After the Death of Moses
If you have your Bible, open up to Joshua 1. We're going to spend our time in Joshua 1, specifically in the first ten verses of this chapter. We're going to look at a message that God gave the Joshua that applies to us in many ways.
If you were to ask the children of Israel who lived in this time of Joshua 1, who the greatest leader they had ever known was, their answer to you would most likely be Moses. For many of them, that's the only leader they had ever known. Exclude God together for a moment, thinking about man. Moses is their greatest leader.
Moses, the one who was a reluctant leader at first, who God spoke to through the burning bush. It's Moses they connect back to who would go to Pharaoh in Egypt and say, "let my people go." It was Moses that was there when the ten plagues occur. It was Moses that led them. And the dry ground is the Lord part of the Red Sea. It was Moses who went up upon Mt. Sinai and God spoke to him and gave him the law that they are now under. Who established the covenant with these people?
Moses is the greatest leader they know, and in the first verse of the passage we're going to look at, God says, "Joshua, Moses my servant is dead. And essentially what he tells Joshua is, "you're up." Batter up. Moses is gone. He fulfilled his purpose but now it's you. You are the leader of my covenant people. How would you react to that in that moment? Gulp. That's like saying, hey, I have some shoes for you to fill and by the way, they were Shaqs (size 30). Those are big shoes to fill. How do I fill Moses's shoes?
Now understand that Joshua wasn't randomly selected or just called out of the blue to lead. He had known this was coming. There are multiple passages in Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy that tell us about how Joshua was prepared or mentored for this moment.
- Exodus 24:13 – when Moses would go upon the mountain to receive the commandments on the tablet of stone, Joshua went up somewhat with him.
- Exodus 33:11 – when Moses would speak to God face to face. Or as a man speaks to his friend. It says, Joshua would be in the tent of meaning and would not leave there.
- It was Joshua who was one of the 12 spies that was commissioned to go investigate the land of Canaan. He was one of two alongside Caleb, who came back with a positive report saying the place is filled, it's flowing with milk and honey. And despite the giants and despite the obstacles, that is a great place for us to live and God surely can provide that.
- It was Joshua in Numbers 16 that he was commissioned by God to be the succession of Moses, and Moses lays his hands upon Him establishing that he was going to be the leader. But still, despite the training, despite the mentoring, despite the learning, when Moses is dead, I would imagine there might be a little bit of trepidation or a little bit of nervousness with that.
- And when you read the text that we're going to read in just a moment, four times, you find the same phrase. Four times we read the phrase be strong and courageous. And each time you read it, God gets a little more emphatic with the phrase Be strong and courageous, only be strong and courageous. Be very strong and courageous.
In this lesson we're going to look at three reasons why Joshua could be strong and courageous in this moment, and then afterwards will apply it to three different groups of people that are located in the church today.
1After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' assistant, 2"Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. 3Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. 4From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. 5No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. 6Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. 7Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. 8This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 9Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."
- Joshua 1:1-9
Three reasons why Joshua could be strong and courageous.
Understand, in this moment he's instructing and commanding Joshua but at the same time, God is comforting Joshua and I believe he's encouraging him too.
1. You Have a Purpose
"Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel.
- Joshua 1:2
Do you see there that in this moment where likely if you're a child of Israel or you're Joshua, you might be thinking, now what? Because our leaders gone, one of the first things that God says to Joshua is he gives him direction and purpose, therefore arise. That is direction. Cross this Jordan that's a direction you and all of these people. Direction, that's purpose. He says to the land that I'm giving to them right from the get go. He says, Joshua, there is still purpose and intentions that I have for my people that I have for you. There is a vision that I need to be accomplished.
Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them.
- Joshua 1:6
Once again in verse 6, God gives Joshua a purpose. You're going to cause these people to go into the promised land. This land that I have promised to you for, for years and years ago. God is telling Joshua and Israel in this moment of change, I still have objectives, I still have intentions, I still have work to do, and I still have work to do through you and with you. This isn't over yet. It's still not over yet for you and I to. He says I have purpose for you.
While we don't have the direct line of communication that Joshua does, wouldn't that be awesome, by the way, just to say, hey, God, so what now? And how do I go about this and and what's the right decision to make? We don't unfortunately, we don't have that, although God has given us plenty of direction in his word. So we might think, well, okay, maybe I have purpose, but God really doesn't speak to me and tell me all of those things. But hasn't God given you and I plenty of purpose statements in our New Testament? Make disciples of all nation. Is that a purpose for the church? Is that a purpose for every individual christian? Be salt of the world. Be a light of the world. Does that purpose bear fruit? Suffer righteously? As a Christian, you think about glorify God and whatever situation you're in, there are purposes for you and I.
