Lesson 18: “Be Strong and of a Good Courage”

Old Testament: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual, (2001), 82–86


Purpose

To encourage each class member to be strong and courageous in living the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Preparation

  1. 1.

    Prayerfully study the following scriptures:

    1. a.

      Joshua 1. The Lord calls Joshua to succeed Moses and commands him to be strong, have courage, study the scriptures, and keep the commandments. Joshua prepares the Israelites to possess the land that the Lord has promised them.

    2. b.

      Joshua 3–4; 6. The Israelites cross the Jordan River on dry ground and place 12 stones as a memorial of their crossing. Through the Israelites’ faith, Jericho is destroyed.

    3. c.

      Joshua 23; 24:14–31. Joshua and his people covenant to serve the Lord.

  2. 2.

    Additional reading: Joshua 7; 14.

  3. 3.

    Ask a class member to prepare to relate the account of the battle of Jericho as if he or she were an eyewitness (Joshua 6). Ask one or two other class members to prepare to share an experience that reminds them of God’s power and love.

  4. 4.

    If you use the attention activity, obtain a sheet of paper, tape or a rubber band, and a book. If you use the questions on traps and snares, you may want to bring a small trap, such as a mousetrap, to illustrate the discussion.

Suggested Lesson Development

Attention Activity

You may want to use the following activity (or one of your own) to begin the lesson.

Explain that this lesson is about Joshua, the prophet who led the children of Israel in their conquest of the promised land. When calling Joshua to be a prophet, the Lord counseled him to “be strong and of a good courage” (Joshua 1:6). Write this phrase on the chalkboard. Display a sheet of paper and a book. Ask a class member to stand the paper on its edge and try to balance the book on top of it.

After the class member has tried this, explain that there is a way to make the paper strong enough to support the book. Roll the paper into a tube and secure it with a rubber band or tape. Stand the tube on end on a flat surface. Carefully place the book on top. (You may want to practice this before class.)

Explain that Joshua became strong as he allowed God to shape his character. Similarly, as we allow God to shape our character, we can become strong and accomplish the things the Lord wants us to do.

Scripture Discussion and Application

As you teach the following scripture passages, discuss how they apply to daily life. Encourage class members to share experiences that relate to the scriptural principles.

During the Israelites’ 40-year sojourn in the wilderness, Moses had given them God’s law, acted as God’s spokesman, and served as their guide. He was the only leader an entire generation of Israelites had known. But the Lord took him at the end of their sojourn—just when they faced a great test. Remembering his promises to Israel, the Lord raised up a new leader, Joshua, who ably directed the conquest and settlement of the promised land.

1. The Lord calls Joshua.

Teach and discuss Joshua 1.

  • What challenges do you think Joshua faced when the Lord called him to succeed Moses in leading the Israelites? (He was to lead Israel in the conquest and settlement of Canaan, which was a mighty undertaking. He was also taking the place of a great leader.) What assurance did the Lord give Joshua as Joshua prepared to enter the promised land? (See Joshua 1:5.) How can this assurance help us in new callings or challenges? How has the Lord helped you in such circumstances?

  • What command did the Lord repeat three times in Joshua 1:6–9? What did the Lord say Joshua would need courage and strength to do? (See Joshua 1:7. Point out that although Joshua would need courage to fight many military battles, he would also need moral courage—the courage to do what is right.) What challenges do we face today that require strength and moral courage? What examples of moral courage have you observed?

  • What did the Lord tell Joshua to do to “have good success”? (See Joshua 1:8. Explain that the book of the law is the scriptures.) Why do you think scripture study would have been important for Joshua to succeed in his calling? How does regular scripture study help us?

2. The Israelites cross the Jordan River on dry ground; through their faith, Jericho is destroyed.

Teach and discuss Joshua 3–4 and 6.

