Then You Will Succeed - Joshua 1:1-9

Series: Joshua

Joshua chapter one comes at a critical turning point in the story of the Bible. The greatest leader in Israel to this point - Moses, has just died. Now the story turns to Joshua, and a new generation is looking to him to be their leader and fulfill the promises to Abraham.

How would you feel in that moment? To a lesser extent, we feel this same kind of pressure at the great crossroads of life - a job change, the birth of a new child, entering into a marriage, or the death of a parent. In these moments our lives change, and new responsibilities and expectations are placed on our shoulders and we want to be successful in our endeavors.

At this critical moment, God speaks directly to Joshua and gives him the elements that will make him successful (Joshua 1:1-9). Now, none of us are taking over for a person like Moses, or are leading God’s people into the promised land, but the principles God gives Joshua for his success will give us success in our lives as well.

God will give success

First, notice that this text does not start with Joshua. In verse 2, 3, 5, 6, we have statements of what God has done, or will do for Israel. Then in verse 9 we have God’s command to Joshua. Who is this story primarily about? It is about God and what he is doing.  This is absolutely critical for us in our success. The story of the world is not about you and me, it is about God and what He is accomplishing. It is about how glorious He is and what he is promising to do for his people.

See, we should ask: what is success? What or who defines it? If we listen to the world, they will say that success is a large home and comfortable lifestyle, a large IRA and the ability to travel in retirement, to be physically attractive, to be respected and powerful in society, and so much more. But all of those mean our success is about you and me, not about God and what he is accomplishing in the world.

In contrast, success is being in the presence and blessings of God. It is receiving the blessings of God. Our success then is not something we achieve for ourselves, it is something that the Lord gives to those who are faithful to Him. Success is a direct result of the presence of God, and success is remaining in the presence and blessing of God. Success then is not something we achieve by our own power, or that is based on financial status, relational status, or other worldly standards. God would not leave or forsake his people. God would bless them with the land and protect them for their enemies, and thereby guarantee their success.

One of the biggest pitfalls of life is the tendency to make it all about ourselves and what we want to accomplish. This is a critical failure at every crossroads of our life. If the new job is about the money we make or what people will think of us, if the new child, or the marriage is self driven and viewed as stepping stones of success in our lives, or if we are waiting for a parent to pass just so we can finally have it our way and do what we want, we’re missing the point of all these responsibilities. Ultimately, life is not about any of us individually. Our lives come from God, they are gifts from God, God is in control of the future, and He is the one worthy of all glory. If we forget that, we are on the road to failure.

However, don’t miss the point here. God is inviting each of us to participate in his world and his mission. God is set on the flourishing and thriving of life and human beings. God is not the bully set on oppressing and controlling us. Notice, this text is about - a land of prosperity, blessing, and rest. God is set on our welfare, we must trust him and then accept the opportunity to participate for His glory and our good.

Be strong and courageous

After establishing that God’s presence will be the key to success, God charges Joshua to be strong and courageous. Three times in the text God says something similar to Joshua (v. 6, 7, and 9). In light of this very intimidating circumstance, God specifically says “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed.” This is a logical reaction in challenging and difficult situations, but God wants Joshua to have a different reaction.

Why would Joshua be afraid or dismayed? Remember, this land is filled with giants. Back in (Numbers 13:28-29) the people said the land devours it’s inhabitants, all the people had great height, and that they seemed like grasshoppers in comparison. This was an extremely challenging objective, and the temptation to be afraid or dismayed at the enemies could  repeat itself.

However, that issue comes when people take their eyes off of God and focus on their own strength. That’s the fundamental area where our success will go off the rails as well. Fear is a product of looking at our circumstances instead of looking at God. The solution then is to take compare our fears to our God. If Israel had remembered the amazing plagues in Egypt, or the dividing of the Sea, they would have realized that they had nothing to fear. God was able to protect them and give them the success.

