BE STRONG AND VERY COURAGEOUS

Joshua 1:1-18

Key Verse: 1:6-7

 

 

“Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.”

Happy New Year! Thank God for being with us in 2004. Today, God establishes General Joshua as Moses’ successor. Joshua confronted many daunting tasks ahead of him. As a new leader, his future was uncertain and he might be fearful about his enemies. God gave General Joshua how to become a strong leader in the conquest of the Canaan land. In today’s passage I find several spiritual formula applicable to us so that we can have a successful and prosperous mission life. They are courage, faith, Bible study, and obedience. At the end of the year the Tsunami quake took away more than 120,000 precious lives in Asia. We live in the uncertain age of terror and unbelief. Nothing is sure tomorrow. Like Joshua we are fearful and uncertain about the prospect of our future in this year. I pray that we all may follow God’s instructions given to Joshua so that we too may be successful and prosperous whatever we do and wherever we go. God called us to be leaders and Bible teachers for the task of pioneering 206 East Coast campuses and sending missionaries to 233 nations. May God bless us to be strong and very courageous in 2005 to carry out God’s mission.

PART I. GOD’S PROMISES GIVEN TO JOSHUA (1-9)

In this part, God gave Joshua several instructions as a leader (1-5). Look at verses 1-2. “After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: ‘Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites.’” Moses was a great leader who led Israel people out of Egypt. He was a humble and compassionate shepherd for the people of Israel. He led Israel people for 40 years in the desert. But God did not allow him to enter the promised land due to people’s rebellion and Moses saw the land from the mountaintop and died at the age of 120. It was time to change the guard. The conquest of the Canaan land did not belong to Moses but to his successor Joshua. Israel people were at the crossroad at this time. Their powerful leader died but they were confronting a daunting task of crossing the Jordan and conquering the Jericho. No one could replace Moses’ leadership qualities. There was a leadership vacuum. Now this important task was given to Joshua. The leadership transfer could cause fear and anxiety among people. But in this critical time God gave his assurance to Joshua to carry out the conquest war. Here we learn that God’s work continues though his servant died. God used Moses in his own time and now God called Joshua to succeed Moses. Though people lost one of the greatest spiritual leaders in God’s history, God continued his plan of conquering the promised land through another servant, Joshua. We thought that nobody could fill in Dr. Samuel Lee’s big shoes to fill after his homecoming. But Mother Barry stepped in and God is using her to advance the gospel message powerfully. God is the master of the history and we are nothing but his servant. Why did God choose Joshua as Moses’ successor? Joshua assisted Moses in Exodus 17:9 to defeat the Amalekites. Then he was sent as one of 12 Israeli spies to explore the Canaan land. Ten leaders brought a bad report and said, “All the people we saw there are of great size. We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” (Numbers 13:32-33) But Caleb and Joshua brought a spiritual report and said, “And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up.” (Numbers 14:9b) What a contrasting report it was! God only allowed Caleb and Joshua to enter into the Canaan land while others perished in the desert. God raised Joshua as Moses’ successor because he learned from Moses and supported Moses as his right-hand man. Joshua observed everything from Moses as his faithful assistant. More than anything else, he was a man of faith who supported Moses fully. Joshua was under the shadow of Moses for last 40 years and now as a gray-haired general he was ready to step into his new role as a leader of the Canaan conquest. Leaders are not born but are raised up with training and learning. I am happy that God is raising up messengers like Bruce Hollinger, David Brogi, Steve, Paul Sambuco, and Richard Anderson as our future leaders. Junior missionaries give me comfort and strength because they are devoted to the work of God. My main concern is second generations and YDJ. I pray that God may raise many spiritual leaders among YDJ members who are ready to receive training and learn from elders. When old leaders retire, they can step into a leader’s role.

Look at verses 3-5. “I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Great Sea on the west. No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” God commanded Joshua to conquer the Canaan land. Then God gave him wonderful promises. God’s promises to Joshua were the same as those given to Moses. Though the people of Israel were not strong enough to fight against so many enemy countries and defeat them, it was God who would give them this territory in order to fulfill his promise given to Abraham. If God says he will do it, it is a sure thing. The most important promise was that he would be with Joshua throughout his lifetime. God established his leadership firmly so that no one could stand up against him throughout his life. God’s promise to be with him was a great encouragement to General Joshua in times of uncertain future. God’s presence in our mission life assures us a great spiritual victory. After defeating the power of death, Jesus commanded his disciples, ”Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations.” (Matt. 28:19) Then he promised them, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (28:20) Jesus knew that it was not easy for them to make disciples of all nations because they were too nationalistic. Jesus’ disciples ran away when Jesus died due to their fear of the Jews. They were bunch of fearful men. Especially, Peter looked bold outwardly but inwardly he was a fearful man. He denied Jesus three times before a little girl to save his life. But he was changed by the power of Jesus’ resurrection and he was inspired by the promise of Jesus. He challenged Sanhedrin in Acts 4:19, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.” and preached the gospel fearlessly. Jesus’ disciples changed the world because Jesus was with them.

