“The Key to Success: The LORD’s Lip Service” | Joshua 1:7-9 Sermon

This sermon is an expansion of a previous commentary on Joshua 1:8. For more from this service please visit the 1.24.21 Alpha Baptist Church Live Stream web page.

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Introduction

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Your Sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer (Ps 19:14)

You know, there’s a straightforward way to make sure that the words of our mouths and the meditation of our hearts are acceptable to God: Keep God’s word in our mouths, and keep meditation of God in our hearts.

That’s the key to success.

Now I mentioned in Bible Study that since I was the student council president my senior year, I had the first parking spot in the parking lot. The only problem was, I didn’t have a car I could park in the parking lot.

But after a lot of begging and pleading, my parents got me my first car. And, at first, I was so excited. But then I found out that it had one of those millennial anti-theft devices. Have you heard of cars with millennial anti-theft devices?

Those are the cars with a manual transmission. And many millennials can’t drive a stick. You can find some funny videos on YouTube of would be carjackers who run off because they can’t even correctly handle what they’re trying to take.

In any case, my car was equipped with a millennial anti-theft device. It also had some really remarkable rust spots. It had some stupendous chips in the paint. The car was the same age as me. You know, all things that every 17-year-old dreams of… for their first car.

When my Dad offered me the keys, I’m thinking: this car don’t look cool, it’s going to be hard to learn how to handle… do I even want these keys?

My brothers and sisters, do you even want these keys? According to God’s word, today I offer the keys to success, but do you even want these keys?

The keys to success are constantly reciting, meditating, and obeying His word. But do we even want these keys?

I’ll tell you straight up, it’s not going to look cool. What’s “cool” changes with the shifting sands of society. And in our culture, every day, being a true Christian is becoming less and less cool.

And I’ll tell you straight up, sometimes it’s going to be hard to learn how to handle. It’s often hard to understand and apply God’s word. But as Paul tells Timothy in 2 Tim 2:15:

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (2 Tim 2:15, NIV)

We have to do our best even though the word is sometimes hard to handle – and it’s often not going to look cool. But do we even want these keys?

If we say yes, we have to mean it. We can’t just give lip service. Lip service often refers to saying one thing with one’s mouth but not backing up it with one’s actions. Talking the talk but not walking the walk.

But we must keep the LORD’s instructions on our lips so we can better serve the LORD. This is what I like to call, the LORD’s lip service. The LORD’s lip service.

As we see in Joshua 1:8 (NIV), the LORD tells Joshua:

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. (Jos 1:8, NIV)

The LORD’s lip service is the key to success.

Now many false prophets will try to twist this passage. It’s not saying if you do this and that that God will make you rich. A lot of carjackers can’t even correctly handle what they try to take – out of context.

Context

So, let’s examine the context. In this context, the LORD is about to give the Promised Land to the people of Israel.

I think it’s beneficial to review some of the history – because there’s no history more important than the history in God’s word. And I don’t want the holy history to be a holy mystery.

Nowadays we have Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ and all these other streaming services. Now, you can binge-watch entire seasons of your favorite shows. Never in history have we had so much access to so much entertainment at our fingertips.

And never in history have we had so much access to so much Scripture at our fingertips. But do we binge on the Bible?

In any case, if you start watching a show at the start of season 6, and you don’t know what happened in season 1-5, you’re not going to understand everything that’s going on.

Well, in Scripture, Joshua is basically the start of season 6. And, if we don’t know what happened in the seasons 1-5 – the first five books of the Bible, we’re not going to understand everything that’s going on.

So, let’s review some of the holy history, so we can understand the significance of this historic moment in Joshua 1. And let’s see if we can trace some important themes.

As you may recall, after the Exodus, the Israelites were supposed to inherit the Promised Land – as the LORD had promised Abraham.

As we read in Genesis 13:14-17:

14 The LORD said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. 15 All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. 16 I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. 17 Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you. (Gen 13:14-17, NIV)

Notice how Abraham is not earning this land. He is not working for the land. The LORD is giving the land – to Abraham and his offspring.

After repeating this promise to Abraham in Genesis 22 (Gen 22:17),[1] it is also reaffirmed to Abraham’s son, Isaac, in Genesis 26.

As we read in Genesis 26:2-5:

2 The LORD appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. 3 Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. 4 I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, 5 because Abraham obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions. (Gen 26:2-5, NIV)[2]

There are some important themes here. First, the LORD says I will be with you and will bless you. As you may recall, our theme this year is “God is With Us”.

Isn’t it nice to know that God’s presence is associated with God’s blessing?

My wife and I recently got a new kitten named Taliyah. I may be a bit biased, but she is – in fact – the cutest cat in the world.

Now, at first, Taliyah was very shy and wouldn’t even let us pet her. She was a scaredy cat. For the first week, she lived in the bathroom, behind the toilet. Until she warmed up to us, we had to let her have her space.

Now, she runs the place. She chases her toys. She purrs like a car engine. And she runs up and down the stairs at 4AM.

In addition, she’s become more affectionate – especially when it’s time to eat. Oh yeah, when she hears me open up that can of Fancy Feast – she starts rubbing up on me, making her cute cat noises and lookin’ at me with those cute kitty eyes. Oh, we best friends when she’s hungry.

