Joshua was Moses’ right hand man just next to Aaron. He was with Moses when God spoke on the mountain, when Moses raised his arms over the embattled People of God when Moses was seemingly controlling the battle from afar. Joshua was there looking on when Moses broke the original tablets known as the Ten Commandments. Bottom line, Joshua was very much in mix from the beginning. So much so, that when Moses passed away, Joshua was assigned as the leader of the Hebrew Nation. That’s a big deal!
Joshua was a rightly freaked out. The book bearing his name opens with a story of God saying, ‘Take courage! Do not be afraid!’ The new leader only needed to hear this about three more times before he started to understand that he needed to take courage. But what Joshua really needed to know was that the God of his fathers was the real leader of this ragamuffin band called God’s Chosen People and that he was in the fight with him.
Unlike the flannel-graph depiction of Joshua talking to a blue-eyed, blond haired, massive angle on a hill who was delivering a message from ‘gawd,’ there is little doubt that Joshua had some legitimate fear and the God of the Hebrew nation was there to help him figure things out.
Massive amounts of books and articles have been written on fear. Several will speak of doing one thing and others will say do another thing. But in the beginning, the message was simple and clear: Be strong and courageous! [It’s worth to note that the message Joshua heard from the angle, it also carried with the message of WHY he was to be strong and courageous. There is always a WHY behind the reason of taking courage.]
No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. (Joshua 1:5-7 ESV)
So why the Sunday-School lesson? Simple. Like Joshua, our fear seems very real and at times really spooky. It’s a legitimate emotion, validated by our shaky knees and sweaty palms and sleepless nights. It’s only when we take courage and join forces with someone else that the edge is taken off.
What fear do you have? Where do you need to take courage? Is it in that talk with your teenage daughter, your wife, or your boss? Or is your fear in your investments and you need courage to hold or sell that stock?
That “someone else” may be God, it may be your spouse, it may be a friend. But the the truth is, we all need to take courage because we all have a fear. We are not alone in this fight despite what we may feel and see.
So, Take Courage, the path you are on has been trodden before and will be trodden after. Be strong when you feel weak, run when you want to walk, laugh when crying is easier, dig deeper when others say, ‘enough.’
How true it is that this journey may not led you where you thought it might; things may be different on the other side of fear and the other side of courage.
But then, maybe weeks or many years later, you can stand with someone who is frightened and afraid and render the same advise- “Take Courage, I’ve been this way before.”