In this post I want to share with you how I dealt with the obedience theme in Joshua 1:7-9. As I mentioned in a previous post, answering the question “how do I get to Jesus from here” comes after working the details of the text to understand the author’s intention. Once this is done I look for the legitimate canonical trajectories that point me to Christ.
In Joshua 1:7-8 the Divine King is calling His servant Joshua to faithful obedience, who will then exhort the nation following him to the same life of Torah conformity. These verses are arranged in a positive-negative format followed by an outcome. Verse 7 could be summarized as be careful to obey, do not turn to the right or left, so that you may be successful wherever you go. In verse 8, the positive exhortations are to keep and to meditate, so that you may be careful to do everything written and enjoy success. Verse 9 includes the positive command that calls Joshua to courage followed by the negative exhortation to fight fear and discouragement.
This text demands careful attention to the ideas of success and prosperity promised in connection with Word obedience in 1:7 and 1:8. The English terms “successful” and “prosper” are translations of a Hebrew verb and have a causative nuance. Gutsy obedience will result in your success wherever you go. What does this mean? Perhaps you feel that obeying the Word only brings more trouble into your life. So how do we define and understand success? What should we expect as a result of obeying God’s Word? How do we properly apply this promise? We can answer these and other questions by defining the term success and seeing how it is used in various contexts.
The semantic range of the Hebrew verb includes the idea of success in some kind of life task (Deuteronomy 29:8-9; 1 Samuel 18:5, 14; 1 Kings 3:9; 2 Chronicles 2:12-13) having wisdom, understanding, and insight (Genesis 3:6; Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:3). In this context, Joshua is promised success in his task of conquest if he will be committed to the Word of God. The success that Joshua will enjoy in the task of conquest will grow out of his relationship with the Lord and the Word of God. A proper relationship to God’s Word results in the development of spiritual insight for living a life that pleases God. Adhering to the path of God’s Word will bring wisdom and insight to the Israelites’ path in conquest. God is not promising dollars and cents or the acquisition of material things. Consider the example of Christ. He obeyed, was crucified, and yes victoriously resurrected. God is appealing to His servant to invest in a relationship that will result in wisdom and insight for successful living.
The prosperity promised in 1:8 is related to a causative Hebrew verb. In the last phrase of 1:8 this verb is combined with success. The verb translated “success” is also found in 1:7. The dictionaries will define “prosperous” as being or becoming successful in something (Genesis 24:21; Isaiah 48:15). Consider 1 Chronicles 22:13; this was David’s concern for Solomon. Success/prosperity is connected with Word obedience. Again, in 2 Chronicles 26:5 we read that Uzziah was successful as long as He sought the Lord. Finally, according to Psalm 1:3, the fruit of Word adherence is success.
Success in conquest is directly related to faithful obedience to the Word of God. Joshua is challenged to keep the Word in his mouth and to trust the Lord for the success the Lord desires to give. Success in Kingdom leadership required that each king, each leader be committed to the Word of God. The legacy of leadership was not the things they did as much as how they related to the Lord.
In essence, the Book of the Law is the regulator of life and conquest in Joshua (1:8; 8:31, 34; 23:6; 24:26). This is affirmed again at the end of the book when Joshua calls on the nation in 23:6 to be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left. Unfortunately, Israel’s history is spotted with many departures from the Word. Consider Joshua 9:14 and how in the Gibeonite ruse Israel did not consult the mouth of the Lord. Consider also how the prophet Isaiah in 30:1-2 indicts Israel for going to Egypt without consulting the mouth of the Lord.
The trajectory to Christ that I followed from Joshua 1:7-9 emerged out of the connection of the Word with the Lord in 1:9. Joshua 1:9 opens with the exhortation to be valiant and to forsake fear. It is a repetition of 1:7. The verse closes with the oft repeated promise of divine presence, the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Literally, Joshua 1:9 could be translated, with you YHWH your God wherever you walk. YHWH, the near and present God. Elohim, the great sovereign God, YHWH, your God present with you always. The nation is to trust the living God “always” present with them in conquest (1:9 cf. 1:5).
This is Joshua’s relationship to the person of God. This is the Word/Lord connection I am discerning. It is very similar to what you would find in Psalm 119:9-10. You cleanse your way by taking heed to the Lord’s Word. You seek the Lord with your whole heart. Joshua 1:1-9 summarizes what Deuteronomy repeatedly emphasizes; Israel is obligated to obey the Word of her redeeming King. Israel will enjoy blessing and success when she is faithful to God’s Word. Israel will face judgment when rebellious to God’s Word.
In what way can we appropriately apply this theme to the life of the New Testament believer and to the New Testament Church? How do we get to Jesus from here? First take hold of the main point of the message: God is the Divine King who commands us to courageously do His Word. But, be careful of a resolve to do the Word simply in your own strength. Sanctify your resolve with a confession of absolute dependence on the Lord. Sanctify your resolve by seeing Jesus as the Word Who is your joy and delight.
See Jesus as the Word Who obeyed. The eternal Jesus took on flesh and blood and lived a perfect, sinless life in obedience to the Father (1 Peter 2:22). He learned obedience (Hebrews 5:8) by prayerful meditation on the OT Scriptures. His obedience was founded upon His love and trust of God the Father (Matthew 4:1-11). He overcame temptation by means of the Word, prayer, fasting, humility. He lived an earthly life marked by gutsy, lionhearted obedience to the Word and Will of the Father. What was the outcome? Death on a cross. Yes, but not only this. Most importantly, He won justification and eternal life for all of us sin-held captives (Philippians 2:8).
See Jesus as the Word to obey. The Word is the Word of the Lord. The Word is intimately connected with the Lord Himself. The Word is His voice (Deuteronomy 30:10); The Word is His breath (Psalm 135:17; 33:6; 2 Timothy 3:16-17); The Word is Jesus (John 1:1). When we connect the person of the Lord with the words of the Lord we will stop trivializing the Word. He is the Shepherd King of Psalm 23. He is eternal, immortal, invincible (1 Timothy 1:17). He is the subject of our rejoicing “Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages (Revelation 15:3 — Song of Moses; Song of the Lamb). When we connect the person of the Lord with the words of the Lord we will be delivered from duty into delight (Psalm 1:2; 119:70).
See Jesus as the Word that enables you to obey. His perfect life of obedience is the basis of the new life; the basis of the forgiveness of sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). His life of perfect obedience is our model to follow (1 Peter 2:18-22). He is the sympathetic High Priest who will help us when we are tempted (Hebrews 2:18; 4:14-16). He gives us the Holy Spirit so that we will be conformed into His image and so that we will obey (Romans 8:9-30). See Jesus as the Word to devour. This is the direct line from Joshua to Jesus. Jesus is the Bread of Life who must be devoured by faith for life in the fullest sense (John 6:48; 6:51).
See Jesus as the One who will determine/define success in our lives. Success/prosperity for Joshua/the nation was land occupation. Success/prosperity for Joshua/the nation was founded on Word obedience. Christ illustrates how we should let God define/determine success in our lives.