Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance.” Deuteronomy 31:7

Three times in Deuteronomy (31:6, 7 and 23), God commands Joshua to be strong and courageous, plus four times in the first chapter of Joshua (verses 6, 7, 9 and 18), making seven times altogether!

This is surprising because Joshua doesn’t appear to lack courage. As a young man, he was one of two spies who came back from spying out the land God had promised them, with a good report. He encouraged the Israelites to possess the land, while the other ten spies created fear with their reports of giants.

However, we can lose courage as we age. Joshua was obligated to spend 40 years wandering around the wilderness because of the Israelites’ lack of faith. Perhaps he felt guilty about not being able to arouse faith in his compatriots. Or perhaps he was ostracised because he disagreed with the other ten spies. Over the years he watched his peers die in the wilderness. Perhaps he became more aware of how difficult it was going to be, to lead a group of people like the Israelites.

As we get older we become more set in our ways. We become more aware of the risks that didn’t concern us when we were younger. Maybe this was true for Joshua.

However, Joshua is strong and courageous. He defeats enemies, takes possession of cities and generally leads his people well. God’s enabling presence was enough. God had trained him well, and by God’s grace Joshua learnt to overcome his fears.