At other times, we just cool. You know, cats can be moody. But one thing I’ve noticed is that when I reach out to pet her, she almost always does one thing: she sniffs my hand. And, sometimes, if my hand is closed, she’ll paw at me to open it up.

She’s not even focused on my face, she’s focused on my hand.

Because you know what she wants: treats. Now, I know she’s just a kitten and I’m just a man. But, my brothers and sisters, do we seek God’s hand, more than we seek His face?

That is, are we sometimes more focused with the treats God gives us than with God Himself? Are we more concerned with His confections than with His countenance?

Do we love His presents more than His Presence?

As we said around Christmas, the greatest of all presents is the Presence of Christ [see Matthew 2:1-12 Bible Study, “What Are You Getting Christ for Christmas?“]. The Presence of Immanuel – who is God With Us (cf. Mt 1:23).

My cat adores me – when she’s hungry. Let’s not only adore God when we want something. His Presence is a present. It’s a blessing that God is With Us – as He was with Abraham and Isaac.

And the LORD says to Abraham’s son, Isaac, that He will fulfill His promise to Abraham – because Abraham obeyed and did everything the LORD required in His instructions. And obeying and doing the LORD’s instructions is an important theme.

In Hebrew, “instructions” is the familiar word Torah or torah.[3] And the LORD reaffirms the familiar promise: Isaac’s family and offspring will be given the Promised Land.

And the LORD again reaffirms this promise to Isaac’s son, Jacob, in a dream. As we read in Genesis 28:13-15:

13 There above it stood the LORD, and he said: “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (Gen 28:13-15, NIV)

Again, the LORD promises to be with Jacob, and to give he and his descendants the Promised Land.

Then, as you may recall, Jacob’s son Joseph ends up in Egypt after being sold into slavery by his brothers. But the LORD was with him.

As we see in Genesis 39:2-4:

2 The LORD was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. 3 When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did, 4 Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. (Gen 39:2-4, NIV)[4]

Then, as you may recall, Potiphar’s wife lied on Joseph. And he ended up in prison (Gen 39:1-19). But the LORD was still with him. As we see in Genesis 39:20-21:

20 Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. But while Joseph was there in the prison, 21 the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. (Gen 39:20-21, NIV)

Later, after Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dreams about the upcoming famine in Egypt, in Genesis 41:38-40, it reads:

38 So Pharaoh asked them, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?” 39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. 40 You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.” (Gen 41:38-40, NIV)

You see, in Potiphar’s house, the LORD was with him. In prison, the LORD was with him, and in Pharaoh’s palace the LORD – even Pharaoh recognized that the LORD was with him.

Joseph becomes second-in-command in Egypt – he’s the head Hebrew in charge. And so he’s able to help his family and his people when they come to Egypt because of the famine (Genesis 42f.)

However, after the Pharaoh that put Joseph in charge died, the next Pharaoh started oppressing and enslaving the next generation of Israelites (Ex 1:6-14). Because he thought the Israelites were getting too numerous, he even ordered that all newborn Hebrew boys be killed (Ex 1:15).

Similarly, in the first-century, King Herod ordered the execution all of the Hebrew boys in Bethlehem under the age of two. You see, Wicked rulers have no problems with innocent children being killed.

But thanks be to God, the LORD was with Moses and the people of Israel. Through Moses, he sent Ten Plagues (Exodus 7:14f), walked them through the Red Sea (Exodus 14), fed them manna and quail from Heaven (Exodus 16), gave them water from a rock (Exodus 17:1-7), and made a covenant with them at Mount Sinai – where He gave the Ten Commandments and other laws (Exodus 19-24).

Sometime later, as we see in Numbers 13:1-2:

1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.” (Num 13:1-2, NIV)

Here, they are at the cusp of the Promised Land, and Moses sends out a man from each of the twelve tribes as scouts. And one of the twelve who is chosen is Joshua (Num 13:8, 16).

So, they explore the land for forty days (Num 13:25), and they find out that it’s a good land, flowing with milk and honey. But ten out of the twelve scouts said that the people who lived in the Promised Land were just too big to be defeated.

Brothers and sisters, no matter what you are going through, no matter how hard your hardships are, no matter how problematic your predicament, there ain’t no problem that’s greater than our God.

Maybe the Israelites forgot how big their God was. Did they forget who sent the Ten Plagues? Did they forget who parted the Red Sea? Did they forget that the LORD was with them?

They must have, because everyone started grumbling against Moses and rebelling against God (Num 14:1-4). Everyone except the other two spies, Caleb and Joshua.

For we read in Number 14:6-9:

6 Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes 7 and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. 8 If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. 9 Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” (Num 14:6-9, NIV)

You see, Joshua understood that, if the LORD was with them, they need not be afraid. He had faith the LORD would be faithful to His word – that God would fulfill His promise, by giving them the Promised Land.

But the people were saying, “Man, we should just go back to Egypt. The LORD should’ve never brought us out” (Num 14:2-4). Could you imagine?

