“Be strong and courageous.
Moses spoke these words to Israel, and to Joshua, as he passed the torch of responsibility to lead them into the promised land. Imagine having to fill the shoes of Moses. Often, when we find the tasks God purposes for our lives insurmountable and impossible, our reaction is to shrink away, feeling unqualified and undeserving of such roles and responsibilities.
“Who am I,” Moses said to God, “that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11) In every who am I moment, we can remember our I am God. He is the God of miracles, the God of the impossible, the God of creation, and the God who rescues us. Out of His great love for us, He involves us in His eternal plan that every ear should have a chance to hear the Gospel. When we feel afraid to climb the mountains and accept the missions God has called us to, we can embrace and recall this truth: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you or forsake you.”
What Does it Mean to Be Strong and Courageous in Deuteronomy 31?
After Moses addressed the people of Israel, he turned his attention specifically to Joshua:
“Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the LORD swore to their ancestors to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. 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.”
We all need mentors in the faith to encourage us. “What God has made our duty,” Matthew Henry explains, “we have reason to expect opportunity and assistance from him for the doing of.” Those who have gone before us can take the weight we bear off of our shoulders and speak peace and truth into our lives. God speaks through many, just as he did Moses to Joshua, to equip and cheer us on in our mission for the gospel.
“Joshua was to be strong and courageous as he led the people,” Dr. James Emery White explains, “He was to be strong and courageous in obeying God’s word. And finally, in Joshua 1:9, he was to be strong and courageous in terms of endurance.” This was a big moment for Joshua. One where he likely felt the nervous angst that rises up in the human gut when we are charged with something big and the time comes to execute the task at hand. “While they had the power of God engaged for them,” Matthew Henry explained in his commentary, “they had no reason to fear all the powers of Canaan engaged against them.” We give pep talks to our kids before big events, and we pump up our teammates before a game or a meet. Encouragement comes from the very heart of God. Selfless, loving, and truthful encouragement.
Strong, translated from the original Hebrew, means to strengthen, prevail, harden, be strong, become strong, be courageous, be firm, grow firm, be resolute. Courageous, to be strong, alert, courageous, brave, stout, bold, solid, hard. “By trusting in the Lord and obeying him, his followers would be victorious in spite of great obstacles,” the NIV Study Bible explains. Hebrews 13:5 reminds us to apply the Old Testament Scriptures to our new covenant lives:
“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’”
The author of Hebrews quoted Deuteronomy 31:6, emphasizing God’s faithfulness to provide for His people, both spiritually and physically. He is our Provider. “They were called to face their fears because it would train them to put their trust in the right Hope,”
“I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go,” God spoke to Jacob in his dream, recorded in Genesis 28, “and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (v15) The reason Joshua, and we, do not have to fear, has everything to do with who God is. “When Jacob awoke from his sleep,” Genesis 28:16 reads, “he thought, ‘Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.’” He is near. Our sovereign, omnipotent God, Creator of the Universe and Author of our steps, is with us.
For Joshua in the Old Testament, knowing God rooted his confident steps. For New Testament believers, we know God is in us, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in every believer in Jesus Christ. Strength and courage flowed through Joshua as He obeyed the Lord via the laws God left with Moses. The Bible records God urging him not to stray from His laws and commands. God’s boundaries and commandments are the guardrails that keep us from careening over the steep side of a mountain on account of black ice. Jesus says in the New Testament when we abide in Him and His Word abides in us, we can ask anything. Jesus is the Living Word of God. Strength and courage flow through a life lived within the love of Christ.
Where Else Does the Bible Talk about Being Strong and Courageous?
Be strong and courageous! The Lord encouraged Joshua several times with the same words! After Moses spoke them to the people of Israel (v6), he then turned to Joshua and spoke the same words to him in front of all of the people (vv7-8). The phraseology is repeated multiple times in the same passage of Scripture, and throughout the Bible, an important attribute to watch for in God’s Word!
- “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them,” Joshua 1:6
- “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave to you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.” Joshua 1:7
- “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 1:9
- “Whoever rebel against your word and does not obey it, whatever you may command them, will be put to death. Only be strong and courageous!” Joshua 1:18
- God also told Solomon, and Hezekiah’s officers to be strong and courageous.
Where Should We Get Our Strength and Courage From?
Our strength and courage don’t come from a healthy diet, a certain devotional plan, or a ten-step healing program. Strength and courage come from God, through Christ, as we obediently walk out His purpose for our lives. The Bible says when we seek Him with all of our hearts we will find Him. Time in prayer, and in God’s Word, allow us to see the next steps God has for our lives. We are strong because His strength and truth flow through our minds and our hearts. “God wants to be in a relationship with us, but relationships are, by definition, mutual,” Sonya Downing explains, “As such, we need to put effort into that relationship by getting to know God through Scripture and applying what we learn from it.”
Strength is surrendering to our Lord Jesus and allowing God to work through the talents He’s planted in us, and ways He’s gone ahead to prepare. “God isn’t needy of worthy men,” Crawford Loritts preached, “He makes men worthy.” Paul wrote about the way God formed and purposed him in his mother’s womb. We can take courage in the fact God knows who we are, who we were always supposed to be. Everything He does and allows is meant to draw us closer to Him. “God does not want us to be strong,” Jon Bloom writes, “God wants to be our strength.” Courage comes from the core of Who He is and Whose we are. Strength and courage come from a dedicated and obedient heart, through Christ. “I’m a slave to Christ,” Paul passionately wrote (Titus 1:1). He knew he had to be, for every ounce of strength and courage Paul needed to face dire circumstances came from the Lord.
A Prayer to be Strong and Courageous
Abba, Yahweh; Jesus, Messiah; Holy Spirit, Breath of God. Glory to You for this day, and Your purpose for it. Praise You for all of our days, each and every breath, and the way You have gone before us and purposed our lives. You reign sovereign over a world that is scary to walk out into some days. You are the source of our strength, and the root of our courage. Soften our hearts to Your Word, Father. Place a moldable, mendable, and willing spirit in us. Thank you for the accessibility we have to Your Word, and the resources we have to help us understand Scripture better. Guide us and guard our hearts from falsities and twisted truths. Keep us focused on You, and forgive us for placing anything or anyone other than You on the throne of our hearts. Reign in our lives, Lord. Have Your way, and execute Your will in and through our lives. Produce the courage and strength we need to walk out into the world, daily, in order to love as You have commanded.
In Jesus’ Name,
This famous piece of prose from the Bible is not just meant to serve as a pep talk, but as a reminder to follow the Lord, to obey His commands, and to take the work we do for Him seriously. Even if we are not placed in an official ministry role, our walk of faith leads others. In our daily lives, discipline and obedience as we follow Christ is important. The strength and courage we need to endure come from a life lived within the love of Christ. Paul encouraged us to pray continually, and the author of Hebrews urged us not to fail to meet together.