Joshua 1:5-6 and Confirmation From God

be-strong-and-courageousThere are times when we need confirmation from God that we are doing what it is he wants us to do.  Graciously, God gives that confirmation.  The story of Joshua is a perfect example of this truth.  If anyone was sure of his calling, it was Joshua.  He went up the Mount Sinai with Moses alone.  He had a promise by God that he would enter the Promised Land when everyone else of his generation (except Caleb) would perish.  He was brought before the Tent of Meeting with Moses and the Lord spoke directly to him and told him he would be Moses’ successor.  Moses laid hands on him to, in essence, ordain him and pass the Spirit to him.  Joshua was exactly where he was called to be.

Then the Lord speaks to Joshua and the situation becomes very real, “My servant Moses is dead.  Now get ready to cross over the Jordan” (1:2).  Now it is real.  Now the Lord is asking Joshua to leave the comfort of the camp and the familiarity of the wilderness for the struggle of leading the people, fighting the nations, and possessing the Promised Land.  This is the reason he was called by God, yes, but it is also beyond what his experience was shadowing Moses in the wilderness.  This is the fulfillment of God working in the world, bringing the people into Canaan, and that is a lot of pressure and concern–especially when we remember that this people Joshua is leading does not have the best record of being faithful to the Lord.

It is here, right after the command to “Go,” that God confirms this calling to Joshua:

No one will be able to stand up against you during your lifetime. I will be with you in the same way I was with Moses. I won’t desert you or leave you.  Be brave and strong, because you are the one who will help this people take possession of the land, which I pledged to give to their ancestors.

These are words of comfort and confirmation that the Lord is with Joshua.  It is a reminder that because the Lord is with him, Joshua is to be brave and strong.  There is no need for fear and God’s strength will be with him.  This is such an important point that God uses those same words two more times–“Be very brave and strong,” (1:7) and “I’ve commanded you to be brave and strong, haven’t I?” (1:9).  It is easy to get the sense that Joshua needed to be reassured that God would fulfill his promises and that Joshua had no need to fear.

To make it abundantly clear, though, that this was from the Lord, God confirms it another way.  He uses other people to reaffirm the call to be brave and strong.  When Joshua approaches the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh to call them to arms and fight for the rest of Israel (since they had elected to settle on the west side of the Jordan and not in the Promised Land), they echo God’s words to Joshua.  “Be brave and strong!” (1:18).  God uses other people to deliver the same message to Joshua.

This is one way God confirms his calling and messages to us.  He prepares us in life for what we are to do (all of Joshua’s time with Moses).  He has key events in our lives to shape and direct our paths (Joshua’s commissioning at the Tent).  He speaks to us (sometimes audibly, other times to our hearts).  And he uses others to reiterate what he has told us (through the two-and-a-half tribes).

If you need confirmation from God, look over your past and see the trajectory God has taken you.  Pray and listen for his guidance.  And pray that the Lord would use others in your life to reiterate or repeat what you believe God is telling you.

Numbers 14:6-10 and Stoning the Messenger

“Don’t shoot the messenger!”  This is a common phrase when delivering bad news.  But what about when the messenger is delivering good news and the community doesn’t want to hear it?  After the Israelite spies came back from the Promised Land they turned the people against the idea of entering it.  Joshua and Caleb tried to champion another possibility:

But Joshua, Nun’s son, and Caleb, Jephunneh’s son, from those who had explored the land, tore their clothes  and said to the entire Israelite community, “The land we crossed through to explore is an exceptionally good land.  If the Lord is pleased with us, he’ll bring us into this land and give it to us. It’s a land that’s full of milk and honey.  Only don’t rebel against the Lord and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. They are our prey.  Their defense has deserted them, but the Lord is with us. So don’t be afraid of them.”  But the entire community intended to stone them.

nm14_10Here Joshua and Caleb simply try to remind the Israelites of the Lord’s promises to them that he would give them that land.  However, the people are so overtaken with fear that they do not even want to listen to any possibility other than the fact that they would die if they tried to enter the land.  They are willing to kill Joshua and Caleb rather than be reminded that the Lord has provided for them, fought for them, and protected them since before they left Egypt.  The people’s fear has overcome them to the point where they want to silence a faith-filled response to their present circumstances.

It is entirely possible to be overcome with fear of the unknown.  It is even possible to doubt whether or not God would look after us despite the fact that there is ample evidence in the past that God has helped us.  In situations like this, it is important to look for the Joshuas and Calebs among us to be reminded that God will be with us.  Doing something new and exciting can be frightening, but it is in those moments of fear and doubt that we need to remember that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  If he did amazing things in the past, he can do amazing things today.

It is ok to wrestle with how something can come about through God’s guidance and leading.  What is not ok is trying to silence a faith-filled response to the present situation because it does not seem logical.  God regularly works through our weaknesses to show his power.  If Christians were only called to do what they could do on their own, there would be no need for God.  It is when events and promises seem the most unlikely to occur, and our doubts are at their strongest, that we need Joshua and Caleb to remind us that God has been with us thus far, and he will never leave us or forsake us.