What happens in this moment of change where they might be afraid, they might be worried about what's coming next, He says, look, while things have changed somewhat, I still have a mission. I still have a vision, and I'm still going to use my people. And that includes you, Joshua. I have a purpose for you. And if I have a purpose for you, that means I'm not done with you yet.
Change often provides new opportunities for us to glorify God in new ways.
Sometimes it gives us new opportunities to reach a new group of people. Change can provide us with a new opportunity to glorify God, maybe in a different way than we have been accustomed to.
- It might be a new opportunity to be an example to others who might not have had an example of a Christ like person in their life before it.
- It might be a new opportunity to grow in our faith and trust in a new or difficult season of life. In the change of our life.
- It might be that God uses us in a different way, but God has purpose for us, despite wherever we are in our lives.
For Joshua, God is comforting him saying, I have purpose for you, I have directions, I have intentions.
That's true for you and I today, wherever we are and whatever season of life, God has purpose for you. God has plans. God has things He wants to accomplish through you and with you. And right here, he tells Joshua, You can be strong and courageous. You can be firm, you can be bold because I have a purpose.
Joshua, you can be strong and courageous because:
2. You Have a Plan
7Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. 8This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
- Joshua 1:7-8
God says Be strong and courageous. Yes, you have purpose but not only do you have purpose, you have a plan. Twice, God says Joshua, be careful. I'm not going to give you the definition of careful. We know what being careful is. Imagine the first time you brought home your first newborn baby back home. Remember that first night? I would imagine you were very careful with that child. I don't want to do anything wrong. I don't want to shake it. I don't want to mess with anything. I'm careful.
Here, God says Joshua, be very careful to do what all that is written. All the law that Moses gave to you, watch over it, preserve it, be careful with it. All of this law that would refer to the old law, the covenant that God made with Israel when he gave the words to Moses. This would include the words that God would then speak to Joshua. But He says, Be very careful to do this law. Don't turn from it. Don't go to the right, don't go to the left, but just plant yourself on my word and stay there.
I've lived in several big cities in my life. Denver has millions of people and it has an unprecedented amount of construction on all the busy places. I've lived in Houston which is the fourth largest city in America and it has unprecedented traffic. Choctaw is not very big, but I'm still new here. So everywhere I go, I have to pull out my phone and use maps. I don't know if this is just a millennial and younger thing, but I have no idea how people existed and got around without a phone with a map on it. I don't know how you had a huge map stretched out across the passenger side of your car. I follow my map religiously, but sometimes I think I'm confident enough to know where I'm going on my own. And that's the moment where, guess what I do? I make a wrong turn, I get off track.
I think there's a parallel spiritually for leaders and for all of us is that when we think we have it down our own way, when we think, I know what to do and I know where I'm going, if we're not careful, we turn to the right or to the left from God's plan for you and I, he says, Don't go away from my word. Stick to it, stick to it, and do all of it.
Churches of Christ are notoriously known for potlucks. In my estimation, potlucks are like the Christians version of gambling. It's a very big boom, risk or reward in a potluck. It could be the best meal of your life or it could be the worst meal of your life. You get to pick and choose what you want. And we should never treat the word of God like that. We should never say, I'll take some of that direction, but I neglect this. It's all God says, do all that the law tells you.
What's interesting in the book of Joshua is they are successful throughout the whole book. But one time and the one time they are not successful is because somebody did not take the Word of God seriously, because one individual said, I'm going to do it my own way. I'm going to turn right or left. Whether it was a big thing or what he considered a small thing, they lost that battle because they didn't stick to the plan. And Joshua, at the end of his life, when he writes to the following generations, he tells them essentially, be very careful to do all that is written in the book. And that generation doesn't. Everybody did what was right in their own eyes. And we know how that turned out.
So God says, Joshua, you can be strong and courageous because I've given you a plan to follow, to fulfill the vision I have for you. You don't have to make this up as you go along. You don't have to wander aimlessly trying to figure out how you're going to accomplish this mission. I've given you direction. We don't always have direction for every new decision in our life. But I can promise you this God has given us wisdom to live on in every situation. He has given us a word that pertains to our life, that applies to our life, and we have a plan.
