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 that moment. What was going through his mind? We’re not specifically told, but we probably have a pretty good hint. Listen to what the LORD says three times in the next seven verses:
“Be strong and courageous.” (1:6)
“Only be strong and very courageous.” (1:7)
“Be strong and courageous.” (1:9)
I’ll tell you what would have been going through my mind:
How can 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 a moment to notice what surrounds those “be strong and courageous” instructions. Like bookends, they define and support the LORD’s expectations:
“Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.” (1:5)
“Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (1:9)
God didn’t simply tell Joshua to be strong and courageous. He promised to be with Joshua, every step of the way. In fact, it’s a wonderful strand of assurance, woven throughout Scripture.
David took great comfort in the fact that the LORD–his shepherd–was doing more than calling him to faithfully follow, even 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? Consider the first four verses of Hebrews 13 as an example. We’re called to let brotherly love continue. We’re reminded to show hospitality to strangers. We’re encouraged to remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them. We’re challenged to hold marriage in honor, to keep our lives free from love of money, and to be content with what we have. But do you know what defines and supports all of those instructions?
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?” (13:5-6)
Thanks be to God that he does not simply command and commission, even though he most certainly has every right to do so. Instead, he graciously frames his commands with a promise and supports his commissions with an assurance. “I will be with you.”
If that’s the case, we may not know what awaits us on the other side of the Jordan. We may grapple with persistent feelings of woeful inadequacy. But with the Lord as our helper? What do we really have to fear? If he is never going to leave or forsake us, even in the valley of the shadow of death, why should we be dismayed?
“For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”