Then they answered Joshua, “Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go… Only be strong and courageous!” Joshua 1:16, 18
Four times in a fairly short chapter Joshua is told to be strong and courageous (verses 6, 7, 9 and 18). It sounds like being strong and courageous didn’t come naturally to Joshua.
The first three times it’s God telling Joshua but the last time it’s the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh who are responding to Joshua’s instructions. They tell Joshua they are committed to following him but charge him to be strong and courageous. If God tells you to be strong and courageous it’s encouraging but when your peers tell you the same thing, it’s slightly worrying. Did they notice that Joshua was prone to fearfulness? Were they worried his leadership was in some way lacking? Sometimes those closest to us are more aware of our shortcomings than we realise.
God’s directive to Joshua to be strong was based on the promise of his presence (verses 5, 9). Joshua wasn’t to find strength and courage within himself or from his soldiers but from God’s enabling presence. Sometimes we think this isn’t enough for the situations that we’re confronting. God’s presence isn’t observable, and often not even perceptible. We would prefer a demonstration of God’s power to step in and take over, while we sit and watch. Yet God operates through us and with us, not instead of us.
As the rest of the book unfolds we see Joshua being strong and courageous. He defeated enemies, took possession of cities and generally led his people well. God’s enabling presence was enough.
Since we also have the promise of God’s presence we too can be strong and courageous.