The need for strong fathers today is greater than ever before. Here are just three ways fathers need to be strong.
1) Kids need to see fathers who are willing to protect them, not just from physical threats, but also from the spiritual threats that lurk everywhere.
2) Fathers need to be involved in their kid’s lives and keep up on what their interests are and who their friends are and basically where they are going in their lives. To know who they are as a person.
3) Fathers need to be strong examples of godliness in their kid’s lives. They need to see their fathers pray and read the Bible; they need to see them make mistakes and ask forgiveness. They need to see that their fathers have a real relationship with Jesus.
Those are just three ways a father needs to be strong, and I am sure you can add more. It’s a daunting challenge to be a father—and most especially, a good and godly father. As someone said, “It’s easy to become a father, it’s tough to be a father.”
Thankfully, we have a Father in Heaven who loves us and gave us his Word to encourage us. So we’ll turn to the Bible for encouragement and direction. We’ll learn about a man named Joshua whom God told to be strong and courageous as he faced the tough task of leading Israel into the Promised Land.
I. JOSHUA, THE SON OF NUN (1:1)
Joshua 1:1—NOW after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ minister, saying,
Who was “Joshua the son of Nun”? To give you an idea of his character, remember the story of the twelve spies (Numbers 13). Moses sent twelve spies to check out the Promised Land. Ten of those spies had a bad report: it was simply too dangerous to go into the land. The cities had walls and there were giant people that made us look like grasshoppers. But two of the spies tried to encourage the people to remain faithful to God and his promises and he would see them through to conquering the land that he had promised them. Those two spies were named Caleb and Joshua.
Joshua was “Moses’ minister” (something like a presidential aide or chief of staff). He was the general of the army (Exodus 17:8-13). He was, at least in terms of his training and skills, the perfect man to lead Israel into the Promised Land. Even so, to say that the task ahead was a tough one would be an understatement. There was some truth in what the ten spies had said. Take a look for a moment at…
II. THE TOUGH TASK AHEAD (1:2-4)
1. Tough Because Moses Was Dead
Joshua 1:2a—Moses my servant is dead;
Israel’s long standing leader and prophet and mediator between them and God was dead. When someone like that leaves or dies, we tend to freak out a little. We ask, “Who could possibly replace them?”
Sometimes we’re like this when our fathers die. They were an important part in our lives. They made the wheels on the bus go around! We wonder how we’ll manage without them around. Who will give me good advice? I think that perhaps Joshua felt this way, which is part of the reason God would tell him in this chapter, multiple times, “be strong and very courageous.”
So the task ahead for Joshua was tough because his mentor, Moses, was dead. He could no longer depend on him. The task was also…
2. Tough Because The Land Needed To Be Claimed
Joshua 1:2b—now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel.
Joshua 1:3 — Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses.
God promised his people a land, a promise that he made previously to Abraham and then to Moses (see Genesis 15:18-22 and Deuteronomy 1:6-8, 11:22–25). This wasn’t a generic promise of land somewhere on the earth. God had specific boundaries in mind.
Joshua 1:4—From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast.
The “wilderness” is the desert of the Sinai Peninsula, to the south. “Lebanon” is to the north, in about the same position as it is today. To the northeast is the “Euphrates.” The “great sea,” the Mediterranean, is to the west. These borders are greater than what Israel actually ended up with. In the book of Joshua, we sadly see that Israel would struggle to remain faithful to God and so would not get all the land.
But God had promised them a land. In 1948, President Harry Truman was deciding whether or not to recognize Israel as a nation. His Secretary of State, George Marshall, was against it. Clark Clifford, one of the presidential advisors, argued in favor of recognizing Israel as a nation, and he used texts like this from the Bible as proof of Israel’s right to the land.
The recognition of Israel was a difficult and politically dangerous decision for Truman to make. But it was even tougher for Joshua. He was given the tough task of, without Moses, of taking the land of Canaan for Israel. It would be a task of leadership that would take years, suffer setbacks, and cost many lives.
One of the tough tasks that fathers face in raising children in the modern world is that it’s more difficult than ever to protect children from harmful influences. No place is safe. Even the home is invaded by bad influences in the form of books, music, television and the internet. You soon discover as a parent that it’s difficult to protect your child from all of it. That’s just one of the tough tasks of fatherhood. Fathers, what has been the toughest task for you as a parent?
In that tough task, the Lord says:
III. BE STRONG FOR THE LORD THY GOD IS WITH THEE (1:5-6)
Joshua 1:5—There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.
What a promise to Joshua! Victory! Assurance of God’s presence! The promise to never fail thee or forsake thee! (cf. Hebrews 13:5). This is promise that Jesus gives to Christians, in fact, it’s the last thing he told his disciples while he was on earth—
“lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:20).
When we face challenges, no matter how tough, the Lord will be there to help us. And because he is there with us, we can “be strong and of a good courage.” We are not to grit our teeth and try to be strong and courageous in our own power. We are to rely on the God who is there right beside us.
Joshua 1:6—Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them.
“Be strong and of a good courage”—this is the first of three times the Lord says this in this passage. Why did Joshua need to be strong and courageous? Because he was about to lead Israel, a people who could be quite finicky, and not only lead them, but lead them into many battles over many years to claim the Promised Land. But there’s another reason Joshua needed to be strong. He needed to…
IV. BE STRONG TO OBEY GOD’S WORD (1:7)
Joshua 1:7—Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.
Why does Joshua need to be strong and courageous to obey the law of God? Because it would be only through God’s power and God’s method that Joshua would win the battles.
