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Being strong and courageous

Read: Deuteronomy 31:7-8

Courage is central in one of the core episodes of the Old Testament: the conquest of the Promised Land.

As Israel comes out of Egypt and the desert and are prepare to conquer their own land, Moses tells them to be ‘strong and courageous’  (Deuteronomy 31:6).

These same words are then repeated to his successor Joshua: ‘Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged (Deuteronomy 31:7-8).

Notice several things in this text:

  • The virtue of courage is bundled together with the virtue of strength. You cannot be courageous without being strong in the face of fears and challenges.
  • Courage is always associated with action, not necessarily with sentiment.  Joshua is told to go with the people into the land… Going is an action verb that can be carried out with the will, even if emotions do not align.
  • Courage is rooted for Joshua in the promises of God.  It was God who had promised the land, so Joshua’s courage was well founded and not mis-directed to wrong ends.
  • Courage rooted for Joshua in the presence of God. Whatever fearful circumstances Joshua might face, he could count on the presence of the Almighty.
  • The vices that hinder courage are fear and discouragement.  Fear not so much as a sentiment, as much as its paralysing effects. Dis-couragement, as the lack of motivation and courage that leads to inaction.

These words find fertile ground in the character of Joshua. In Numbers 13,14  we find a story that happened years before these words.  It is the story of the Israelite spies that were sent to explore the promised land, among whom there was also Joshua.   Whereas the other spies were rightly terrified of the walled cities in the promised land, Joshua and Caleb demonstrated courage that was rooted in the presence and protection of God (14:9).

A prayer:  Lord, in the face of my fears and challenges, help me to act and do the right things with the strength of Joshua.  Make your promises clear to me and allow me to feel your presence by faith. Remove from me fear and discouragement that I may do your will.

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