Joshua: The Value of Stocking Up on Courage
Joshua: An Introduction
Every one of us know the story of Moses and his leading of the people of Israel out of captive in Egypt. We know that Moses led the people of Israel through their wanderings in the wilderness after they deliberately disobeyed God and refused to enter the land of Canaan. But the part of the story that we are unfamiliar with is the story of Joshua.
We know very little of the early history of Joshua, and in fact the only thing that we are told about his background is that his a “son of Nun” who comes from the tribe of Ephraim. The first mention of Joshua, by name, occurs in Exodus 17:8 when the Israelites are attacked by the Amalekites. And based on Exodus 17:8-13 one can presume that Joshua was the commander or at the very least one of the commanders of Israel’s army.
The next time we see Joshua is in Exodus 24:13 where he is described as being Moses “servant,” or more than likely his assistant or his aide, as Moses is going up Mount Sinai to receive the “Law” from God himself. Joshua is, also, shown to be someone whom Moses trusts in Exodus 32:17, which is where Moses comes down from Mount Sinai with the tablets of the “Law” and finds the people of Israel engaged in idolatry.
We do not see or hear from Joshua again until the people of Israel arrive at the borders of the land of Canaan. It is at this point in time that Moses is commanded to send out men from each of the twelve tribes to spy out the land of Canaan. However, ten of these spies return with a bad report. Essentially saying that the people living in the land of Canaan are giants and that is no way that they can take them on and defeat them. The two men who did not agree with this bad report and who in fact urged and encouraged the people to follow God’s instructions because God was with them were, Joshua and another man by the name of Caleb.
It was because of Joshua’s and Caleb’s faithfulness to God that they were spared from the punishment that was meted out to the unfaithful. And what unpunishment did the unfaithful receive. Numbers 14:28-38 tells us exactly the punishment those who were unfaithful received and exactly the reward the Joshua and Caleb received for being faithful:
As I live,’ declares the LORD, ‘just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will do to you; your dead bodies will fall in this wilderness, all your numbered men according to your complete number from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against Me. By no means will you come into the land where I swore to settle you, except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun. Your children, however, whom you said would become plunder–I will bring them in, and they will know the land which you have rejected. But as for you, your dead bodies will fall in this wilderness. Also, your sons will be shepherds in the wilderness for forty years, and they will suffer for your unfaithfulness, until your bodies perish in the wilderness. In accordance with the number of days that you spied out the land, forty days, for every day you shall suffer the punishment for your guilt a year, that is, forty years, and you will know My opposition. I, the LORD, have spoken, I certainly will do this to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. They shall be worn out in this wilderness, and there they shall die.’”
As for the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, and who returned and led all the congregation to grumble against him by bringing a bad report about the land, those men who brought the bad report of the land also died by a plague in the presence of the LORD. But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh remained alive out of those men who went to spy out the land.
It was because of Joshua’s faithfulness that he was able to succeed Moses as the political leader of the people of Israel. And that is where todays verses take us. Because Deuteronomy 31:1-8 is Moses preparing Joshua for Moses’ eventual death and Joshua’s eventual succession to being the political leader of the people of Israel and more important than that to being the man who would lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land.
Joshua: Stocking Up on Courage
What we must understand is that no one goes through life unscathed. We all know that tough circumstances can and do erupt at any moment and from any direction. That is why everyone of us can use timely words of strength and encouragement. And Joshua, regardless of the fact that he was the commander and chief of Israel needed the same thing and thankfully for him he received those words of encouragement and strength from a number of different sources, but none was more important than God himself (Stpehen and Merrill 2004).
