Be Strong and of Good Courage

SINCE THE COVID-19 pandemic began people have become more fearful of mental illness caused by loneliness and anxiety about the future.

Increasingly we hear people speaking about ‘mindfulness’, ‘mental wellbeing’, building ‘self confidence’ and ‘self esteem’.

During this time, while reading my Bible, I could not help noticing how often phrases like ‘Be strong and of good courage’ and ‘Do not fear’ occur. Reflecting on these is an effective remedy to the fearfulness and anxiety of modern life.

Conquest of the Promised Land

Our journey begins when Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt. He said to the people, ‘Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again’ (Exodus 14:13).

As they approached the Promised Land they defeated Sihon king of the Amorites, then Og king of Bashan came out against them. Moses encouraged the people:

The Lord said to me, ‘Do not fear him, for I have given him and all his people and his land into your hand. And you shall do to him as you did to Sihon the king of the Amorites, who lived at Heshbon… and I commanded Joshua at that time, ‘Your eyes have seen all that the Lord your God has done to these two kings. So will the Lord do to all the kingdoms into which you are crossing. You shall not fear them, for it is the Lord your God who fights for you (Deuteronomy 3:2, 21–22).

Moses urged the people to be strong and capture the land which God was giving them:

If you say in your heart, ‘These nations are greater than I. How can I dispossess them?’ you shall not be afraid of them but you shall remember what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt… You shall not be in dread of them, for the Lord your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God (Deuteronomy 7:17–21).

As Moses was approaching the end of his life he encouraged the people again, and inaugurated his servant Joshua as their new leader:

Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall put them in possession of it”… And the Lord commissioned Joshua the son of Nun and said, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the people of Israel into the land that I swore to give them. I will be with you” (Deuteronomy 31:7, 23).

Moses died, and the book of Joshua opens with God’s commission to the people’s new leader:

Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go… Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:6–9).

God told Joshua not to be afraid of the five kings of the Amorites with whom he fought (Joshua 8:1), and Joshua passed on the encouragement to his people: ‘Do not be afraid or dismayed; be strong and courageous. For thus the Lord will do to all your enemies against whom you fight’ (10:25).

At the end of his life, when God had given the land to Israel, Joshua called the people together, and commanded them to be faithful to their God: ‘Be very strong to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left’ (23:6).

Kings of Israel

Some four hundred years later, Israel was ruled by the valiant king David who fought many battles, always being of good courage and strength. Near the end of his life he called for his son Solomon, and charged him to build a temple for the Lord God of Israel:

Be careful now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary; be strong and do it… Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the Lord God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished (1 Chronicles 28:10, 20).

Other kings of Judah who followed Solomon were also exhorted to be strong and courageous. For example Asa in 2 Chronicles 15:7-8, Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 19:11 and 20:14-17 and Ahaz in Isaiah 7:4.

What About Us?

So what about us? The encouragement God gave to the great men of the past, He also gives to us: ‘Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!’ (Psalm 27:14).

Looking forward to God’s Kingdom, the prophet Isaiah had words of encouragement for the faithful: ‘Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you’ (Isaiah 35:4).

And again: ‘He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint’ (Isaiah 40:29–31).

We have a hope of salvation through Jesus. At his birth the shepherds were told by the angel: ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people’ (Luke 2:10). Jesus himself said to his disciples (and us): ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid (John 14:27).

God Himself provides the equipment we need, through our reading of the Bible:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil… Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:10–17).

We must therefore ‘be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong’ (1 Corinthians 16:13).

Rosie Parkinson

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