We remember how unusual the battle of Jericho was: march around the city, blow trumpets, the walls fall down (Joshua 6:3–5). I wonder if people came up to him and said, “I thought you were a smarter general than this…this is a stupid plan. You should be impeached!” To obey such unusual commands from God would require courageous faith.
This is the same when we come to believe in Jesus. We have to have the courage to believe that Jesus really did die for us on the cross and that he really did rise from the dead! We have to have courageous faith that our sins really are forgiven by Jesus’s sacrifice. Do you have a courageous faith in Jesus today?
This is the same for us as fathers and mothers—sometimes we are called to do very difficult things with our children. They may want to do something or have something that would be against God’s Word, and we have to say no. They go away and pout and we go away and be sad. Obeying God will often make us feel alone in this world…even in our family.
How do we know that we’re doing the right thing? Parents, we have to have a source that it more reliable than our own parents, or the traditions we’ve held, or what we’ve read in other books. We have to be in the Bible, God’s Word. And we need to…
V. BE IN GOD’S WORD TO BE STRONG (1:8)
Joshua 1:8—This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.
To be strong we need to have a deep attachment to God’s Word. The first phrase here, is a strange one. He says that God’s Word… “shall not depart out of thy mouth.” Does that mean that we shouldn’t talk about it? No, it actually means the opposite. Joshua is not to leave off speaking the Word of God. If I may paraphrase, “This book of the law shall not ever stop being spoken out of thy mouth.”
Is that true in your life? In your fathering of your children? Does the word of God often come up in conversation? Think about what it would take for that to be true. How could you speak about God’s word more? The answer is in the next phrase here: “thou shalt meditate therein day and night.”
Biblical meditation is reflection and contemplation on Godʼs Word. It is looking at a passage in the Bible (or a memorized verse) and dwelling on it until it truly goes to our heart. In the process you may finds that it convicts you or that it comforts you.
And, in the Old Testament especially, meditation was done aloud (NAC). That is why Joshua was not to let the word depart from his mouth—that is, he wasn’t to stop speaking it.
We must make the Bible a constant source of food and drink in our lives; it must be our breakfast when we get up; our noon snack to give us energy for the rest of day; and our source of peace and comfort in the evening.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss, a Christian talk show host, had this to say about her father and his devotion to the Word of God:
…somehow, in the midst of an extremely active and busy household and with incessant demands of travel and meetings, there was one constant in [my father’s] life—he never got started into the business of the day without first having spent an hour or more alone with the Lord, in the Word and on his knees in prayer…
When he was a new believer in his mid-twenties, someone challenged my dad to begin giving the first part of every day to the Lord in the Word and in prayer. From that day until the day he went to heaven twenty-eight years later, he never missed one single day of this devotional practice.
Nothing was more important to him than cultivating his relationship with the Lord, and he believed strongly that nothing was more essential to maintaining that relationship than a daily time alone with the Lord in the Word and prayer. (https://www.reviveourhearts.com/true-woman/blog/starting-the-day-off-right/)
When we are in God’s Word constantly, and it becomes a part of our daily speech, we will “make thy way prosperous…have good success.”
This isn’t about material wealth, at least, not necessarily. In fact, the Hebrew words for prosperous and success are almost never used to speak of financial success. Instead, they are focused on succeeding in your life’s purpose (NAC).
For example, the first time the word for “prosperous” (צלח) is used is in Genesis 24—the story of the servant Abraham sent to find a wife for Isaac. It’s used four times in that chapter (verses 21, 41, 42, 56), each time to refer to the idea of the Lord helping to man to succeed in his purpose of finding a wife for Isaac (e.g., “The Lord hath prospered my way”).
What is the ultimate life purpose for every human being? It is simply to glorify the Lord. Nothing can be more important.
31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31, cf. Colossians 3:17; 1 Peter 4:11; Isaiah 43:7)
• Are you a God-glorifying worker at your job?
• Are you a God-glorifying husband to your wife?
• Are you a God-glorifying father to your children?
You can be if you let not the Word of God depart from being spoken from your mouth. If you make the Bible the final authority and source of direction in your life.
In the last verse, we come back to the theme of being strong and courageous for the tough task that lies ahead of fathers.
Joshua 1:9—Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.
What does it mean to be strong and of good courage?
“Be strong”—a battle word. We are in a battle today. A battle to be a godly man. A battle to be a Christian worker, husband, and father. The New Testament also encourages us to be strong:
Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you [prove yourself] like men, be strong. (1 Corinthians 16:13)
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. (Ephesians 6:10)
Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 2:1)
“of good courage”—The Hebrew here (TWOT and BDB) means to be stout, strong, bold, alert, to be solid. Courage certainly contains elements of each of those qualities. We’ll need courage to endure the scorn from unbelievers like Bill Nye who claims Christians are brainwashing their kids with the Bible. We need courage to stand up to even other Christians who might think that we are too strict in not letting our daughters date just any boy that comes along.
“be not afraid”—This word means to “tremble,” so it refers to a great fear, a fear that makes your bones shake. Don’t let the world make you tremble.
“neither be thou dismayed”—“shattered, broken” Don’t miss the intensity of this word. This kind of dismay shatters a person, breaks them.
How can we be strong and courageous and not be afraid or dismayed? We can…
“for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest”
Fathers, the task of parenting will, of course, take the rest of our lives. In most cases, the first two decades of a child’s life is where the battle can be the most intense. How do we make it through that time?
- Be strong and courageous because the Lord is with you every step of the way.
- Be especially strong and courageous to obey the Word of God.
- Don’t let the Word of God stop being a big part of your life. Meditate on it constantly so that it becomes a part of your daily speech.
- In the day-after-day grind of being a parent, let the Word of God make you a strong and courageous father.