So, because of their rebellion, the LORD makes another promise. In Numbers 14:30, He says:

“Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.” (Num 14:30, NIV)

Then in Numbers 14:34-35, He says:

34 For forty years—one year for each of the forty days you explored the land—you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you.’ 35 I, the LORD, have spoken, and I will surely do these things to this whole wicked community, which has banded together against me. They will meet their end in this wilderness; here they will die.” (Num 14:34-35, NIV)

So, God’s like, “Did y’all forget what I did in Egypt? You’ve seen with your own eyes what I can do. And yet you doubt that I can bring you into the land? You want to go back? Fine, you won’t go in.

So, the Israelites wander in the wilderness for forty years – until that entire generation dies. And at the end of Moses’ life, he appoints Joshua as his successor.

In Deuteronomy 31, Moses reaffirms the promise that God will give them the Promised Land, and drive out the pagan nations who occupy it.

In Deuteronomy 31:5-8, he says:

5 The LORD will deliver them to you, and you must do to them all that I have commanded you. 6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

7 Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the LORD swore to their ancestors to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. 8 The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Dt 31:5-8, NIV)

Then, in Deuteronomy 34, Moses climbs up on a mountain and looks at the Promised Land. In Deuteronomy 34:4, it says:

Then the LORD said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.” (Dt 34:4, NIV)

So, once again, Israel is on the cusp of the Promised Land. And now Joshua, Moses’ successor, is about to take office.

Now before I continue, this is message for everyone who has ears to hear. This is not a message particularly for the President. I am not preaching to the President, because I’m sure the President is not listening.

And it’s wise not to always interpret Scripture through the lens of the current headlines. Scripture must be understood in its original context.

Ever seen somebody with road rage? Some people might honk. Some people might yell a few choice words. Some people might even flip you the bird.

But notice that people do these things from the safety of their vehicle. They know they can just drive away and never see you again. And many times, you can’t even hear what they’re saying about you.

Some people might be cussing us out and we don’t even know it. But we know it’d be a different story if they were talking to us directly.

I say that to say, it takes little courage to preach to someone who doesn’t even know you’re preaching to them.

Now preaching to y’all is a different story. ‘Cause some of y’all know where I live. And some of y’all have known me since I’ve been in diapers. But I gotta be strong and courageous.

And so does Joshua. As we read right before today’s text, in Joshua 1:1-6:

1 After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. 3 I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. 4 Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. 5 No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. (Jos 1:1-6, NIV)

So, through our recap of seasons 1-5, we can see that Joshua 1 contains a lot of familiar language and a lot of familiar themes from earlier in the show.

Now our main theme in this season of Alpha Baptist Church is “God is With Us.” And the LORD promises to be with Joshua as he was with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and Moses.

Joshua knew that they could take the Promised Land, which he had first promised in Genesis (also see Gen 50:24), if the LORD was with them.

It’s important to know holy history so Scripture is not a holy mystery.

Joshua is to lead Israel into the Promised Land as Moses’ successor, and the LORD is going to give him the keys to success.

Joshua 1:7

Continuing in Joshua 1:7, the LORD says emphatically (cf. Dt 4:9, 12:16, 23; Jos 1:18, 6:18, 13:6, 22:5).[5]

Be Strong and Very Courageous

Only, be strong and be very courageous – obeying and doing all the Law that my servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn aside from it to the right or to the left, so that you will prosper wherever you go. (Jos 1:7, AT)

As you can see, the LORD repeats many of the words from Deuteronomy 31 (Dt 31:6-7).[6] He commands him to be strong and very courageous.

This is the language of the installation of a new leader – this is a commission.[7] Earlier Moses commissioned Joshua; now the LORD again (cf. Dt 31:23) commissions Joshua.[8]

The word translated be strong can also mean, be bold.[9] It’s easy to say things that everyone else is saying. It’s easy to join the chorus of the crowd. It’s easy to go with the flow.

But you have to be bold to go against the grain. It takes strength to swim against the stream.

My brothers and sisters, we have to be strong and very courageous when speaking the word of God in an ungodly world. We have to be strong and courageous when trying to live holy in the midst of those on a highway to Hell.

We have to be strong and courageous when spreading of the Gospel among the hostile.

You know young people are considered to be rebellious. And many people of all ages fancy themselves as rebelling against the system.

But, if you want to do something truly rebellious, read and apply God’s word – cause most people ain’t doing it. We are the true rebels – who refuse to rebel against God.

Obeying and Doing

Now biblical Hebrew is known for it’s parallelism.[10]

In todays’ text, there’s a lot of pairs that go together. Be strong and courageous, don’t turn aside to the right or the left, meditate day and night, be prosperous and successful,[11] don’t be terrified or discouraged.

Many translations render this passage as “be careful to obey” all the Law or “be careful to do” everything written in it (cf. Jos 1:7-8, NIV; Jos 1:7-8, NRSV; Jos 1:7-8, ESV; Jos 1:7-8; NASB; Jos 1:7-8, HCSB)

But I like to keep the parallelism going, by translating this more literally as “obeying and doing”.[12] Having two words with essentially the same meaning serves to give the command more emphasis.[13]

The Law

Speaking of words, as we’ve said before, the Hebrew word for “Law” (i.e., torah) – more generally means “instruction” or “teaching” or “direction”.

