Series: Joshua

By Rosie Moore

“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 1:9 is the footnote on the first page of my new journal. It sounds inspirational, but at the start line of 2023 I must confess that I don’t feel the least bit strong or courageous. Instead, I’m thinking, “Wait a minute, I’m not ready yet! There’s no way I’ve got the strength for what lies ahead. Actually, I’m still suffering from PTSD from the last two years!”

But it’s good to remember that Biblical courage and strength have nothing to do with our abilities, power or personality. Nor is courage a feeling that we must muster up. Again and again the book of Joshua reminds us that God is with his people and keeps his promises… so be strong and courageous in obeying him. Joshua’s obedience involved the long-awaited conquest of the Promised Land.

One of my favourite Narnia characters is Reepicheep, a tiny mouse who bravely wields a sword in Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Despite his size, Aslan pays Reepicheep a high compliment: “My Country was made for Noble Hearts such as yours”. The Bible is full of verses about strength and courage in the face of the enemy, because the Lord is with us (1 Chronicles 28:20;  1 Cor 15:58;  Deut 31:6-8Eph 6:10Ps 27:114). Paul tells us explicitly, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith and be courageous; Be strong” (1 Cor 16:13).

Be strong and courageous.

On the cusp of the Promised Land, the Lord commanded Joshua to be strong and courageous even though it was occupied by ruthless enemies. Their great leader Moses was dead, and the Israelites were a weak and insignificant tribe in the ancient world (Ex 3:7-10). Joshua had every reason to be frightened and dismayed, which is probably why God instructed him three times to be strong and courageous.

Although Joshua’s Hebrew name means saviour, he knew that he was totally inadequate to lead Israel into the land of promise and rest. But victory was assured, not because Joshua was a great leader, or Israel was a great nation, but because God is a great God who says to his people, “I will be with you.” This promise was enough for Joshua, and it is surely enough for us today if our Saviour, Jesus Christ, goes before us.

In today’s devotion we’ll explore God’s repeated command to Joshua to be strong and courageous in leading the people to conquer Canaan:

After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, “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. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. 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. 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.”

(Josh 1:1-9).

God-centred courage.

Where does courage and strength come from?

The self-help gurus say, “Build your self-esteem, detox from self-limiting beliefs and break free from anybody who holds you back. Harness the power within!” We are told to recite mantras to defeat our fears and build self-confidence, “I am strong. I am bold. Live the dream!”

But it comes as no surprise that the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes. The reality is that we are no greater, stronger, bolder or braver than we were last year, and no amount of self-confidence or inner strength can defeat unemployment, failure, sickness, evil or death. Live long enough and you realise that your dream can quickly become a nightmare and there’s no basis for courage and strength if you rely on yourself.

God told Joshua to be strong and courageous because He served a faithful, promise-keeping God. The Lord had made extraordinary promises to Moses and Joshua, including a massive region of land occupied by powerful kings and pagan nations (Josh 1:4-5). Joshua knew that God had kept his promises to Moses while the Israelites were still helpless slaves and to Abraham when he was a childless nomad. He had plenty of evidence that God could be trusted.

We think of Joshua as a brilliant military leader and strong spiritual influence over Israel, which he was. But the key to his success was not his military training or leadership abilities. It was his radical obedience to God that led the Israelites to prosper, not his abilities or self-confidence (Josh 1:7-8).

Joshua was ready to listen and move quickly when God instructed him. He was diligent in carrying out God’s commands and being led by Him. His strength to do God’s work came from trusting God’s promises and obeying his word without compromise. Of the twelve spies who were sent into Canaan many years before, only Joshua and Caleb had shown complete confidence that God would help them conquer the land.

Picture Joshua standing on the banks of the Jordon River with these promised descendants of Abraham. They were free and numbered more than two million. There were women, children and little babies among them who were no match against the warriors of Canaan. I can imagine that Joshua felt fearful, but he trusted God for the future generation on the basis of what he knew about God in the past.

