"Now it came about after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, that the LORD spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' servant, saying, 'Moses, My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel. Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and as far as the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun will be your territory. No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This 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 success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.' "
God never speaks without purpose. He never wastes a word. Everything He said, Joshua needed to hear.
Interwoven throughout this passage are God's plan, purposes, and promises. Knowing perfectly the heart of man, He knew that his new leader would struggle with the same enemies as we: the world, the flesh, and the devil....leading to feelings of fear, inadequacy, and dismay.
*His PLAN. God has always had a special regard for the nation Israel. For, whatever happens in time was ordained from eternity. His unchanging plan has been (and continues to be) to preserve Israel, evidenced by His unconditional promise(s) made to Abraham (Genesis 12). Intrinsic to this goal is the land. As He told Joshua, "...you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them." To this very hour, there is ongoing disputation, conflict, and even bloodshed associated with the land. The common assumption is that it's all about politics, or the military, or discrimination. In truth, the issue is spiritual. The one who hates God unspeakably, who fanned the fear in Joshua's heart, is the same one who is doing everything he can to destroy Israel and her land. But God is not mocked... His plan cannot be thwarted... He has sworn it, it will be so.
*His PURPOSES. Behind His plan are His purposes... which answer the question, "Why?" Why Israel...why Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob... why Moses...why Joshua..? Why no other nation on earth given the amazing promises THAT nation has been given?
The primary answer: Because He was pleased to do so. He Himself is His own best reason! We love to have every answer to every query neatly explained with no loose ends. But HE is greater than all questions. HE is the ultimate Answer. We experience much churning and inner turmoil which ceases when we settle the matter that HE is GOD. Thoroughly embraced, there is rest and peace for the soul in which He is sovereign.
A corollary answer: the Jewish race was His Son's earthly lineage. From Noah's son, Shem, (from which the term Semites originated) all the way through to the Lord Jesus (and beyond), God has purposed to preserve Israel, the apple of His eye.
In the early part of His ministry, the Lord Jesus set out this priority: "These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them, saying, 'Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,' " (Matthew 10:5,6). The apostle Paul echoed the Lord's emphasis: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to every one who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek," (Romans 1:16). This, then, is God's heart. To have on our heart what is on His, we must purpose to pray (Psalm 122:6) and proclaim His Son's salvation to His people.
*His PROMISES. Vows, oaths, and promises are only as valid as the one making them. When the all-powerful, all-knowing sovereign and living God commits Himself, His Name is at stake, and it will come to pass (Numbers 23:19). In this passage, apparently Joshua was susceptible to feelings of being forsaken, particularly in the light of the daunting task before him. Why this assumption? Notice the repetition of God's promised presence: "Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you." (v.5) "Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." (v. 9)
Also promised to Joshua is the land: "Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you..." (v. 3) "...you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them" (v. 6)
Finally, based on His promised presence are His commands to be strong and courageous... three times He so orders Joshua (and our God never repeats Himself for no reason). The repeated admonitions would no doubt come back to Joshua's mind when needed most. We, too, need those brief & bold commands...for, we also are given to fear, dismay, and intimidation.
What is the tool God gave Joshua (and us, as well)? Meditation upon the Word. It is when we muse upon God's truth, asking Him to apply it to our heart with a willing spirit, that He nourishes our inner man. May He deepen our desire for Him, His Word, and our willingness to pay the price in self-discipline, meditating consistently upon His encouraging faithfulness.