Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to act in accordance with all the law that my servant Moses commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, so that you may be successful wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful. I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.
Joshua faced daunting problems and a series of military battles ahead. Yet God does not brief him on battle strategy or military tactics. God does not lay out for him a plan of attack but talks with him about meditating on His Word day and night. Joshua will find God’s strength and courage by meditating on God’s Word and living it. That will be the key: meditating on God’s law, living it, and Joshua will succeed.
Moses had passed on a written document that all Israel regarded as authoritative, the Law of Moses. In today’s text the Lord commands His people to continuously meditate on this law so that they can practice it. This is what will make them effective and bring them true success.
Perhaps when we hear the word “law” we think of rules, regulations, and punishment. But the Hebrew word translated as “law” is torah, which signifies something very different. Torah is a word picturing a finger pointing the right way to go. It is like a sign posted alongside the highway: “This Way!”.
So God commands Joshua to meditate on His torah day and night. The Hebrew word for “meditate” (hagah) signifies “to mutter”, or to talk under our breath, talk to ourselves, dialogue with the text. Perhaps you have seen Jews today who read the Scriptures aloud to themselves, or at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, repeating aloud God’s Word to God and to themselves. To meditate on God’s Word is to dialogue with it, to engage it, to talk to God and ourselves about what we read: “the book of the law (torah) shall not depart out of your mouth”. It is by meditating on God’s Word that we really make it our own. This is the way for Joshua and for us to live with God’s strength and courage.
Once Martin Luther’s barber asked him how to pray. Luther then wrote for his barber a little booklet he called A Simple Way to Pray. As Luther believed that prayer should be based on Scripture meditation, you might find Luther’s suggestions helpful for your meditation. Luther instructed his barber to dialogue with a short Scripture text by asking these four questions:
- What INSTRUCTION is there for me in this Scripture text?
- What cause for THANKSGIVING is there?
- What CONFESSION is evoked?
- What PRAYER petition is appropriate for me?
If we will devote ourselves to this kind of meditation, we will know true success.
- Using Luther’s four steps (above) spend some time meditating on today’s Scripture text, Joshua 1:7-9. What do you sense is God’s message for you today?
- Ponder the introductory words to the book of Psalms:
Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked,or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers;but their delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law they
meditate day and night. They are like trees planted by streams
of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their
leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.