“Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.” — Joshua 1:6
In the opening chapter of Joshua, with the death of Moses still fresh in the minds of the people, God speaks to Joshua for the first time as the new leader. God does so to reinforce the promises he made to Moses. Interestingly, within a span of eight verses, within this one speech, God tells Joshua “Chazak V’Ematz” three times.
The first time occurs in verse six, “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.” And two more times after that in verses 7 and 9.
Franz Rosenzweig and Martin Buber, two leading Jewish thinkers in the early 20th century, described this literary tool as a leitmotif (a recurring theme), but we always must ask, to what purpose? Why does God use these exact words, and why does He repeat them with such great frequency?
For the answer, we must look a few pages back in the Bible to when Moses transferred his mantle of power to Joshua. There, we find that Moses uses the same words when speaking to Joshua, “Chazak V’Ematz,” “be strong and courageous” (Deuteronomy 31:6–7). In a simple sense, God’s repetition of this phrase serves as a sort of code to convey that despite the death of the great Moses, God will be with Joshua the same way He was with Moses.
But I think there is more to realize. Often in life, we lose our stability, our grounding, whether due to the death of someone close, or the loss of trust in a mentor, or a blow to a belief; we all at one time or another need to confront faith on our own and grow independent of intermediaries, especially in our relationship with God.
To us God says, despite the hardships that we face, despite the losses that we suffer, Chazak V’ematz, be strong and courageous!