Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them. Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law….This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. 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 1:6-9
Numbers 13 and 14 records the account of twelve Israelite spies venturing into Canaan, a land that God had already promised was theirs for the taking.
Upon the spies’ return to the Israelite camp, however, only two – Joshua and Caleb – were not put off by the prospect of battling giants and invading walled cities. The others were overcome by doubt and fear, and their feelings spread like a plague among the rest of the people. Scripture says that many even cried in their tents that night!
They decided it would be better to choose a new leader, and head back to Egypt.
When they heard the people’s decision, Joshua and Caleb rent their clothes and beseeched their countrymen to reconsider.
Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defense is departed from them, and the Lord is with us: fear them not. – Numbers 14:9
Joshua and Caleb understood well that their fellow Hebrews would pay a great price for their lack of faith, and rebellion against God’s plan.
But perhaps the cost was dearer than even they might have imagined.
Ultimately, God decided that those who were twenty years old and older at that time would all die in the wilderness, condemned never to live in the Promised Land of Canaan – except for Joshua and Caleb.
As I read this account, I wondered what it must have been like for these two courageous men, during the next forty years of wilderness wanderings, to watch their friends and family members die off, along with tens of thousands of their countrymen – until at last, they two alone remained of their generation.
But they hadn’t yet endured the worst. The battles that awaited them would test their faith and courage in a way that the losses during their wilderness wanderings had not.
Thus, when the time came to invade Canaan at last, God delivered a vital message to Joshua: Be strong.
And because the Lord wanted to emphasize that message, he repeated it two more times: Be strong.
God knew that Joshua and Caleb needed to keep up their courage in the face of overwhelming odds. And just how were they to stay strong?
Meditate upon the Word, follow its commands, and remember that God would stay with them through all that was to come.
How wonderful to know that we can do the same! We need not draw upon our own resources for strength, but upon the endless power of God, available to us when we immerse ourselves in his Word and live according to his will.
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. – John 15:5