Be Strong and Courageous
Taught September 3, 2023
Table of Contents
Watch & Listen
Our lesson this week kicks us off into the fall quarter of lessons for 2023 with an overarching thought of “Success and Failure”. The first unit of lessons this quarter is titled: Obedience and Success. This week’s lesson, if you listened to my sermons from the month of August, is going to be very familiar as we take a look at the courage of Joshua.
Courage to Step Forward
When I opened up this quarter’s Sunday School book a couple weeks ago, I jokingly said to my mom that somebody must be watching me plan out my sermons or watching them! I said that because all of this year, the Sunday School lessons have fallen in line with my sermons right after I have finished a series of sermons. That just goes to show you how the Spirit works!
Covering some background
Now, before we just directly into our lesson, I feel I need to give a bit of background about our lesson. I say this because our lesson opens with Joshua not taking up the leadership position of leading the children of Israel into the Promised Land after the death of Moses (vss.1-2). Moses, because of his sin at Kadesh, was not allowed to lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land by the Lord.
On that note, I want to touch on the land of Promise that was first Promised to Abraham, then Isaac, and then Jacob, who would later be named Israel by God (Gen. 35:9-10). As I said in my recent sermon – Stepping Out in Faith – the Promised Land should be seen as a blessing from the Lord. The land of Promise was known as Canaan, which is known today as Palestine.
Now, Abraham dwelt in the land, and after him, Isaac dwelt in the land, and after Isaac, Jacob and his family lived in the land. Though Jacob lived in Canaan most of his life, he ended up dying in Egypt. Scripture tells us that there was a very great famine in the land that caused Jacob (Israel) to move to Egypt with his family (Gen. 41:53-42:3; 46:1-4).
At that point in time, Joseph had been sold into slavery in Egypt by his brothers (Gen. 37:23-28), but over time had become a governor in Egypt and very close to the Pharaoh. So, this is how Israel, as a people, ended up living in Egypt to which they soon became enslaved in Egypt after the passing away of Joseph, and his generation, along with the Pharaoh of Joseph’s day (Ex. 1:6-14).
This is what eventually led to Moses being sent to Egypt to lead the children of Israel out of their bondage. Most of us are familiar with the fact that Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years before entering the Promised Land but the reason behind this was because they initially refused to enter the land a lot earlier on their journey.
The children of Israel had reached a point much earlier on their journey, prior to the forty years, to enter the land when Moses sent twelve spies into the land (Num. 13:1-17). Sadly, only two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, reported that the land was good and had faith that Israel could possess the land (Num. 14:6). So, after forty years of wandering in the wilderness, we reach the point of our lesson for this week.
Joshua encouraged to lead
After the death of Moses,could you imagine what Joshua must have felt having to take up leading the children of Israel into the Promised Land? For me, I think of the time after my dad passed away, when I had been called to preach.
When my dad passed away, I lost not just my dad but the one that had been mentoring me in my calling. So, for a very short time there was a bit of a ‘what do I do now’ running through my mind as I was both worried and fearful of how to move forward. I tell you, that period of hesitation didn’t last but a week or two as the Lord encouraged me to keep moving in faith.
The Lord clearly knew what would be running through Joshua’s head as we will see Him move to encourage the new leader of the children of Israel. The Lord said to Joshua, “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses (v.3).”
You see, the message that the Lord was sharing with Joshua was one that He had previously shared with Moses when He called on Moses to lead Israel. Let us go back to the burning bush that was not consumed and remember Moses’ trepidation about leading the children of Israel. Moses was afraid to face Pharaoh, and then he was afraid of going to the children of Israel to lead them (Ex. 3:10-15).
To encourage Moses, the Lord said to him that He was sending Moses to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up from Egypt to a land flowing with milk and honey (Ex. 3:8). The Lord said to Moses that He would be with him as he would go before Pharaoh, and He told Moses to tell the people that “I AM” had sent him (Ex. 3:14-15). If that was not enough, the Lord gave to Moses a staff to show His power to the children of Israel as well (Ex. 4:1-5).
So, the words that Joshua was hearing from the Lord was to remind him of what God had done for the children of Israel under Moses’ leadership. To give Joshua more encouragement, we’ll see that the Lord said to Joshua, “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you (v.5).”
To Joshua, the Lord then said, “Be strong and of good courage (v.6).” Joshua was to know that what God had done for the children of Israel under Moses, He would do for Israel under his leadership. So, these were words to encourage Joshua to get up and move in faith. It would then be on Joshua to either be fearful and not move in faith or to be of good courage and lead the people to God’s blessing of the Promised Land.
Moving in faith
Our lesson then moves over to Joshua 11, where we see that Joshua did indeed move by faith with courage. Scripture tells us of the land that Joshua and the children of Israel took (vss.16-17); God Scripture tells us that Joshua made war a long time with the kings of the Promised Land and he and the children of Israel took them in battle, struck them down, and killed them (v.18).
God had previously instructed the children of Israel that when they would go into the land to possess it, He would cast out many nations before them (Deut. 7:1). Scripture makes it clear that when the Lord delivered those nations to them, Israel was to conquer them and utterly destroy them. Israel was not supposed to make any covenants with them, nor marry them, nor show them mercy (Deut. 7:2-3).
Why did God commanded that of Israel? The reason behind this was because Israel had been chosen to be a holy people of the Lord. The desire was for them not to be corrupted by the people that inhabited the land. Those in that land of Canaan had shown themselves to be worshipers of idols – sinners – and God did not want their sinful way to influence the ways of Israel (Deut. 7:3-11).
So, Joshua was a man of faith and was obedient to God’s command. I would tell you that he is one of the few people in scripture that moved in faith, with courage and little to no fear. Joshua’s courage was on full display from the beginning when he led the children of Israel across the Jordan to Jericho, the well fortified city and captured the city; the whole land fell to Israel according to all that the Lord said (vss.21-23).
Do you see what faith in the Lord can accomplish? Do you see what being obedient to His word can accomplish? As I preached all of August, you and I can’t be afraid to move in faith. Too often, we are fearful to move in faith and many of us are too afraid to even go to the Lord in those moments.
I often wonder why we are so afraid to even go to God when we need His words of encouragement? Honestly, think about that for a moment!
Something that you and I must come to remember, is that as God had promised to bless the children of Israel, He has also promised to bless those who believe in His only begotten Son. Let us remember that Jesus said that if we – those of sincere faith – abide in Him, and His words abide in us, we will ask what we desire, and it will be done for us (John 15:7). What this means to us is that God will certainly give to us the desires of our heart if we walk by faith and desire to bear His fruit (John 15:8).
Along those same lines, we must remember the Lord’s even greater promise to us which is to inherit the Promised Land of His heavenly kingdom. Do you remember what John 3:16 says? Jesus said to Nicodemus that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but will have everlasting life.
When you’re afraid to move in faith and choose to go to the Lord in prayer, He will encourage and uplift you in the same manner that He did for Joshua. God will remind us what He did for those that came before us and walked by faith. The Lord will even remind you of all that He has already done for you! Through the Holy Spirit, God will remind you of His word and we will remember that He is not one to ever break His promises.
So, as I did for all of August, I encourage you once again to refrain from being fearful. I encourage you in those moments where you anxiety is building up and you’re becoming fearful, turn to the Lord. And again, when you do this, the Lord will give you the courage to step out in faith.