Be Strong and Courageous
By Jessica Van Roekel Crosswalk.com
“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
Autumn unfolds slowly with leaves that transition from varying shades of green to yellow to gold to brown. Leaves flutter to the ground as the wind blows. If summer brought enough moisture, the leaves look like yellow jewels on a green velvet background. Other years, all is brown too soon, and my soul quakes at a monochromatic winter of browns and grays.
Our lives reflect seasons. We have seasons of growth and seasons of dormancy. Winds and storms blow through our lives with varying degrees of ferocity. I revel in perfect fall days when the sky stays blue, clouds scud along the horizon, and the breeze cools my sun-warmed cheeks. All is perfect except for one thing. The pirate bugs. These tiny black insects flock to exposed skin, and their bite feels bigger than their size warrants.
Like fall with its wonder and its painful pirate bugs, life holds pain and wonder. At times wonder exceeds pain, and other times pain overtakes wonder. We can wander through the wreckage of unmet hopes and dreams, or we can fail to enjoy the blessings because we’re on the lookout for the next big bad thing that is going to happen. However, in both cases, we can walk by faith.
Joshua and the Israelites were on the cusp of entering the long-awaited promised land. Out of all the Israelites, it was Joshua and Caleb who had first-hand knowledge of the wonderfulness of the Promised Land. Long ago, they were two of the ten spies sent to scope out the land. Because the other eight spread fear and doubt, the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years.
The same task awaited them now as it did then. Conquer and take the land. The book of Joshua opens with God commissioning and reassuring Joshua. His task is to be strong and courageous, to remember God’s word and obey. God doesn’t say that it will be easy or that they won’t have troubles. Instead, God promises Joshua his presence.
When our lives feel like a hurricane swept through, it’s easy to fall prey to the idea that God has abandoned us. When we face an enemy—whether it’s a person or a diagnosis, or our own self-sabotage—we can remember God’s words to Joshua.
Be strong and courageous: The Hebrew word for strong and courageous expresses the strength of various phenomena, such as the severity of famine, storms, and humans overpowering one another like David and Goliath, Amnon and Tamar, and Samson’s last act of supernatural strength. Moses urged Joshua to be strong. God bid Joshua to be strong—don’t give up, give in, or run away—and then Joshua encouraged his people in the same way.
In Joshua 1, we read how God instructed Joshua not to turn from God’s ways. He was to meditate on it day and night—to let God’s word fill his mind and thoughts. When storms come our way, it’s easy to let their fierceness distract us. But, when we choose to make God’s word our guiding authority for our beliefs and actions, we can recognize and respond to God’s presence in every area of our lives. Unknowns abound. Unanswered prayers and times of waiting are opportunities for us to know and obey God’s word and believe that he is with us.
Psalms 130:3-6 3If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? 4But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared. 5I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. 6My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.
The LORD does keep a record of sins. Every idle word we speak, we will give an account of in the Day of Judgment (Matthew 12:36). BUT — That word must be the most valuable conjunction to man. “But with You there is forgiveness!” Since we know it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to wash away sins (Hebrews 10:4), the psalmist’s words can only be looking forward to the justice of God born by the Son of God. The ransom of our soul is precious indeed. It removes all our sins as far as the east from the west.
If there is forgiveness with God, one would imagine that fear would then have no place. The psalmist says there is forgiveness, therefore God is feared. In 1 Kings 8:37-40 we may find the source of the thoughts of the psalmist. When we are rebellious toward God, He brings difficulty into our lives. Then we turn to Him who knows our every deed, and seek His forgiveness. He then heals our heart and our conditions. The fear comes from knowing that He will justly deal with us when we rebel. Look at it another way. A parent will deal with his or her child more severely when the child is acting in a way that is dangerous. A parent who doesn’t forgive and doesn’t care about his or her child will not bother with discipline. The fact that He cares enough to provide forgiveness should show us that He is to be feared when we are rebellious.
Waiting on the LORD is a lost discipline. We are such a busy society. We have forgotten what it means to wait for something. The psalmist trusted that the Word of God is true, and so he could wait for God to respond in His time. That does not mean he is not eager to see the answer. On the contrary, he is watching with expectation, like the watchman that waits for the sunrise that ends signals the end of his shift and allows him to finally close his eyes and rest. Waiting is inseparable from hoping in God’s Word.
Consider: Wait expectantly for God to respond to your prayers and meet you in your need. Watch like that watchman waiting for sunrise.
Streams in the Desert – November 1
- 20221 Nov
When the cloud tarried… then the children of Israel… journeyed not (Numbers 9:19).
This was the supreme test of obedience. It was comparatively easy to strike tents, when the fleecy folds of the cloud were slowly gathering from off the Tabernacle, and it floated majestically before the host. Change is always delightful; and there was excitement and interest in the route, the scenery, and the locality of the next halting-place. But, ah, the tarrying.
Then, however uninviting and sultry the location, however trying to flesh and blood, however irksome to the impatient disposition, however perilously exposed to danger — there was no option but to remain encamped.
The Psalmist says, “I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.” And what He did for the Old Testament saints He will do for believers throughout all ages. Still God often keeps us waiting. Face to face with threatening foes, in the midst of alarms, encircled by perils, beneath the impending rock. May we not go? Is it not time to strike our tents? Have we not suffered to the point of utter collapse? May we not exchange the glare and heat for green pastures and still waters?
There is no answer. The cloud tarries, and we must remain, though sure of manna, rock-water, shelter, and defense. God never keeps us at post without assuring us of His presence, and sending us daily supplies.
Wait, young man, do not be in a hurry to make a change! Minister, remain at your post! Until the cloud clearly moves, you must tarry. Wait, then, thy Lord’s good pleasure! He will be in plenty of time!
–Daily Devotional Commentary
Questions and Curiosity
SCRIPTURE READING — EXODUS 12:24-27
“When your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord. . . .’”
A few years ago at a Good Friday worship service, my wife and I enjoyed the whispers we overheard as the pastor broke a loaf of bread and poured juice from a pitcher into a cup.
A little girl stood on her seat near us, peeking over the heads of the people in front of her. Suddenly she turned to her mom and asked, “What is that?” as the juice was poured out. She was told, “That is Jesus’ blood. It helps us remember that Jesus died for us.” The little girl paused to consider this, and then, perhaps not entirely satisfied with the answer, she turned to her dad and asked the same question. This time she was told, “It is some grape juice.” She then turned back to her mom and said, “It’s just juice!”
Little did this young child realize that she was stepping into a complex and intense conversation that has been going on for thousands of years.
I loved hearing her questions and seeing her curiosity. I hope we all can engage with questions and curiosity this month as we think about this beautiful, mysterious meal that Jesus gave us to remember him by. I like to call it “the Jesus-meal.”
What do you think? Is it really “just juice” and “just bread” that we take in at the Lord’s Supper (communion)? Or is there more to this simple meal than meets the eye?
Heavenly Father, whether we are very young or very old, we are all your children. Stir in us a deep curiosity about all that you want to teach us. In Jesus, Amen.