What’s the Key to True “Success”? | Joshua 1:8 Meditation

Joshua 1:8 Verse of the Day Commentary

What is the key to living a prosperous and successful life? With “prosperity” and “success” properly understood, in the eyes of the LORD, the answer is rather simple. Putting it into practice, however can be rather difficult — requiring much strength and courage (Jos 1:6).

  1. Text
  2. C4C Translation
    1. Biblical Meditation
    2. Law
    3. Be “Prosperous” and “Successful”
  3. Commentary
    1. What It Meant For Joshua
    2. What It Means For Us
  4. Memorization

Text

8 לֹֽא־יָמ֡וּשׁ סֵפֶר֩ הַתּוֹרָ֨ה הַזֶּ֜ה מִפִּ֗יךָ וְהָגִ֤יתָ בּוֹ֙ יוֹמָ֣ם וָלַ֔יְלָה לְמַ֨עַן֙ תִּשְׁמֹ֣ר לַעֲשׂ֔וֹת כְּכָל־הַכָּת֖וּב בּוֹ֑ כִּי־אָ֛ז תַּצְלִ֥יחַ אֶת־דְּרָכֶ֖ךָ וְאָ֥ז תַּשְׂכִּֽיל׃1

8 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.2





Translation

Do not remove this Book of the Law from your lips, but meditate on it day and night so that you will be careful to do all that is written in it. For then you will make your paths prosperous, and then you will have success

Biblical Meditation

When you think of meditation, what comes to mind? For many today, we probably think of someone sitting quietly and privately while emptying one’s mind, chanting, and/or focusing on one’s inner thoughts/self. 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.”3 This practice usually has its roots in Eastern religions.4

However, this differs from the meditation we find in the Old Testament. 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.5

Ultimately, instead of one’s self, the focus of such meditation is the LORD (Ps 63:6), His works (Pss 77:12), and/or His law (Jos 1:8, Ps 1:2).6 — which was probably read or recited out loud.7

Silent reading was rare in the ancient world.8 And the verb meditate (הָגָה | hāgâ) is more frequently translated “utter”, “mutter”, “moan”, “groan”, or “declare.”9 Therefore, the meditation in view here is probably audible. Hence, Joshua is told to keep the Book of the Law not on his heart or mind, but one his mouth (Jos 1:8).10

In the Hebrew Bible, there are three main sections: (1) The Torah (a.k.a. The Pentateuch) — the first five books of the Bible, (2) The Prophets, and (3) The Writings — which begins with Psalms. Joshua is placed at the beginning of the second section, which concludes with Malachi. Joshua 1:8, Malachi 4:4, and Ps 1:2 all speak of meditating on and/or remembering to be faithful to the law (תּוֹרָה | tôrâ). Thus, the Hebrew Scriptures are structured around this concept, emphasizing its great importance.11

Law

The Book of the Law12 (תּוֹרָה | tôrâ) probably, primarily refers to the law outlined in Deuteronomy, which is recalled by the thrice-repeated phrase “be strong and very courageous” (Jos 1:6, 7, 9 cf. Dt 31:6, 7, 23) and the frequent Deuteronomic warning, “do not turn from it to the right or to the left” (Jos 1:7 cf. Dt 2:27; 5:29; 17:11, 20; 28:14).13

Also, as mentioned in an earlier post on Proverbslaw (tôrâ) can refer more generally to all of the LORD’s directions or instruction. And, even the law in Deuteronomy is more than just rules to follow, “it is a pattern for the whole of life, giving shape to what it means to live for [the LORD].”14

Be Prosperous and Successful

Many will take passages like Joshua 1:8, Ps 37:4 and others (Ps 1:3, Ps 34:10, Ps 37:25, Prov 10:15, Prov 16:3, Job 36:11)15 as guarantees for success in all one’s endeavors and financial prosperity if one is truly righteous. The converse is also presumed to be true: if one is not succeeding or not prospering financially, then one must not truly be righteous.16 However, this is not what the Scriptures are saying.

In the Old Testament, to prosper (צָלֵַח | ṣālēaḥ) essentially means to “accomplish satisfactorily what is intended.”17 Moreover, “real prosperity results from the work of God in the life of one who seeks God with all [their] heart (2 Chr 31:21; cf. Josh 1:8; Ps 1:3).”18

Out of the 69 times the verb translated prosper occurs in the Old Testament, 59 times it means to succeed in a particular endeavor — “almost always because of God’s gracious and ever-present hand.”19

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).”20

In addition, out of these 59 cases in which the verb means succeed or prosper, “only once are finances even remotely in view” (Ezek 16:13).21

Furthermore, the verb translated be successful (שָׂכַל | śākal) is more frequently translated understand or become wise.22 Out of the 78 times it appears in the Old Testament, only ten or eleven times does it have the meaning of be successful. And, in virtually all of these few cases, success is related to seeking the LORD and/or following the LORD’s commands (e.g., Dt 29:9, Jos 1:7-8, 1 Ki 2:3, 2 Ki 18:7).23

I say all that to say, what is in view here is not worldly success or financial prosperity, but “succeeding in life’s proper endeavors.”24 And one’s proper endeavors do not entail preoccupation with worldly success or financial prosperity, but utter devotion to the LORD — “holiness and obedience.”25

Commentary

What It Meant For Joshua

On the cusp of The Promised Land, we are not told that The LORD gives Joshua military or economic advice. The key to his success would be spiritual — meditating on and obeying the law (i.e., instruction) of the LORD.26 This was to be his first and foremost priority. Without it, his leadership would fail.27

This is easier said than done; it takes strength and courage (Jos 1:7, etc.). For to “be strong and very courageous” does not refer primarily to being strong and courageous in battle, but being strong and courageous when living an obedient life devoted to the instruction of the LORD.28

What It Means For Us

In my view, the same key to success for Joshua is the same key to success — true success — today. Jesus tells us to first seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness and then other things (i.e., food, clothing, etc.) will be added (Mt 6:33). Our first and foremost priority is to seek God.29

God is certainly able to bless us with worldly success and financial prosperity, but this is no guarantee — no magic formula.

