Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. 7 “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. (Joshua 1:6-7 NIV)
Successors of powerful and dynamic leaders rarely experience the same level of success as their predecessor. Joshua was appointed by God to the task of leading the children of Israel into the promised land. While they had been promised that they would be victorious, they had not been promised that possession of the promised land would come without effort.
Four times in the first chapter of the book of Joshua God commands Joshua to be strong and courageous. Many books have been written on what it takes to be a great leader. There is a long-standing debate about whether leaders are born or made. When people are given the opportunity to choose their leader, they most often choose the person who they feel will help them satisfy their desires. Strength and courage are not the character traits we typically look for.
God has different criteria. He is looking for someone who will follow directions, never compromising to satisfy the people who are following. One of the greatest temptations for a leader is to look back to see if anyone is following. If the perception is that they are not following, then the typical response is to change course to reconnect with the followers. As soon as this happens the followers are leading.
One of the meanings for the word strong is firm. Bending to the will of the followers is not strength. The more leaders bend, the weaker and more ineffective they become.
God anticipates that the Israelites will question Joshua’s direction and instruction. The key to success for Joshua will be continually obeying God’s commands aware that only then will God be with him wherever he goes. I wonder how many better ideas Joshua had to listen to when he was given the instructions for the capture of Jericho. Fortunately for us, Joshua was strong and courageous leading the people to follow God’s instructions to the letter.
For my grandchildren:
Be strong and very courageous.