, the provision of quail and manna and water from a rock. But God is not providing for only their physical needs here. This is the setting where they hear God’s requirements – the law, the Ten Commandments. He is now telling them how to live.

“Fear not; for God has come to prove [test] you, so that the {reverential} fear of Him may be before you, that you may not sin.” Or, “the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”

Moses seems to be saying, “Replace your fright with reverence.” There is unhealthy fear and there is healthy fear.  Respect God’s show of force, His majestic power and authority. He’s showing you this side of Him so that you can avoid sin.

Even in a situation where God’s awesome power is frightening to behold, He comes with unmistakeable love and concern for His people. He knows what sin will do in our lives and wants to “keep us from sinning.”  Obedience and a reverential fear will help us stay close to Him, and for that reason, we do not have to be afraid of anything else.

Be strong and courageous, Deuteronomy 31:6

If you’re following this blog, you may have noticed that I skipped a couple days over the weekend. I’m okay with that and I hope you are too. 🙂 Instead of writing, I spent some time perusing the sites I mentioned previously, the ones that caused me some momentary angst, remember? It turns out that many people disbelieve the claim (rumor) that there are 365 (or 366) Bible verses saying some variation of “Fear not” or “Do not fear.”  I found several long lists of verses, but none that came close to the one-for-each-day number.

Instead of being upset about this new-found info, I became relieved. The pressure lifted – it’s not about the numbers anyway. What I’ve rediscovered over the past couple of weeks is that God’s Word is alive, always relevant, and life-changing.  Any time spent reading and meditating on it bears fruit.  Tending this garden of Scripture study has been a joy, a challenge, a prayerful time of listening and learning.  When (if) I come to the end of the verses that contain the word fear, God will guide me and give me more of His words to reflect on.  And if (when) I miss a day or two, that’s okay too.  I’m so glad I went back and checked those other sites!

Now back to Deuteronomy.  It’s a bittersweet time for Moses. He’s 120 years old and no longer able to lead the Israelites. God has given the task of leading the Israelites into the promised land to Joshua, so Moses will not be crossing the Jordan River with them. Can you imagine? After all this time and after all he’s done for them, the people will be going on without him.  But included in his final words are these memory-worthy lines: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”  The Amplified Bible adds the word “firm” after courageous.  No matter what you or I may go through, we must hold firmly to these words.  For the Israelites, “them” referred to the nations inhabiting their promised land, the giants they feared the first time they approached Canaan, or least the giants their forefathers were afraid of.

Today we might replace “them” with cancer, death, divorce, financial problems, an uncertain future –  you fill in the blank with your personal brand of fear.  It’s not easy to be strong and courageous in difficulty, but the last part of this verse guarantees that we won’t be alone.  This is His promise: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Enough said.

Do not be afraid of any man. Deuteronomy 1:17

I wondered at first whether to include this verse because it didn’t show up in the keyword search for a couple of the versions. But it clearly states, “Do not be afraid…” Moses is speaking here in his farewell address as he recalls all that transpired during his time of leading the Israelites through their desert wanderings. This section’s heading is “The Appointment of Leaders.”  God had blessed them and “increased their numbers” so that Moses could not govern by himself. So he took “leading men,…wise and respected men” and gave them authority as commanders and officials over thousands, then hundreds, fifties, and down to groups of ten. What a great model for business, management, the church, etc.  Clearly, God’s design for His people is for order and shared responsibility among leaders.

This “fear not” directive, however, was spoken specifically to the judges, to those who handled disputes (imagine camping out with a million unhappy people in the desert with no place to turn, no boundaries or designated homes – inevitable quarrels and arguments!).  Because God cares about human relationships, He provided a chain of command for them and wise leaders to help them get along.  He also cares about each individual, as evidenced in Moses’ instructions, “Do not show partiality in judging; hear both small and great alike.” Concern for society and concern for the individual, regardless of status.

“Do not be afraid of any man, for judgment belongs to God.”  This could be understood as both an encouragement and a warning. As leaders, you answer to God. He is the final authority.  And this is also why you need not fear what “any man” has to say.  You have an audience of one, so to speak, and He is behind you, supporting you, and directing you. Judgment for all men, leaders and followers alike, ultimately belongs to Him.  What a wise and awesome God we serve!

Refuse to listen to fear Deut. 20:1 and 3

Before I type out the verse for today, I have a confession to make. I skipped yesterday’s post. Did I forget? No. It was rather late in the evening before I could get to it, but then I chose to wait. Something had happened earlier in the day that I needed to digest.  In the process of showing a student how to find my blog, I entered fearnot365 on his computer, expecting my site to show up. I couldn’t find it among the gazillion other sites that had a variation on the same theme. A flurry of negative thoughts began racing through my head, as if someone had just let the chickens out of their pen in our backyard. The squawking and cackling and scurrying annoyed me, so I tried to round up my thoughts, but here’s what kept sounding: What are you doing writing a blog on the 365 verses on fear in the Bible?  Looks like a lot of other people have done (or are doing) this, too, so who are you? You’re no expert. What new thing could you possibly have to say? If someone wants to read about this topic, they can go to one of these other (probably better) sites. Why bother? Looks like God told a bunch of other people to do the same thing, so don’t put so much effort into it.   Yikes!

