Today’s Bible reading is Joshua 1 and Matthew 13.
After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel.” (Josh 1:1-2)
It’s hard for me to imagine being Joshua in this moment. What was going through his mind? We’re not specifically told, but we probably have a pretty good hint. Three times in the next seven verses this is what the LORD says:
“Be strong and courageous.” (Josh 1:6)
“Only be strong and very courageous.” (Josh 1:7)
“Be strong and courageous.” (Josh 1:9)
I’ll tell you what would have been going through my mind.
How could I ever fill Moses’ sandals? “Be strong and courageous.”
What will we find on the other side of the Jordan? “Only be strong and very courageous.”
How are we ever going to pull this off? “Be strong and courageous.”
God’s inaugural message to Joshua wasn’t hard to understand. But take the time to notice what surrounds these “be strong and courageous” statements. Like bookends, they define and support the LORD’s expectations:
“Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.” (Josh 1:5)
“Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Josh 1:9)
God didn’t simply tell Joshua to be strong and courageous. God promised to be with him, every step of the way. It’s a wonderful strand of assurance, woven throughout Scripture.
David knew that the LORD had not simply called him to faithfully walk through the valley of the shadow of death. The reason David could write “I will fear no evil” with such assurance is crystal clear: “For you are with me” (Psa 23:4).
The apostles were not simply commissioned to “Go.” They were launched into the world with a promise: “Behold, I am with you always” (Matt 28:18-20).
And us, even us. Consider the first four verses of Hebrews 13 as an example. We have been called to let brotherly love continue. Called to show hospitality to strangers. To remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them. To hold marriage in honor. To keep our lives free from love of money. To be content with what we have. But do you know what defines and supports all of those instructions in Hebrews 13?
For he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say,
“The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear;
what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6)
Thanks be to God that he does not simply command and commission. He most certainly has every right to do so. But he has graciously chosen to frame his commands with promises; his commissions are supported with assurances. “I will be with you.” And if that’s the case, we have nothing to fear, even in the valley of the shadow of death itself.