Meditating on God’s Word
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 (Joshua 1:8).
At the center of our faith, we should have the Word of God, this book of instruction. When we continually meditate on God’s Word, we are constantly thinking about it. The Scriptures should have a central and preeminent place in our lives. Note Joshua’s command in verse 7, Above all, be strong and very courageous to observe carefully the whole instruction my servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you will have success wherever you go. In verse 8 God provides the very formula that will lead us to such obedience, we are to meditate on it [God’s Word] day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. The clear implication here is that constant study, meditation, and application of God’s Word leads to obedience; failure to do these things will result in disobedience. The idea of meditating here is not the emptying of one’s mind or focusing on self or some sort of visualization. Rather, the Old Testament concept of meditation involves focusing upon God Himself, His works, and/or His Word.
The question that often surfaces is, does this command given to Joshua also obligate the Christian? I believe the answer is yes. Francis Schaeffer puts it this way:
“But though Joshua was going to have this special leading from the Lord, this was not to detract from the central reference point and chief control: the written book. The Word of God written in the book set the limitations. Thus, Joshua was already functioning in the way Bible-believing Christians function. Sometimes God does lead in other ways, but such leading must always be within the circle of his external, propositional commands in Scripture. Even if a person had an Urim and a Thummin as well as a priest to guide him, this would not change his basic authority. The primary leading would come from the written, propositional revelation of God, from the Bible.”1
Joshua 1:7-8 and Psalm 1:2 describe what should be true of every believer, that life must be lived out of the Word of God. A godly life comes from the Word already received from God and from obedience to that Word.
Our external obedience to the Word is to flow from an appreciation and love for the Word that comes from daily meditation and constant conversation. When the way is hard and decisions need to be made, we need to have the Bible available—in our hearts and minds—so that we can respond in a manner that is in keeping with it. Victorious Christian living results from a deep and detailed acquaintance with the content of God’s revelation and the continual application of that content. God will—in His Word—instruct us and provide principles so that we may prosper and succeed, but it is up to every child of God to actually “cross the river and possess the land.” Failure to do so will cause us to wander in a spiritual desert. One reason many Christians wander is because they place their confidence in the wrong place, in self rather than God. As we go through the process of sanctification, God intends to strip us from self-confidence so that we may become more and more God-confident.
Prosperity and success result from steadfast and unconditional obedience to the will of God. It is important to note that we are not being guaranteed success in every endeavor we undertake or that we will experience financial prosperity. The words prosper and succeed “speak of succeeding in life’s proper endeavors. This happens when people’s lives are focused entirely on God and obedience to him. The focus of people’s endeavors is not to be prosperity and success but rather holiness and obedience. A believer’s consuming obsession should be holiness, for God himself is holy… to love God with one’s entire being… to keep his word with the same fervor… and to “fear God and keep his commandments….”2
It is quite unfortunate to see so many Christians and churches drifting away from the centrality of daily, disciplined, and detailed obedience to all that God has spoken in His Word. Many have forgotten that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Rom. 10:17 NKJV). As David Jackman puts it,
“Without that word there will be no lasting, deep faith. Without faith there will be no obedience. Without obedience there will be no fundamental change, no gospel advance. Accepting an alternative to the centrality of Scripture, in the church and in the Christian, producing fear and dismay, is forbidden to Joshua in verse 9.”3
In Joshua 1:8 we are reminded that setting the Word of God in its rightful place and responding to it is essential for the accomplishment of the purpose of God. Are you taking God’s instruction to heart and placing His Word in its rightful place?
The psalmist wrote,
How happy is the one who does not
walk in the advice of the wicked
or stand in the pathway with sinners
or sit in the company of mockers!
Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction,
and he meditates on it day and night.
He is like a tree planted beside flowing streams
that bears its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.
The wicked are not like this;
instead, they are like chaff that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand up in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to ruin (Psalm 1).
Are we like the righteous individual who is like a tree planted beside flowing streams that bears its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers (v. 3)? As Christians we are to mull over and speak of God’s instruction continually. We are to occupy our mind and heart with the Word of God.
1 Francis A. Schaeffer, Joshua and the Flow of Biblical History (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004), 32.
2 David M. Howard, Jr. New American Commentary – Volume 5: Joshua (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishing, 1998), 87.
3 David Jackman, Preaching the Word – Joshua: People of God’s Purpose (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014), 28.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Christian Standard Bible. Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible®, and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers, all rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NKJV) are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2006–2021 by Miguel J. Gonzalez Th.D.
Dr. Miguel J. Gonzalez is the Founder and President of Reasons for Faith International Ministries. He served as a pastor for ten years in Charlotte, NC and has taught in churches and conferences throughout the United States. He currently hosts the Time in the Word and Truth To Live By podcasts and writes at KnowingChristianity.blogspot.com.