Since my student was sitting right there, I couldn’t show my surprise or express what an impact that googled list made on me. But I felt attacked. The enemy was throwing barbs of discouragement, pride, uncertainty, fear, yes fear, at me. I decided to sleep on it rather than write about it.

When I opened emails this morning, one of the first was Rick Warren’s Daily Hope devotional. The title? Refuse to Listen to Your Fears!  After reading it, I began to breathe again and decided to put all those scratching, cackling noises back in the pen.  I haven’t checked out the other sites yet, but instead, I’ll dwell on this for now: “There is no difficulty, dilemma, defeat, or disaster in the life of a believer that God can’t ultimately get some good out of.”  So back to the task He’s called me to do.

Here are two verses for today.  Deuteronomy 20:1 & 3 ~ “When you go out to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you…..’Hear, o Israel, today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not be terrified or give way to panic before them.”

Fainthearted, panicky, seeing something greater than myself? I felt that way just yesterday and because of something relatively minor!  My physical life is not in danger as it was for the Israelites, yet the enemy would like to take whatever he can – motivation, joy, determination, confidence – these are the things he would steal from me if I let him.  It’s “the battlefield of the mind” and the Lord my God will be with me, so I choose not to panic nor to be fainthearted.  Deut. 20:4 says, “For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory!”  Thank you, Lord God, for victories!

“Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 1:21

At the beginning of this book, Moses reminds the Israelites of God’s care for them, challenges them to follow His laws, and encourages them to dedicate their lives to serving Him.  It’s his farewell address as they wait on the bank of the Jordan River to cross into Canaan, their promised land.  This is the second time around for Moses, Joshua and Caleb, but the first time for this generation, since their forefathers had refused to listen to God and had to return to the desert.

Moses tells them that this is what their parents heard, “See, the Lord your God has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it as the Lord, the God of your fathers, told you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged (dismayed).”  Moses wanted them to know how easy it would have been for them. The Lord was giving the land to them. All they had to do was go up and possess it. Claim it.  Start taking care of it. Dwell there.  And to do it without fear or discouragement.

I wonder how many times I’ve ignored God’s promises to me and refused to claim what He offered because I was afraid, worried, or just plain discouraged.  What does He want to give me that I am fearful to accept?  It’s easy to point fingers at those disobedient and contrary Israelites, but I’m no different.  It’s rather comfortable here in this land where everything is predictable and (supposedly) safe.  Reflecting on these verses has given me a humble awareness that maybe I should think about where I currently am and pay attention to where God wants me to be. What “land” has He given me that perhaps I am afraid to claim? Lord, help me to stop accepting desert life and instead, “go up and possess” what you’ve given.

“Fear not, for God has come to test you…” Exodus 20:20

Moses brought this message to the Israelites after they saw the thunder and lightning, heard the trumpet blast, and saw the mountain in smoke. Verse 18 says they “stayed at a distance” and “trembled with fear.” Imagine being close to an erupting volcano, combined with fierce thunder and flashing lightning. Their fear of God is palpable as they say to Moses,”Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.” (v. 19) They had witnessed His miraculous power before in the parting of the Red Sea, the provision of quail and manna and water from a rock. But God is not providing for only their physical needs here. This is the setting where they hear God’s requirements – the law, the Ten Commandments. He is now telling them how to live.

“Fear not; for God has come to prove [test] you, so that the {reverential} fear of Him may be before you, that you may not sin.” Or, “the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”

Moses seems to be saying, “Replace your fright with reverence.” There is unhealthy fear and there is healthy fear.  Respect God’s show of force, His majestic power and authority. He’s showing you this side of Him so that you can avoid sin.

Even in a situation where God’s awesome power is frightening to behold, He comes with unmistakeable love and concern for His people. He knows what sin will do in our lives and wants to “keep us from sinning.”  Obedience and a reverential fear will help us stay close to Him, and for that reason, we do not have to be afraid of anything else.

Fear not, stand still and see! Exodus 14:13

This may look like I’m doubling up on a day (I’ll have to figure out how to manipulate the date!), but it’s because I skipped yesterday :).

We watched part of “The Ten Commandments” in Explorers’ Bible Club this past week, the part about Moses leading the Israelites through the Red Sea.  What a riveting story! Like a reverse tsunami with the walls of water holding the sea back so the people could cross on dry ground.

Verse 10 says that “the people of Israel looked up and panicked when they saw the Egyptians overtaking them. They cried out to the Lord, and they said to Moses, ‘Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness?…….. (more complaints)….. We said, ‘Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!”  And this was after they had witnessed all of the miracles of the Ten Plagues and were spared the deaths of their firstborns.  How quickly we humans forget what God has done!  They wanted to stay in their slavery, yet when they were slaves, they wanted to be free!

I like both the Amplified Bible and the New Living Translation, so will use a combination for Exodus 14:13 – “Moses told the people, Fear not; stand still (firm, confident, undismayed) and see the salvation of the Lord which He will work for you today. Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord Himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”

It would be difficult to stay calm with an angry army behind you and a vast sea in front of you. Worse than being between a rock and a hard place.  In this instance, God doesn’t ask them to do anything but stand still and watch. Hasn’t He rescued them before? Isn’t He able to do it again? Of course, they don’t know the future (same here) and standing still isn’t in their nature (likewise for me). When things look hopeless and there’s no way out, this is a good phrase to repeat. “Fear not. Stand still and see what God will do for you today.”