Moses, who had led the children of Israel out of Egypt and through 40 years of wanderings in the wilderness, had died in the land of Moab (Deut. 34:5). It was time for a new leader to take charge and lead them into conquering the land that God had promised them. Joshua the son of Nun was selected. Among the instructions given to him by God, there was a rule given that would serve as a rule of success in any generation and time. The rule is found in Joshua 1:8. Let’s examine this rule carefully.
“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth.” In every age, whether under the law of Moses or the New Testament of Jesus Christ, we must hear God’s law. “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination” (Prov. 28:9). We must hear in order to be saved. “It is written in the prophets, And they shall all be taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me” (John 6:45). Hearing God’s law produces faith necessary for salvation. (Rom. 10:17). When preachers today urge all to “Study to show thyself approved unto God” (II Tim. 2:15), it is because of the great importance of hearing God’s law.
Second, “Thou shalt meditate therein day and night.” “Meditate” means to “think deeply or focus one’s mind for a period of time in silence” (New Oxford American Dictionary). Our meditation determines what we are. “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7). This is to be done with regularity. David wrote, “Blessed is the man…whose delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth meditate day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2). This is more than merely reading a few verses of Scripture and then forgetting about what we read. Paul’s instructions to Timothy included these words, “Meditate upon these things” (I Tim. 4:15). And his instructions to the Philippians should be heeded by all of us today. He wrote, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Phil. 4:8).
Third, “Do that which is written.” God has always required obedience (Matt. 7:21). Hearing only is not enough; we must be “doers” as well (James 1:22). In fact, James tells us that the one who hears only and does not do deceives himself. John warned, “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected” (I John 2:4-5). Later in the same letter, John would write, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments” (I John 5:3a). John’s final words on the importance of doing what is written are found in the last chapter of the New Testament. He wrote, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city” (Rev. 22:14).
The results of this rule are also stated. First, it will make our way prosperous. David’s description is given in Psalm 1:1-3: “He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” The promise for us today is found in Matthew 6:33, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
The second part of the results is stated this way: “Then thou shalt have good success.” The success for the Christian includes knowing God (I John 2:3; John 17:3), entering the kingdom (Matt. 7:21), freedom from sin (Rom. 6:17-18), and “right to the tree of life” (Rev. 22:14).
Let each determine to follow this rule of success given Joshua many years ago. Success is assured when we do; failure is inevitable when we do not follow this rule.
Paul M. Wilmoth