When God brought the children of Israel into the Promised Land, He gave them a very clear assignment—an assignment that prophetically illustrates the assignment we have as His children in the New Covenant.
The Israelites were to displace the pagan peoples living in their promised territory, spread their tribes throughout it, and ultimately establish (verify) centers of worship and cities of refuge in each region.
Likewise, Christ commissioned us to go into our promised territory—all the world—and make disciples of the nations, displacing the influence of the kingdom of darkness and releasing the reality of the Kingdom of Heaven.
As it is for us, the Israelites' success in fulfilling each part of this assignment was entirely dependent on their ability to do what God had been training them to do in the wilderness—to follow His manifest presence and do what He said, when He said to do it.
And upon what did their ability to follow His presence and obey His voice depend? God made the answer to this question clear to Joshua when He commissioned him to lead the Israelites in their assignment:
No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe 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. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:5-9)
We’ve already looked at what God meant when He told Joshua to meditate in the Book of the Law, but when we look at this injunction in context, we can see the greater significance of why keeping the testimony was the key to Israel’s success in fulfilling their commission as a nation.
Interestingly, God sets up Joshua’s commission with the same promise He gave to Moses when Moses asked, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” God simply answered, “I will certainly be with you” (Exodus 3:11-12).
Similarly, Jesus’ final words in His Great Commission to us were, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). The implication of this promise is twofold in that God’s presence among us determines our identity and, consequently, what we are able to accomplish.
But also we must develop a growing awareness of God’s presence among us if we are to draw from that presence and walk out our God-given assignment. Our awareness of God is what determines how we respond to Him, how we perceive reality, and how we live. It is an extremely important element required for us to be successful in following and obeying God.
King David spoke of this provision when he said “I have set the LORD continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken” (Psalms 16:8). The word set means to “place.” We do play a role in making Him conspicuous. The revivalist Duncan Campbell described the element of overwhelming presence as the essence of the revival he experienced on the Hebrides Islands in the 1950s. He said that “an awareness of God” filled the atmosphere in the region, creating an environment in which repentance, conversion, prayer and worship naturally became the chief activities.
When we increase our awareness of God’s presence, the commands that God gives us become more doable. “God with us” must become the platform for all of life. Joshua received a key principle of victory in the exhortation to be strong and courageous. This exhortation was obviously important, as God repeated it three times in these few sentences we read in Joshua 1:5-9. Great courage and strength would be needed “to do according to all the law which Moses...commanded” and not to “turn from it to the right hand or the left" (Josh 1:7).
But the final repetition is the most significant, because God makes a link between it and the promise. “Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Josh. 1:9). The truth He gave to Joshua and gives to us in this exhortation is simple but profound: Our strength and courage to do what God has told us to do flow directly from our awareness that God is with us. This truth further reveals how crucial our awareness of God’s presence is.
An integral part of this process is the assignment to meditate on God’s Word—the Law. In Joshua’s case, the Book of the Law included Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy—the books of Moses. It included both the commands of the Lord and the whole history of His supernatural relationship with Israel. In our case, we are to meditate in the record of God’s commands and His miraculous interventions in human history, which includes the Scriptures primarily, along with the testimonies of the saints throughout history along with our own personal history with God.
In the immediate context of the command given to Joshua 1:5-9, God doesn’t give Joshua a whole lot of explanation for how and why this meditation works. His point is that it does. He says we actually make our own way successful and prosperous by doing it. We’ve seen that the prophetic power of the testimony is one dimension of how it makes us prosper in our calling. However, from the larger context of Scripture I think we can also make a connection between the three elements we see in this passage, and that is that our meditation in the testimonies of the Lord is the primary thing God has given us to sustain our awareness of His presence with us.
When we remember who He is and what He has done, the prophetic anointing on the testimony creates the awareness that He is with us now and is ready to do it again. That awareness is the source of our courage and strength.
The command to meditate in the testimonies of the Lord also clarifies how God defines our success in fulfilling our commission as His people. Our success is simply a matter of radical obedience. It’s not about doing supernatural things; it’s about doing what He’s asked us to do. It’s about our relational response to God.
Our connection with God is obviously the source of all blessing, prosperity and goodness in our lives. We make our way prosperous through obedience because when we do what He asks us to do, we strengthen our connection with the source of life. The more completely our lives are in agreement with God, the more His nature and Kingdom manifest in us.
Radical obedience, because it’s a matter of relationship, is always a heart issue. Thus keeping the testimony, the key to radical obedience, is designed first to do something in our hearts. Moses told the people, "Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself,
lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart
all the days of your life” (Deut. 4:9).
Later, Solomon said, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23). Whatever fills our hearts will fill our thinking and behavior. When we keep the testimony, we fill our hearts with truth—the truth of who God is, the truth of who we are, and the truth of where we’ve come from and where we’re going in God. But it is our responsibility to fill our hearts with the truth, because if we don’t, as we saw in the previous chapter, we allow our hearts to be filled with the lies of the enemy.
Throughout the book of Deuteronomy, Moses emphasized to Israel that from God’s perspective, the real threat to their success did not exist among the enemy tribes in the Promised Land or in any other external reality. The primary threat was the internal reality of their hearts. God said of them, “It is a people who go astray in their hearts, and they do not know my ways”(Ps. 95:10). The word translated go astray
in this verse means “to wander.” Israel’s wandering in the wilderness was really the outward manifestation of what was already in their hearts. In other words, our internal reality becomes our external reality. And as this verse explains, what was in their hearts was related to the fact that they did not know the ways of God.
Scripture points out that knowing God’s ways is more than knowing God’s acts. Psalm 103:7 says, “[The Lord] made known His ways to Moses, His acts unto the children of Israel.” The revelation of God’s ways is something that only comes to people who, like Moses, have a heart to know God, because only this heart is willing to pursue the God behind the acts.
We know that His acts reveal His ways. But in order to know His ways, we have to look at the acts of God like signs that point to something greater than themselves—the actual nature of God Himself. And unless we do, our ignorance of God’s ways cannot help but leave us vulnerable to being led astray by our own hearts.
Meditating on the testimonies is all about following the signs to the One they point to. It is this responsibility, discipline, and passion to know God through the testimony that feeds and develops our awareness of His presence. It is an undeniable reality that He is a supernatural God who invades and overcomes impossibilities. Without the awareness of His presence with us, and without the understanding of His ways revealed in the testimony, we will not be able to consistently walk in radical obedience.