How many times do we disciples lose heart? “I’ve failed again, I’ve messed up—God wouldn’t want me in His Kingdom!” So did you notice what God says in ALL of today’s Bible readings (Joshua 1; Isaiah 7; 1 Thessalonians 1, 2)? In a number of ways He gives each of us comfort and encouragement. He actually DOES want us in His Kingdom and He is always going to be there for us to make sure that, despite our weakness, He is with us to succeed.
Just think of these reassurances. God’s encouragement is seen first of all in Moses encouragement to Israel—“be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them (the nations in the land), for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deut 31 v 5,6). Moses then repeats that encouragement to Joshua in front of all Israel—“be strong and courageous, for you (Joshua) must go with this people into the land…..the LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged” (vv 7,8). So Moses tells Israel and Joshua—“God will be with you; don’t give up”. But that’s not all—God Himself then speaks to Joshua: “be strong and courageous, for you will bring the Israelites into the land I promised them on oath, and I myself will be with you” (v 23).
We might imagine that should have been enough reassurance for Joshua. Once Moses was dead, Joshua would simply step up and get on with it! But God perhaps knew Joshua. After all, Joshua could have been somewhat in awe of Moses and unsure of his ability to follow through the task. He had very big shoes to fill. If Joshua didn’t write the words or hear them spoken, he would have been in no doubt at all from all his experience with Moses of the truth of the recorded words, that ‘no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face…’ and ‘no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.’ (Deut 34 vv 10-12). This could have been daunting task for Joshua to follow on from Moses’ leadership. He could have been overcome with doubt and so God wanted to be very clear and leave Joshua certain and committed.
So in today’s reading, after Moses is dead, God moves again to reassure Joshua in the strongest possible terms.
“No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. 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 vv 5-9)
Was that enough? No, the people themselves then again come to Joshua and repeat the words—“only be strong and courageous” (read verses 16 to 18). What an extraordinary encouragement for a servant of God standing on the threshold of the fulfillment of God’s promises! What an extraordinary encouragement for ANY servant of God! What an extraordinary encouragement for you and me!
In the Isaiah text (ch 7) the same message is given by God to His people. The special child who was to be a sign, would bear the name Immanuel (v 14), which means, “God is with us”. Isaiah’s powerful lesson continues in words that have relevance to us when he challenges those who are against God to try and undermine and destroy His plans for the future—“devise your strategy, but it will be thwarted; propose your plan, but it will not stand, for God is with us” (ch 8 v 10). It was God’s promise to His people Israel. It is still God’s promise to His people today. “God is with us” and all we need to do, is to believe that it is true.
Similarly in the New Testament reading the lesson is provided when Paul reminds the disciples at Thessalonica, that they are “loved by God….He has chosen you” (1 Thessalonians 1 v 4).
So as we commence another week, dear brother, sister or friend, don’t be discouraged or disheartened. These promises were made to Joshua and the one he foreshadowed, who also bore his name—Jesus, our Saviour—that’s true! But He also made the promise to Israel in Moses and Joshua’s day, in Isaiah’s day and to the believers at Thessalonica. It is not a promise He makes only to Bible heroes like Joshua and Jesus. He makes it to you too! You really cannot fail! Even when you mess up, as you will, our Joshua, Jesus, is there to help you and strengthen you. God loves you and wants you in His Kingdom. He has chosen you. He will never, ever leave you and certainly will not forsake you. Be strong and very courageous and God Himself will be with you!
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