One can watch a professional basketball game and hear the announcer describe a sequence of events as a player makes a strong move to the basket, and finishes with a courageous shot under pressure. While I appreciate the athlete, and his God-given abilities as much as the next person, I would hardly classify them as doing something which they are paid millions to do (with no real ramifications for failure) as something that is “strong and courageous”….at least in the Biblical sense of those words.
Our application of these terms to human achievement and ability seems to be only a symptom of an even deeper seeded problem lurking deep within the human psyche. Our depravity tells us that the strong and courageous are those who have ability and skill and are able to achieve great feats. Over against this is the Divine definition of strength and courage, and how different it is from a secular understanding of those terms!!
Strength and courage, by God’s definition, have absolutely nothing to do with bicep size or three point range or the size of a 401k or anything of that sort. Rather, true strength and courage has everything to do with a union with the One who is Himself the “strong tower” for His people, and the Courageous and Bold Lion of the tribe of Judah who defends His people. Remember that the apostle Paul wrote the words “be strong” to the man known as “timid Timothy.” Why could Paul confidently give that command and know that Timothy could do it? Because he would just decide to have a personality change and suddenly become bold? NO! Be strong in the GRACE THAT IS IN CHRIST JESUS. There is true boldness- standing in grace- and what is grace but that which opposes anything that we can do in and of our own strength? This should give form and frame to the way in which we understand the commands which are given to Joshua and the Old Covenant Church in Joshua 1 to “be strong and courageous” (a phrase repeated four times in the chapter).
Joshua is told in verse two that “Moses, my servant is dead.” Elders come and go. God’s men come on the scene and they pass off of the scene. This is the way in God’s church. Hebrews 13 reminds us to “remember your elders, those who have spoken the word of God to you, and consider the outcome of their faith.” The Hebrew author wants us to remember the faith of those who have ministered and passed on. Later in the same passage, he commands us to obey our current elders as those who are watching over our souls. Between those verses speaking of elders past and present we are told that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday (when the old elders preached Him to us), today (while the current elders preach Him to us), and forevermore (as long as the church, with her officers is on the earth and into eternity).
What Israel and Joshua were being reminded of is what we need to be reminded of constantly: DON’T WORSHIP THOSE WHO PREACH CHRIST: WORSHIP THE CHRIST THAT THEY PREACH!! Nothing is more repugnant to me than preacher worship, and I certainly speak as one who has that tendency. Adam, Seth, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Samuel, David, John, Peter, Paul, Augustine, Athanasius, Polycarp, Wycliffe, Hus, Knox, Calvin, Zwingli, Luther, Edwards, Whitfield, Owen, Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones, and countless other heralds of Christ have come and gone. All of God’s preachers will eventually die. This is an inescapable rule.
As they say, however there is an exception to every rule. One preacher, the Great Preacher Himself came to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom, the Chief Shepherd of God’s flock came, and His followers saw Him die as well. As He was facing death, one of his most trusted congregants, in a moment of weakness and cowardice, denied he even knew him and even went so far as to curse him. This Preacher, however rose from the dead, and has poured out His Spirit on all of His church. What are the effects of this? Well, just look at that weak and cowardly congregant named Peter who after the resurrection, became, shall we say bold and courageous when he declared “we ought to obey God rather than men”!! Moses was a “servant in God’s house, but Christ is the builder of that house (Hebrews 3). May we remember that our boldness and courage are defined by, and found in the gospel of Christ who is the Chief Shepherd. Moses, and all other under shepherds either are or will die as long as the Lord tarries. Christ, the Chief Shepherd lives forever! He is our strength and courage!!
As I have had the opportunity to spend most of the day in preparation for a sermon series through the book of Joshua, I am again refreshed in the gospel of the powerful and sufficient, steadfast and unchangeable character of the Lord Jesus Christ that we find in Chapter 1 of that book.