Sometime that plan looks foolish to people. Can you imagine being on top of the wall of Jericho as people marched around it? You all good down there? God says, "Hey, march around and just blow your trumpet seven times" You think anyone in the army saw it and thought that seems a little weird, that's how we're going to win a battle. I wonder if sometimes the world thinks that the plan that we follow (the Bible) is very foolish. But it wasn't very foolish when the walls crumbled.
Stick to the plan, even if it looks foolish to people, even if it doesn't make sense to you, even if it seems minor to you, just stick to the Word of God. He has given us a plan. And for Joshua, there is a lot of comfort, I would imagine, in knowing that God has given you a plan to follow. Now you're the leader, but you don't have to make it up as you go. Isn't it wonderful to have a map that leads us in our life? Isn't it wonderful to have direction? Isn't it great to not have to make turns? I just hope that I'm making the right decision. But I have someone I can go to who knows far more than me. Joshua be strong and courageous because you have a plan.
3. You Have a Partner
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
- Joshua 1:9
No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.
- Joshua 1:5
In this moment where Joshua has lost his mentor, the person he might go to for advice, and that might be scary as a new leader, God says, Oh, you don't have to worry. You're not doing this alone. It can be difficult, not impossible, but it's very difficult to be strong and courageous alone. There's a reason God gave us a church family, and there's a reason God says, I'm partnering with you in this work. I'm not asking you to do something alone. I'm going to be with you every step of the way. God says, just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I spoke to Moses as I spoke to a friend. I'm going to speak that way towards you. I was with Moses every part of his life and in all these overwhelming situations, the way I was Moses, Joshua, I'm going to be with you.
Does that provides you comfort to know that God says He will never leave you or forsake you? Doesn't that sound like something our Lord Jesus said to His disciples to know that as you live for me and you walk in this life trying to fulfill your mission and your purpose, I'm going to be there with you. I'm going to be aiding you and helping you. He says you have a partner. Maybe the greatest present that we have is God's presence. It's a beautiful gift to know that God is with us in our life.
There's a phrase in Scripture that says The Lord was with him. You find it in multiple places and it's interesting that when the Lord was with him, that man usually was very successful. I'm not saying you're going to have a big bank account, but as you strive to pursue God's mission, if He's with you, you'll be successful.
The people of Israel, the children of Israel, when God was with them and fought with them because they followed him, they were successful. And Joshua, he knows that lesson and he would learn it time and time again. Joshua, be strong and courageous. You have purpose, you have a plan and you have a partner. You have the God of the universe, the most powerful being who spoke everything into existence. You have the God in control of all things. Who's on your side, who fights for you? You have a partner.
But what does that mean for you? I think there's three groups of people that this really applies to.
1. Spiritual Leaders
That might not be all of us, but there are plenty of spiritual leaders who are listening in one way or the other that would include people like myself, a minister, that includes shepherds, deacons, teachers, spiritual leaders in the home. There's even application for this with just leaders in general. But here he's speaking to someone stepping into a role of leadership. And I think there are some applications for leaders. Look at what God gives Joshua purpose playing and he tells him, I'm your partner in this. And as spiritual leaders, I think we need to do the same.
We need to give people purpose.
We need to have vision. Notice, God says, Joshua, this is where we are. This is where we need to go. I know that maybe you spied it out, but you've never necessarily lived there or been there yourself. But we have to get to there. We have to go from point A to point B. I have a vision. We have something that people need to be striving after.
And then he says, And I have a plan to get us there. How do we get from point A to point B? As leaders, we need to be thinking about these things. Leaders of the church, leaders of our homes, where are we headed? Where are we now? How are we going to get there? He says, I have a plan for you. If you follow my Word and you strive after my vision, you can be successful and you're not doing this alone. I'm not asking you to go somewhere without my help.
If we're challenging people to do something that they don't need God's help to do, we're thinking way too small, leaders. If we are wanting people to do something where they don't need God's help, a challenge so small, where it's not incredible that they accomplished it all alone, then we are thinking far too small because we serve a God who can do far more abundantly than all we ask or imagine.
We should challenge people greatly because we have a God who has immense power.
I'm afraid sometimes we think far too small, and here He says, I want you to go into the Promised Land into a landfill with giants filled with obstacles, unforeseen things, challenges the unknown but you can do it because I have your back. They couldn't do that on their own, but yet with God's help, they could. And so a spiritual leaders, it's something to think about in terms of vision and a plan and a challenge of how we're going to get there with God's help. But more than that, be strong and courageous means to be firm and be bold.