Ironically, the word “law” (cf. Jos 8:31; Dt 4:44, 17:18) doesn’t do the word torah justice.[14] Torah includes not only commands, but the accounts of God’s salvation history in Scripture.[15]

These are more than just a list of rules to follow; these are divine directions concerning what it means to live for the LORD.[16]

Has anyone ever given you bad directions? Man, people will have you driving all over town. Thank God we have GPS now. And thank God that, in His word, the good Lord has given us good directions (see Psalm 1 Bible Study Part 1, Part 2 — “Life: Use Only As Directed”).

The question is, will we follow them?

As I’ve said before, when you order something new, when you open the box there’s usually an instruction manual. If you’re anything like me, you just toss the instruction manual to the side and try to figure things out on your own.

And that’s our problem in life, we try to figure things out on our own – instead of following God’s instructions.

My brothers and sisters, as we’ve said: if you want to get the most out of Windows, doesn’t it make sense to follow the instruction of Microsoft, the creator of Windows?

If you want to get the most out of an iPhone, doesn’t it make sense to follow the instruction of Apple – the creator of the iPhone? If you want to get the most out of a Civic, doesn’t it make sense to follow the instruction of Honda – the creator of the Civic?

My brothers and sisters, if you want to get the most out of life, doesn’t it make sense to follow the instructions of the LORD – the Creator of Life?

Do Not Turn Aside

That’s why the key to success in life is keeping His law on our lips. So, we can better follow His instructions.

And following the Lord means walking on the straight and narrow (cf. Mt 7:13-14).

Proverbs 3:5-6 reminds us to:

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart

and lean not on your own understanding;

6 in all your ways submit to him,

and he will make your paths straight. (Pr 3:5-6, NIV)

Also, Psalm 23 says “He leads me in paths of righteousness” – or more literally – He leads me in “righteous tracks.” (See commentary on Psalm 23:3 — “Refreshed Soul, Righteous Tracks”).

Not turning to the left or to the right is an expression (Dt 2:27, 5:32; 2 Ki 22:2)[17] found throughout Deuteronomy and elsewhere (cf. Dt 17:11, 20; 28:14)[18] that means not going off-track (cf. 2 Ki 18:6, 22:2; Ps 119:102)[19] – it means do not stray from the LORD’s righteous way (cf. Pr 1:15, 2:20).

Joshua 1:8

Continuing in Joshua 1:8, it says:

Do not remove this Book of the Law from your lips; meditate on it day and night so that you will obey and do all that is written in it. For then you will make your path prosperous, and then you will have success. (Jos 1:8, AT)

Do Not Remove From Your Lips

Do not remove this Book of the Law from your lips. We can put a lot of things on our lips that are not the LORD’s word. We’re talking about the LORD’s lip service, but who do our lips serve?

Some of us talk politics so much you’d think we’re workin’ on a campaign. Some of us talk about our favorite teams so much… you’d think we were on the payroll.

And all parties and teams lose at some point. Why work for a loser? But as Deacon Johnson sang in prayer meeting, in the LORD’s service, we can always sing, “Victory is Mine.”

Yet, many people are bigger fans of characters than the Creator. Many people are bigger fans of celebrities than of the Savior. But why talk so much about people who don’t even know you exist?

Does your idol even know your name?

Why spend so much time talking about people who ain’t done nothin’ for us? When we can talk about God who did everything for us?

And we can talk about the news every day. But with every passing day, a lot of what you see on the news becomes more and more irrelevant. In a few days the news will be on to the next thing that’s new. It’s not called the olds; it’s called the news.

But the word of God will never get old and it will never pass away (Mt 24:35; Is 40:7-8, etc.). And, it becomes more relevant with every passing day.

The news tells you what they think is newsworthy. But the most newsworthy headline is always the Good News of Christ.

Not to mention, just because you saw someone say something on TV, that don’t make it right. We’ve seen several bombshell reports that turned out to be nothing.

We might talk all about a story and tell everyone we know – and later find out that it was a hoax.

And has anyone ever sent you a chain message? One that says, pass this message on to everyone you know! Many times, they’re false. And we have to be careful because we don’t want our lips to be in the service of falsehood.

In Exodus 23:1, the LORD says do not spread false reports. Do not spread false reports.

We may not even intend to, but we could be spreading falsehood. So, instead, let’s pass on the God’s word of truth to everyone we know.

We can use our lips to talk, talk, talk about everything except the Lord. But there’s no better topic than the Lord.

Here, we see that metaphorically, Joshua is to never let the Book of the Law depart[20] from his lips (cf. Job 23:12).[21] The LORD’s word is to continually be in his mouth. He should recite it[22] continuously. And we should do the same.

We praise the LORD with our lips, we pray to the LORD with our lips… but will we put the principles of the LORD on our lips?

Will we put His torah on our tongue? Will we communicate His commands? Will we speak His statues, will we recite His requirements?

We sing about how much we love the LORD; let’s talk about the LORD we love so much.

Book of the Law

And, you know I really debated whether or not I should read so much Scripture in this sermon, but this is exactly what the LORD tells Joshua to do. To keep the Book of the Law always on his lips.