With that being said why was Joshua in need of words of strength and encouragement, and in particular at this point in time? We tend to forget that Joshua had been presence when the Israelites were posed to enter the promised land the first time and had refused because of the size and perceived strength of the people already living in the Promised Land. In fact here is exactly what is happening in Deuteronomy 31:1-8:
So Moses went and spoke these words to all Israel. And he said to them, “I am 120 years old today; I am no longer able to go out and come in, and the LORD has told me, ‘You shall not cross this Jordan.’ It is the LORD your God who is going to cross ahead of you; He Himself will destroy these nations before you, and you shall dispossess them. Joshua is the one who is going to cross ahead of you, just as the LORD has spoken. And the LORD will do to them just as He did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, and to their land, when He destroyed them. The LORD will turn them over to you, and you will do to them in accordance with all the commandments which I have commanded you. Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or in dread of them, for the LORD your God is the One who is going with you. He will not desert you or abandon you.”
Then Moses called to Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you will go with this people into the land which the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you will give it to them as an inheritance. And the LORD is the one who is going ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not desert you or abandon you. Do not fear and do not be dismayed.”
What we are seeing is the Israelites being on the verge of entering the Promised Land after about 40 years of wandering in the desert as punishment for their unfaithfulness. And as this homeless wandering people is about to have their hope and dreams fulfilled they are in need of a fresh reminder of God’s strength and his promise of victory. Some of the Israelites may have in fact been putting their confidence in Joshua, and for a good reason because after all Joshua has in their eyes been there and done that. While others would have been depending on the strength of their armies, which in a way is the same thing as putting their confidence in Joshua. However, this causes a problem for Joshua. Why? Because Joshua has seen that no matter how strong one may be or how powerful one’s leaders may be, victory only comes from God and God alone. Joshua knew that some of the enemies he and the people of Israel were going to face were going to be too great for them. He, also, knew that his and his people’s resources were never going to be adequate apart from God’s help (Stpehen and Merrill 2004).
All that goes a long way to explaining why Joshua needed to stock up on courage as he was about ready to take over leadership of the people of Israel from his mentor Moses. In fact Joshua both hear and later on in his story would receive words of encouragement from three different sources.
- Moses, who often helped Joshua to take heart. In fact we see that at least twice God commanded Moses to speak words of encouragement to Joshua. And those orginal words of encouragement were so important that we see Moses repeat them in Deuteronomy 31:7-8.
- God, who urged Joshua to act bravely by trusting in him deeply. And we see that when in part of the official commission that God gave Joshua just before Israel entered the Promised Land in Joshua 1:9.
- The Israelites, who also joined this encouragement parade. We see this happen after Joshua called the nation of Israel together in preparation for entering the Promised Land and the people of Israel replied in this manner in Joshua 1:18, “Anyone who rebels against your command and does not obey your words in all that you command him, shall be put to death; only be strong and courageous.” (Stpehen and Merrill 2004)
The whole point of all this is this very basic fact: every single one of us needs to have both strength and courage in incredibly large doses, and we need these large doses of strength and courage especially when we are preparing to tackle some huge and daunting challenge. And we should all take a lesson from Joshua who found the bulk of his courage not from those around him but who rather found the bulk of his courage in and through his close, growing relationship with God. And it was this close, growing relationship with God and the encouragement of those around him that fortified this man so that he was then not only able to lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land but was also able to lead them in the conquest of their Promised Land (Stpehen and Merrill 2004). In fact God himself said this to Joshua just before he led the people of Israel into the Promised Land: “No one will be able to oppose you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not desert you nor abandon you.”
The lesson that we should have all taken from this is that when we learn to get our courage from our close, growing relationship with God and our encouragement from those around us there is nothing that we cannot do. Joshua is a perfect example of this. He got his courage from his close, growing relationship with God and he got his encouragement from those around him and it enabled him to lead a small group of people into a land that was possessed by giants and to not only defeat these giants in battle but to conquer their land. And the same can and will be true for us if we learn to follow Joshua’s example.
Stpehen, Artterburn., and Dean Merrill. “Stocking Up on Courage.” In Every Man’s Bible, by Artterburn. Stpehen, & Dean Merrill, 266-267. Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2004.
 Numbers 13
 Numbers 13:25-29 and 31-33
 Numbers 13:30 and Numbers 14:1-10
 Deuteronomy 1:38 and 3:28
 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not be terrified nor dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9 NASB)
 Joshua 1:5 NASB
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