“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)
Over and over Joshua is commanded, ‘be strong and courageous’. God told Joshua these exact words, not only 4 times in the first chapter of Joshua, but also three times in Deuteronomy 31. Why so many reminders? Well, Joshua had to be afraid. We don’t know why he was afraid, but obviously, he was. God knows all things.
Joshua more than any other man alive, aside from Caleb, was intimately acquainted with the people he was to lead. The bible tells us the Hebrews were a tenaciously stiff-necked, rebellious, disobedient, and grumbly, people. It is possible that Joshua may not have felt strong enough, faithful enough, wise enough, for the challenge of taking on this motley crew of three million plus.
Perhaps, Joshua was afraid he would mess up as Moses had done. (Spoiler alert…epic rabbit chase). Moses disobeyed a direct command because he did not believe God. Moses knew the rod would work. So, Moses tired of listening to and fighting with the people, took matters into his own hands and played God. And in doing so, he did not hallow God, but stole God’s glory, by taking credit for the miracle. It is obvious at the time, that Moses wasn’t thinking about the fact that God uses all things good and bad to teach and grow us and how his situation could be a witness for others. Nor did he believe that when you are in the desert, its best to enter God’s rest and stop complaining. Moses may not have realized that God had planned to show them a picture of Christ, their future Messiah. The water-giving rock was to be used as a symbol of Christ, see 1 Corinthians 10:4. The rock was struck once in Exodus 17:6, demonstrating that Christ would be crucified (Hebrews 7:27). When Moses didn’t speak to the rock, but in anger struck it twice, it symbolized Christ being crucified a second time making His sacrifice inadequate. So, Moses was barred from entering the Promised Land (Numbers 20:12). Joshua could have feared he too, would disappoint God or maybe do something worse.
I wonder if Joshua was thinking about the battle with Amalek in Exodus 17. Joshua knew that this battle was successful, not because of his efforts; his military leadership, battle strategies or fierce fighting skills, but because Moses, his commander, a man of great faith, held up his hands and God gave the victory. Only when Moses hands were raised did the battle go well for the Hebrews. From this time forward, there would be no hands to raise while fighting not one army, but a multitude of nations with powerful, gigantic armies guarding fortified cities. So, God omniscient, omnipresent, repeatedly encouraged Joshua not to be afraid, just like He repeatedly encourages us. There are many other places in the Bible that God can use to calm our fear. Look at 1 Chronicles 22:13; 28:20, Isaiah 35:3; 41:1, Psalm 27:14; 1 Corinthians 16:13 and Ephesians 6: 10 for help.
So, today, if you are feeling a little overwhelmed and maybe even fearful as you think about VBS or another challenge that has come your way, God is telling you, “Be strong and courageous. Trust me, because I AM, eternal, unchanging, your mighty, covenant God. Don’t be afraid because I AM with you.
Thank you, God, that we are never alone. Thank you, God, that Your presence goes with us wherever we go, albeit up a mountain, working with tenaciously obstinate people that complain or to battle, You are there. We rejoice in our weakness, because you are strong (2 Corinthians 13:9). You will give us Your strength, tenacity, and tender mercy for the work of VBS. Thank you Father for what You are about to do. Thank You God. Amen.
Thanking God for being our faithful, covenant God.
Teach us to have eyes for the lost and see their need for the love of God.
For God’s goodness to shine brightly throughout the church during VBS.
For all VBS workers and prayer warriors to trust God.
For the teachers and the children in the Imagination Station to be especially blessed by God’s favor. Pray that God would reach out to each child in new and creative ways. Pray that they will remember the fun they had today and that the Living God is always with them