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Be Strong & Courageous


1364497343_be_strong_and_courageous

Joshua had already played a major role among the Israelites during the Exodus.  In Exo. 17 Joshua was a commander in battle in the wilderness.  In Num 13, he was one of the twelve spies to go into the land for Moses.  And he was also Moses’ assistant in the Sinai tradition (Exod 24).   As the story of Moses comes to an end, a new crisis arises for the people.  Israel now needs a new leader who can succeed Moses.  In Deuteronomy 31, Moses tells the people that he will not be crossing Jordan River with them.  In the narrative, he then calls Joshua and encourages him to “Be strong and of good courage” (7, 8).   Num. 27 describes Joshua as “a man in whom is the Spirit.”  So God had already prepared Joshua ahead of time!

Can you imagine having to take the place of Moses?   Imagine taking the place of a man who could speak to God through a burning bush.  A man who could cast down his rod, and have it turned into a snake?   Can you imagine being the successor of a man that could stretch out his rod, and divide the Red Sea?  A man that could bring water out of a rock when people were dying of thirst?  Joshua now finds himself as the leader of a generation that is known for murmuring, complaining and backsliding.  He is going to lead a people who had even wished to go back to Egypt.  Although Moses had led his people out of slavery, another leader is needed to lead them to the Promised Land.  There are things yet to accomplish!  And the inhabitants of the land are yet to be defeated.  But how is Joshua going to do this ?  What does Joshua need in order to fulfill the task that lies ahead of him?  The answer is that God is going give him what he needs to fulfill His calling.  God equips whom He calls!  So today we will look at four descriptions of  God-given courage from this text!

1) Courage comes when we receive a clear task from God (v. 1-4).

 “1. After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, 2. “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. 3. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. 4. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory.”

Moses was 120 years old when he died, and he was strong as ever (Deut. 34: 7). Moses is dead because he disobeyed God.  He allowed the pressure of those following him to get to him and he acted in unbelief.   So God comes to Joshua personally, to give him instructions.  Moses, a man of God may die, but nothing of God dies.  Hope is not lost.  The story is not over!   After Moses died, God raised up Joshua to lead Israel.

And He reiterates to Joshua what he had told Moses to do.  In verse 3 God says: “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses.”  God had already given them the land, just as He promised to Abraham and Moses.  Now their responsibility is to step out in faith and take what is already given.  God is faithful to His promises.  God is not a man that He should fail.  And He is going to fulfill His promise through the next leader -Joshua.

In Japan we have a growing aging population. A good number of Japanese live up to 100 years.  Did you know that the world’s oldest pastor was a Japanese?  His name is Rev. Tsuneharu Oshima.  He died in 2010 at the age of 101 in Kobe.  But God does not run out leaders.  When one leader dies, He raises up others.  Therefore we shouldn’t fear the loss of any of his human instruments.  God isn’t fearful of failing in His cause.  Courage comes when we, as a community, receive a clear task from God.  Japanese churches may have a growing aging population, but there is hope for young future leaders of Japan.

2) Courage comes with the promise of God’s presence (v. 5, 9).

“5. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.”

This must be encouraging for Joshua.  God says to him: “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life.”  In other words, God is saying: “I am your strong tower.”   This must have given him a lot of courage.  God is Joshua’s protector.  God is Joshua’s confidence.  And as long as God was on Joshua’s side, no man should be able to stand in the way of Joshua.  He says: “Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.”  Remarkable!  This is the only way Joshua could fill the role of Moses.  Just as God was with Moses, God is going to be with Joshua.  If God is not the source of our utmost confidence in leadership, everything else fails.  Man-made clever ideas and techniques will fail. Surely Moses’ personality and Joshua’s personality were different.  So God is not calling Joshua to be like Moses.  No. God promises to be with Joshua just as He was with Moses.  God called both of these men to lead Israel at a unique time and place in history.  So God says to Joshua: “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you.”   That is the essence of courageous leadership.  God is not saying to us: “You will be like Moses or Joshua.”  No.  Just as I was with Moses and Joshua, so I will be with you.  At this stage Joshua is getting ready for battles ahead.  Leadership will be hard.  There will be plenty of challenges.  But Joshua’s courage is going to be rooted in God’s promise: “I will not leave you or forsake you.”

3) Courage comes from a determination centered on God (v. 6, 7).

6. “Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. 7. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you.  Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.”