We see this again in chapter 23. As an old man Joshua looked back at what God had done for the Israelites, showing the people that their faith in God had been well placed. He had been true to every one of his promises.

 “One of you routs a thousand, because the Lord your God fights for you, just as he promised. So be very careful to love the Lord your God.” (Josh 23:10-11).

Like us, Joshua didn’t feel strong or brave as he stood at the banks of the Jordan river. But the biblical command to be strong and courageous has nothing to do with self-confidence or feelings. It comes only from trusting the Lord and allowing his word to guide our daily living.

Risky Courage.

What strikes me from the book of Joshua is that courage always involves danger and risk. C.S Lewis wrote:

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point. A chastity or honesty or mercy which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky.”

C.S Lewis was making the point that it requires courage to do what is right when it’s dangerous and disadvantageous to us.  To pursue Christ-like character in an environment where it’s expedient doesn’t require courage at all. But it takes a lot of courage to not be consumed by suffering; to make peace; to wage war against an addiction or pet sin; to be firm in our beliefs; to stand firm in the truth when it costs us dearly.

As we were reading this text together as a family, my 85-year old father shared that the first chapter of Joshua is very precious to him and my mom, because when they first became Christians they were given a costly test of courage. As a new convert, my dad realized that he couldn’t be part of tender collusions being practised by his partners in their large construction company. But he knew that if he spoke up, he would be met with intense hostility and anger, as these deals were very lucrative.

As a result of obeying God, my dad (then a father of four young children), lost his job, savings and everything he owned, even the house we lived in. He was forced to sign a restraint of trade agreement and took his family to live in a caravan for six years, during which time he was unable to practice as an Engineer.

But it was this command to be strong and courageous, along with God’s promises to Joshua, that challenged my mom and dad to make their costly decision. They could have kept their heads below the parapet and kept silent, but my parents knew that God was calling them to be obedient to him in their work. They knew that God could be trusted no matter what.

As an old man, my father looks back at God’s faithfulness during that difficult period and the  fifty years since, and he’s still convinced that his trust and obedience were warranted. Moreover, his children and grandchildren have seen firsthand that courage is not a feeling or a mood, but a settled commitment to trust God and obey his commandments, regardless of the cost.

The book of Joshua shows us that courage goes hand-in-hand with action and that God will guide and provide for us in every hard decision and struggle we face. To love God means more than being enthusiastic about him. We must apply his instructions to every corner of our lives.

Persevering courage.

It’s too easy to put people like Joshua on a pedestal, thinking that we can never be heroic and courageous like him. I mean, how many of us have been commissioned to take God’s people into the land of milk and honey? Surely we are not all born to be strong, courageous heroes of the faith!

But the Bible won’t let us off the hook that easily. It seems that God chooses the weakest people to make the point that it isn’t our temperament or abilities that give us courage. Fear cripples us, but believers who are fueled by the love of God will find courage and strength to do whatever is required of them in their own slither of history. You can be courageous.

All believers are commanded to have courage in the ordinary life that God has given us, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” (2 Tim 1:7). Christ is the only basis for courage and strength in whatever work God has given us to do.

Actually, as Christians we have even stronger evidence of God’s faithfulness than Joshua had:

  • We can look back to God’s promise-keeping victory at Calvary.
  • We can look forward to the ultimate Promised Land, the new heavens and new earth (2 Peter 3:13).
  • We can keep our eyes on Jesus, who sweated blood in the Garden of Gethsemane, yet was strong and courageous in dying on the cross.
  • We can be assured by Christ’s many promises to fight for us:

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20).

I’m hoping that our devotions in Joshua will be encourage some weary Christian soldiers today.


Lord, we pray that the eyes of our hearts ]may be enlightened, so that we will know the hope of Christ’s calling, the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and the boundless greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might.

Lord, we don’t know all the challenges that await us, but help us draw on the great resources you have made available to us. Give us courage and strength to live for your glory today. Help us to take the Bible seriously, so that we love, study, speak, remember and obey your word, even if it’s risky. Thank you for encouraging us today.



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