This morning I saw a tweet that asked a question that caught my attention. (I should have grabbed a screenshot ’cause the account is protected now.)
But basically what he said was that the exhortation in the beginning of Joshua to be strong and courageous was only meant for Joshua. Should we claim that exhortation for ourselves today?
That’s a good question. Is it appropriate to apply instructions that God gave a specific person as a general principle to all believers?
Should we ever do that, or is it perhaps something that should only be done in certain cases?
Let’s take a look at this particular verse and see where it takes us.
This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.— Joshua 1:9
Are those instructions something that we can apply to believers in general?
One danger of grabbing a hold of a particular verse of scripture is taking it out of context and thereby distorting its meaning. It is important to look at both the context of the surrounding passage as well as the greater context of scripture in general.
So the first thing to look at is the context surrounding what God is telling Joshua in this verse.
In the beginning of Joshua chapter 1 God is encouraging Joshua by telling him God will be with Joshua just like God was with Moses before him. Twice God says he will always be with Joshua and three times he tells Joshua to be strong and courageous.
In fact, God was simply reiterating what Moses had told Joshua in front of the entire nation of Israel at the end of Deuteronomy.
It seems pretty safe to me to take the words in verse 9 at face value because it is a good summary of what God is telling Joshua in that larger passage.
Now how does verse 9 compare to the rest of scripture?
Always With Us
The fist question that comes to my mind is this. Is God with us wherever we go?
Jesus said yes to that question. More than once.
For example, in Matthew:
Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.— Matthew 28:2
And then again in John:
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.— John 14:16-17
I think then, it’s safe to say that part at least is true for all believers. God is in fact with us wherever we go.
Strength, Fear and Courage
What does the rest of the Bible have to say about strength, fear and courage?
Lots. Way more, in fact, than I have time to go into this morning. (We just opened EmmanuelPress up to the public this morning so I have a ton to do today!)
But here are some samples.
Here David is speaking to his son Solomon passing on instructions about the temple that Solomon is to build. In the middle of it David says this.
For you will be successful if you carefully obey the decrees and regulations that the Lord gave to Israel through Moses. Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid or lose heart!— 1 Chronicles 22:13
Those instructions are remarkably similar to what God told Joshua. Of course that is still a case of instructions to a specific person.
Are there any cases of similar instructions to people in general?
In Second Chronicles Judah is being invaded by the Assyrian army. Hezekiah, the king of Judah, tells his assembled leaders this.
Be strong and courageous! Don’t be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria or his mighty army, for there is a power far greater on our side!— 2 Chronicles 32:7
Which brings us to the New Testament and perhaps the best, most concise example of all. Here is what Paul told the church in Corinth.
Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong.— 1 Corinthians 16:13
Those are instructions to a church as a whole, not just to a specific person.
My Take Away
The way I see it based on all of this is that we can, as a general rule, apply God’s instructions to Joshua to ourselves.
I mean think about it. What is the alternative?
Would God command believers to be weak, fearful, and unsure about whether God is with us?
That certainly makes no sense, not to mention runs contrary to scripture. That’s what the enemy wants us to do, certainly.
But not what God would have us do. No way.
That said, I wouldn’t call this “proof” as such. To me it’s more a preponderance of evidence.
I’m not going to pretend to be the Holy Spirit. As believers we each have the the Holy Spirit inside us, guiding us in all truth. (John 16:13)
We just need to listen to Him.