And this was likely not only to be a private reading, Joshua was to publicly read the words of the Lord to the people of the LORD[23] (cf. Dt 17:18-19; 31:10-12).[24]

As we see in Deuteronomy 31:11-13:

11 when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose, you shall read this law before them in their hearing. 12 Assemble the people—men, women and children, and the foreigners residing in your towns—so they can listen and learn to fear the LORD (see Proverbs 1:7 Sermon — “First Things First, House Rules”) your God and follow carefully all the words of this law. 13 Their children, who do not know this law, must hear it and learn to fear the LORD your God as long as you live in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.” (Dt 31:11-13, NIV)

Brothers and sisters, whenever we assemble. Whether it’s in the church or in our homes, whether we’re on the pews or on the porch: we should read the law of the LORD. So that we may listen and learn.

Now, we have to understand that people in the ancient world did not have books with bindings and covers like we do today; A “book” could refer to any kind of document[25].

Now, for Joshua, the “Book of the Law” likely refers to the law outlined in Deuteronomy.[26] As we’ve seen, much of this passage alludes to words and themes found in Deuteronomy.[27] And in Deuteronomy, Moses actually puts a copy of the LORD’s instructions in front of the ark of the covenant law.[28]

As we see in Deuteronomy 31:24-27:

24 After Moses finished writing in a book the words of this law from beginning to end, 25 he gave this command to the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD: 26 “Take this Book of the Law and place it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God. There it will remain as a witness against you. 27 For I know how rebellious and stiff-necked you are. If you have been rebellious against the LORD while I am still alive and with you, how much more will you rebel after I die! (Dt 31:24-27, NIV)[29]

You see when you tell somebody to do something, they can always say something, “Oh, my bad, I forgot” or “Oh, I must’ve heard you wrong.”  But when you put it in writing and give them a copy, they have no excuse.

Moses, makes sure he writes down God’s commands so that – even after he’s gone – they’ll have no excuse. People are going to rebel against the LORD and encourage us to do the same. But we have to known what is written.

When Jesus is tempted by Satan in the wilderness (Mt 4:1-11; Lk 4:1-3), He responds by quoting Deuteronomy. The devil comes at Him sideways and even takes Psalm 91 out of context. But three times, Jesus responds: “It is written, it is written, it is written.”

We, too, should know what is written – so we can avoid Satan’s temptation.

And this principle likely applies to all of God’s torah – not just Deuteronomy, but all of God’s instructions found in all of God’s Scripture.

Brothers and sisters, the Bible is the most popular and influential book in history. What better book could we possibly read?

If we’ve been Christians for years or even decades… we should know this Book like the back of our hand. The key to victory is to read your history – that is, His Story.

Meditate

And we must meditate on His word. When you think of meditation, what comes to mind?

Many likely think of someone sitting quietly and privately while emptying one’s mind, chanting, and/or focusing on one’s inner thoughts.[30]

According to Webster’s Dictionary, to meditate often entails “engag[ing] in mental exercise (as concentration on one’s breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness.”[31] This practice usually has its roots in Eastern religions.[32]

However, this differs from the meditation we find in Scripture. In Scripture, this word [often] refers to planning (cf. Ps 2:1 Pr 24:2)[33] or repetitive and reflective thought (Ps 1:2, 63:6; 77:12, 143:5; Pr 15:28;[34] cf. Ps 19:14 (noun)).[35]

When someone meditates on God’s word, it involves repeatedly reflecting on the word of the LORD in order to conform one’s life to the word of the LORD.[36]

So Biblical meditation is not about emptying your mind, but filling it with the directions of the divine. The topic of this reflection is not on oneself or what one has to do, but on the LORD and what the LORD has done.

For example, in Psalm 63:6, the Psalmist says to the LORD:

On my bed I remember you;

I think [הָגָה | hāgâ] of you through the watches of the night. (Ps 63:6, NIV)

Also, Psalm 77:12 says:

I will consider [הָגָה | hāgâ] all your works

and meditate on all your mighty deeds.” (Ps 77:12, NIV)[37]

Have you ever lied awake at night, thinking about all He’s done? Have you ever had daydreams about His divine directions?

And, this word translated meditate (הָגָה | hāgâ) is often elsewhere translated as “mutter or utter” (cf. Ps 35:28; 37:30; 71:24; Pr 8:7; Job 27:4, Is 59:3, 13).[38] So, this mediation is likely not something that is completely silent.[39]

It likely included reading and reciting the LORD’s instructions out loud.[40] Actually, in the ancient world, silent reading was rare.[41]

No wonder Joshua is commanded not merely to keep God’s directions in his heart, but to keep His law on His lips.[42]

Day and Night

And just as we see in Psalm 1 (Ps 1:2),[43] Joshua is to meditate on the torah of the LORD, day and night.

In other words, we should be reciting and reflecting upon God’s word all the time (cf. Ps 119:97).

Lord knows, there’s a lot of TV’s that are on day and night. But we don’t need our eyes on the screens day and night; we need His Law on our lips day and night.

You ever see a car so dirty that someone can write with their finger, “Wash Me”? You ever see a Bible so dusty that someone can write with their finger, “Read Me”?

