The REAL Meaning Of Joshua 1:9 (be strong and courageous)

“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

Every year the YouVersion Bible App releases it’s most popular verses for the year, and year after year this verse is at, or near, the top of the list. But the problem is we often take the meaning of Joshua 1:9 as a personal promise. In doing so we often miss the depth and misinterpret what it means in our lives today. 

In this blog post we are going to look at what this verse actually means, and how it applies to our lives and faith today. 

The Context Of Joshua 1:9 

To help us better understand what the meaning of Joshua 1:9 is, I want to first take a look at the larger context in which this verse is written. 

The book of Joshua opens up with the news of Moses, the leader of the Israelites, dying. God tells Joshua that he is going to be the one that leads this nation into the Promised Land (Joshua 1:1-2). It’s a big task and one that will come with a lot of challenges and difficulties. 

This is Joshua’s command, to lead this nation. But he isn’t to do it alone. God makes clear that he will be with him. In Joshua 1:5 he promises Joshua that he will be with him every step of the way. 

Because of this Joshua is to boldly step into this role. Over and over God tells him “be strong and courageous.” Yes, the task might be difficult, but he will provide for him. 

This leads us to the verse we are looking at, and it’s important that we don’t miss this context. Many take Joshua 1:9 as a personal command, but it’s not. It’s a command that God gave Joshua. 

Don’t miss this. The Bible is written FOR you, but it was not written TO you. When we read the Bible like personal letters written directly to us we often misapply what it says. That’s why it’s important that we pay attention to the context in which verses are written. 

That’s not to say there’s nothing in this verse for us today. Quite the opposite! While the promise in this passage is specific to Joshua, the principle extends to us today. But we need to understand the context to properly apply the principle to our lives. 

So, let’s look at the Joshua 1:9 meaning and see what God promises Joshua. Then we will look at how we can be strong and courageous in our lives today. 

The Meaning Of Joshua 1:9 

So, God commands Joshua to lead the nation of Israel into the Promised Land. Between where they are now and where they are going, there will be many trials and tribulations. They will face danger and the unknown. This will not be an easy task. 

To encourage Joshua God makes him this promise… 

Have I Not Commanded You?

God is reminding Joshua of what he’s said so far in the past few verses. 

Joshua 1:5, “I will be with you”
Joshua 1:6, “Be strong and courageous”
Joshua 1:7, “You may have success”
Joshua 1:8, “You will have success”
Joshua 1:9, “Be strong and courageous” 
Joshua 1:9, “God is with you”

Over and over God is repeating the same command to Joshua. Lead the nation boldly and I will be with you. 

Be Strong And Courageous

Joshua’s task is daunting. There will be challenges, enemies, and setbacks along the way. Despite all this, Joshua is to be strong and courageous, and he is to lead confidently. 

Joshua is commanded not to just lead the nation of Israel, but also to do so boldly. To be fearful or to lead trembling would show lack of confidence in God.

Joshua isn’t called to just lead, but to be strong and courageous. 

Do not be afraid

Joshua is surrounded by things to be afraid of. 

He’s taking on a huge responsibility; it’s new to him. Will he be enough? 

He’s going to lead his people to battle; will they win? 

He’s going to have to deal with the problems of his people; does he have wisdom? 

He’s going to daily face challenges and dangers. And despite the plethora of things to be afraid of, God commands Joshua, “do not be afraid.” He is to lead boldly and be strong and courageous. 

You might also like: The REAL Meaning Of 2 Timothy 1:7 (how to not live in fear and timidity)

Do Not Be Discouraged 

Similarly, to not being afraid, he is to not get discouraged. There were likely days where Joshua felt like they would never get there, that the challenges were too big to overcome. 

God is calling Joshua to a high level of faith. To believe in advance what will only make sense in reverse. To trust that God will provide a way even when there seems to not be a way. Joshua is to trust in God and not get discouraged. 

For The Lord Your God Will Be With You Wherever You Go

How is all this possible? How can Joshua be expected to be strong and courageous when he’s facing such dangerous circumstances? How can he not be afraid, not be discouraged? 

The answer is in the last part of Joshua 1:9— God is with him wherever he goes. 

The key to Joshua’s success is not in himself, but in God’s presence with him. Joshua can lead confidently because God will not abandon him. 

Peace is found not in the absence of the storm but in the presence of God. And that’s what Joshua is commanded to believe, that God will provide in the midst of the storm. 

How To Be Strong And Courageous

Now that we know the meaning of Joshua 1:9 let’s look at how it applies to our lives today. Again, remember this verse isn’t written to us. We aren’t called to lead the nation of Israel into the Promised Land. You are not Joshua. 

This verse was not written to you, but it is written FOR you. The principal still applies to us today and has some powerful truth for us to live by. 

Let’s go back through the commands to see how the principles apply to our lives today. 

Living Strong And Courageous 

God calls all of his followers to be strong and courageous. Paul writes this in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”

How do we live strong and courageous? We keep our eye on Jesus. This isn’t something that we can do on our own, but something God does through us. 

If we try to be strong and courageous on our own we will fail. The trials we face in life are too difficult. But with God by our side we can live confidently regardless of what we are facing. 

Living Without Fear

Fear sells in our culture. So many messages center around something you should be afraid of. And many of us live our lives and make decisions out of fear. 

In contrast the message of Jesus is do not be afraid (Matthew 10:28). Why? Because he is bigger than the things we fear. 

In Romans 8:31 Paul says, “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Many of us we get so fixated on the things around us that bring fear. But rather than focusing on those, we should fix our eyes on God. Because if he is for us, then those other things don’t matter when compared to what he has done for us. 

You might also like: What Does The Bible Say About Fear? (and how we can overcome it)

Living Without Discouragement

When we take our eyes off God, not only will fear creep in but so will discouragement. Apart from God it can seem like everything is falling apart, like there’s no hope. 

God will often lead us to places that are challenging, difficult, and that don’t make sense. And faith requires us to trust that while it might not makes sense from our point of view, God is doing what is best. And when we keep our eyes on Him we can find encouragement and hope. 

Closing Thoughts On Joshua 1:9

Joshua 1:9 reminds us that God is with us, therefore we can be strong and courageous as we pursue his calling in our life. 

Spend time reminding yourself of that. Don’t take your eyes off God. Things might get difficult in your life; he might call you to step into the unknown. But you can be strong and courageous if you keep your eyes on him. 

One of the best ways to do this is to develop a routine of connecting with God. One resource I HIGHLY recommend is Mark Moore’s Core 52: A Fifteen-Minute Daily Guide to Build Your Bible IQ in a Year

This book will guide you through ways you can grow in your faith and better understand what the Bible teaches us. It’s a great way to stay focused on God. 

Joshua 1:9 is a reminder that God has something incredible for you. So, step into that story and keep your eyes on him.


Jeffery Curtis Poor
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