“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
Joshua had massive shoes to fill. The man — Moses — who had led Israel out of slavery and to the very edge of the Promised Land had handed him the reigns, and then died. It was a crisis moment in the life of God’s people. Moses was the one who confronted the evil and powerful Pharaoh, who brought the awesome and terrifying plagues against Egypt, who parted the giant Red Sea so that they could walk across, who called down bread from heaven when they were hungry, and who received the word of God on Mount Sinai.
Who could replace Moses?
While Moses had left his people, God had not. Never once did they ever walk alone. Never once did God leave them alone, to theirselves. And just as he had spoken to Moses for the sake of Israel, he now spoke to Joshua. Joshua stood with Israel before the land of Canaan, just a Jordan away from God’s promise, but they also knew they were on the brink of war. It was an exciting and frightening moment. And God’s words for these weak and chosen people are found in Joshua 1.
The Hope of God’s Promises
God began with Joshua and these fragile sojourners by reminding them of his promise.
“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. . . . No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life.” (Joshua 1:2, 5)
The hope of Israel wasn’t in their own ability to defeat their enemies and capture the land of Canaan. No, their hope was in the power of God to fulfill his promise to them. An orphan nation had no hope of overcoming the established nations of the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Not unless God sovereignly defeated them for Israel, on their behalf. That’s exactly what he promised, and he is always faithful.
The Goodness of God’s Instructions
With this promise, God called Israel again to faith in and obedience to his law. He had given them his own words so that they might live and live well. But they had rebelled at every turn, always finding new and creative ways to offend the goodness of God and his Book. Again and again, they had sinned against their Savior and grumbled as he led them and kept them through the wilderness. To those prone to wander, God says,
“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.” (Joshua 1:8)
The keys to safety and prosperity are found in the precious words of our God. Our hearts are prone to trust in other gods, to try and manufacture protection and success on our own. But God is calling Israel — and us — to seek and obey him in his word, knowing that he is all-wise, all-loving, and always faithful. He knows what’s best for us. He really does. And he wants to lead us into life, if we’re willing to look and look and look at his book — day and night — and are careful to walk in it.
The Power of God’s Presence
Best of all, the God who makes promises and gives instructions is always with us. He didn’t lay down his law and then leave. The love of God and the power of God live day-by-day with his people. He doesn’t send them into the fight alone, but allows his presence to go with them. He says to them — to us — “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
When the road was difficult and the enemies intimidating and the battle raging, God was near to his children, standing by ready to help and protect and satisfy them. He gave them his manual and then moved in with them. And his presence would overpower every obstacle and ultimately win. We say with Moses, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here” (Exodus 33:15). And God does go with his people, all who are in Christ, wherever we go.
This God is faithful. He has made great promises, and will keep every one. He has known the hearts and needs of his own, and given them a book of his holy, good, and trustworthy words. And he lives with his people — guiding, keeping, providing, equipping, delighting.
Never once has he abandoned us. Never once has he forgotten his promises to us. Never once has he let us walk alone. Never once.