Be Strong and Courageous
“I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9 NRSV).
Moses led the people through the Sea and across the desert, but he didn’t get to cross the river into the Promised Land. The task of leading the people across the river and into the Promised Land was left to Joshua. Joshua had grown up the journey across the desert. He may or may not have been born in Egypt, but his journey into the future wasn’t hindered by visions of what was. He understood that it was now time to cross the river.
God made a promise to Joshua that he and his people would possess the land. Now, we need to understand that the story of conquest is problematic. The book of Joshua describes a genocide, which makes his story difficult to incorporate into our spiritual lives. At the same time, there is a word here that is important. When we cross the rivers of our lives, the word of God to Joshua and his people remains true. God said to Joshua “Be strong and courageous … for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
The journey to the Promised Land, however we understand it, is often a difficult one. It’s filled with twists and turns. It’s easy to turn back. I can imagine the people standing at the edge of the river and feeling uncertain about what lay on the other side. Why not stay put, and make the best of their situation on the near side of the river? But the word given to Joshua and to us is this: “Be strong and courageous.”
I once decided to take a journey that most likely formed the rest of my life. I decided to go to seminary in Pasadena. I sold a bit of stock my mother bought in my name, packed my 1970 Ford Maverick, and took off on an adventure. I hadn’t been fully accepted into the seminary, didn’t have a place to live, or a job when I arrived in Pasadena. By the time I paid my first month’s rent I had eighty dollars left. Not only did I survive, but I found a new sense of identity and purpose in the journey. I am here today, because I crossed the river. Looking back, my decision may seem foolish, but I do believe that God was with me in that journey that formed me into the person I am today. So, “be strong and courageous . . . for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”