"The Lord’s Encouragement to Joshua…and to Us" Joshua 1:6-9
Be of Good Courage (vv. 6-7)
I Have Chosen You to Lead My People
Joshua was God’s chosen leader. He made this clear to Moses, and now he appeals to Joshua directly. Joshua’s task was monumental – obtain the inheritance promised to Abraham, be God’s hand of judgment against the Canaanites, distribute the land according to God’s appointment, and begin a new life in Canaan. He needed encouragement. The first part of the encouragement seems strange – a command to be strong and courageous. But strength and courage are often the things we lack. Is the Lord telling Joshua to find these within himself? No, he is telling him to be strong and courageous on the basis that the Lord has chosen him to lead his people. The Lord’s calling rests upon Joshua’s life, and with that calling comes the Lord’s promise of strength to fulfill the calling. Therefore, be strong and courageous – in the light of whom I am and what I have called you to do. Whenever we set out to complete the tasks the Lord has given to us to together or individually, or to honor him in our relationships and witness in the world, we must remember that he has called us in Christ and chosen us to be his people. His sovereign grace is a pledge of strength. It is here that we find courage to be faithful.
Be Strong to Obey My Law
Strength and courage are found in the path of obedience to God’s word. It is not that Joshua was to find his own vision, and then pursue it bravely. God promised the land to Abraham. Moses had recorded the history, and the Pentateuch was now finished. The law was delivered. Moses had commissioned Joshua to lead the people to their inheritance. This is what we often forget. When we lack courage or lose heart, if we are on the path of obedience, light is coming! Hope in God and his word, and we will not be disappointed. On the other hand, if we do not love our spouse as God commands, we will become discouraged and dissatisfied with our marriages. And yes, if we are not resolved to honor our parents, we find so many things wrong with them that we come to view them with disdain. Weakness and discouragement are often the fruit of disobedience. Sin begets sin. But, if we are resolved to obey the Lord, he will give us strength and encouragement to hold the course – for the wife to honor and love her husband even when he is not all he should be or has grievously wounded her. Israel had sinned wickedly in the previous generation, but Joshua was not to look at that. He was to keep his faith fixed upon God’s command. He would still face many difficulties, but the Lord would help him overcome them.
Do Not Turn to the Right or to the Left
The warning not to turn to the right or left is found throughout Scripture and is very needed. We are easily distracted from obeying the Lord. Or, we meet a little opposition, or the way is harder than we thought it would be, and we turn into fearful pragmatists – this is not working! In the long haul, nothing else works but the Lord’s word, but in the short term, the way of obedience has many tests and struggles. The Lord will purify our hearts, as he did Joshua. But by far the most common reason we need this warning is that the world’s offerings are like so many bright lights alluring us out of the path of obedience. And in our day, Satan is a professional distracter, the consummate time waster, and the ultimate creator of despair. There is no point in obeying God; you could be having fun. If God loved you, the way would be easier, he insinuates. There is no reward for righteousness, so why take faith and God so seriously? Many are his deadly whispers. And so the Lord arms us against them all by commanding us not to turn aside from the plain path of obedience. It may not be enjoyable. It may be very hard. It may bring much difficulty and ridicule. It is nonetheless God’s path. Walk it without turning aside, and he will prosper you in his own time and way.
Speak and Think about My Word Constantly (v. 8)
In Your Heart, in Your Mouth
“Book of the law?” Moses is but recently dead, and already his “book” is finished and accessible to Joshua and the Israelites. Joshua is to take God’s book deeply into his soul so that it is in his heart, and therefore in his mouth. “We cannot but speak the things that we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). “I believed, and therefore I have spoken” (2 Cor. 4:13). As God’s leader, Joshua must speak for God. He must therefore know God’s word. He cannot make it up or dream it up. His vision is what God has revealed in the Book of the Law – all its rich histories, the unfolding of God’s covenant with Abraham to this point, its clear declaration of the origin of all things in God’s creating work, the laws for worship and sacrifice. Joshua is to speak these things, which means he must know and believe them, be immersed in them. They are to become part of him. We always talk about what we know and love. We cannot speak of God’s truth and God’s gospel if we are virtual strangers to it, or formal professors only, without having our hearts gripped by God’s truth so that we love him and his word more than our lives.
