Our Source of Strength
BY CORNELIS PRONK
SHORTLY AFTER MOSES' death, God commands Joshua to cross the river Jordan and possess the promised land in Canaan. Knowing that Joshua may be somewhat apprehensive, He reassures him that "Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto MosesThere shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee" (Josh. 1:3,5).
But the Lord does not expect Joshua to go out and fight on his own. He tells him in verse 7, "Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest."
In other words, God promises Joshua that his mission will be successful provided he lives by the will of God as written down in the law of Moses. You see, obeying God's commands is the key to success. The Bible is our source of strength and wisdom.
God's revealed will. Note that even back in Joshua's time, there already was a written revelation of God to His people. We first read about this book in the Bible in Exodus 17:14, where the Lord instructed Moses to "write this for a memorial in a book". We read later in Numbers 33:2, "And Moses wrote their goings out according to their journeys by the commandment of the Lord." And again in Deuteronomy 31:9, "And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests the sons of Levi."
Joshua is to regulate his life by this book both in his public life as Israel's leader and in his private life as head of his family. This keeps him from depending on his own judgment when he launches his campaign, instead of being guided by the revealed will of God.
Significantly, the Lord says, "Only be thou strong and very courageous" Strong and courageous to do what? To face the enemy in Canaan? To scale the walls of Jericho and other fortified cities? No. God tells Joshua to be strong and very courageous "that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee." Implication: obeying God's commands requires great strength and courage as well as great faith.
First thing first. Joshua needs much strength and courage to face Canaan's strong armies, of course. But until Joshua has the strength and courage to submit to the Book of the Law, nothing can help his forthcoming campaign. And indeed, it takes much strength and courage to obey God.
The natural man does not understand this. The world looks down upon those who fear God or, especially in our day, those who submit to any authority whatsoever. It admires those who do their own things, those who are free-livers. In such an environment, the Christian need great courage and strength of character to be an obedient child of God.
It calls for real courage, for example, for a preacher to reject man-made ideas and to faithfully proclaim the full counsel of God. No less courage is required of the lay Christian who wants to walk on the strait and narrow road that leads to heaven. He is often ridiculed as being overly strait-laced. But to be of use to Christ, we must be strong enough to swim against the tide of popular opinion.
All commands. Submitting to the Word of God does not mean obeying just those parts of the Bible that are agreeable to us. Note that Joshua is told to "observe to do according to all the law"; he is commanded to "turn not from it to the right hand or to the left". Joshua has to obey the law to the letter, and so must all of us who call ourselves Christians.
The very essence of obedience lies in exactness. If we profess to love the Lord and obey His Word, then our love and obedience must be substantiated by an earnest effort on our part to keep every detail of God's commands. That's the only proof of our sincerity.
Nevertheless, I'm afraid most of us, if we observe God's precepts at all, do so only in a vague and general way. Because we have made an effort, we'd say, God must be pleased with us. This is self-delusion. The problem with many of us is that we don't even know the Scriptures well enough to know what God's commandments are.
Meditative study. And this is where the connection between verse 7 and verse 8 becomes highly important. After having told Joshua in verse 7 to observe all the law, God amplifies in verse 8: "This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success."
To be an obedient child of God, we must learn from the Word of God what to obey. Therefore, the command to study the law and meditate on its precepts day and night is to be observed by all who profess to be God's people. There is no better means of experiencing God's grace and attaining spiritual growth than to meditate on God's Word.
Yet, there is no spiritual duty that is more neglected than this one. Among those who call themselves Christians, very few seriously study the Bible and think through what the Scripture teaches. The usual plea made by those who are neglectful in this area is that they don't have the time for that. But that merely shows the true state of our heart. We never lack time; we simply lack a heart for the things of God!
Practical purpose. But lest anyone think that meditation is too spiritual an exercise, note that the Lord has a practical end or purpose in view. He says to Joshua: "Thou shalt meditate therein day and nightfor then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success."
Joshua's mind is to feed on God's Word so that he may be well equipped for the task ahead. So, no brief is made here for the kind of contemplative life that monks seek in a monastery. No, to study and meditate on God's Word is intended as a means to an end, namely, the successful service of the Lord.
What demands are placed upon us here, Christians! Can you say that we do study and meditate on the Word as God commands us to? No, I'm not asking the unsaved. I don't expect them to. The things of the worldlike sports, entertainment, food and drink, sex and partiesthose are the things that take up their time. They are not interested in things above.
Saved? But I am asking each of you who consider yourself saved. Let me tell you frankly, if you don't study the Bible, if you're still more concerned with pleasing yourself than pleasing God, a child of wrath you remain .
But it's not too late to repent. Ask God to open your eyes and give you an earnest desire to study His Word. Then read and meditate on it. Pray as the Psalmist did: "Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes, and I shall keep it unto the end. Give me understanding, and I shall observe it with my whole heart" (119:33,34).
This has ever been the prayer of God's people throughout the ages.
They acknowledge that such obedience as God requires is not found with them. So, instead of making excuses, they humbly seek it as a fruit of Christ's obedience. They look to Him who perfectly knew the Law of His Father and carried out its precepts to the last jot and tittle.
Act of obedience. Note that Joshua is a type of Christ. If Moses represents the Law, Joshua symbolizes the Gospel. Note also that not Moses, but Joshua is going to bring the children of Israel into the Promised Land. All this symbolizes the fact that we are saved not by the works of the law, but by grace through faith.
Yet, there is no more antagonism between the Gospel and the Law than there was between Joshua and Moses. Joshua had been Moses' servant; he obeyed what Moses told him to do. Christ also was Servant of the Law, He came to fulfil all its demands on behalf of those whom He came to save.
Joshua could only be saved by Christ whom he foreshadowed, and he could keep the law only by the power of Christ. Similarly, every Christian, though no longer under the law, but under grace, still honors the law. He keeps it not to earn his salvation, but to show his gratitude to God for his salvation. He knows that the law is his guide and rule on the way to the heavenly Canaan, and he keeps it by the power of Christ. o
Rev. Cornelis Pronk is the radio pastor of the Free Reformed Churches of North America, 950 Ball Avenue, N.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49503.
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