Scripture: “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 good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:8-9 ESV
Observation: While the first five books (we call the Pentateuch) anticipated God fulfilling his promise to Abraham regarding the Promised Land, the book of Joshua tells of Israel’s conquest and apportionment of Canaan among the twelve tribes. Throughout Israel’s advancement, the author (likely Joshua) will remind us that God fights for his people when they are “strong and courageous” (1:6, 7, 9, 18; 10:25) and put their complete trust in him. And at the book’s end, we will read of Joshua’s charge to Israel to remain faithful to God and obey his commands, which the people affirm but inevitably fail to uphold.
Our story begins with Yahweh talking directly to Joshua, noting that Moses was his “servant,” and now Joshua will fulfill this role (vv.1-2). The Lord then promises Joshua that he will grant this sacred land to Israel, to be apprehended wherever Joshua places the sole of his foot (vv.3-4). And Yahweh assures Joshua he will be present with him and never forsake him (just as he cared for Moses) and adds that no one will succeed in resisting Israel’s advancement (v.5-6). Lastly, as touched on above, in these last three verses of this opening passage, God repeats to Joshua for emphasis:
- Be strong and courageous.
- Obey my commands.
- I will be with you.
It is a command with a promise—fulfilled by both parties.
Takeaway: The cause-and-effect relationship between Yahweh’s commands and promise is evident to the original audience. Indeed, it thematically weaves throughout the storyline of Israel’s conflicts with future enemies: As they sense the presence of their Lord, he will overcome their fears and strengthen them, but they must obey his laws. Thus, Yahweh directs Joshua to meditate on his Book of the Law all his waking hours. While Joshua takes this command to heart, sadly, the historical and prophetic books of our Old Testament tell of future generations straying from God’s gracious laws that would have otherwise kept them under their Lord’s good care.
It is a destructive pattern that the law could not resolve, necessitating our incarnate Christ to enter our world and fulfill what we could not: perfect obedience to the law. Luke tells us that even as a young boy Christ poured over the Scriptures and engaged with the Rabbis (Luke 2:41-49). And the Gospels tell us that he often withdrew to be alone with his Father in prayer (and likely meditate on his Father’s commands revealed in Scripture) to discern his will. Thus, understanding the correlation between courage, obedience, and an intimate connection with the Father, Jesus proclaimed to his disciples a two-pronged command with a promise:
- Fear not (13 times spread over our four Gospels).
- If you love me, you will obey my commands (5 times over his final discourse in John’s Gospel).
- I will be with you always (Matthew 28:20).
Indeed, Christ’s disciples would become more familiar with his words and that of Scripture, thus in tune with their Master’s will and emboldened to proclaim his Gospel empowered by his Holy Spirit. And the same applies to us. Suppose we commit ourselves to meditate on Scripture as much as possible during our waken hours. Does it seem overwhelming? Initially, perhaps, but over time it will be our lifeline. When we meditate on this book we call the Bible and follow its precepts, we gain all godly wisdom, strength, and courage to press through any conflict while sensing the beautiful presence of our Lord and Savior that arrests our fears.
Prayer: Father God, we thank for your Son, who is the living Word, and our Scriptures that are the written Word. Would you please help us to meditate on the Word in our coming and going that we might grow in our love and affection for you and your Son reflected in our obedience to your commands that spur strength, courage, and an awareness of your presence? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling