"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." Joshua 1:1 (NIV)
We had been talking about avoidable fear in the chapel for the last few weeks. Interspersed with the failing health towards death of a dear member of the congregation, various illnesses afflicting the congregation, and the blows dealt to the Senior Chaplain during the week, it's been hard for anyone of us not to raise our hands in the air and shake em, "You've GOT to be kidding me!"
Here, after forty years of throwing problems that he didn't have to solve off upon the shoulders of the one who couldn't pass them off to someone else, Joshua is suddenly told……"Moses is dead, you are the new leader." Oh, there's no doubt in our minds, as we read the text and what we know of Joshua, that this new wrinkle in the history of Israel is a good choice, but I doubt very much that Joshua just looked to God and said, "Okay." The rest of the text in Joshua chapter 1 wouldn't have been needed if that was the case.
"Be strong and courageous," the Lord tells Joshua. Follow My commandments, and all that was promised Moses will be delivered to you. Keep My word and you will not stray from the blessings I have in store for the nation of Israel. As Paul would say in later text, God himself says to Joshua, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." Okay, Paul put it in the context of "If God is for us, who can be against us," but the same idea is given directly to Joshua here….."Have I not told you these things…."
And Joshua doesn't have time to ease into the job, but has to put his reliance upon God's promise in the immediate future. The Reubenites, Gadites, and Manassehs who were given the land they asked for east of the Jordan were told to supply the warriors from their tribes to the rest of the nation to subdue the Promised Land. Joshua, newly minted leader, had to get these tribes to live up to the promise. In verses 16 thru 18, they give him their response.
"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 words, whatever you may command them, will be put to death! Only be strong and courageous!"
We find; in the midst of troubles and tribulations, illness and disease, wandering death and hidden life; those who seem to be of even keel and inner strength, who's turmoil and pain isn't in control of them but rather under control by them. They are the people we tend to gravitate towards in the storms of our lives, those who are quietly working the pumps or shoring the bulkheads of a sinking ship. We shun those who are running about the deck screaming the obvious, "We're sinking!!", being no help at all. A leader will lead, no matter the turmoil in his heart and he will inspire others to follow despite the despair.
And the greatest leader in the world's history taught us that it is a signature moment of all great leaders when the words that have been given to inspire others is reflected back by them to inspire the leader.
Joshua stood beside the tribes and commanded.
And they replied back, "Be strong and courageous!"