When Apostle Paul was threatened in preaching the gospel in Corinth, the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision, “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in the city.” (Acts 18:9-10) God protected Paul to preach the gospel. Sometimes we feel alone like orphans in our mission life. No one seemed to care about our situation. No one helps us. But God is with us always. Jesus said in John 14:18, “I will not leave as orphans; I will come to you.” God was with M. Grace Mockre when she received a cancer treatment and blessed to have a miracle baby Jeremiah. God was with Mo Chang and protected him while he was in Iraq. Abe Lee was a least likely person to become a missionary. But he became a missionary to China. God protected him from Chinese religious police and used him to spread the gospel to many students because God was with him. God was with Joshua and gave him victory as a leader for the people of Israel. God’s presence brings success and prosperity to all of us in our mission life.

 In verse 6, God said to General Joshua, “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them.” At the beginning of verse 7 God says to Joshua, “Be strong and very courageous.” In verse 9b God says, “Be strong and courageous.” Here we have to think about what it means to be strong and courageous. The first condition of being a leader is strong courage. Without strong courage, no one can be a leader. Then how can we be strong and courageous when we face many rejections and hostile students? Should we join Tae-Kwon-Do club to be strong and courageous? No, true courage comes from faith in God. Joshua believed that God would be with him and would give him the land God promised to his forefathers. Then Joshua could be strong and very courageous. When we trust God, we have nothing to be fearful. As long as God is with us, we can be strong and courageous. Paul said in 2 Tim 2:1, “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” When we remember Jesus’ grace, we can be strong also. Leaders should not become timid or wavering. Leaders must be strong. 9-11 terrorist attacks defined George Bush’s presidency. Bush declared without wavering, “We will go after you and find you and kill you.” He showed his courage to confront the terrorists straight in spite of sacrifice and cost. American people recognized his courage and gave him the second term and the Time Magazine chose him as “The Man of the Year.”

In order to become a leader, we must overcome fear within. When we are fearful, we cannot do anything because we are paralyzed by fear. One time Jesus walked on the water in the middle of the night and then the disciple cried out in fear, “It’s a ghost.” But Jesus said to them, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (Matt. 14:26-31) Then Peter was able to walk on the water when he fixed his eyes on Jesus and suddenly he began to sink when he took his eyes off of Jesus. Jesus rebuked Peter, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Here fear is the opposite of faith.  What causes us to be fearful? Why do we lose faith? Why do we doubt God? Sometimes our fruitless mission life discourages us greatly. Sometimes we are getting old and we are going nowhere. Our health condition and financial situation cause us to doubt the love of God. Some young people are fearful of losing their fun-seeking life. Some people are fearful of their multiple crosses. Some are fearful of their spiritual battle with their sinful habits. At that time we have to trust Jesus not our human strength or will power. When we have faith in God and trust in his promise, we can do great things. Jesus said in Mark 9:23, “If you can’? “Everything is possible for him who believes.” Nothing is impossible when we believe in the promise of Jesus. We can overcome mountains and experience the power of God. When a shepherd boy named David believed God Almighty, the Creator of the heaven and earth, he defeated Goliath, the giant. Gideon defeated his enemies with three hundred men of courage. The Almighty God is with us and Jesus loves us and the Holy Spirit is with us all the time. Who can stand against us when we go out to preach the good news of great joy? Nothing can separate us from the love of God. We can conquer the world with the gospel of Jesus’ resurrection and spread the kingdom of God. As God gave Joshua all the territories of the promised land, so God gave us five continents as our inheritance. God gave us Latin America as our mission territory. God gave us China as our mission land. God attached North Korea as our mission field. Muslim countries are our mission field. Jesus promised to give us all creation as our gospel territory. Though the world situation looks very dark and the task is too difficult, it is not the time to wavier or shrink back or retreat. I have too much trouble just to survive. My 1:1 students left one by one. But God said in verse 10b, “Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged.” It is time to move on towards our goal to try again and to double the work and to raise up 12 disciples. Do not be discouraged because of your past failures because God is with you. 

Look at verse 7. “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.” Also verse 8a says, “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.” God did not ask Joshua to draw up a brilliant military strategy or to train a special force unit of Green Beret. What did he ask him to do? God commanded him to keep the Book of the Law and to meditate on it day and night. God told him to study the word of God. This was the secret formula of successful campaign of conquest. In a sense it meant to study the word of God. Joshua’ s success depended on obeying the Scripture. It sounds silly and strange military campaign. But it was God’s way of success formula. Joshua followed God’s instruction in conquering Jericho and he marched around the city once for six days and seven times on the seventh day and shouted and the city of Jericho fell and they took the city. But one man Achan did not follow God’s word and took some of devoted things. Later, the Israel was defeated when they attacked the small city of Ai. When they punished Achan and his family, they won the battle again. From that time on Joshua was very careful in following the Scripture. It is important to keep God’s word because all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. This is the reason God told General Joshua, “Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you” (7). How can we keep the word of God unceasingly? We need to pray before God. It is God who enables us to obey his word. With our human strength we cannot keep the word of God because we are sinful in our human nature. He also said to General Joshua, “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night...” (8).  This is the way we can be strong and courageous: by keeping the word of God in our hearts as our life standard. Sometimes we want to fall down to the left; sometimes we want to fall down to the right. But the word of God holds us to stand firm. Without the word of God, we become like a blind man groping in darkness not knowing where to go and what to do. My life key verse is John 12:24. Whenever I become selfish and lazy, I always remember this word and recommit my life to follow Jesus’ example of a kernel of wheat that falls to the ground and dies and produces many seed. In this respect it is important for us to choose a proper key verse for the new year. 

