A few decades ago, a medical doctor wrote about some of the implications of being alone that he had observed:
“Medical statistics on the loss of human companionship, the lack of love and human loneliness quickly reveal that the expression ‘broken heart’ is not just poetic image for loneliness and despair. It is an overwhelming medical reality. All the available data points to the lack of human companionship, chronic loneliness, social isolation, and the sudden loss of a loved one is among the leading causes of premature death in the United States. Millions of people are dying quite literally of lonely and broken hearts.”
Prior to that secular observation, pastor A. W. Tozer wrote, “Most of the world’s great souls have been lonely. Loneliness seems to be one price the saint must pay for his saintliness.”
Is Tozer correct? When consigned to being alone, must we be lonely? Are we genuinely isolated when we are alone? When alone are we destined to die of “broken hearts?”
Though he had been prepared for the eventuality of Moses’ death, when the great leader of Israel finally died (Dt. 34:1-6), Joshua may well have felt isolated and alone. His mentor was gone. And the Lord seemed to make sure that Joshua understood that he was alone as Israel’s leader because in the first words of Joshua’s account, twice it says that Moses is dead (Josh. 1:1-2).
The Lord affirms to Joshua and Joshua reminds his readers that he is alone — there is no one else to whom he can turn for help. He is the final and ultimate authority for the people of Israel. He can lean on no one for help; the entire nation is looking to and leaning on him. Yes, he has Caleb, but Joshua has been designated as the leader of Israel, and all are looking to him. The responsibility of the nation is his — alone.
He is alone.
But is he?
The opening verses of Joshua 1 emphasize Moses’ death. He is no longer present and his lips are silenced; he offers no more counsel. And then Joshua notes this, “…after the death of Moses…the Lord spoke…” (Josh. 1:1). Moses is dead and Moses is silent, but the Lord is alive and the Lord speaks.
That simple incident reminded Joshua that while earthly leaders and circumstances change, our sovereign heavenly ruler does not change and the Word He speaks does not change. When we are “alone” the God of Heaven has not left us alone and we should not interpret our situation as being lonely. Joshua was not alone and we are not alone.
As Joshua prepared to lead Israel across the Jordan (“there’s a river in our way!”) and into an established land of fortified cities (“there are giants in the land!”), the Lord told him to “Be strong and courageous” (Josh. 1:6, 7, 9). On what basis could Joshua, alone in this massive task, be strong? He could be strong because “I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you…the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Josh. 1:5, 9).
Joshua is alone among people, but he is not alone. The Lord is ever present with Him.
It is notable that this is the same first promise that God made to Moses when He called Moses (Ex. 3:12). God was with Moses all the decades of his leadership, and now Moses has died, but the presence of God has not changed; He is still with His leaders and His people.
God also affirms His presence and care of Joshua by telling Joshua what He will not do — “I will not fail you.” The word “fail” refers to weakness, so some commentators have suggested the sense is something like, “I won’t drop you.” There is nothing in God that would fail Joshua and Israel. He could only come to their assistance.
This is also a subtle reminder to the new leader of Israel that he didn’t need Moses to help him; he needed the Lord — and he had the Lord. Like Joshua, our dependence is not on our circumstances or the people around us. We need the Lord and if we belong to Him, we have the Lord.
It is a reality that our circumstances do change, but we are never alone. We are never abandoned. We have everything we need to accomplish what God has called us to do as His children.
Think about some of God’s provisions for being with us. He sent our Savior, “Immanuel” to be with us (Mt. 1:23) — a physical demonstration of the spiritual reality of His presence. And leaving this earth, Immanuel sent the Spirit not just to be with us, but in us (Jn. 14:16). So as New Testament believers we have been given the indwelling Spirit of God to guide and help us. And in addition to these gifts, we have a virtually identical promise from the Father as Joshua did (Heb. 13:5-6).
The God was with and was faithful to Moses, Joshua, and Israel is also with you. The Christ who was with the Twelve is also with you. The Spirit of God who was given to you by Christ and is in you is still in you and with you. If you are His, you will not be dropped by God, today, or any other day.
You are alone. But you are not alone.