Meditate upon My Word Day and Night
He tells Joshua that his word will equip him to lead his people. This is another way of saying that when it comes to leadership in church and home, and even in the nation, character is everything. Atheistic materialism has deceived us in this regard – private character does not matter; public efficiency is what matters. That lie has been blown sky high in the past generations – private character determines public competency, faithfulness, and trustworthiness. How do we have God’s word in our mouth and in our heart? We must meditate upon it day and night. To meditate, hagah in Hebrew carries the basic sense of growl, moan, muse, or mutter. The idea is to study on something deeply. Bible meditation is not emptying the mind so that you can think about nothing. It is to occupy the thoughts with serious contemplation on the word of God. What does this line mean? How does it fit in with the rest of Scripture? How do I apply it? Where do I need to obey what the Lord has spoken? And this was to be for Joshua, as it is for us (Col. 3:16), a way of life. Nothing less than life saturation with God’s word would equip him to be God’s man and serve the Lord faithfully.
Prosperity and Success in the Way of God’s Book
Twice the Lord promises prosperity and success in the path of obedience. And yet, how many of us devote any serious time each day to meditating upon God’s word – no phones, no notifications, no to-do lists, no screens – just God’s word – thinking about his promises, gaining understanding and affection for God’s word. Yes, affection, we learn to obey God’s word when it is our inmost delight. It becomes our inmost delight when we give ourselves to it. Many will give themselves to reading volume after volume of fiction and fantasy, but not five minutes to serious reflection upon God’s word. And the weakness shows and grows in their lives. And then we wonder that we are dissatisfied with life, or stymied in finding direction, or grow up in professedly Christian homes but completely fail to launch into life service to the Lord. Or, we wonder that men are not actively seeking dominion in a calling and women preparing themselves along the lines of Proverbs 31 and Titus 2 to be all God has called them to be. The sky is the limit – not because we have unlimited personal potential – this is a false gospel – but because God’s word is living and powerful. It is transformative. The more it occupies our thoughts, the more it controls our walk and brings God’s blessing to us.
Let me encourage a little regularity in this regard. Let us say that you are a consistent exerciser. Do as Isaac did on his evening walks – meditate on the Lord’s word. Do not exercise to the beat of “be all that you can be” and “love yourself” but to the rhythm of God’s word. Listen to it read; go over it in your mind. Begin each day with a few minutes of quiet in communion with the Lord. His still, small voice is still heard, but not in the thunder and lightning of busy schedules but when we are quieted before his word, prayerful, desiring to be taught and to have fellowship with our Lord. Yes, fellowship – this is really the point – the reason the word of Christ must dwell in us richly is because this is the way our Savior abides with us. Remember, he is the Word, and it was his preaching and teaching that utterly gripped men, i.e., his word. He has given that same word to us in his Scriptures, by the Spirit, who applies them to our hearts and “takes what is Christ’s and shows it to us” (John 16:15). Throughout the day, take moments to remind yourself what you are all about, who you are as God’s child, and what he has promised. End the day thinking upon his faithfulness, praising him, and drawing fresh supplies of grace for night teaching from his word. We must return to day and night meditation upon God’s word. It is the only way to beat the devil – that we have God’s word in our hearts, confess it with our mouths, and fight with it.