  • When the Israelites needed to cross the Jordan River, its banks were overflowing. How did the Lord show the children of Israel that he was with Joshua just as he had been with Moses? (See Joshua 3:7–8, 14–17; 4:14. If necessary, explain that the ark of the covenant was a portable altar that contained sacred writings, including Moses’ writings and the tablets containing the Ten Commandments.) How does the Lord show us that he directs and inspires the living prophet as he did past prophets?

  • What did the priests who carried the ark have to do before the waters of the Jordan River stopped? (See Joshua 3:13–17. They had to step into the overflowing river while carrying the ark.) How does the Lord sometimes ask similar things of us?

    Elder Boyd K. Packer said:

    “Shortly after I was called as a General Authority, I went to Elder Harold B. Lee for counsel. He listened very carefully to my problem and suggested that I see President David O. McKay. President McKay counseled me as to the direction I should go. I was very willing to be obedient but saw no way possible for me to do as he counseled me to do.

    “I returned to Elder Lee and told him that I saw no way to move in the direction I was counseled to go. He said, ‘The trouble with you is you want to see the end from the beginning.’ I replied that I would like to see at least a step or two ahead. Then came the lesson of a lifetime: ‘You must learn to walk to the edge of the light, and then a few steps into the darkness; then the light will appear and show the way before you’” (“The Edge of the Light,” BYU Today, Mar. 1991, 22–23).

  • Why did Israel set up a memorial of 12 stones after crossing the Jordan River? (See Joshua 4:1–9. It was to be a testimony of the Lord’s power to future generations, reminding them that the Lord would bless them just as he had their fathers.) What personal memorials remind you of God’s power in your life? (Answers could include the sacrament; pictures of Christ, temples, and prophets; the scriptures; and spiritual experiences recorded in journals.) How can these memorials bless the lives of others? (See Joshua 4:21–24.)

    Testify that the Lord will answer prayers, give blessings, give revelation, and perform wonderful works for each new generation. Ask the previously assigned class members to share experiences that remind them of God’s power and love.

  • Ask the previously assigned class member to describe the fall of Jericho as if he or she were an eyewitness (Joshua 6). What caused the walls of Jericho to fall? (See Hebrews 11:30.) Why was the Israelites’ behavior an act of faith?

  • Who were the only inhabitants of Jericho who were saved? (See Joshua 6:17, 22–25; see also Joshua 2:1–15.) What can we learn from the saving of Rahab and her family?

3. Joshua and his people covenant to serve the Lord.

Teach and discuss Joshua 23 and 24:14–31.

  • Toward the end of his life, Joshua reminded the Israelites what God had done for them. Joshua also counseled them about avoiding traps and snares. If you brought a small trap, demonstrate how it works. If you did not bring a trap, describe how one works. What are some things we must do to avoid being caught in a trap? (We must first recognize that it is a trap and then stay away from it.)

  • In his final counsel, Joshua exhorted Israel to “cleave unto the Lord” rather than “cleave unto the remnant of [the Canaanite] nations” (Joshua 23:8, 12. Note that in this instance, the word cleave means to glue or join together). How can we “cleave unto the Lord” rather than cleave to the world? How would cleaving to the Canaanite nations be a snare and a trap to the Israelites? What are some of the snares and traps of the world that we face today?

  • What important counsel did Joshua give at the end of his life? (See Joshua 24:14–15.) Whom did Joshua and Israel covenant to serve? (See Joshua 24:15–18, 21–25, 31.) Why can’t a person serve the true God and worldly gods at the same time?

  • Why is it important to choose today to serve the Lord? How can we show that we have chosen to serve him?

    Elder Marvin J. Ashton said: “Joshua reminds us of the importance of making decisions promptly: ‘Choose you this day whom ye will serve; … but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord’ (Joshua 24:15). Not tomorrow, not when we get ready, not when it is convenient—but ‘this day,’ straightway, choose whom you will serve. He who invites us to follow will always be out in front of us with His Spirit and influence setting the pace. He has charted and marked the course, opened the gates, and shown the way. He has invited us to come unto Him, and the best time to enjoy His companionship is straightway. We can best get on the course and stay on the course by doing as Jesus did—make a total commitment to do the will of His Father” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1983, 41; or Ensign, May 1983, 30–31).

