“Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors’” (Joshua 1:6). These were the words the Lord told Joshua when he took over as the leader of the Israelites. But let’s back up some forty years before, when the Lord commanded Moses to send men from each of the twelve tribes of Israel to scout out the land of Canaan. After forty days of scouting the land, they returned to Moses and the rest of the Israelites and gave their report. Ten of the twelve scouts spread fear by expressing that the inhabitants of the land were giants, numerous, and having fortified cities. Joshua and Caleb, two of the twelve chosen to scout the land of Canaan, were the only two that encouraged the Israelites to take the land. Joshua and Caleb said:
The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into the land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them. (Numbers 14:7-9)
After Joshua and Caleb said these things, the Israelite assembly talked of stoning them. These were people who saw the miraculous works of the Lord over and over, yet they constantly complained, doubted, and feared for their lives; even though the Lord had saved their lives numerous times. The Lord called them a “wicked community” who “grumbled” against Him. Do to their unbelief and lack of faith, the Lord forbade them from entering the promised land. The Lord said:
How long will this wicked community grumble against me? I have heard the complaints of these grumbling Israelites. So tell them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Lord, I will do to you the very thing I heard you say: In this wilderness your bodies will fall—every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me. Not one of you will enter the land I swore with an uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. As for your children that you said would be taken as plunder, I will bring them in to enjoy the land you have rejected. But as for you, your bodies will fall in this wilderness. Your children will be shepherds here for forty years, suffering for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies lies in the wilderness. For forty years—one year for each of the forty days you explored the land—you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you.’ I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will surely do these things to this whole wicked community, which has banded together against me. They will meet their end in this wilderness; here they will die. (Numbers 14:27-35)
Forty years later, Moses is dead, and the Lord tells Joshua:
Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them – to the Israelites. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors. (Joshua 1:2, 5-6)
The command to be strong and courageous is repeated four times in the first chapter of Joshua. In one of the commands, the Lord tells Joshua, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” The Lord, however, did not stop there. There were specific expectations that needed to be met:
Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips, meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. THEN you will be prosperous and successful. (Joshua 1:7-8)
Leaders, listen to the command that was given to Joshua. Be strong and courageous. Lead with meaning and purpose. Do not be afraid and do not be discouraged. However, in order to be successful and prosperous, we must keep the Word of the Lord always on our lips and meditate on it day and night. In today’s language, that means to live with integrity, always do what is right no matter the cost, and be in a constant state of reflection. Read the Word of God, listen to what it says, and live it intentionally. As the Apostle James says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22).
There are many distractions that can turn our eyes away from doing what is right. Wealth. Fame. Power. Position. Animosity. Selfishness. Personal gain. The list could go on. However, each of these are mere distractions that lead to weakness; weakness in character and faith. These distractions keep us from leading with strength and courage. As Solomon wrote, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Did you catch that? “In all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths STRAIGHT.” Sounds familiar when read with the command given to Joshua, “Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not TURN from it to the right or to the left.” Strong and courageous leadership starts with submission to God. If you want your company, organization, non-profit, team, family, children, etc. to prosper, you must start by leading with strength and courage, and that begins with submission.
As always, stay humble and serve well!