“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9).
Most people who are familiar with the Bible have most likely heard this verse. It is a comforting verse, after all. But what is the context behind it and to whom is God speaking? God was speaking directly to Joshua, one of Moses’ aides. Moses had just died and the Israelites were a stone’s throw away from entering the promised land. Joshua was suddenly the new leader of God’s chosen people. He had witnessed many miraculous signs from God through Moses and knew that God was always with Moses.
However, just like with every other human being, Joshua must’ve been thinking, “Will God be with me too?” We can safely presume that Joshua was thinking this because God told Joshua to be strong and courageous three times. Easier said than done, right? In our time today, we don’t necessarily see God in everything, so it can be very easy to wonder if God really is with us. Joshua didn’t have to wonder if God existed; he had seen miraculous things by the hands of God. On top of that, God told Joshua that He would be with him always. What is better than God Himself making you a direct promise?
Joshua must’ve been afraid too, because God told him “do not be afraid” and reassured him that He would be with him wherever he goes. It’s easy to be afraid. Our sin is constantly under the surface, casting doubt and confusion. After Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they became afraid. Fear crept its way into everyone’s lives since that fateful day. Fear became a big part of our sinful nature. Whether we fear our futures, fear failing at something, or fear physical harm, we all have to deal with fear. Fear can paralyze us in our faith in God and keep us from doing God’s Will. Unchecked, fear will cripple your life, leading to unhappiness, failure, regret, and you guessed it – more fear.
So how do we rid ourselves of fear? Joshua was about to march the Israelites into the promised land, across the Jordan River, to take possession of it from their enemies. Joshua knew exactly what that meant: war. War is terrifying and awful. However, God promised Joshua, “No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Joshua 1:5). With God standing behind him and the Israelites, Joshua had no legitimate reason to be afraid or discouraged by what laid before him. With God on their side, they defeated all their enemies as God had promised. Like Joshua, we should not fear the path laid out before us. Like Joshua, we should not be discouraged.
For just as God promised Joshua that He would be with him always, God promised us the same thing. He sent His only Son to die on the cross and rise again for all of our sins. Like the curtain in the temple being torn in two on Good Friday, the veil that separated us from God was also removed. Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection is the ultimate victory over all sin, death, and the devil. It is also the ultimate gift to us that makes all Christians strong and courageous with the knowledge that we are truly saved through His blood sacrifice for us. Jesus Christ breaks our daily cycles of fear and gives us the assurance the God is always with us!