Conclusion

Joshua’s final counsel to the Israelites included the same charge that the Lord had given when calling him to be a prophet—to be strong and to have courage (Joshua 23:1–6). The charge applies as much today as it did then because we are all engaged in the important spiritual battle between good and evil.

Elder Ezra Taft Benson said that two principles are essential for security and peace: “First, trust in God; and second, a determination to keep the commandments, to serve the Lord, to do that which is right. … The Lord has made it very clear in the revelations that even though times become perilous, even though we be surrounded by temptation and sin, even though there be a feeling of insecurity, even though men’s hearts may fail them and anxiety fill their souls, if we only trust in God and keep his commandments we need have no fear” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1950, 146).

Additional Teaching Ideas

The following material supplements the suggested lesson outline. You may want to use one or more of these ideas as part of the lesson.

1. Taking the place of a successful leader

  • Many people, such as Joshua and Brigham Young, have been called to take the place of great leaders. What might have been some of their challenges? What do you think helped them be successful? What can we do to help us be successful when we come after someone who has excelled, whether at work, church, school, or home?

2. The consequences of an individual’s sins on other people

  • Teach the account of Achan in Joshua 7. Because of Achan’s disobedience, the Israelites were defeated by the people of Ai (Joshua 7:1–5). What had Achan done to cause this? (See Joshua 7:20–21. He had brought the Lord’s disapproval on Israel by disobeying him in taking clothing and money from Jericho.)

  • What do the effects of Achan’s sin suggest about how our individual sins can affect other people? What is the fallacy in thinking that what we do is our own business and will not hurt anyone else? (You may want to use examples of how one person’s actions can affect others: An accident caused by a drunken driver can affect the lives of the innocent people who are injured. A person who disrupts a Sunday School class makes it difficult for others to concentrate and feel the Spirit. A person who commits sexual sins or does not live the Word of Wisdom brings pain and suffering to others. A spouse who is unfaithful can break up a family and cause great pain to innocent family members. Individual Church members who do not follow the Lord may hold back the Church as a whole from receiving the Lord’s blessings.)

    Elder James E. Faust said: “Private choices are not private; they all have public consequences. … Our society is the sum total of what millions of individuals do in their private lives. That sum total of private behavior has worldwide public consequences of enormous magnitude. There are no completely private choices” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1987, 101; or Ensign, May 1987, 80).

3. Caleb receives the land of Hebron

  • Joshua 14 recounts how Caleb received the land of Hebron from Joshua. Why did Caleb receive the land of Hebron? (See Joshua 14:6–14. Note that the phrase “wholly followed the Lord” is repeated in verses 8, 9, and 14.)

    President Spencer W. Kimball stated his admiration for Caleb and suggested some lessons we can learn from him:

    “From Caleb’s example we learn very important lessons. Just as Caleb had to struggle and remain true and faithful to gain his inheritance, so we must remember that, while the Lord has promised us a place in his kingdom, we must ever strive constantly and faithfully so as to be worthy to receive the reward.

    “Caleb concluded his moving declaration with a request and a challenge with which my heart finds full sympathy. The Anakims, the giants, were still inhabiting the promised land, and they had to be overcome. Said Caleb, now at 85 years, ‘Give me this mountain’ (Joshua 14:12).

    “This is my feeling for the work at this moment. There are great challenges ahead of us, giant opportunities to be met. I welcome that exciting prospect and feel to say to the Lord, humbly, ‘Give me this mountain,’ give me these challenges” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1979, 115; or Ensign, Nov. 1979, 79).

4. “Choose You This Day Whom Ye Will Serve”

If Old Testament Video Presentations (53224) is available, you may want to show “Choose You This Day Whom Ye Will Serve,” a six-minute segment about the testing of an Arabian stallion’s obedience in a time of hunger and thirst.