We have been looking at the life of Joshua in this short series of lessons. In our lesson last week, we looked at what characteristics made Joshua the one chosen by God to take over for the great leader Moses. We noticed that before Joshua became the leader of Israel he showed himself to be faithful to God’s leaders, faithful to God in the face of opposition, and faithful to serve even when fearful. There is another characteristic of Joshua that each one of us needs to build within us and is required to be a leader of God’s choosing. Open your Bibles to the book of Joshua and we will look at this characteristic.
The book of Joshua opens with the death of Moses, thus connecting the book of Joshua to the ending of Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy ends with Moses going up to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, and looking over the land of Canaan that the people of God were going to inherit. We mentioned last week the difficult task of taking over as leader of the people of Israel. Notice how Deuteronomy ends: 9 “Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Israelites obeyed him and did as the LORD had commanded Moses. 10 No prophet has arisen again in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face. 11 He was unparalleled for all the signs and wonders the LORD sent him to do against the land of Egypt—to Pharaoh, to all his officials, and to all his land, 12 and for all the mighty acts of power and terrifying deeds that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel” (Deuteronomy 34:9-12)
Moses was unparalleled for all the wonders God performed through him and the mighty acts of power that were performed. No prophet came along that was like Moses, who knew the Lord face to face. At this time where Joshua would be fearful taking over the leadership of Israel, God continues with comfort:
“No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. I will be with you, just as I was with Moses. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you will distribute the land I swore to their fathers to give them as an inheritance” (Joshua 1:5-6).
The book of Joshua begins calling upon Joshua and the people of Israel to put their trust in the Lord as they get ready to enter the land of Canaan. We have spent four or five lessons really trying to encourage one another put their real trust in God. We have talked about getting out of the boat, taking a chance on God, and trusting in God to take care of you in life. Would you trust God to make you leader over the people of Israel? Would you trust God to take over where Moses left off, taking the people to war in the land of Canaan? Would you trust God to conquer the soldiers you were about to fight who were larger and more powerful?
But God called Joshua to something else. Not only was Joshua to fully trust God, believing that God would never leave him and would lead them to victory in Canaan, but Joshua’s victory and success hinged upon four important commands concerning the Word of God.
Dedication To God’s Word (1:7-9)
Joshua Was To Obey God’s Law
“Above all, be strong and very courageous to carefully obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.” (1:7; HCSB, NIV).
The first command is to have the strength and the courage to carefully obey all of the law above all else. But to obey the Law, one must know what the Law says. The Lord instructed Joshua “to do everything written in it.” You must know the Law to be able to make an attempt to do everything written in the Law. The law was not supposed to be dumped into the ark of the covenant and forever ignored. The law was not to be treated as some sort of relic of days past. Joshua was to have the book of the law, read the law, and know the law.
But I want us to notice the emphasis placed upon how one obeys God’s law and the importance of this obedience. How much of the law had to be obeyed? God is not calling us to partial obedience. Joshua had to “carefully obey all the law” and “not turn from it to the right or the left.” Quite simply, we are not allowed to pick and choose which laws we will follow. Obedience is not doing the commands that we want to do. Obedience is following all of the law and not deviating from it in any direction. Getting the majority of God’s laws correct is not enough. God did not tell Joshua to obey most of the law. There is a responsibility on our part to know the law and follow it.
But this command is more than just calling us out to obedience. The question is: do you want to know the scriptures? Do you want to know the laws of God? David expresses this kind of love for the law of God. “Let Your tender mercies come to me, that I may live; for Your law is my delight” (Psalm 119:77). “I hate and abhor lying, but I love Your law” (Psalm 119:163).
Joshua Was To Meditate On God’s Word
God commands Joshua to “meditate on it day and night.” Meditation goes beyond mere knowledge of the scriptures. Meditation implies reasoning about the Word and deducing things from it. Meditation is about finding the application of the scriptures to our lives. Meditation has taken on a new age meaning that is not intended from the scriptures. Meditation is focused thought on the scriptures.
