Turn back the clock over 3000 years to the day of Abraham when God promised him, “To your descendants I will give this land” (Genesis 12:7). We know this as the Abrahamic Covenant! Over 400 years of slavery in addition to 40 years of wandering in the desert passed before God was ready to fulfill that promise. At the end of Deuteronomy, Moses dies, and the book of Joshua opens with the Israelites in the Trans-Jordan area at the threshold of the land God will give them in fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant.
Put yourself in the shoes of Joshua at that moment. He was born in Egypt before the Great Exodus. We first see him in Exodus 17:9 when he led the Israelites against Amalek. This was the famous battle that as long as Moses held his hand up, the Israelites won. So, if you were Joshua, you had already been a military leader for the Israelites!
The next time we see Joshua is in Exodus 24:13 when he went up on Mount Sinai with Moses. Moses went to the top where God gave him the ten commandments. Joshua waited somewhere below that for 40 days until Moses returned! So, if you were Joshua, you had already been in ministry as an assistant to Moses!
Moving forward, we see Joshua in Numbers 13 as one of the 12 spies sent into the promised land of Canaan as a “scout” before the Israelites conquered the land. Remember the story? Caleb and Joshua were the ONLY two to trust God and be willing to go conquer the land. The other ten convinced the Israelites not to go and God judged the Israelites with 40 years of wandering in the desert. Only Joshua and Caleb were ultimately allowed to enter the land from that generation! Again, if you were Joshua, you had been chosen to scout out the land with 11 other select Israelites and then lived through the wilderness wandering for 40 years watching your generation die off!
Finally, we see Joshua ordained to be the future leader of the Israelites in Numbers 27 after Moses stuck the rock twice for water and God did not allow him to enter the land of Canaan.
That brings us to the Book of Joshua! If you were Joshua, you are now 90 years old with 41 years of service to God under Moses! You had been a top military leader, a top ministry partner to Moses, one of 12 spies and now the ordained leader to replace Moses! In Joshua 1:1-4 God has just told you that it’s time to give the land of Canaan to the Israelites!
Just to contrast to what we’re going to see next, I want you to now imagine you’re the Vice President of a large corporation with 41 years of similar experience to Joshua and the Board of Directors comes to you to make you President of the company! You would be hearing, “In the past 41 years, you have had a phenomenal set of experiences and proven yourself over and over to be capable of leading this company into the future. We can count on you to continue performing as you have based on all the wealth of wisdom and experience over these many years. Use this foundation and our company will prosper well into the future!” But, that’s not what God tells Joshua…
In v.5 God turns to Joshua and says:
Jos 1:5–9 — 5 “No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. 6 “Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 “Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. 8 “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. 9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
I only want to focus on v.7-8 today, but to get us there, let’s summarize the points that lead up to it.
- You must COUNT on God’s Presence (v.5): 5 “No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.” You can count on God’s presence accompanying, leading, protecting, fighting with you – ensuring your success! “Just as I have been with Moses” says a lot because Joshua saw God work directly with Moses for those 41 years! This was a very real, proven promise! By the way, Hebrews 13:5-7 quotes directly from this verse showing us that we can count on this too!
- You must PURSUE God’s Cause (v.6): 6 “Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.” There should be no surprise that to get God’s help, you need to be doing God’s will! In this case, Joshua was fulfilling one of the most important promises in the Bible!
OK, we now arrive at Joshua 1:7-8:
7 “Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. 8 “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.
The first thing to notice is that Joshua is being commanded to keep the Law of Moses as found in a book. Literally, God says “keep all the Law” – don’t turn away (right or left) at all! V.8 begins with “this book!” Moses had completed the Pentateuch and especially the Book of Deuteronomy. Joshua had a significant amount of Scripture to obey!
This command to keep the Law as found in a book is not new to Joshua. In Deuteronomy 30:9-10 Moses said:
Dt 30:10–14 — 10 if you obey the Lord your God to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law, if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and soul. 11 “For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. 12 “It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ 13 “Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ 14 “But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it.”
These are strong words! Moses said that this commandment “is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach.” In other words, you know what I’m saying – it’s clear – and you can and must do this! He gives them a couple of pictures of this and then summarizes in v.14 that the Israelites had all they needed to obey God’s word!
Now, back to Joshua 1:7-8. What did God just tell Joshua? Answer: You must KNOW and OBEY my WORD! He didn’t say, “In the past 41 years, you have had a phenomenal set of experiences and proven yourself over and over to be capable of leading the Israelites into the promised land!” And, commands him on HOW he is to do this: 8 “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” Do you know what that literally says?… “this book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall RECITE IT QUIETLY TO YOURSELF DAY AND NIGHT.” (emphasis mine). This is followed by “so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.” Listen: The purpose of constantly reciting God’s word over and over and over to himself was SO THAT he would be careful to obey it exactly!!! God finishes the verse by saying that then he’ll be successful! Do you recite God’s word to yourself day and night so that you’ll be sure to obey it exactly as it’s written?
I love how Psalm 1 says this:
Ps 1:1–3 — 1 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. 3 He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.
What a picture! A firmly planted and cultivated tree yields fruit and not only doesn’t wither, but prospers – in whatever! Of course, your “whatever” is going to be God’s will if you’ve been meditating on His word day and night!
Let’s pull this all together. Joshua is one of the most used-by-God and prepared-by-God, faithful servants in history. Yet, when God calls him to be used for the greatest ministry of his life, God doesn’t let him trust in himself and the past. God commands him to know His word and continually (yes, continually) be reciting it out loud to himself day and night SO THAT he is CAREFUL to obey it precisely! Then God will give him success in carrying out the promise God made to Abraham over 400 years before!
Do you think it’s any different for you and the work God has for you to do? Aren’t you commanded to let the word of Christ dwell richly in you (Colossians 3:16)? Holding EVERY thought captive to the OBEDIENCE of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5)? Aren’t you commanded to be an effectual doer of the word and not just a hearer (James 1:22-25)? What part of these straightforward, easy-to-understand commands are you claiming you can’t understand or do (Deut 30:10-14)?!!!
Go forth in obedience and remember:
Col 3:23–24 — 23 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.