Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Joshua 1:7-8 (NKJV)
God now calls on Joshua to be strong and very courageous to obey the Law. Did you notice that God calls on Joshua to be strong and VERY courageous to obey the Law? There is a stronger exhortation in the call to obey the Law than there is in the call to lead the people to conquer the Promised Land. This seems to indicate that greater courage will be needed to fully obey God’s Law than there will be to lead and win military battles.
God calls on Joshua not to turn from the Law to the right hand or to the left hand. The idea here is that he isn’t supposed to deviate from it in the least little bit. He is to make obeying every jot and title of the Law the top priority in his life. The history of the Nation of Israel up to this point certain supports the idea that it will take great courage for Joshua to fully obey God’s Law. Up to this point Israel and rebellion have gone together like an RC Cola and a Moon Pie. They’ve also not been overwhelmingly supportive of those who chose to stay obedient to God and His Word during their periods of rebellion. It will take courage for Joshua to be fully obedient to God’s Law even if the people choose to rebel against God.
God goes on and tells Joshua that he is also to mediate on the Law day and night. Obviously this doesn’t mean Joshua isn’t supposed to do anything but set and read the Law. Instead the idea is that he is to make a point each and every day, maybe even multiple times a day, to study God’s Law. There are two goals for this consistent time of study. First it so he can know God’s Law and the second is so that he can do God’s Law.
Keep in mind they are entering a pagan land filled with people who have their own gods and totally reject the God of Israel. There will be great temptation for Joshua and the people to begin to learn and imitate the practices of the people around them, which is something God doesn’t want them to do. So Joshua is supposed to devote himself learning God’s Law so that he and the people will continue to live according to God’s Law.
The overall call from God in this is to be committed to God’s Word. There is to be a commitment to study God’s Word as well as a commitment to live out God’s Word. A part of the idea of meditate on God’s Word is to think on it and absorb it into our minds and lives. The main idea is that commitment to God’s Word is shown through obedience. Ultimately, commitment to God’s Word isn’t shown through affirming theological truths about God’s Word. True commitment to God’s Word is shown through our obedience to God’s Word.
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” James 1:22 (NKJV) As always James gets down to where the rubber meets the road in what he says. Contrary to what many may think it’s not enough to hear God’s Word preached, read God’s Word for ourselves or even to know what God’s Word says. God’s Word is of no practical value to us until we take what we’ve heard, read, or know and begin to live it out in our lives.
Notice what he says here. If we hear God’s Word, read God’s Word or know God’s Word but don’t live it out we deceive ourselves. What we do is we deceive ourselves into thinking that it’s enough to hear God’s Word, read God’s Word or to know God’s Word. We determine in our minds that as long as we are hearing it, reading it or know it that we don’t have to live it.
It is so critically important for us to understand that commitment to God’s Word is shown through obedience to God’s Word. Obedience to God’s Word takes courage on our part. It takes a faith inspired courage to give us an unwavering commitment to know and do God’s Word.
The last part of verse 8 is really interesting. Joshua’s success would be conditional upon his obedience to God’s Word. As long as Joshua lived in obedience to God’s Law he would be very successful. When you read the book of Joshua you find that there was only one battle that they lost. They lost that battle because someone in the camp had not obeyed God. In every other battle Joshua and the people were obedient to God and they were successful in what they did. The idea that stands out to me here is that we are always successful when we are obedient to God’s Word. In order to experience this success we will need faith inspired courage that leads us to be committed to God’s Word.