He was taking over. And it was no small task. After all, his predecessor was Moses himself. The man who had led the people of God out of captivity. Straight through an ocean. On dry ground, no less. So when Joshua received his God-commissioning, I’m guessing he was feeling a bit, well, inept. That’s probably why God didn’t mince words when He gave him his new title.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9, NIV
And this was the fourth time in only three verses that He told him the same thing. “Be strong and courageous.”
The word God used here for courageous is the Hebrew word ‘amats (transliterated because, well, I’ll just be honest and admit that I have no idea how to even transcribe Hebrew letters, not to mention my keyboard is not Hebrew alphabet compatible.) It means
1) to be strong, alert, courageous, brave, stout, bold, solid, hard
a) to be strong, brave, bold
b) to strengthen, secure (for oneself), harden (heart), make firm, make obstinate, assure
c) to be determined, to make oneself alert, strengthen oneself, confirm oneself, persist in, prove superior to
d) to exhibit strength, be strong, feel strong
This word, amats, can also be translated “steadfastly minded” (Ruth 1:18, KJV). Let’s camp there today.
How awesome of God to use the idea of fixed-mindedness in His pep talk with Joshua! I mean, think about it — courage requires purpose. It requires hope. And hope requires courage. What’s the point in being courageous if there’s no purpose in it? And that purpose is what God wanted Joshua to keep planted in his mind. Firm. Because he was about to lead God’s people to engage in battle after battle for land that, so far, had only been promised to them. Because enemies with spears and swords and big strong men in metal armor are scary. But the land was theirs to claim. That was the hope. The purpose for the courage. And without that purpose in mind, I believe God knew that Joshua would lose heart in the heat of battle.
How aptly that applies to us as we embark on this Team Hope season. Hours upon days of training and sore muscles and blisters and out-of-breathedness (oops sorry, Drew!). But we have purpose. Therefore, we need to amats. We get to help rescue kids from disgustingly evil things that horribly wicked people are doing to them. We get to have a part in helping them find true shelter and real hope. The kind of hope that only Jesus Christ Himself can uncover. Therefore, we have a reason for the courage it takes to be here. Rescuing children. That’s our hope. And it’s our purpose.
I don’t know about you, but that makes me excited. Let’s just not forget that fifteen weeks from now when we’re in the middle of mile number six wondering what the heck we were thinking participating in a long-distance race like this. I believe that’s when we’ll be trusting God for a shot of amats to keep us steadfastly minded and courageous to finish.