Joshua chapter one introduces us to the conquest of Canaan by the children of Israel. They had come up to the borders of the Promised Land forty years earlier but when they spied out the land they were convinced the nations of Canaan were too powerful for them so they refused to go forward. Now, after all the needless years of roaming in the wilderness of the Sinai Desert, they were once again on the doorstep of the Promised Land and this time they wouldn’t turn back.
The Children of Israel had for their leader one of the great military minds of all history in Joshua. He was a brilliant field commander, but more importantly he was totally committed to God, and as a result, usually followed God’s directions and admonitions when it came to battle.
The first chapter of Joshua records God’s instructions to Joshua as he prepares to lead the people of Israel across the Jordan and into the Promised Land. In verse five we read, “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.”
When you and I come to crisis in our lives or we are confronted with difficult decisions, these four promises found in verse five become a source of strength and encouragement. First of all God makes it clear that no one can prevail against Israel. No matter how strong the enemy they are not going to prevail against the Israelites because God is with them guiding and fighting on their behalf.
In Ephesians Paul tells us that, “we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (v.12) There is a spiritual warfare that goes on over each of us. Satan roams this world as a roaring lion seeing whom he may devour, but God tells us no man can stand against us all the days of our lives. All the powers of hell unleashed cannot snatch us out of the hand of God. “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:28
The second promise God makes to Joshua is that just as He was with Moses, “so I will be with you.” The reason that no man nor military power or the power of Satan could stand against the Children of Israel is because God was with them. You and I can find confidence because God walks with us and through the storms of our life He holds us tight. In the 23rd Psalm David writes, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” (v. 4)
I love the faith of the three young men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego when they were to be burned alive in the fiery furnace. “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up.” Daniel 3:17, 18 After Nebuchadnezzar has thrown them into the furnace he expects to see them burning like torches but instead, when he peeks into the fire, he sees something that changes his life. “Did we not cast three men, bound into the fire? They answered the king, ‘True, O king.’ He answered, ‘But I see four men loose walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.’” Daniel 3:24,25 God didn’t snatch the three young men out of the furnace but He protected them and came and walked with them.
The third promise is that God will not fail us. He didn’t set Israel up to fail in their conquest of the land. He promised that as long as Israel followed Him He would never let them down. In the book of Jeremiah are these wonderful encouraging words, “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you says the Lord.” Jeremiah 29:11-14a
The forth promise of verse five is that God, will not, “forsake you.” Not only will God not fail us in His promises and His leading, but also He will never give up on us. He will be with us always. No matter how far away from God we go, He goes with us and continually pleads for us to turn back to Him. Because of their lack of trust, the children of Israel had to ramble for forty years in the wilderness when they could have conquered the land and been settled down in their prosperous new life. But God didn’t throw His hands up in despair and say, “Fine if you don’t want to follow me you are on your own from here on out.” Instead He went with them into the desert and stayed with them, guiding them and helping them through their trials and discouragements. He never gave up on them. And when the time was right He lead them back to the Promised Land and patiently guided them once again.
In Verse six of Joshua chapter one God tells Joshua, “Be strong and of good courage, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.” The promises of verse five are only promises if we do not act upon them with strength and spiritual courage. The promises of God in verse five were only as good as Joshua was willing to make them by being courageous and strong.
God can outline these four promises in verse five to us but, if we refuse to accept them and act upon them they are only empty words. It is not until we get up off the couch and do combat with the problems and situations in our lives will these promises kick in. Then in the knowledge that God is with us, evil cannot overcome us and that God will not forsake us or fail us, we can go forward with courage and strength.
God loves you and is with you through the storms. And in the darkest hours when everything seems to be undone and lost, remember that voice you hear calling across the water is Jesus. “Take heart, it is I, be not afraid.” Matthew 14:27