I love the story of Joshua in the Old Testament. From the story of his youth of spying in the promised land, to the transition to leadership of the Hebrew people, his story is filled with faith and confidence in God.
God speaks encouragement to Joshua a number of times before he takes on leadership. God’s message is, “Be strong and courageous.” God speaks this to prepare Joshua for what is to come. We first see it in Deuteronomy 31.
This happens often in our lives. Before God invites us into something, he prepares us with a message that speaks to our character. He prepares us for what he calls us into. In Joshua’s case, he was about to lead his people, a people who were known not for their courage at this point, but for their grumbling and complaining, into a land of giants.
As I was reading through the first few books of the Old Testament in my devotions recently, I was struck that Israel (at this point in the story) is constantly handing themselves over to their fears. I had always thought of this word to Joshua as a personal word. I had never really thought about the fact he is about to take on the doubts and complaints of a whole nation who is chronicled to be full of complainers.
As I have been looking at this message in the context of Joshua’s life, I noticed that Joshua already looks courageous in contrast to the rest of Israel. He and Caleb were the only spies of the 12 who thought it would be a good idea to take the land God had promised. Their report was one of courage.
I find it interesting that God is telling Joshua to be strong and courageous. God is not implying Joshua is weak and timid. God is preparing him for what he will face. Joshua is about to come in conflict with naysayers and complainers at every turn. He is about to lead the same people who were scared to leave Egypt, wanted to turn around at the Red Sea, wanted to go back to Egypt because of hunger in the desert, and who built a golden calf to worship when Moses was gone too long. Let’s face it, the track record of these people was not one of courage.
Joshua is being told by God before he steps into leadership that he must stand firm, be strong and courageous and know that God is with him because, let’s face it, the people are not always going to be on his side (or ours). This coming season for Joshua is one of intense growth of strength and courage. He is not only needing to be strong for himself but for a whole nation.
Usually this phrase, be strong and courageous, is quoted from Joshua 1:9. But this is just a reminder of what God had already spoken over Joshua. God is not just faithful to remain with Joshua, he is also faithful to remind Joshua of what he has invited him into in this season.
God supplies, in his grace, what is needed for the season he has us in. That doesn’t mean it will be easy. But he is there with us. The season is both for our benefit and the benefit of others.
I love how God leads us. He prepares us for the seasons ahead with encouragement, and walks through it with us, reminding us of what he says and that he is still with us.
I have found it so helpful in my life to reflect on those words God shares that prepare me for the season God is leading me into. It is so important to hear them because it sustains me when opposition comes. My peace is not shaken as I know God is with me and intends something good through it. Those words spoken to me in preparation, like Joshua, allow me to say, oh yeah, God told me to remain strong and courageous. He warned me these people would doubt this plan, but I can’t give in to them.
God is never surprised by what happens, by what we face. Sometimes we act as though things come out of nowhere, and to us they do. But God is never surprised. He may be saddened or angry at something, but not surprised. He is our shelter in the unforeseen storms of life. He prepares us, and prepares a place for us in whatever arises.
God’s preparatory words of encouragement bring comfort and boldness in times of need. For Joshua those words were be strong and courageous. What is he speaking to you?