In our study, we disciples need to be disciplined. In our lives, we have to make the reading and applying of God’s word a priority.

There’s only 24 hours in a day. And they say time is money. So, say we have 24 dollars in a day. How much attention do we pay to God?

Reading the Holy word of God should not be a chore – it should be a delight. If reading more than a couple verses feels like too much, we have to pray for a desire for His word.

As Psalm 119:36-37 says:

36 Turn my heart toward your statutes

and not toward selfish gain.

37 Turn my eyes away from worthless things;

preserve my life according to your word. (Ps 119:36-37)

As Rev. Land said during a recent morning prayer, let’s not major in the minor things.

So That You Will Obey and Do

Now, we’re talking about the LORD’s lip service. That is, we must keep the LORD’s instructions on our lips so we can better serve the LORD.

But we can’t just give the God lip service. We must talk the talk and walk the walk. In fact, the word says that talking the talk should lead to walking the walk.

We should keep the LORD’s instruction on our lips so that we will obey and do all that is written in it. We know that some people can say one thing with their lips, but their lives tell a different story.

And the LORD knows when we’re just giving lip service. In the first part of Isaiah 29:13, it says:

“These people come near to me with their mouth

and honor me with their lips,

but their hearts are far from me. (Is 29:13a, NIV)

And after mentioning two people who had left Christian faith, Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:19:

Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” (2 Timothy 2:19, NIV)

You can fool a lot of people with religious talk, but you can’t fool God. And everyone who professes to be godly must turn away from ungodliness. This is the way to godly success.

Prosperous and Successful

Now Many will take texts like Joshua 1:8, and others (Ps 1:3, Ps 34:10, 37:4, 37:25, Prov 10:15, Prov 16:3, Job 36:11)[44] as guarantees for success in all one’s endeavors and financial prosperity if one is truly righteous.

The converse is also thought to be true: if one is not succeeding or not prospering financially, then one must not be righteous.[45] However, this is not what this Scripture is saying.

Moreover, Psalm 73 and the Book of Job make it clear that this is not automatically the case.[46] And under the New Covenant – the New Testament – godly living is often rewarded with worldly persecution (2 Tim 3:12; 1 Pet 4:12; 2 Cor 11:24-28, Mt 10:22; etc.)

In any case, this word “[be] prosperous” (צָלַח | ṣālaḥ) refers to godly prosperity (Gen 39:2-3; Neh 2:20; Ps 1:3; Is 53:10, 55:11).[47] It refers to accomplishing God’s purpose.

And in the 59 times in Scripture that this word is used to describe prospering, only once is any kind of financial prosperity in view.[48]

Furthermore, this word translated “have success” (שָׂכַל | śākal) (cf. 1 Sam 18:15; Is 52:13; Jer 10:21, 20:11, 23:5)[49] more frequently means act wisely.[50] In the relatively few cases where it does refer to success (10-11 out of 78),[51] it is related to following the LORD’s commands (e.g., Dt 29:9; 1 Ki 2:3; 2 Ki 18:7).[52]

A lot of people read about prosperity and success and automatically think about money. But there’s a difference between godly success and worldly success.

Worldly success means a big bank account. Godly success means knowing you’re accountable to God.

Worldly success is about getting the highest salary, the highest grades, the fastest times, the highest scores, the most money, the most wins. Worldly success is about being at the top. Godly success is about keeping God at the top.

Worldly success is about how many people are below you. Godly success is about how well you serve the God above you.

Godly prosperity is about accomplishing God’s purpose. Not about worldly promotions, but godly devotion.[53] Not about earthly awards, but serving the LORD. Godly prosperity is not primarily about finances but about faithfulness.[54]

Now, if you ask people, “What’s the key to success in life?” Many people will say it’s education.

But being educated in ungodly things likely won’t lead to godly success. As we’ve said, it’s not just about education, it’s about dedication.

And, if we’re not dedicated to the Creator of the world, we haven’t learned the most important principle of this world He’s created (cf. Pr 1:7, 9:10).

Not to mention, at Princeton University, which boasts a Bible on it’s crest, my wife and I saw a lot of our educated classmates do a lot of foolish things. Truth be told, I did some foolish things, too.

You see, you can succeed in school, yet fail to be wise. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the Honor Roll if you don’t know your role of bringing God Honor.

King David gives virtually the same advice to his son, King Solomon. As we see in 1 Chronicles 22:16:

11 “Now, my son, the LORD be with you, and may you have success and build the house of the LORD your God, as he said you would. 12 May the LORD give you discretion and understanding when he puts you in command over Israel, so that you may keep the law of the LORD your God. 13 Then you will have success if you are careful to observe the decrees and laws that the LORD gave Moses for Israel. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged. (1 Ch 22:11-13, NIV)[55]

Joshua 1:9

Joshua 1:9 says:

Haven’t I commanded you? Be strong and be courageous! Do not be terrified and do not be discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go. (Jos 1:9, AT)

Don’t Be Terrified, Don’t be Discouraged

As the LORD has commanded before, He says: don’t be terrified (Dt 1:29, 7:21, 20:3, 31:6),[56] don’t tremble.[57] And don’t be discouraged (Dt 31:8l 1 Ch 28:20),[58] don’t be dismayed.[59]

The LORD is With You

And why shouldn’t he be afraid, because[60] the LORD is with him. As the LORD was with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses, the LORD is with Joshua.

