“This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to meditate on it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Standing on the precipice of a new adventure is always a complicated emotional affair. On the one hand, there is the requisite nervousness. The unknown stretching out before us is always at least a little bit scary. What if we fail? What if we succeed? Both can be equally frightening. On the other hand, there is excitement. The possibilities before us are rich and we are excited to explore them. Having a little parting advice is always helpful in such situations. What kind of advice is the most helpful?
If your precipice to something new was exiting and scary, Joshua’s was more so. He wasn’t just starting something new, he was taking over the leadership of an entire nation. What’s more, the guy he was following was so epic that even to this day he is still remembered as one of the top two greatest leaders the people ever had. Joshua had the unenviable task of following Moses.
In the pastoring world, a guy coming in after a pastor who has been “the guy” for a generation is usually referred to as the “sacrificial lamb” because everybody knows he’s not going to last very long. Everything he does is going to be compared to what the beloved long-term pastor did and anywhere he doesn’t fully measure up (and by “measure up,” I mean “do it the same way”) is going to be counted as a mark against him. While this doesn’t always happen (my own current situation being a fantastic counter-example), those few examples tend to be the exceptions to a well-established rule.
Anybody in that kind of a situation needs advice. Lots of advice. Lots of good advice. Some of the best advice I got was to spend the first year loving the people and not changing much of anything. But even that advice, as good as it was, sat on a deeper foundation. It was—and is—a foundation of what the Lord tells Joshua here.
Because this was such an important transition of power, God Himself brought a personal message of encouragement to Joshua as he was preparing to embark on the huge task before him. The theme of the message is for him to be strong and courageous. He reminded Joshua of His promise to bring the people into the Promised Land in spite of the various and large obstacles before them. He told him that he would be the one to divide the land among the people—something that could only happen if he was successful in his endeavor.
Still, as good as this encouragement was, it begged the question of how Joshua was supposed to do it. Enter what we see here in v. 8. If Joshua was going to lead the people well, he was going to have to lead from a foundation of God’s words. He was going to have to lean into the foundation of the trail God had already blazed. He was going to have to know it well and stick to it relentlessly. In fact, God guarantees him success if he does.
Now, God was speaking specifically to Joshua here. This occurred in a context very different from ours—all of the Scriptures do. But the timeless truth here applies pretty directly: If we want to find success in whatever it is we are doing, we need to stand on a foundation of the word of God.
God’s words are the foundation to any kind of a successful venture. No, they don’t cover any and every situation we might face, but their timeless truths can be applied forward to give us wisdom no matter the situation we are in. They give us the instructions we need to do life well.
In order to get the most out of them, though, the standard approach of read and apply is not enough. God tells Joshua here to do more than that. He was to meditate on them. They were to be in his mouth constantly. In other words, they were to be the primary shapers of his thinking and speaking. If we want to similarly know success as Joshua did, we can dutifully follow a similar path.
God’s word is the secret to a successful life. Time spent knowing it well—which can only happen when we know its author well—will always pay rich dividends. How well do you know the Scriptures? How much effort do you put into knowing them more? Whatever time and energy you put into it, you’ll be glad you did.