Be Strong and Obedient – Joshua 1:9 [God’s Little Deconstruction Book]

Gods Little Deconstruction Book, Joshua 1:9 - Bible with Green and Black's Organic Milk Chocolate with Almonds

Study: God’s Little Deconstruction Book

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Today’s Passage: Joshua 1:9

Today’s verse from God’s Little Instruction Book is a staple of inspirational literature. You may be familiar with it and the two verses preceding it; you may even have memorized one or more of them. As the book of Joshua opens, Moses has just died, and immediately God commissions Joshua to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. That’s where we find the verse of the day, Joshua 1:9.

Along with the charge to claim the Promised Land, God gives Joshua encouragement. But even the encouragement comes in the form of a command. God asks, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord is with you wherever you go” (9). It’s God’s second time telling Joshua to “be strong and courageous;” the phrase also shows up in verse 7. And God’s rhetorical question implies, “I wouldn’t tell you to do something that I hadn’t put it in your power to do.” The reiterated command forms a foundation for confidence.

Truth be told, I get wary of verses like this one whenever we give them a prominent place in Christian culture, in our sermons and books and self-help video series. I think we can risk trivializing them through overexposure, or forgetting that they occur in a particular narrative with a historical context and that they don’t necessarily apply to us at all times and in all places. And I think American hypermasculinism in particular fetishizes strength and courage, overspiritualizing them and elevating them as virtues to a higher position than we find them placed in the Bible.

Joshua needed strength and courage at that time. He had a big task ahead of him and he needed a strong mental and emotional place to act from. But the other side of the coin is that he needed to take orders from God. He needed obedience and reliance on God. Moreover, the text doesn’t designate the virtues of strength and courage as specifically or even particularly masculine. Women, too, can learn from God’s charge to Joshua.

I also find it interesting that, between exhortations to be strong and courageous, God commands Joshua to keep the Torah at the forefront of his mind and life: “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” (8). Do we reflect on the Torah day and night? And to what extent is it desirable that we do so?

But that is a question for another post.

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