Recently I was standing with a group on the peak of the Golan Heights overlooking “no man’s land.” In the distance we could see Damascus, Syria. As our guide was explaining what we were seeing and the current political situation relative to this region we heard a boom. Then a boom, boom, boom. It sounded like artillery fire and it created a few tense moments among many in our group. When the guide just kept explaining as if nothing unusual was happening we uneasily attempted to listen as he finished his explanation.
Imagine moving toward the shooting. Not a viable option unless you’re a trained and well-equipped soldier. No reasonable person would walk into such a dangerous situation without fear and apprehension. Joshua was commanded to do something similarly dangerous by God. He was told to cross a river into enemy territory and start fighting for a land occupied by unusually large people in fortified cities. And he was to do this with an entire nation. And this mass of people was not particularly adept in the art of war. A tremor must have rippled through Joshua’s heart.
Joshua was given a task which must have seemed to him almost beyond dangerous. More like truly impossible. Think about his situation. As a starting point he had to follow in the footsteps of a towering and much revered figure in Bible history. He was commissioned to mobilize and motivate the sons and daughters of rebels to accomplish God’s will. He was enlisted to annihilate entrenched enemies who wouldn’t abandon their territory without fierce fighting. He had to cross a raging river with an entire nation looking to him as their leader. It’s not surprising that four times in Joshua 1 God tells Joshua to “be strong and courageous.” Joshua must have really needed to hear those words. And beyond the command God gave Him the reason he could be brave and move forward in His mission with confidence. God said to Joshua, “Be brave because I am with you.” In our fear and desperation there are no more reassuring words.
I have little doubt that Joshua had some sleepless nights and anxiety-filled days as he faced his impossible task. Even great men of faith have doubts. Moses did. We all need help. We all need God’s stabilizing presence. Even Jesus called on the Father for help when facing certain death. And He walked into the fire with poise and dignity.
With our God we can face our next challenge with courage and strength. I’m not suggesting we walk toward the sound of bullets. But when God calls us to risk danger, and we’re sure it’s His voice commanding us, we can move bravely into battle. Like it says later in Joshua, “God fights for us.”