By HERCHEL SHEETS
Lesson Scripture: Joshua 1:7-16
In his noted autobiographical work, Surprised By Joy, C. S. Lewis said: "No one is a coward at all points." Who among us, though, has not felt at some time that this was not true of him or her? Our present situation seemed so threatening and fear so much in control that we seemed to be cowards all over, at all points.
That might very well have been the feeling of Joshua as he thought of the commission God was giving him. His was to be the task of leading this band of escaped slaves into a land they believed had been promised to them by the Lord. But years before, after a spying excursion into that land, ten of twelve men appointed by Moses had reported that there was no possibility of their people taking possession of it. Caleb and Joshua had been the only two of the twelve who had given a favorable report (Numbers 13:1-14:10).
Be Strong and Courageous
But now with Moses no longer with them, maybe Joshua had changed his mind. Particularly as he thought of the responsibility that rested upon his shoulders, maybe he wondered if his ten fellow spies had not been right after all--and if they were not still right! We have no indication of any such thinking on his part, but three times in commissioning Joshua to his task (Joshua 1:1-9) the Lord tells him to "be strong and courageous"--indeed, once saying, "Be strong and very courageous"!
How did God expect him to do that? Was he just to make up his mind: "I'm going to be strong and courageous?" Is that how we, too, become strong and courageous as we face some challenging task or as we deal with some threatening situation? Do we become strong and courageous simply by determining so to be?
Decisions Ahead of Time
The Lord, however, did not just admonish Joshua to be strong and courageous. He pointed the way to that kind of living, directing him, for one thing, to be "careful to act in accordance with all the law that my servant Moses commanded you." He said, "Do not turn from it to the right or to the left . . ." The Lord was talking about Joshua's deciding now to live according to God's standards and values. Joshua had been among those who had received God's directions for living through Moses. God was calling upon him to commit himself to live by those directions, without variation and without exception.
You see, there are some decisions that should not have to be made over and over again. No one should have to decide in every situation that arises whether or not to be honest or to be truthful, whether or not to be faithful to one's husband or wife, whether or not to do one thing after another that one knows to be right and good. That kind of decision and commitment made in advance and on a permanent basis gives one both strength and courage for living.
More than Vague Memories
God's directions, however, contained in what Joshua knew as the Law, were not to be just a vague memory in his mind, not just something he dimly recalled hearing about years before. The Lord said, "You shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it."
In our day, how many adults live with a child's understanding of the Scriptures? They may have had some exposure to the Scriptures as children and may be at least nominal Christians, but they are not well enough acquainted with the Scriptures to receive significant guidance for living from them.
God wanted more than that for Joshua. He was not just to recall bits and pieces of the Law, perhaps even dramatic instances when Moses had revealed God's directions to the people. He was to be a student of the Law, meditating "on it day and night."
Today, too, there is no substitute for diligent, persistent, and earnest attention to the Scriptures. In them we see the values that count, we hear the call of God for our lives, and we come face to face with One who is able to make us adequate for whatever opportunities, challenges, and difficulties life may hold for us. A Dependable Source
So what is to make one "strong and courageous"? Surely it is not one's own knowledge and skill. As the Lord a third time tells Joshua to be "strong and courageous" and not to be "frightened or dismayed," the real source of strength and courage is again emphasized: "for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."
Poet Alfred Lord Tennyson said: "Our little systems have their day;/ They have their day and cease to be;/ They are but broken lights of thee,/ And thou, O Lord, art more than they." What in your life is greater than you are? What requires strength greater than yours? What calls for more wisdom than you have? What demands more courage than you have? When confronted with any such situation, it's time to remember and to affirm that "the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."
The Apostle Paul put it like this: "I can do all things through him who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:14).