In the book of Joshua, God gives Joshua the same promise that Jesus gives to his followers in Matthew 28:
And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (v. 20)
The Lord pairs his promise to Joshua with a command:
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, NIV)
Here’s the deal: You and I often misunderstand what it means for the Lord to be “with us.” And since we misunderstand this promise, we’re bound to break the command, “Be strong and courageous.” Amid the sounds of marching multitudes, war cries, and the sighs and suspense of long nights before battle, God’s Word in Joshua rings out with the Lord’s voice declaring, “I am with you.” We have only to read the stories to see what he means.
Three Ways God Is With You
By His Word
Before Joshua ever crossed the Jordan River to begin the task God laid out for him in securing the Promised Land for God’s people, God promised Joshua his presence, and he gave him his Word.
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 good success. (1:8)
Before Joshua could run into battle armed with God’s promise, he had to actually hear and know God’s Word to him and believe what God said was true. He had to treasure it in his heart so that it would come from his mouth on demand. He had to rehearse and drill the Word into his mind and heart—under the Middle Eastern stars and in the morning sun—lest when the soul-fight came, he’d be left out of shape and ill-prepared.
God was with Joshua through the raw promise he gave in speech. And he would remain with Joshua through the enduring promises he had written in the Law of Moses, if only Joshua would continually meditate on the words.
God is with you, Christian, by his Word. Will you train yourself to listen to and meditate on his voice? Like the routine of a soldier, ruminate yourself in the recordings of the voice of your commander.
By His Son
Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” (3:5)
The people of Israel had to be made holy, cleansed, before God would do wonders among them. The first step in pursuing holiness before conquering Jericho was for the sons of Israel to be circumcised, in accordance with God’s law. This was a sign that they were in covenant relationship with the Lord (Genesis 17:11; Joshua 5:9).
In Colossians 2:11-12, God reveals to us believers how we are consecrated before him through a new circumcision:
In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.
It is through faith in Jesus Christ that we are brought into covenant relationship with God.
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After circumcision, the Israelites pursued holiness by keeping the Passover (Joshua 5:10). They commemorated the Lord’s saving work from their slavery in Egypt, when they were rescued from death by the blood of a lamb. For the Lord had said:
“The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 12:13)
In the same way, the blood of Jesus Christ is a sign for us. When we believe in the name of Jesus, having faith that his sacrifice is sufficient for our salvation, we have the promise that no plague of God’s wrath, nor condemnation, will befall or destroy us (1 John 3:23; John 5:24).
And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Luke 22:19-20)
God, through Jesus Christ, is no longer present to destroy us on account of our sin. He is present to bless his people on account of his own Son’s sacrifice. We have relationship with him and are counted holy because of Jesus.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:9)
But as we remain in this world, we still war with the presence of sin. We must continually search our hearts for any rebel inclinations that would move us to act as God’s enemy in thought, word, and deed. We too must consecrate ourselves as we expect God to be with us, confessing the sin that God’s Spirit has revealed to us, and commemorating the day the Lamb’s blood saved us from the wrath our rebellion deserves.
God is with us and for us only because of his Son, who in fact is “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). Joshua’s performance of the Passover looked forward in faith to the same cleansing for sin that we Christians rejoice in today. Jesus consecrated Joshua as he consecrates us—if we receive him by faith for the salvation of our souls.
Through Your Obedience
Here’s the first wonder Joshua and the people saw as they entered the Promised Land:
As soon as those bearing the ark had come as far as the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water…the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away…And the people passed over opposite Jericho. (Joshua 3:15-16)
All these guys had to do was stick their feet in the Jordan river for God to pull a Red-Sea stunt. All they had to do was exactly what God told them to do, for him to do exactly what he said he would.
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Then Joshua neared the city he was to conquer and God said, “Okay, Joshua, march. March around this whole city full of your enemies for six days—armed. Look like you’re going into battle. On the seventh day march around the entire city seven times. Then blow trumpets and shout” (6:2-6, paraphrase).
Ok, Lord, I would be thinking, Just march and blow the horn? When will we have that Armageddon moment where we’ve got heavenly Blackhawk Down music in the background as we fight to victory? Don’t you want to display your glory?
But Joshua and the people simply obeyed:
So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city. (6:20)
Think about this: God’s people—soldiers in full uniform—got up for six days and were silently marching around the city of their enemies. Then they marched even more and made a ruckus. As if they did not feel ridiculous enough they were told to—shout.
Shout? Seriously God? Isn’t that a little humiliating?
And after shouting, Joshua and company were to go and fight, after a day of marching for hours.
Seriously God? Won’t my men be a little weak?
But when God commanded, Joshua obeyed. And he saw victory.
God said to him before the next battle, “Don’t fear, but go fight” (10:8), and when Joshua did so, “The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day” (v. 14).
See, God didn’t choose to arm Joshua with Captain America qualities that make for a quick showdown. In the weak, weird, and wearying steps of obedience God calls us to take, it’s made abundantly clear that God is with us. God says, “It’s not about what you’ve got going for you; I’m here. It’s not about the size of your enemy; I’m strong. I don’t need you to be strong. I need you to be silent and watch what I’ll do when you trust and obey.”
All we have to do is obey, no matter the measure of our strength or resources, and God is with us.
With the writer of Joshua, we can look back on when the foot hit the water, the trumpet blast hit the air, and the the sun stood still and say, “Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel!” (10:14)
Since we’ve encountered the promise, we’re ready to keep the command: “Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (1:9).
I know what it’s like to cling to a laundry list of limitations and litanies of “but’s.” And man, I know to your core you cringe at the thought of exposing the holes in your confidence. But you’re weak—dust, flesh, fallen—and so am I; we’re so aware of it, we can’t evade it. God does not tell us to ignore it, but to confess it, and to not think it affects what he’s able to accomplish.
For the Lord has told us himself that “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:25). A promised Savior and King dying on a cross felt ridiculously hopeless. Our God in the grave felt limiting and quite weak, to say the least. But the fact is, what was sown in dishonor was raised in glory; the body of Jesus sown into the earth in weakness on our behalf was raised in power (1 Corinthians 15:43).
He Fights for You
What’s God calling you to do that you fear?
Remember God’s servant Joshua. Joshua obeyed—blew the trumpet—and the walls of a massive city bowed to God Almighty. If God says blow, you just blow.
Don’t think on what you’ve got going for you. Think on who you’ve got with you. He’s never been beat before, not even when he hung on a cross. Yours is the victory. Trust in Jesus’ name today and faithfully obey him. He fights for you.
He’ll take your weakness,
Raise from it might,
Give one more reason
To cast your crown at his feet,
And keep you believing
It’s all His fight.
He’ll take your fear,
Raise from it faith,
Give you his shield,
As you hide in his Name,
And keep you beholding
Your Savior’s strength.