The Life of Faithfulness, part one
This week and next week in the blog we’re going to consider the life of faithfulness from one of the preeminent examples of faithful living in the Old Testament, Joshua. Joshua succeeded Moses as the leader of Israel; he led the wilderness generation into the Promised Land; he led the troops around the walls of Jericho; he conquered enemies; and by the end of the book that bears his name we find that through it all, he stayed faithful. One writer declared that Joshua was “perhaps the greatest man of faith to ever set foot on the stage of human history. In fact, his entire brilliant career was a straightforward story of simply setting down one foot after another in quiet compliance with the commands of God.”1
While there are not many obvious similarities between us and Joshua (I highly doubt, after all, that God is going to send an sword-wielding captain of the angels to visit you, nor will He likely send you marching around a walled city to bring about it’s downfall), the simple truth of the matter is that God is calling us to the same thing he called Joshua to: a life lived in dependence upon God. What are the building blocks of such a life? We find them in God’s commissioning of Joshua, recorded for us in Joshua 1:1–9.
In the opening verses of Joshua we read that Joshua is to succeed Moses and lead the people into the land, but that this land is land that God is giving to them, not that they are striking out on their own to take. God gives him great promises: “Every place that the sole of your foot will treat upon I have given to you”, verse 3, and “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life” and “Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you,” verse 5. But still, he must go into the land, he must lead the people, not just the army, but all men, women, and children, to face the very thing that had scared away the preceding generation, even though they had received the same promise of God’s presence.
It was obviously a daunting task. Three times in the commissioning—in verses 6, 7, and 9—we read that the Lord told Joshua, “Be strong and courageous.” There was an element of overcoming fear for Joshua. How could that fear be replaced by faith? Let’s consider verses 8 and 9.
LIVE BY THE BOOK
First, in verse 8, God commanded Joshua to live by the Book. “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.”
Notice exactly what God is saying here. Success comes when Joshua orders his life around the Book of the Law. The Book of the Law was all the Scripture that had been given to that point, the five books of Moses. For us today, we should consider this command to apply to all of God’s Word. But see how Joshua is to handle God’s Word: he is to meditate on it, that is, to consider it deeply. Meditating on Scripture is not just giving it a cursory reading, but to think it over and to let it sink deep in your soul. It’s to reflect on what it teaches you about God. It’s to consider how it impacts your life.
He’s to meditate on it, and he’s to speak it, he’s to not let it depart from his mouth. This almost certainly includes teaching it to others—he was to be regularly talking about God’s Word—but it likely also refers to reading God’s Word aloud. Don’t let it depart from your mouth, but meditate on it. Don’t stop reading it, and as you read it, meditate on it deeply. Regardless of which is the ultimate meaning here, the point remains, we should take God’s Word on our lips, both for our own benefit and the benefit of others around us.
What’s the purpose of this meditation on God’s Word? It’s so that Joshua would be careful to obey it completely. We read the Word, we think about the Word, we talk about the Word, so that we can live out the Word. God instructs him to be careful to do it. It takes intentionality to live out God’s Word. It takes thought. You don’t drift into it; you purposefully walk in obedience. That was true for Joshua, and that’s true for us today.
BLESSINGS FOLLOW FAITHFULNESS
Next, we need to see God’s promise: blessings follow obedience. Just like the harvest follows the plow, fruitfulness follows faithfulness. “For then,” that is, when you live this way, “you will make your way prosperous, and you will have good success.” This is not a promise of an easy life with no difficulties. Joshua knew rest at the end of his life (Joshua 23:1), but his was not an easy life. This is not a blanket promise for wealth and happiness in this life. That idea is wiped away not only by Joshua, who fought many battles, but also by faithful men like Job, Joseph, and Jesus. But the truth remains, there is a promise that blessings follow faithfulness.
What are those blessings? I believe that in this life they’re most significantly the experience of peace and rest that come through knowing God through faith in Christ. In God’s grace, those blessings in this life may include, but they do not always include, some degree of material success as we follow the general principles of God’s Word. Faithfulness may lead to those blessings in this life, but faithfulness—that is, faith in Christ that has transformed our lives—will always lead to abundant blessings in every way in the life to come. We cannot forget that promises very often are meant to point us to the ultimate reward, which God in His kindness gives us but foretastes of in this life.
TRUST IN THE TRUE JOSHUA
This means that more than anything, we need to live faithfully, but we do that because our ultimate faith is in Jesus. Joshua is meant to point us to Jesus. His very name shows that: the Hebrew for Joshua is Yeshua, which is also the Hebrew for Jesus. Joshua’s life shows us that: he led his people to victory and gave them rest, but then he died; we need a leader who can give us ultimate victory, which includes the greatest enemy—ultimate victory over death—and that victory is found in Jesus. The book of Hebrews shows us that: Joshua gave the people rest, but Jesus gives us the true rest (see Hebrews 4).
Joshua’s name points to Jesus. Joshua’s life points to Jesus. The New Testament tells us that Joshua points to Jesus. And even this passage, Joshua 1:8–9, shows us that Joshua points to Jesus.
Who is the one, the only one, who did everything that God commanded? Jesus, according to John 4:34; 6:38; 14:31; and 17:4. Who is the one, the only one, who always had the Word of God on his lips? Jesus, and not just because he literally spoke the Word of God, but because he was intentional to obey the Father by speaking what God sent him to speak, according to John 12:49–50. But where Jesus deserved prosperity and success, he received rejection and death, and he did it for us, so that in him we might receive the eternal prosperity and the eternal success that’s found at the right hand of God.
Live faithfully, live by the book, trusting in God’s promises, and ultimately because you’re trusting in God’s promises kept for you in the Faithful One, Jesus Christ.
1 Phillip Keller, quoted in Joshua: An Expositional Commentary by James Montgomery Boice
Bert Watts has served since December 2016 as the Senior Pastor at Mountain Creek Baptist Church, where he has been on staff since 2012.