Be Strong and Courageous

Do you have a “bucket list”?  You may have one and not know it.  A Hollywood movie recently told the story of 2 terminally ill men who set out on a quest to do the things that they aspired to do before they “kicked the bucket”, or their bucket list.

What do you suppose was on Moses’ bucket list?  To reach the promised land? In fact, I would suppose that he defined his own spiritual success in the context of this destination. But one of the great tragedies of the Bible is the failure of Moses to reach Canaan.  But was Moses’ life a success? Although his inability to go into Canaan was a discipline for his own sin,

  • We know he appears later on the Mt of Transfiguration with Jesus and Elijah.
  • He appears in the list of the faithful in Hebrews 11.

Notice how the scriptures describe the death of Moses: Deut 34:4-9 –  Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.” 5 And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. 6 He buried him  in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is. 7 Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone. 8 The Israelites grieved for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days, until the time of weeping and mourning was over. 9 Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit  of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to him and did what the Lord had commanded Moses. NIV

I.   A Change of Leadership for Israel? – or was there? One of the implications of these verses is that neither Moses nor Joshua was really in control on Israel’s destiny. The  land that they were getting ready to possess was promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob hundreds of years earlier. God was leading Israel.  When they accepted Joshua’s leadership they were submitting to the Law that was given by God at Sinai. (v. 9)

A.  “Moses, the servant of the Lord died there in Moab”Moses was the Lord’s servant. He failed at times, but he was simply doing what God had called him to do. He was no indispensible to God’s plan. Who is?  Only Jesus.  Heb 3:2-6 –  who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His house. 3 For this One has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who built the house has more honor than the house. 4 For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God. 5 And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward, 6 but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.

1. Moses’ death is treated with little fanfare. When the period for mourning was over, God’s people were expected to move on.

B. Joshua takes charge: As one who was qualified to take up Moses’ work. Just as Moses, God had prepared him to do a job. He was one of the original ex-slaves. He was a military leader who had won his share of battles.  But was this enough? God designed for Israel to prosper in Canaan, but He also designed for the people to determine their own destiny, in a sense.  There were conditions of their prosperity in the land.  (They could certainly review their own failures in the previous generation and understand that there were conditions.)

II. God’s charge to Joshua: Read Joshua 1:1-9 – Notice again that the scriptures treat the death of Moses with little fanfare. The work goes on… Someone will take our place after we are gone. Notice the elements of Israel’s success that are contained in God’s words here:

A.  God is giving them the land: (v. 2) This was the first thing that Joshua needed to know about being the leader of God’s people. God was doing it, not him. The land that they would conquer through battle, had, in a sense, already been conquered for them. It was a gift.

1.  God is the source of every spiritual blessing. He is doing the work. 1 Cor 12:4-6 – There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Phil 2:12-13 – Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed — not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence — continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

2. God’ s presence is the crucial element of success.(v. 5) No one can stand against him because God will be with him. What a comfort this must have been to Joshua. No one would be able to stand against him. I wonder if Joshua recalled this promise after the battle of Ai, when Israel was scattered by their enemies. Again the focus is on the power and presence of God alone. If God was with them they could not be defeated. But they had a choice, even as they did under Moses.

B.  God’s People Must Be Strong & Courageous: (v. 6) Be strong and of good courage” – These words are repeated 3 times in this text (v. 6, 7, 9) God’ call for courage & strength does not contradict the veracity of His promise of success. The promise is the source of the strength and courage that is needed.  Joshua was an accomplished warrior (Amalek) and had displayed enormous courage is his report as one of the 13 spies in Num. 13. But these elements are needed on a circumstantial basis. We must be prepared to display them when they are needed.

1.   What kind of strength is needed? Certainly we recognize that God was telling Joshua to start working out or pumping iron. The strength demanded is spiritual strength displayed in the choices of the mind and heart.

2.  Notice Paul’s commands in 1 Cor 16:1313 Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. (ASV)

  • The word quit here doesn’t mean to give up, but rather to act bravely as real men.
  • “Be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong.” – RSV.  Paul commanded the Corinthians to be strong. How can you command strength? Either you are or you are not. But Paul’s command to “be strong” is a call to make courageous choices. To be strong in the moment.

a.   2 Timothy 2:1-3 1 You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 3 You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

  • Be Strong” is an imperative command in this passage, but it is also passive, indicating that it would not be Timothy’s own strength, but that which God would provide.  Compare the wording of Paul’s words in Eph 3:16“that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, .
  • God commands strength, yet provides the strength that we need through His Spirit. It is available to every Christian who submits to God’s Word, given by the  Spirit. Like physical growth and strength, spiritual growth and strength do not come overnight. As we discipline our minds and spirits to study God’s Word, understand it, and live by it, we are nourished and strengthened. Every bit of spiritual food and every bit of spiritual exercise add to our strength and endurance. No Pain – No Gain. We must be willing to suffer hardship. Sometimes Christians wonder why they are plagued by the same sins their whole life – They remain weak because they give in at the first hint of pain.
  • This is the context of courage: It is not courageous to take a diving leap out of a plane that is still on the ground. (Geronimo – “I don’t want to go”).  There is little danger I will suffer.  Courage is displayed when suffering is imminent. –

Do we know what it will take to serve God courageously. We often conclude that we will not desert Him, but we have never been tested.

b.   Later Paul would indicate that all those around him left him alone to face his hardships, but the Lord stood by Him and strengthened Him – 2 Tim 4:16-17 At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. 17  But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear.    Phil 4:13 – 3 I can do all things through Christ* who strengthens me.

C. God’s People Must be Obedient to God’s Law:  vs. 7 – Observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; Obedience to law seems the appropriate injunction here. Certainly the events of the past generation would bring that advice to mind. Certainly Moses would counsel them if he were here.  But it is this issue that that defines the previous one.

1.    Who are the spiritually strong among us?  They are the ones who obey God no matter what. They present a consistency that characterizes the strong.

2.   Obedience is an absolute requirement for spiritual success. Although no one is saved through perfect law-keeping, and God is the source of all blessings, Jesus never failed to stress the necessity of obedience to law – Matt 19:16-17 – 16 Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” 17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.”

  • Luke 6:46 –  “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say? Jesus goes on to compare a strong house with a weak and vulnerable house. The house that stands against the storm is like the one who hears and obeys.

3.   Notice here that the law they were to obey was the law that God gave Moses on the Sinai. God’s commandments were still relevant and in force.

4.   do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. (Josh 1:7) The picture presented by God is objective and restricting. WE cannot turn one way or the other. There are boundaries.  2 John 9 – Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. This verse helps us connect the assurance of success (provided by God’s presence) with the possibility of failure (by going beyond what God commands.)

5.   “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it” . (Josh 1:8) We can keep God near by keeping his word near. We must keep it on our lips.

  • There was a copy in the ark, but that was not enough to secure God’s presence.  Owning  a Bible is not the same as having it in our hearts. How often do you speak about the Bible and God’s word in ordinary conversation?  How often do you use the words of scripture to express your thoughts?

Conclusion: God wants us to succeed and be prosperous, just as He did Israel. God’s leaders, like Joshua of old, need to be convinced of that. But they also need to recognize the elements that will make for that success.

  • We must be strong and courageous (be willing to suffer to do what is right)
  • We must obey all that God commands (not turning to the right or left)
  • We must speak God’s words.

In all of this we have a great promise that is the foundation