It may be hard to keep the law on our lips, but God with us. It may be hard to meditate on it day and night, but God is with us. His Presence will enable Joshua to follow His instructions.[61] And through the Holy Spirit, His Presence can enable us to follow His instructions.

Sisters and brothers, we can’t pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. Joshua won’t have success without the LORD’s Presence. And, we can’t have spiritual success, without help from God’s Spirit.

No matter what we go through, we can have the blessed assurance[62] that God is with us.

You know a few Sundays ago, I totaled my car on the way to service. My car spun out of control, I hit the median to the left, and then I hit the guardrail on the right.

And after the dust settled, and I yelled a few choice words, I was like, “Man, I’m going to be late for service. I’m going to be late for service.” But thanks be to God, I got here in time to get everything set up. And I walked away with only a scratch.

I could be gone right now, but I believe the LORD was with me.

That was actually my first car that wasn’t a teenager. And that was my first major accident. But all of my previous cars ended up broken down on the side of the road.

So, I’ve had a lot of different car keys in life. But even when your life spins out of control, remember the most important key in life: the LORD’s lip service.

Conclusion

We must keep the LORD’s instructions on our lips so we can better serve the LORD. In this world, our lips can be in the service of a lot of things, but our lips should be in the service of the LORD.

Don’t delay, because one day it will be too late for service.

We sing that song to the LORD, “Your words my mouth, your thoughts my mind” – “I’m Yours.”1 That’s the key to success.

On the cusp of the Promised Land, we’re not told that God gave Joshua military strategy. We’re not told that He gave him economic advice. Rather, he’s told to follow God’s spiritual instructions.[63]

If he didn’t keep God’s righteous requirements, his leadership would fail.[64] This was to be his first and foremost priority.[65] And this should be our first and foremost priority. We must first seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness and then other things will be added unto us (cf. (cf. Mt 6:33).[66]

The key to success is not a great army (Dt 17:14-20),[67] but to put on the great armor of God (Eph 6:10f.).

So, don’t be afraid of this wicked world, don’t be discouraged by this sinful society. Be strong! Be courageous!

Because it’s not going to look cool, and it’s often going to be hard to handle.  But reciting, meditating on, and obeying God’s word are the keys to godly success.

The question is, do we even want these keys?

May the words of our mouths, and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in Your Sight, O LORD, our Rock, and our Redeemer (Ps 19:14). In Jesus’ Name, I pray. Amen.

Invitation

Dear friends, because we have not perfectly kept God’s instructions – because we have tossed His instructions aside and tried to figure things out on our own, because we have sinned, we have alienated ourselves from God. We have separated ourselves from the Sovereign. We creatures have rebelled against the Creator. Thus, our relationship has been broken.

But, as we’ve said, Joshua is the Hebrew equivalent of the Name, Jesus. It means the LORD (YHWH) saves. As you’ll find in Matthew 1:21-23, Jesus is named Jesus because He would save His people from their sins. He would be called Immanuel, which means, “God With Us.”

He was truly human and could thus had the ability to pay the penalty for human sin. He was truly divine and could thus had the ability to pay for all human sin. He was our perfect, atoning sacrifice. On the cross, he took the punishment that we deserved, and was vindicated by being raised from the dead.

In doing so, He brought about reconciliation with God the Father. And all who actively follow Jesus – all who are loyal to the Lord – will enjoy this reconciled relationship forever.

Jesus brought about the keys to salvation, the keys to eternal life. Dear friends, do you want these keys?

If so, please contact us at 609-877-6500, or on social media via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, or on our website at alphabc.org/contact-us

It’s hard to correctly handle the word of truth alone; let’s drive on this road of life together. Join a family of brothers and sisters in Christ who will try to love you, study with you, and pray with you.

May the LORD bless you and keep you, may the LORD make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you, may the LORD turn His face toward you, and give you peace (Num 6:24-26). In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.

[1] Matthews, 139

[2] Matthews, 139

[3] ZIBBC, 16

[4] Cf. NIDOTTE, 804; Howard, 88-89

[5] BDB, 956

[6] NIDOTTE, 436; TWOT, 53; Hess, 79

[7] NIDOTTE, 436

[8] NIDOTTE, 436 ; cf. TWOT, 53; Hess, 79

[9] TWOT, 53 ; BDB, 54

[10] UBS, 15

[11] Cf. UBS, 16

[12] This pair appears forty times in the Old Testament: Howard, 86

[13] UBS, 15

[14] Woudstra, 62

[15] Woudstra, 62

[16] Firth, 37

[17] NIDOTTE, 239; TWOT, 621

[18] Hess, 80

[19] NIDOTTE, 239

[20] NIDOTTE, 884-885; TWOT, 496; BDB, 559

[21] NIDOTTE, 884-885

[22] NIDOTTE, 884-85

[23] UBS, 15; Firth, 37

[24] ZIBBC, 13

[25] IVP

[26] Hess, 80; Firth, 36

[27] Firth, 36

[28] IVP

[29] IVP; ZIBBC, 16

[30] Cf. Howard, 86

[31] Inc Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003)

