“Be strong and courageous; don’t be terrified of them. For it is the Lord your God who goes with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous.”… “The Lord commissioned Joshua, son of Nun, “Be strong and courageous.” (Deuteronomy 31:6-7, 23)
Interesting. The phrase and command “Be strong and courageous” is repeated three times almost in succession. Moses spoke the first command to all of Israel, and then to Joshua who was to replace him as the leader of Israel. Then the Lord spoke it directly to Joshua when He commissioned him as leader. In Joshua chapter 1, the Lord repeated the phrase two more times to Joshua.
The repetitions suggest that feelings of fear and weakness were in abundance in the Israeli camp. For about 40 years these folks had been nomadic shepherds in the desert. They had had their first taste of fighting against two Amorite armies. They were victorious, but now they were facing the armies of Canaan, and they had heard from the parents all their lives that “there were giants in the land.”
Why would this feel like such a challenge to them? Maybe a snapshot will help us see. For one thing, look at a picture of the Israelite army. It speaks volumes. They had some significant numbers, but none of them had had military training. They had only the weapons they had confiscated in the two previous battles. There were no uniforms and no uniformity. This was pretty much a “rag-tag” army.
For another thing, the task ahead was intimidating. They were going up against established nations, trained armies, and fortified cities. Undoubtedly, there entered the minds of some the thought, “We don’t have a chance against these.” They all recognized that they did not have the strength for what was ahead, and it no doubt left them feeling fearful, maybe even powerless.
So, what was God trying to achieve in saying repeatedly, “Be strong and courageous”? He was trying to get them to rely on His strength rather than their own. He was trying to get them to intentionally reverse their emotions and attitudes rather than just going with the flow. He was trying to get them to see beyond appearances rather than just accept at face value what they were seeing.
The call to be strong and courageous is a challenge to trust God’s strength, to move beyond feelings, and to look beyond appearances.
Lord, Help us today to rely on Your strength, to not trust our feelings as reality, and to look beyond appearances to the potential You have for us. Amen.