It Involves More Than Your Backbone

(Please read Deuteronomy 31:1-8.)

THESIS = God calls us to follow Him with a courageous faith.

Courage is needed in times of change.

        The people of God were changing leaders: from Moses to Joshua.

MOSES…SPOKE THESE WORDS TO ALL ISRAEL, “I AM NOW A HUNDRED AND TWENTY YEARS OLD AND I AM NO LONGER ABLE TO LEAD YOU.” 120 is WAY past the mandatory retirement age!  The text literally says, “I am no longer able to go out or come in,” a way of saying, “I can’t work any longer.”

Moses was guilty of his own personal rebellion against God at Meribah.  The details don’t matter at this time; the point here is simply that Moses was done and Joshua was going to be taking his place. “JOSHUA ALSO WILL CROSS OVER AHEAD OF YOU, AS THE LORD SAID;”  the implication is that no one individual is indispensible; God can use anybody, even YOU to accomplish His will.

In verse seven it is written, THEN MOSES SUMMONED JOSHUA AND SAID TO HIM IN THE PRESENCE OF ALL ISRAEL. This was the ceremony of Joshua’s commissioning. God commanded Joshua to BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS here and in Joshua 1:6+9.  This word is not just for leaders, but for all of God’s people.

Human nature has not changed in all the time we’ve existed outside the garden. We need to be lead and we want strong leaders up until the moment they say “no” to us.  God raised up leaders for his people, men who made their own mistakes too.  What was needed to succeed was trust and obedience in God and in the men He had chosen to lead.

The people of God were also changing locations: from the wilderness to the Promised land. They were in this mess only because the previous generation had stood at this very spot 40 years ago and had “turned yellow.”  They refused to go in and by their disobedience, condemned the nation to wander in the wilderness for 40 years, until that disobedient generation had died off. They are reminded twice of the promises of God concerning this land; “HE WILL DESTROY THESE NATIONS BEFORE YOU, AND YOU WILL TAKE POSSESSION OF THEIR LAND” (3). “THE LAND THAT THE LORD SWORE TO THEIR FOREFATHERS TO GIVE TO THEM AS AN INHERITANCE” (7).

Having moved three times in the last 13 months, I can speak to the difficulties of changing one’s location.  I appreciate the courage it takes to be faithful in transitional times.  It is courage based on nothing less than trust in God that gets us through.

If the people lacked courage, these changes would be crippling, not creative.  The same can be said for us, on our walk.  We may not be in the process of forging a new nation, but we are always in some kind of process, countenancing some kind of change.

Courage is based on trusting God.

        We normally think of courage as being something like willpower; based on what I can do.  Instead, true courage is based on trust that God will do as He has promised. In this text we can discern at least three divine promises.

Promise #1: God will act in advance of His commands; He will prepare for your obedience.  As Moses said, “THE LORD YOUR GOD HIMSELF WILL CROSS OVER AHEAD OF YOU,” (verse three), and “THE LAND THAT THE LORD SWORE TO THEIR FOREFATHERS TO GIVE TO THEM AS AN INHERITANCE” (verse seven), and in verse eight; “THE LORD HIMSELF GOES BEFORE YOU.”

Promise #2: God will act decisively and on your behalf. Moses told the people, “THE LORD WILL DO WHAT HE DID TO SIHON AND OG, THE KINGS OF THE AMORITES, WHOM HE DESTROYED ALONG WITH THEIR LAND” (verse four; see also 2:26-3:11) and “THE LORD WILL DELIVER THEM TO YOU” (verse five).

Promise #3: God will act alongside you. To all the people Moses said, “THE LORD YOUR GOD GOES WITH YOU; HE WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU NOR FORSAKE YOU” (verse six). He repeated this promise to Joshua, “HE WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU NOR FORSAKE YOU” (verse eight).

Be obedient to His commands. Even when you don’t understand God’s purpose, methods, or timing, be obedient ANYWAY!  Moses passed this message on from the Lord, “YOU MUST DO ALL THAT I HAVE COMMANDED YOU” (verse five).

How did the fledgling nation of Israel do? Looking ahead to the book of Joshua, we recall that the first city the Israelites faced was Jericho. Remember how that city was taken?  Was it by military might or strategy?  Were any human powers at all responsible?

The only human agency at all was obedience.  In order to prove His point, God had them do something no one had done before or would do since. He commanded them to march around the city once a day for six days.  As He did on the six days of creation, God would be at work.  Though there would be no physical evidence of His work on this occasion.

If they were faithful to parade around the city – a procedure that had absolutely no military value whatsoever – God would deliver the city on the seventh day. The Israelites were faithful, the walls tumbled down, and for all time we have this wonderful example of how courage is trusting God even when what He wills or does makes no earthly sense to us.

Courage, then, is not based on our will.  It is based on our faith.  More than that, it flows from God, the object of our faith.  Courage is acting in obedience to the will of God and with assurance that He is guiding us on precisely the best path.  Our will and knowledge and foresight will certainly fail us.  We succeed as we look to God.

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