Be Strong and Courageous?

Jonathan Kemper, Unsplash

“As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:5b-9)

At first glance, this can (ironically) be a discouraging passage. There are a lot of commands, and we don’t do a great job with them. When facing challenges, it’s not easy to be strong and courageous. Simply having someone tell us that we should be strong and courageous doesn’t do much to move us. What will change our hearts so that we can be and do what God asks us to be and do?

The structure of this passage very subtly gives us the answer. This passage is a chiasm (from the Greek letter “chi,” which looks like our X: a chiasm can be shaped a bit like an X if it’s small enough).

• I will be with you (5b) — Be strong & courageous (6)

  • Keep this Book; meditate on it day and night (8)

• Be strong & courageous (9a) — The Lord will be with you (9b)

In a chiasm, the center gets the emphasis. That’s the most important part of the passage. That means, in these verses, the most important part is our constant meditation on the Word of God. How could it be otherwise? Meditating continually on who God is, what he has done, and what he promises to do for us motivates us to keep his good and perfect law. It also strengthens our spirits—knowing the God who parted the Red Sea, who raised Jesus from the dead, who is coming to establish his forever kingdom promises to be with us—so that we can be strong and very courageous.

If this command were just a matter of us trying hard to drum up courage from the meager stores within us, we’re not going to do very well. But this passage doesn’t just give us the command; it gives us the means to obey the command as well. Meditate on God’s Word. Remember that this God is with you (even within you). Armed with that knowledge, you can face whatever may come with all the pluck of young David standing before mighty Goliath in the Name of the living God.

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