I Am with You Wherever You Go (v. 9)
I Command You to be Strong, Fearless, Courageous
The greatness of God’s vision and boundaries for Joshua call for repetition of the command: be strong, be of good courage, do not be afraid. He is with us. If we trust him, we must put fear and uncertainty and weakness behind us. This is not because we are strong, but because we have his promise to be our strength. We can face innumerable enemies without fear because we have a higher fear of the Lord that settles our hearts (Isa. 8:13). Because he is with us, he can command us to put our fears away, our doubts, and any other sins that keeps us from doing his will. For if the Lord is with us, there is no one and nothing in the universe that can prevent us from fulfilling his calling upon our lives. No one can make us disobey the Lord. The wicked loudly banter and make threats and talk about remaking everything according to their dystopian, technocratic vision, but they are worms crawling on the ground. They are Satan’s dupes (2 Tim. 2:26). They cannot stop the believing child of God.
I Am with You
But we must be very clear about this promise and its related commands. “The Lord your God is with you” is the promise that stands behind the commands. We cannot be strong and courageous in doing God’s will unless we believe the promise. Joshua’s obedience, like ours, is not about earning salvation or doing what we can do in our own wisdom and strength. It is about what the Lord, Yahweh, the Lord of the covenant, will do for us. It is the same as our Savior said. Because he is at the Father’s right hand, we will do greater works than he did (John 16:13). We can see the kingdom of God on earth spread more than he did, more sinners brought into the kingdom, and more of Satan’s kingdom fall because he is with us by his Spirit from the right hand of the Father. It is his works, his power, and his presence, but we must believe the promise and act upon it. We must obey in light of his promise. The living God dwells with us. The Lion of the tribe of Judah fights for us. All the resources of heaven are in his hand to defend and build his church. Let us spend less time watching wicked men burn down the city of man. Let us instead stand in awe that the Lord is with us and act accordingly: callings, families, churches, truth in society, time – all lived before him humbly, without offending him, trusting his power and presence. These are his ascending words: “Lo, I am with you always; even unto the end of the age.”
The Dynamics of Encouragement
Called and Guided (Eph. 1:4; 2 Tim. 3:16-17)
To be strong and courageous, first, we must understand that we are God’s chosen people and have a great calling from him. Sometimes in Reformed circles, “frozen chosen” is the only time we hear one of the words that describes who we are: “chosen.” God has chosen us in Christ and ordained that we bear much fruit (Eph. 1:4; John 15:16; 1 Pet. 2:4). Because we have a great calling to glorify God in all that we do, we can be sure that God is working good for us in all things and that he will complete the good work that he began in us (Rom. 8:28-30; Phil. 1:6). Every believer, from a slave to a king, is called to serve Jesus Christ and to bring his gospel truth and kingdom to bear upon his particular calling (1 Cor. 7:20,24). We have God’s finished Book to guide us (2 Tim. 3:16-17). It is sufficient to equip us for every good work. We can profit from the works of men, but God’s great Book, the Bible, is our guarantee of victory. When many of Christ’s pretend friends are falling away from the Bible for fear of the world, let us hold fast to God’s Book. “What do the Scriptures say?” “Search the Scriptures.” “It is written.” These were our Lord’s defenses against Satan, and they are sufficient for us.
Presence and Power (2 Cor. 2:14; Matt. 28:18-20)
And as the Lord promised to be with Joshua, so he is with us. He leads us in his triumphal procession (2 Cor. 2:14). He has all authority in heaven and on earth – all of it. There is no power, no person, and no think tank on earth today that exercises any authority or wields any influences apart from the personal will of Jesus Christ. And to the degree that he calls us to resist them, we do so with his power and presence. He is with us by his Word (John 15:5) and Spirit (2 Cor. 3:17). We must meditate upon these parts of our Book more often – so that we face temptation differently – not defeated before we begin but confident of victory in Jesus; so that we face the world differently – not barely surviving but overcoming, as Jesus did (John 16:33); so that we face the future differently – not morosely and scared to death but as those whom God has called in Christ and preserved by his power. We cannot fail to overcome and gain the victor’s crown, for Jesus Christ is with us.