6 Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.7 Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. 8 This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:6-9 NASB
We often find ourselves like the Israelites after a wilderness experience, asking ourselves what is next? How do we cross over the Jordan River into the promised land of milk and honey? What will the Promised Land look and feel like? Will the promised land still have some of the discomfort, disappointment, pain, lack, ambiguity, or even the loneliness we faced in the wilderness, if so, can we handle it? The question for us during or after any of these wilderness experiences is how do we start over or even continue to go on after the wilderness? How do we hold on to our faith in God? How do we remember that God is still with us in the wilderness? God’s mission to Joshua: I want you to cross the Jordan into the promised land and take the people I have placed under you out of the final stages of the wilderness. God tells Joshua that God will be with him like God was with Moses. Remember Moses spent forty years in the wilderness and during that time God was with Moses in the wilderness. (The Books of Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus and Deuteronomy are all about these forty years.) Like Moses and Joshua, God is with us in our wilderness experiences. In Romans, 8:31-38, God tells us that nothing can separate us from the love God has for us in Christ Jesus, so that includes the wilderness.
Let us look at the advice God gave Joshua before he stepped into the Promised Land or as I call it “a new beginning.” God tells Joshua to be strong and courageous three times. The first time God tells Joshua to be strong and courageous, it reminds me of when we first start seeing the end of the wilderness experience and our new beginning comes into view. We start singing hymns and songs of joy. We remember that joy comes in the morning. We stop asking God why me? We might even shout hallelujah. I just need to cross the Jordan, and everything is going to be over with.
The second and third times, God tells Joshua to be strong and courageous, God promises Joshua that Joshua should not be frightened or dismayed because God is with him wherever he goes. Joshua just has to follow God’s laws to get the promise that God will always be with him. We too are like Joshua, God promised us that there would always be new beginnings and even work things out for our good because we love God. Yes, we will have crosses to bear that we may call wilderness experiences. But like the Israelites and Joshua, each new beginning of our lives starts and ends with us being strong and courageous in God.