After the death of Moses, God called Joshua to lead his people. He calls Joshua to a daunting and frightening task. Leading God’s people will require great strength and courage. In Joshua 1 alone, God commands Joshua to be strong and courageous three times. But he doesn’t leave Joshua alone to find strength and courage for himself. Instead, God provides the sources of his Word and his presence for Joshua to draw the strength and courage he needs.
God commands Joshua, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Josh. 1:8). Notice that God doesn’t call Joshua to have a passing acquaintance with the Scriptures. He doesn’t call him to read his Word for the sake of religious duty. Instead, God calls Joshua to meditate carefully on all of God’s Word.
The word “meditate” means to think deeply. Bible meditation isn’t a form of emptying your mind, but a diligent practice of filling your mind with the Word of God and patiently working out its meaning and purpose in your life. God’s Word is a spiritual feast. God wants us to chew on his Word for the joy of its sweetness and the strength of its nourishment. Joshua needed strength and courage. Just as we strengthen our bodies by eating healthy food, our souls find strength as we meditate on God’s Word. When we meditate on God’s Word, we are meditating on God’s voice–the ultimate source of life-giving power and joy.
The purpose of meditating on God’s Word is obedience: “so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it” (Josh. 1:8b). Obeying God in a new and scary land will not be easy for God’s people. It will be tempting for Joshua, as it was for Moses, to capitulate to his flesh and the will of a wearisome people. However, God’s Word provides the strength and courage necessary for obedience.
Isn’t it encouraging that God doesn’t command much of his people without providing the grace they need to obey? What was true for Joshua is true for us. Obedience is the goal of our Bible studies. Obedience is the goal of Bible meditation. God will provide the grace you need to obey him in even the most difficult seasons of your life.
God doesn’t just leave Joshua with his Word as his only source of strength. God also provides his very presence to strengthen and give courage to his servant. The God of the Bible is no distant deity. God reassures Joshua by saying, “Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you” (Josh. 1:5b). God can give no greater comfort than to supply us with his omnipotent and loving attention: “Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
For Joshua, the assurance of God’s presence was validation of his new position as the leader of God’s people. In fact, God’s people wouldn’t have followed Joshua unless God was with him (Josh. 1:17). If you are in Christ today, you are a part of God’s people, which means God is with you. What does this mean for you? What validation or assurance does God’s presence bring?
Knowing God is with you should assure you of his love. God loves you and his love will never depart because in Christ, he will never leave you or forsake you. Knowing God is with you helps you endure deep pain and suffering. Knowing God is with you is validation of your identity and mission in life. You can freely strive for holiness, knowing God already loves and accepts you.
Mathew Gilbert is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God. Mathew and his wife, Erica, live in Tupelo with their two boys, Jude and Jack.