God’s call on Joshua was to accomplish three goals:  a) Lead the nation of Israel into the land, b) defeat the enemies in the land, c) and to divide their inheritance.  It was a tremendous task.  So 3 times in this chapter, God commanded Joshua to “Be strong, and be courageous!”  Remember, 40 years before this under Moses’ leadership God had sent 12 spies into the land of Canaan.  They came back with stories of giants living in the land who made them look like grasshoppers.  When the people heard this they became afraid and refused to enter the land.  There were seven nations living in Canaan, all of them larger and stronger than Israel.  By all human standards Joshua was going to be facing an uphill battle.  Humanly speaking, he had every reason to turn around and run.  So God says emphatically to Joshua: “ONLY be strong and VERY courageous.”  Be “careful to do according to all the law that Moses commanded you.” Notice He does not simply say, “be careful to do all that Moses commanded you.”  No.  “Be “careful to do according to all the law” that Moses commanded you.   There’s a difference!  God did not instruct Joshua to simply do according to whatever Moses says.  But according to all the law that Moses commanded.  Because all the law was given by God through Moses.  Many centuries later, “grace and truth” would come through Jesus Christ (John 1:17).  Note: In the Hebrew language Joshua means, “Yehshua.”  Meaning- “Yahweh is salvation.”  God is going to bring salvation to His people through Joshua!   Joshua in the greek is “iesous” (Jesus).  The only One who could fulfill all the law perfectly without failure is Jesus.  And God says to Joshua: “Do not turn from it to the right or to the left.”  So courage rests on a focused determination on God.  But how is Joshua going to be strong and courageous ?

4) Courage comes from being firmly rooted in God’s Word (v. 7-8).

“8. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.  For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

This is crucial, because we’re the most digitally distracted generation.  Joshua is to make the Bible an integral part of who he is and what he does.  He’s preparing to lead the Israelites to cross Jordan, and all the way to the Promised Land.  And God gives him a Book, not military weapons.  If Joshua is going to “do well” and be successful in his mission, he needs to learn and know God’s ways.

So God says:

a) Read the Word aloud (“The Law shall not depart from your mouth”).

The Hebrews had an oral tradition.  So when they meditate, they also speak or read out loud.

b) Meditate upon the Word (“you shall meditate on it day and night”).

To meditate actually means to imagine, utter, muse, ponder, study and so on.  In other words you chew on God’s word in your mind day and night.  You take something from your reading, and continue to think on it.  You think on it until it affects you deeply.

c) Be careful to do all that is written.  In other words, be a doer of the Word and not just a hearer or reader.

Then what?  (“for then, then only, you will  push forward on your journey,  and have good success.”)  So courage to do all that God wants you to do comes from meditating upon God’s Word.  And, doing God’s Word.

Earlier this week I said this to my wife: “How about attempting something impossible that unless God is in it, it is doomed to failure.”  Ask yourself that question:  Will you be willing to attempt an impossible task that unless God is in it, it is doomed to failure?   Again in verse 9 God says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous….for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”  Christian courage is the willingness to say and do the right thing regardless of the earthly cost, because God promises to be with you wherever you go.

What is the opposite of courage?  Cowardice.  We live in a society that is driven by safety, security, comfort and convenience.  We live in a risk adverse culture where everything needs to be predictable.   It’s easy to become too familiar with the familiar.   It’s easy to just barely manage things, and go through the motions.  If things are not predictable, we become nervous and uncomfortable (because we love our comfort).  So we try to avoid risks at all costs. William Carey, the father of modern missions, once said: “Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.” He was the son of a cobbler.  He came to India, suffered a lot, and translated the Bible into 26 languages.  Do you ever feel like the odds are against you?  There is great courage that comes from knowing God’s call on your life.  There are dozens of unexpected things occurring daily in our lives.  Courage is realistic.  It is not naive or blind.  But courage looks beyond the obstacles!  Because courage comes from resting in God’s promise to be with you.

In an Asian group conformist culture we tend to err by not saying what we ought to say.  Because of group pressure the one who sticks out can be misunderstood as the “proud guy” (or the nail that sticks out) even if God calls you.  But there is a kind of cowardice that tells only the truths that are safe to tell.  There is a kind of cowardice that does only what is safe to do.  Safety and cowardice prevents us from taking courageous steps.  We need courage to speak when we ought to speak; and courage to listen when we ought to listen.  What are your greatest fears in life?  Do you fear to lose your life?  Do you fear for your future?  God says:“Be strong and courageous!” because Someone far more greater than Joshua is with you.

Heb. 4: 8. For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. 9. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10. for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.

The old Joshua was victorious over the enemies of God.  But the new Joshua is so much more victorious.  Joshua “did” give them rest in the Promised Land.  But the land of Canaan was figuratively pointing to our true and ultimate rest. Joshua was a figure of Christ.  Only in Christ do we find true rest.  It says, “whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.”  The work of Christ on the cross is finished.  Salvation is complete.  By resting in Christ’s work we rest from all our works.  Our works don’t save us.  They enslave us.  Only Christ’s work saves us.  So we rest.  We rest in His grace.  Courage rests in what Christ has done!  Jesus defeated sin, Satan and death, which the old Joshua couldn’t.  And Jesus rose again that we might find rest and courage to live for Him and those He loves.  So we draw our courage from someone far greater than Joshua– Christ.  He has conquered man’s greatest enemy.  Death died, and the stones that kept Him in the tomb has been rolled away.  He offers us a new life and courage to move forward.  He promises to be with us in the cause of making Him known: “behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28: 20).  And He will lead us all the way to the Promised Land- the heavenly Jerusalem.

Ephesians 6: 10 “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.”

Audio sermon Here.

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