When the Israelites, after their forty year desert journey, finally found themselves on the verge of entering the promised land, they still needed encouragement – certainly Joshua, their leader, needed it. And God did not fail him. First of all, he promised to Joshua the territory that the Israelites were to inherit (Joshua 1:2-4). Now that must have been most encouraging to Joshua. After all that time and after all they had gone through, God reiterated his promise to his people, through their appointed leader, of the land he was about to give them. That encouragement was immediately backed up by another: “No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life.” (v5). So we have a promise of territory, backed by a promise of victory. But thirdly there was a promise of the divine presence with Joshua in everything that lay in the future, by way of the actual conquering and possessing of the land: “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (v5). This encouragement, through God’s promise of territory, victory and presence was followed by a command to be strong and courageous (v6). Even that command was backed by an encouraging promise: “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them.”
There were clearly two reasons why Joshua was going to need to be strong and courageous. Firstly, he would face fierce enemies and also have deal with the Israelites’ disobedience. Secondly, there was the fact that he had been called to fulfil God’s purposes. (“Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them – to the Israelites”, v2). An important lesson here is that encouragement naturally follows on from taking God’s promises to heart. We can really only appreciate and appropriate those promises when we determine to carry out God’s will and purposes. Joshua was to be strong and courageous, not terrified or discouraged, because he was about to carry out God’s commands and will, and that assured him that “the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Whenever we feel discouraged we need to turn back to an appropriate promise of God – and the Bible is full of them! But in doing so we must honestly ask ourselves if we are truly putting God’s will and purposes at the forefront of our thinking, planning and actions.
Chairman, Saffron Walden Bible Focus