Spiritual leadership is not for the weak and the timid.
It takes strength and courage. You got to be strong in the Word of the Lord. You're going to have to plant yourself in truth and be firm in it because there will be opposition to it. But you're going to say, if this is where God tells me to be, I'm going to plant my feet and I'm not going to leave and I'm not going to apologize for it. It's not for everybody. But yet I'm going to be strong in the Word of the Lord. I'm going to be firm here. You're going to have to be bold to have courage to say, look, I might not understand all of it. I might not know how we're going to do it, but I'm going to I'm going to be bold. So I'm going to stick where God tells me to be. I'm going to stand for truth. I'm not going to back down whatever opposition may arise.
I'm going to be bold enough to see where God wants us to go and have the courage to go somewhere we might not have been before. There's going to be obstacles and challenges, but we're going to do it. We have the courage to do it. We're going to be strong and courageous. And that's a message many leaders need to hear, myself included. Be strong, courageous leaders. But there's a second group of people I want to apply it to:
I know I'm not a parent, but I know the world thinks you're foolish for raising your child based off what they believe to be an old, antiquated, religious book that doesn't apply today, that's filled with untruth. I know that's what they believe, not us. But I know they think you're foolish for that. Parents, I know that there are plenty of other parents in this community, your neighbors and your schools and whatever else you're involved in that judge you for prioritizing your child's spiritual well-being over their academics, their sports career, their social life, your child's freedom per se.
I know sometimes the very child you're raising in the Lord disagrees with your decisions and the boundaries that you make, trying to help them become what God intended them to be. You know what God tells you? Be strong and courageous. Be firm. If this is how God tells me to raise my child, that's how I'm going to raise my child. This is a gift from God and God has given me it for a purpose to raise it in the Lord. Be strong in God's Word. Plant yourself there and then be courageous.
When every other home looks different in your community, I'm going to have the courage to look different than them. I'm going to have the courage to raise my child differently than the standards that are set for us on reality TV and on our social media. I'm going to have the courage to say, despite if they look at me weird and they think I'm weird, and if we're living a Christian life, we should look weird. I'm going to be strong and courageous and raise my child that way anyway, because God has given me this child as a gift to raise in his image. Be strong and courageous parents.
I know many of you get looked at weird and you might wonder, am I doing this right? We won't have all the answers. You have the most difficult job on the planet. I did youth ministry for many years and now I never want to be a parent. I'm kidding. You might not have all the answers, but you have plenty of words that God applies to this life that can help you in parenting. Be strong and courageous. Don't back down from trying to raise your child in the Lord.
3. Those struggling with change
But then the third group, and this applies to every single person and that phrase be strong and courageous, applies in many ways, but the third group is everyone who experiences extreme change in their life.
Joshua, went through extreme change here. It might not be as dramatic as a birth of a child or saying I do. It might not be as dramatic as losing a loved one or a diagnosis. But yet when you experience extreme change like Joshua did, God would say, be strong and courageous. In this new season of life, God still has purpose for you to fulfill and accomplish.
It might look a little different, but yet there's still intentions and purposes for you. God would say, I still have a plan for you to follow. I still have my word to guide you to lead you to the Promised Land. And He would say, And I'm still working with you. I'm still your partner. I'm still going to be with you every step of the way, despite the change, despite the challenge, I'm here.
As we experience great change, be strong and courageous as you step into something new, as you take on a new role, as you experience a loss, as you gain something new that you're now entrusted with in your hands, in your home, be strong and courageous. You have a God that's with you. Isn't that wonderful?
Be strong and courageous. That's simply the message. If you remember those four words, you'll understand the lesson. Be strong and courageous because God has given you plenty of reasons to do so.
This lesson doesn't lend itself to an invitation per se. It's not one that simply goes into, Here's what you got to do to be safe. But one of the most beautiful things about our God is that even though we encounter change every single day, we have a God who never changes. And if you want to know what it's like to have that person, to have that being as your partner in this life, the way you do that is by becoming a Christian. And if you want a God who works with you and uses you in this life and is with you, who will never leave you or forsake you, if you'll put on Christ, you can have that partner.
But it might be that you're going through something in life right now and you're you feel weak, you're struggling, and you just want a church family who will love on you and pray with you. And you need prayers to be strong and courageous as you take this new challenge or go through a new obstacle. Whatever your need tonight is, we would love to help you, whether it's becoming Christian, whether it's praying with you, whether it's just encouraging you.