Unfortunately, meditation is a discipline that far too many Christians today do not know anything about or engage in. We live in an age of religious superficiality, where people come to services to hear a fluffy statement about the love of God, without a real, life-changing message. Consequently, many of today’s Christians think that all a person must do to be a Christian is go to church, pay passing attention to the sermon, have a few Christian friends, and go one about their business as one would without these other elements.
Joshua was to have focused thought on the word of God day and night. He could not just simply know the law, but was required to think about God’s laws and let those laws change his life. We need to read the scriptures, which many times we are not doing. We need to read the scriptures with a mind of how to change our lives to conform to God’s law.
Joshua Was To Talk About God’s Word
God commanded “do not let the Book of the Law depart from your mouth.” The command to speak about God’s word can be very difficult if we do not know God’s word, are not obeying God’s word, and not meditating on God’s words. What is there to talk about if we do not know the law and how it applies to us?
Notice also that this is a command to speak about the word of God constantly. As Christians, we have the tendency find it acceptable to speak about God and spiritual things only in its proper place (e.g. at the church building). But what about talking about spiritual things while at work? Will we talk about the word of God while at the dinner table, or while golfing, or while being engaged in any sort of activity? A true Christian desires to talk about the things of God. Christians should love to speak in Bible class about what they see in the scriptures. Then, we should carry that conversation home, and continue speaking about the things of God.
Prosperity and Success
An important promise is made to Joshua. If he will obey, speak, and meditate on the laws of God, then God would make Joshua “prosperous and successful” (vs. 8). It is curious to me how many denominations and religious groups teach about financial prosperity when you follow God. Somehow the scriptures are used to teach that if you will have enough faith and love God enough, you will have all of your financial dreams come true. I would like to analyze this concept for a moment.
First, in the context of the promise to Joshua, how would Joshua be prosperous and successful? Was God saying that Joshua would have great wealth by obeying God? No, because the context is about Joshua being strong and courageous to enter the land of Canaan and conquer the land. God is saying that Joshua will be successful and prosperous in leading the people into the land God had promised and they would be victorious in battle. The promise to Joshua has nothing to do with financial gain. The promise is about Joshua’s well-being. God will be with Joshua and Joshua will succeed in fulfilling the commands of God. Our success is in the Lord. Our prosperity is in the Lord, not in receiving abundant wealth.
Second, of the fifty-nine times this Hebrew word for success is used in the Old Testament, there is only one time where one can argue the context speaks about financial success. The passage is in Ezekiel where the Lord speaks about Jerusalem and the success the city had through God’s blessings. The point is that there are a lot of people teaching financial wealth through the Bible, but such a teaching is a distortion of the scriptures. We are so physically minded that we think it would be wonderful to receive wealth now. God is offering us so much more. Why would we exchange the eternal wealth of God for temporary dollars now?
In Exodus we read about the special relationship that God had with Moses. God spoke with Moses face to face. Moses went up the mountain and was with God for 40 days and nights receiving the law. Moses spoke to God in the tent of meeting and the glory of God caused Moses’ face to shine. In Exodus 33:11 we are told that the Lord spoke to Moses “as a man speaks to his friend.” Do we not understand that this is success and prosperity? Prosperity is to have this kind of relationship with God that we can speak to him about anything, and he will listen and answer. We see such an intimate relationship between Moses and God and Moses asked God to do many things, and the Lord responded to Moses. Moses was so special that he was allowed to see the glory of the Lord pass by. We want five more dollars in our bank accounts and God is offering us a close, eternal relationship with the Almighty Creator. We are too physically minded and too worldly minded to see what God is trying to give us. Prosperity and success must be defined as receiving God’s promises because of God’s grace and mercy. Success is being found faithful in the sight of God to be granted eternal life. Prosperity is about having such a close relationship with God that we can speak to him as a friend.
“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double-minded people!” (James 4:8)