PART II. JOSHUA BEGAN TO WORK AS A LEADER (10-18)

Joshua was a new leader but there was no sign of fear in his heart. He began to obey God’s command right away. He did not delay God’s command. Joshua knew God’s plan and carried out the task God gave him immediately. He took God’s command very seriously. He should have formed an inaugural committee to celebrate his new leadership. But he cared about God more than his own political ambition. Look at verses 10-11. “So Joshua ordered the officers of the people: ‘Go through the camp and tell the people, “Get your supplies ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you for your own.”’” General Joshua’s order was thunderous and terrifying to the people of Israel. To cross the Jordan River, which was the defense line, was beyond imagination to the people of Israel. But when Joshua told them with the authority of God, and according to the promise of God, people immediately responded to his command. General Joshua gave special orders to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh. His order was as follows:

“Remember the command that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you: ‘The Lord your God is giving you rest and has granted you this land.’ Your wives, your children and your livestock may stay in the land that Moses gave you east of the Jordan, but all your fighting men, fully armed, must cross over ahead of your brothers. You are to help your brothers until the Lord gives them rest, as he has done for you, and until they too have taken possession of the land that the Lord your God is giving them. After that, you may go back and occupy your own land, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave you east of the Jordan toward the sunrise” (13-15). If General Joshua had ordered, “Advance and attack,” it would have been easier for them to obey. But General Joshua ordered the chief tribes, the Reubenites and the others, “Leave your family members behind and go and fight; help your brothers first. After that you may go back to occupy your own land.” That’s a very difficult command to obey. It was not easy for them to be separated from their wives and children. They might be killed during the battle. Moses who gave them this order no longer was with them. Usually we work for our children and our family. But General Joshua ordered them to fight and die in order to help the weaker tribes of his people first, and let them have their territory. After that, they could go back to occupy their own territory. Do you think they could obey him? If we tell people one by one, “Go, work hard and make money for your brothers, and next make more money for yourselves,” then nobody would say, “Amen.” They would answer, “Are you talking to me?” What was Joshua’s intention of giving this command to three tribes? Joshua wanted to build unity among the people of Israel. He taught them how to sacrifice others to overcome selfishness. Joshua built a sense of community among them through this operation together. In addition, Joshua wanted to help three tribes to keep their promise under Moses. Joshua trained them to be faithful to the Scripture though Moses was dead. Their promise was not before man but before God. He planted fear of the Lord in their hearts. Joshua trained them to overcome family-centered or tribe-centered life to build a strong national identity to all people. It also set a good example to other 9 and half tribes. God blessed us to have 10 fellowship leaders among us. I pray that they may set a good example for each other by raising up 2 disciples and inviting 15 students to the SWS and to have 20 1:1 Bible students. Some fellowships have more students than others. Cross fellowship is willing to help other fellowship. Let’s see what their response was. Look at verses 16-18. “Then they answered Joshua, ‘Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you as he was with Moses. Whoever rebels against your word and does not obey your words, whatever you may command them, will be put to death. Only be strong and courageous!’” When Joshua maintained the basic spiritual principle without compromising, people were happy to follow the leader. People gave him a thunderous approval of his strong leadership. In spite of difficult conquering war involving many battles, Joshua succeeded in conquering the Canaan land. It is indeed amazing that they not only obeyed, but also strongly encouraged Joshua by saying, “Only be strong and courageous!” They supported their leader Joshua and prayed for him to be a strong leader. Many times leaders are lonely and need support from others. I am very thankful to have supporting people such as you. I am thankful to those who came out to pray with me in the early morning. Here we learn that the people of Israel wanted a strong and courageous leader above them. How can a leader be strong and courageous? As verses 7-8 say, to be strong and courageous they must have faith in God and love the word of God and obey the word of God and be firm in the word of God.

Through Joshua chapter 1 we learn that God successfully established Joshua as Moses’ successor. At the time of appointing him as Moses’ successor God gave him a few words. The main point is “Be strong and very courageous ; keep the Law of God day and night; don’t stray to the left or the right.” When we carefully review what we have studied, courage comes from the word of God. In 2005 I pray that we all have faith in God and be strong and courageous through the Bible study. May God bless you to find the proper key verse to begin the new year with God’s clear direction. Let’s read the key verse 1:6-7.