Be Strong and Courageous

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. 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. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:6-9 ESV)

A temptation I sometimes face is thinking that because I understand a passage and have a general idea of how it applies in my life, I know it well enough to move on to something new. I’ve replaced the goal of obedience with an easier one of understanding. I congratulate myself for having understood the passage and for the desire to live it out, as if that were enough. I’m afraid that a lot of our teaching in the church unintentionally reinforces this kind of perspective. We study a Bible passage, reflect on its application, pray together, and then leave our group to go our separate ways. When we regather in another week or so, we don’t often continue to reflect on the lesson of the previous week, but we move on to something new. Our knowledge and understanding of Scripture may be growing, but it’s not being matched by transformation and increased obedience.

In this passage, Joshua had recently become the leader of the nation of Israel as they were preparing to enter the land promised to them by God. God urges him to have the strength and courage needed to obey what God has commanded. It’s not going to be easy, and there will be times that Joshua will be discouraged and afraid, so God urges him to be strong and courageous. To do this, God turns Joshua’s attention back to the Law that He had given to Moses as a sure guide for him and for the nation. God’s desire is that Joshua not just know and understand the Law, but to live it out. He is “to do according to all the Law that Moses my servant commanded you.” To accomplish this, God urges Joshua to “meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.”

When I know that I will be leading a Bible study group, something I have learned is not to rush the preparation shortly before the lesson, but to spread it out over several days, taking the first two to three days simply to read the passage(s) over and over, asking God to teach me through them, and to meditate on them. This provides an opportunity for God to show me what is important for myself, and what is important for those I will lead through the study. The meaning of the passage may be clear, but its significance for us in this time and place may not be, and I need God’s help for discernment. I read, meditate, and pray that the Holy Spirit would take this “living Word” and use it for God’s purposes for His people today, myself included.

In your own Bible study leadership, are you rushing your preparation? I once knew a man who first read through his Bible lesson on the morning that he was to teach the children’s Sunday School class. How sad! His teaching had simply turned into a task to accomplish, rather than an opportunity for God to teach him and then use him to help the children more fully know God’s desire for them and how to walk with Him more closely. Instead of rushing the preparation, I like to think of reading and meditation over a few days as “marinating” in God’s Word, letting it sink in and impact me more deeply over time. I love to cook on the grill, and we often marinate the meat for a couple of days, allowing the flavors to penetrate the meat. In the same way, as you read, reread, and meditate on the passage you will be studying with your group, invite the Holy Spirit to show you the relevance and implications of those Scriptures for you, then for those you will teach. This approach may deepen the impact of your lesson as God uses your extended time in the Scriptures to guide your preparation.

God affirms that the success of Joshua’s endeavors depends not only on His knowledge of, but on his obedience to God’s instruction. God has given him clear, trustworthy, guidance, and though Joshua’s circumstances may feel stressful, God assures him that all will be well because He Himself with be with Joshua, wherever he goes. This promise applies to us as teachers, as well. God has given us not only instruction through His Word, He has also given us Himself. He is with us as we study the Scriptures with others, able to help us understand and apply what we learn. For this reason, Joshua could be strong and courageous instead of frightened or dismayed. It gives us strength and courage for our teaching ministries as well.

Thank you, Father, for giving me your Word to guide me in my walk with you. Even more importantly, thank you for your presence with me as I study your Word, as I prepare my lessons, and as I lead my study group. May I learn how to meditate on your Word so you can teach and transform me, and help me better understand the significance of the Scriptures for those I teach. In addition, may your presence with me give me courage and strength for the task of teaching, knowing that you are at work among us for our good! Amen.

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