[32] Howard, 86

[33] TWOT, 205

[34] NIDOTTE, 1007-1008 ; cf. Howard, 86

[35] TWOT, 205

[36] NIDOTTE, 1007

[37] NIDOTTE, 1007-1008

[38] NIDOTTE, 1007 ; cf. TWOT, 205

[39] TWOT, 205; Howard, 86

[40] Howard, 86

[41] Howard, 86

[42] Howard, 86; Woudstra, 63

[43] NIDOTTE, 1007-1008; TWOT, 205; UBS, 15; Woudstra, 62, 63

[44] Howard, 87

[45] Howard, 87

[46] Woudstra, 63; cf. Howard, 88

[47] NIDOTTE, 804; cf. “For example, Abraham’s servant was given success by God in his mission to find a wife for Isaac (Gen 24:12, 40, 42, 56). Joseph succeeded in Potiphar’s household because God was with him (Gen 39:2, 3, 23). The Messiah himself, when he was bruised, nevertheless would cause God’s will to “prosper” in his hand (Isa 53:10). Jeremiah spoke several times of the wicked not succeeding in their evil intents (Jer 2:37; 5:28; 13:10; 22:30 [2x]; 32:5). Daniel and his friends succeeded in their efforts in exile in Babylon, with God’s help (Dan 3:30; 6:28 [Hb. 29]). The people’s efforts in Ezra and Nehemiah also succeeded because of God’s good hand upon them (Ezra 5:8; 6:14; Neh 1:11; 2:20). Solomon succeeded as king and as builder (1 Chr 22:11, 13; 29:23; 2 Chr 7:11).” Howard, 88-89.

[48] Howard, 90

[49] BDB, 968

[50] NIDOTTE, 1243; TWOT, 877

[51] Howard, 89

[52] Howard, 89

[53] “A believer’s consuming obsession should be holiness, for God himself is holy (Lev 11:45; 19:2, etc.), to love God with one’s entire being (Deut 6:5), to keep his word with the same fervor (Deut 6:6; 2 Kgs 23:25; Ezra 7:10; etc.), and to “fear God and keep his commandments” (Eccl 12:13).” Howard, 88

[54] Howard, 90

[55] NIDOTTE, 804; Hess, 79; Howard, 89

[56] NIDOTTE, 543-544; TWOT, 699

[57] TWOT, 699; BDB, 792; Woudstra, 64

[58] NIDOTTE, 331; Hess, 79

[59] NIDOTTE, 331; TWOT, 336; BDB, 336; Woudstra, 64

[60] NIDOTTE, 331; Howard, 90

[61] Hess, 80

[62] Woudstra, 64

[63] Hess, 85; cf. Waltke, 237; Wong, 182

[64] Hess, 80. “Although the earlier promise that no one will be able to stand against Joshua sounds unconditional, the following two commands provide further qualifications.” Wong, 182

[65] Hess, 80

[66] Howard, 88

[67] Howard, 85

Bibliography & Footnotes

  • Bratcher, Robert G., and Barclay Moon Newman. A Translator’s Handbook on the Book of Joshua. UBS Handbook Series. London; New York: United Bible Societies, 1983. [UBS]
  • Brown, Francis, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs. Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977. [BDB]
  • Davidson, A. B. Introductory Hebrew Grammar Hebrew Syntax. 3d ed. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1902.
  • Firth, David G. The Message of Joshua. Edited by Alec Motyer and Derek Tidball. The Bible Speaks Today. Nottingham, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2015.
  • Gesenius, Friedrich Wilhelm. Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar. Edited by E. Kautzsch and Sir Arthur Ernest Cowley. 2d English ed. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1910.
  • Harris, R. Laird, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, eds. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Chicago: Moody Press, 1999. [TWOT]
  • Hess, Richard S. Joshua: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 6. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996.
  • Hess, Richard S. “Joshua”. In Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary (Old Testament): Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel. Vol. 2. Edited by Walton, John H. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009. [ZIBBC]
  • Howard, David M., Jr. Joshua. Vol. 5. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998.
  • Joüon, Paul, and T. Muraoka. A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew. Roma: Pontificio Istituto Biblico, 2006.
  • Mathews, K. A. Genesis 1-11:26. Vol. 1A. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996.
  • Matthews, Victor Harold, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament. Electronic ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000. [IVP]
  • Merriam-Webster, Inc. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003.
  • VanGemeren, Willem, ed. New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1997. [NIDOTTE]
  • Waltke, Bruce K. “Joshua.” In New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, edited by D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, and G. J. Wenham, 4th ed., 233–60. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994.
  • Wong, Gregory T. K. “Joshua” In The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary, edited by Gary M. Burge, and Andrew E. Hill. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2012.
  • Woudstra, Marten H. The Book of Joshua. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1981.

Sources

  1. a song by Casey J
About @DannyScottonJr 241 Articles
Imperfect Servant ✝📖⛪ | Husband | Princeton U. Alum | M. Div. | Assistant (to the) Pastor | Sound Doctrine & Apologetics @catchforchrist