“Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”
Joshua and the children of Israel were on the border of the Promised Land. All that stood in their way was the Jordan River. Forty years before, Joshua had gone into the land as a spy. On that day he reported on the blessings of the land, and he recommended that they go in and take it. Now, he knew what the land was like, and he knew what the challenges would be. The giants that frightened Israel were still there.
The Lord’s words to Joshua in Joshua 1:9 were an encouragement to him after the death of Moses. He was chosen by God to be Moses’ replacement as leader of Israel. He would be the one to lead Israel across the Jordan river and into the Promised Land. He would lead the armies, and divide the land to the tribes of Israel, which God had promised them.
First, the LORD asked Joshua, “Have not I commanded thee?” The first thing God wanted him to remember was that God had commanded him to fill this role. Since God was the One that selected Joshua for it, and He would be the One that would guide and direct. To turn away would be to disobey God.
This is a good question for all of mankind. Hasn’t God commanded us concerning many things? In Exodus 20 the LORD gave the ten commandments to the Israelites. They are God’s commands. His commands guided Israel’s relationship with Himself and with each other: Have no other gods before you, do not use His name vainly, worship Him, do not lie, do not commit adultery, honor your mother and father, do not covet what is your neighbor’s, do not steal, do not kill. Wouldn’t things be better if we obeyed Him in all that we say and do and think? Has He not commanded us?
Then, God told Joshua to “be strong and of a good courage.” From reading the whole of Joshua 1, it seems that Joshua was a timid man. In just the first nine verses of this chapter the LORD tells Joshua three times to be courageous, or to have courage. Twice in Deuteronomy 31, Moses told Joshua to have courage. And once in Joshua 1, the Israelites told him to be courageous. Joshua apparently needed this, and the LORD met him where he was. The work was given to him and he would need to do it with courage. He would accomplish nothing sitting back. So, the Lord told him to be strong and of a good courage.
Similarly, in 1 Timothy 6:11, 12 Paul told him, “…follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.” He was telling Timothy to courageously live the Christian life. And through his words to Timothy, all believers are encouraged to be serving God, fighting the good fight. In Ephesians 6:11-13 Paul told them, “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” As the Lord told Joshua, be strong and of a good courage.
Then God told Joshua to “be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed.” God was not pulling punches. He knew that there would be trials and troubles as they took the land. But He wanted Joshua to take up the task. With the assurances of His presence, and the command to be courageous, Joshua had what he needed to carry out God’s plans. In Luke 6:22, 23 the Lord Jesus Christ told His followers, “Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.” To hear God tell us to not fear ought to be the greatest assurance of all. To hear Him tell us to anticipate that there will be problems, and rejoice, is a blessing. Be not afraid.
Finally, God promised to be with Joshua in everything and everywhere he went. He was told by God that God was with him in his efforts, and so he should be confident in the things he determined to do. Joshua died at 110 years, as recorded in the end of the book. His whole life was directed by God, even as He had promised. Joshua told the people in Joshua 23:14, “And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof.”
Quoting from Joshua 1:5, Hebrews 13:5 says, “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Or, as Joshua heard it, “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?
Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.
When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.
The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake. (John Rippon)