Fear, Part One

Joshua 1:9

By Kersley Fitzgerald

The Series

Joshua 1:9
Isaiah 41:10 and Jeremiah 29:11
Matthew 6:34
Philippians 4:6-8
Romans 8:28; 1 Corinthians 10:13

From Abraham (Genesis 15:1) to Hagar (Genesis 21:17) to Isaac (Genesis 26:24) to all of Israel (Exodus 14:13), it seems God spent a lot of time reassuring His chosen people. They did have reasons to fear. When they weren't facing incredible odds in battle, they were worshiping other gods and courting God's wrath.

One of the most famous "don't fear" passages is in Joshua 1:9. Moses has died. Joshua is now responsible for taking the Israelites the last few steps into the Promised Land and then leading them into battle to destroy the evil Canaanites and take the land for themselves. He was one of the oldest of the Israelites, and wisest, but he didn't quite have the relationship with God that Moses did. And besides making sure the new settlements were fair and according to God's plan, he needed to constantly remind the stubborn people that they were only there because of the God they were supposed to worship.

In the midst of all this, God told him:
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...Only be strong and courageous. Joshua 1:9, 18b
It sounds pretty straight-forward, but it might help to look more closely at the words.

Commanded — The Hebrew tsavah has military overtones, as would befit a military commander. God gave Joshua not just an order but a commission to reject fear. It was his personal mission to not fear but to be strong and courageous. He had to make a decision to follow this order. This sounds a bit odd to us in the modern age who are taught that feelings are out of our control and the best we can do is learn how to carry on.

StrongChazaq means to strengthen, but it's more than that. It means to be firm, prevail, withstand. The meaning of the word almost assumes success.

Courageous — The next adjective, 'amats, is much like the previous. But in addition to strength, it talks of being alert and brave. Strength is all well and good, but it needs a direction, which 'amats begins to give.

Frightened — The Hebrew 'arats doesn't just mean some general dread. It means to tremble with fear, to be terrified. Joshua, who had seen God work for forty years, who had been one of two ready to take on the Canaanites forty years prior (Numbers 13), was shaking in his boots. The task at hand was overwhelming, and he did not feel ready.

DismayedChathath means to be so dismayed and afraid that you shatter into pieces. Joshua was so afraid, he was ready to collapse to the ground.

So, Joshua was scared. He was trembling. His strength was shattered, and he was ready to melt into a puddle. And God ordered him to reject that fear, to be firm, to prevail against his enemies, and be brave in the face of impossible odds. Most of us know how hard it is to go one despite the fear. To just do the thing. It often feels impossible. But to dismiss the fear entirely?

God didn't leave Joshua to do it all on his own. He gave him a lifeline: "...for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."

God promised to go with Joshua, but the inference is the other way around. God was going with Joshua because Joshua was going where God was. God could promise Joshua that He would be with him because He knew Joshua would follow God's leading and then lead the Israelites to do likewise. It's a similar feel to the boss's article on doing something in Jesus' name. Joshua had no reason to fear because he was acting under the command and authority of God. His success was guaranteed.

Does this apply to us? Not directly. This was a conversation between God and Joshua. It does provide us with an example of the blessings that come with obedience. Joshua put aside his fear, and the Israelites took their inheritance. But the promise God made to Joshua that he would see success doesn't pass on to us. In the next few weeks we'll see that our rewards for rejecting fear and following God look very different.

Image Credit: WikiImages; untitled; Public Domain

TagsBiblical-Truth Christian-Life God-Father

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Published 1-11-16