Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
The verse above is a good one to think about with respect to how one is to interpret what the Bible says. One observation is that the Bible tells us things because we, personally, need to hear them. We shouldn’t read what God has told us as something that’s good for the other guy. It’s good for me and it’s good for you, but not only good, it’s very necessary. It’s necessary for life. For example, in the verse above God tells Joshua – and us – that because He is always with those who trust in Him, we should “be strong.” The assumption here is that these words are for those who are not feeling particularly strong at the moment. They may have some daunting task in front of them. They may not feel up to what they are facing just then. They may feel more acutely aware than usual of their weakness and insufficiency for the situation at hand. To this very specific condition the Lord is telling us “be strong, for I am with you, and I am sufficient for the task at hand if you will just follow me.” The same holds true for the next instruction. To the fearful, the overwhelmed, the anxiety-laden heart, God is saying, “Be courageous. You have nothing to fear, for I am with you. I will not forsake you now, at this very moment.” And so, in both the weakness and fear that are assumed in the verse above, we are told that it is God’s presence, strength, and sufficiency that we are to focus on at such moments, and never ourselves.
But a second observation about the passage above and for any other passage in the Scriptures, is that the things God says in one place are not to be viewed in isolation. In other words, we are not to pick and choose what to trust in the Scriptures. We are to trust and obey all of it. In the example above, the same God that has told us to “be strong and courageous” has also told us to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might (Deuteronomy 6:5).” So, if we are in the habit of paying no heed to that command, if our life pattern is to neglect His Word, to sin against Him, and to do our own thing, then there is no reason to think “Be strong and courageous” applies to us. The same God who has told those who follow Him to be strong and courageous, has warned those who will not that calamity is coming. The same God who promised deliverance to the faithful has said to the unbeliever “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution,how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” (Hebrews 2:1-3). In these verses “the message declared by angels” was the Old Testament Law. When the Israelites, under either Moses’ or Joshua’s command neglected it, they were severely punished by such things as disease, defeat at the hands of their enemies, or death. But in the New Testament, the great message that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8),” is given. And if we neglect that Word, we have no reason to have courage and we have no reason not to fear, for whatever we are trusting in other than the Lord, will ultimately fail us in the end.
May God help us to trust Him always as we walk with Him, and may He give us the wisdom to believe all that He has told us. May He give us the heart of the psalmist who said “I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word (Psalm 119:16),” for it is to such people that God’s strength and the courage that comes by way of trusting in Him is certain.