Moreover, some of the most faithful followers of Christ suffered horribly during their life, and faced death by way of brutal execution (e.g., Paul (2 Cor 11:24-28), the Disciples, and countless other martyrs who have died for the faith over the last two millennia). We are virtually promised to face persecution if we live a godly life (2 Tim 3:12). This is why we need to be strong and very courageous.

If we seek God, meditate on and obey His instruction in His word, we will prosper — succeed in the proper endeavors the LORD has for us to do (cf. Eph 2:10).

Nowadays, it seems that we are often bombarded with a lot of life advice (often unsolicited). Not all secular advice is bad, but may we always remember the true key to a life of godly success: meditating and obeying God’s word.

Memorization

Memorize Joshua 1:8 after watching a brief video tutorial demonstrating the How to Memorize Any Bible Verse in Less Than Five Minutes method below:

Sources

  1. Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: With Werkgroep Informatica, Vrije Universiteit Morphology; Bible. O.T. Hebrew. Werkgroep Informatica, Vrije Universiteit. (Logos Bible Software, 2006), Jos 1:8.
  2. The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Jos 1:8.
  3. Inc Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003).
  4. David M. Howard Jr., Joshua, vol. 5, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 86.
  5. Willem VanGemeren, ed., New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1997), 1007.
  6. David M. Howard Jr., Joshua, vol. 5, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 86.
  7. “an activity that was done aloud.” David M. Howard Jr., Joshua, vol. 5, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 86. “Perhaps the Scripture was read half out loud in the process of meditation.” Herbert Wolf, “467 הָגָה,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 205.
  8. David M. Howard Jr., Joshua, vol. 5, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 86.
  9. Willem VanGemeren, ed., New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1997), 1006. Herbert Wolf, “467 הָגָה,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 205.
  10. David M. Howard Jr., Joshua, vol. 5, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 86. “This book is not to be out of Joshua’s mouth, a characteristically emphatic way of speaking.” Marten H. Woudstra, The Book of Joshua, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1981), 63.
  11. David G. Firth, The Message of Joshua, ed. Alec Motyer and Derek Tidball, The Bible Speaks Today (Nottingham, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2015), 38.
  12. “We tend to think of a book as having pages, a binding and a cover. Books of that sort did not exist in the ancient world. The term used here can refer to any document: from inscription to scroll, from papyrus to clay tablet to stone. The Book of the Law is the copy of instructions given to Moses in Deuteronomy and put in front of the ark…” Victor Harold Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), Jos 1:8.
  13. Richard S. Hess, Joshua: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 6, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 80.
  14. David G. Firth, The Message of Joshua, ed. Alec Motyer and Derek Tidball, The Bible Speaks Today (Nottingham, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2015), 37.
  15. David M. Howard Jr., Joshua, vol. 5, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 87.
  16. David M. Howard Jr., Joshua, vol. 5, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 87.
  17. John E. Hartley, “1917 צָלֵַח,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 766.
  18. John E. Hartley, “1917 צָלֵַח,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 766.
  19. David M. Howard Jr., Joshua, vol. 5, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 88.
  20. Emphasis added. David M. Howard Jr., Joshua, vol. 5, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 88–89.
  21. David M. Howard Jr., Joshua, vol. 5, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 90.
  22. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, eds., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 877.
  23. “Success is specifically equated with obeying God’s law or the covenant in Deut 29:9 [Hb. 8]; Josh 1:7–8; 1 Kgs 2:3; and 2 Kgs 18:7. David M. Howard Jr., Joshua, vol. 5, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 89.
  24. David M. Howard Jr., Joshua, vol. 5, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 88.
  25. “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).” David M. Howard Jr., Joshua, vol. 5, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 88.
  26. David M. Howard Jr., Joshua, vol. 5, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 85.
  27. Richard S. Hess, Joshua: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 6, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 80.
  28. “But courage here takes on a specific form; it is not a matter of Joshua screwing up his nerve to an act of daring in battle, even though that is the more typical use of such language. Rather, it means living a life that is shaped by Yahweh’s instruction. For Joshua, the act of daring is to live wholly by all that Yahweh has revealed in his Torah.” David G. Firth, The Message of Joshua, ed. Alec Motyer and Derek Tidball, The Bible Speaks Today (Nottingham, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2015), 36–37.
  29. David M. Howard Jr., Joshua, vol. 5, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 88.
About @DannyScottonJr 168 Articles
Imperfect servant striving to be an unapologetically apologetic ambassador for Jesus the Christ. Princeton University Alum | Palmer Theological Seminary Student