God encourages Joshua in a time of great change and potential instability by telling him three things about himself. We’ve looked at the first two in the two previous posts. It remains now to note God’s final assurance to Joshua from his own character.
3. God Remains with His People
No one shall be able to stand against 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 (Jos 1.5).
It may seem odd that God starts with the conclusion or the result rather than the basis. He assures Joshua that his enemies will fall before him; no one will be able to stand against him.
As we’ve noted, this is not because of Joshua’s skill with a sword, or the strategic and tactical depth of experience in his battlefield commanders. This army has had some battle experience—just recently—but they’re still fairly new at it. Further, they’re about to attack the Canaanites on their home turf, something that puts them at a disadvantage in both tactics and morale.
So why this outrageously optimistic outcome?
God is with him, and he will be with him uninterruptedly throughout the campaign. As he was with Moses, so he will be with Joshua.
We’ve noted before that God is the kind of person who keeps his promises. He’s going to keep the promise of the Land, made to the patriarchs and most recently to Moses, faithfully and powerfully. He doesn’t get tired or distracted or called away on something more urgent—in fact, there is no “away” with the omnipresent God.
The Hebrew word translated “fail” here (“leave” in the NKJV, ESV, and NIV) speaks of loosening the hand and letting something drop. It’s used that way in Ezekiel 21.7—
And when they say to you, “Why do you moan?” you shall say, “Because of the news that has come.” Every heart will melt and all hands will be feeble, every spirit will faint and all knees will turn to water. See, it comes and it will be fulfilled, says the Lord God.
The hand loosens. The weapon falls. The battle is lost.
When my daughters were still living at home, occasionally I would be watching a football game on a Saturday afternoon while lying on the couch. Because there are multiple games on, I’d have the remote in my hand, ready to check on another game when the commercial break comes to this one. Well, it’s Saturday afternoon, after lunch, and I’m lying on the couch, and you know what happens.
I doze off.
My daughters, who aren’t interested in the game and would rather watch something else, would gently ease the remote out of my hand and change the channel. At some point—maybe immediately, maybe a few minutes later, I’d wake up and say, “Hey! I was watching that!”
God’s hands don’t go limp on his people, either from lack of commitment or from exhaustion. God is there for Joshua and his army, keeping his promise to deliver them to the land, overwhelming their enemies certainly, faithfully, attentively, effortlessly.
He’s like that with us too.
As we noted in the previous post, he has made promises to us as well—more promises, in fact, than he made to Joshua. And it is impossible for him not to keep them, whether by forgetting or by becoming exhausted or by losing interest.
When everything around us is changing, God is not. He cannot violate his own character.
Interestingly, this promise to Joshua is quoted in the New Testament and applied to us in a specific context:
Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (He 13.5).
Contentment in the midst of chaos is a powerful testimony to a solid foundation and a confident purpose. We have what we need. God is enough.
The next verse broadens the application:
So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?” (He 13.6).
God’s promised presence dismisses fear of both the known and the unknown.
Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, LORD,
who walk in the light of your presence (Ps 89.15).