What are you afraid of? In the daily challenges of life, what causes you to fear or be dismayed? Is it new circumstances? Is it a sickness? Is it family challenges? Is it job loss? Is it the unknown? Government instability? Financial uncertainty? Is it enemies that surround you? When we are in similar circumstances, and if we look to ourselves and rely on our own strength we are doomed to fail. The solution for Israel is the solution for us. We need to ask, “is anything too difficult for our God?” God had all the power and can make a way in the wilderness. Our job is to believe God and to be strong and courageous because of that faith.

See, when the fear of God is properly placed in our lives we will be empowered and oriented to live the lives he wants for us. In Hebrews 12 he tells the story of Moses being afraid on the mountain of God in the Exodus. That experience with God changed him to be faithful to God. We have an even greater mountain we have come to and we have had a powerful experience with Jesus. Our response then is seen in verse 28-29 “therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and let us offer to God acceptable worship with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” When God is in his proper place and we respect him more than the world, gratefulness and worship will be the response.

And further, a holy life will follow. Notice in Hebrews 13:1-6, this is a description of a life of faithfulness and generosity to the people around us. This is the kind of life that gives glory to God. Why do people live this way? They fear God instead of man. Notice, he quotes from Joshua 1:5. And what is our reaction? Responses from the Pslams: "The Lord is my helper, I will not fear, what can man do to me?”That’s what we should say in our trials. This is how we are strong and courageous.

Be careful to do all according to the law

The last step of preparation God has for Joshua is to focus in on the law revealed to Moses. Twice in verses 7 and 8 he tells Joshua to be careful to do all according to the law. Now, this is an important point: The law of God kept them in the presence of God. This has been developed in previous books like Leviticus and Deuteronomy, God is holy and dwells in the camp of Israel. The law then is not meant to be the words of an overbearing tyrant, but the guardrails to keep them from self destruction and becoming unholy. One text that reinforces this idea is Deuteronomy 6:24 - The laws were always for their good, not for their hurt.

This is another critical point: Oftentimes when we come to the law of God we may think that God is holding out on us, God doesn’t want us to enjoy our lives, or that God is simply wrong and he doesn’t have our best interest in mind. To the contrary, Deuteronomy shows a different attitude toward the word of God that will enable us to be careful to follow it.

The rest of Joshua highlights this important point. When the people are careful to obey the will of God, things go well for them. In the victory at Jericho, they trusted God and carefully obeyed his will, even down to the details like walking around once a day for six days and seven times on the seventh day and what happened? They had success! But the contrast is seen in the sin of Achan. Achan did not trust God enough to wait for the victories of other cities. He coveted the possessions, violated the will of God, and brought defeat on the people of Israel because God was not with them at the battle of Ai. Obedience then is a matter of the heart and it is a reflection of how we view God and the word that he gives to us.

Now, that’s not all God tells Joshua. God gives Joshua the key behind his careful obedience. Notice verse 8 “This book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night.”Now, on the surface we might think he is referring to the teaching that Joshua was to do for Israel - and that is a true point. However, I don’t believe that is his primary point. The word meditate is connected to the word for murmur. What the Israelites did was read the Bible quietly to themselves out loud. In doing so, it became a full sensory experience for them that is better than simply reading silently. The ears are engaged. The mouth is engaged. This simple habit, morning and evening, helped keep the words on his lips and wrote the word on his heart.

This ritual then was the key to his success in many ways. In that book he would read about the great stories of God since the beginning of time in the book of Genesis, the wonderful power and presence of God in the Exodus, the holiness of God in Leviticus, the faithfulness of God in Numbers, and the blessings and curses of God in Deuteronomy. It would be hard to wander from God if he delighted in his word so much that he went through this ritual every day. It’s no surprise then that after the victories and failure with Jericho and Ai, that Joshua brought the people to Ebal and Gerazim in order to build an altar and to put the word of God in their mouths to remind them of what God of God’s blessings and curses (Joshua 8:30-35). Without the word being on our mouths and without meditating on it day and night we have a tendency to forget God and the consequence will be disobedience.

Is this a ritual that you are participating in? For me, daily Bible reading has been the biggest difference in my life with God. It is extremely valuable and causes me and others to be successful and prosperous like God has promised. Why? Because it reminds us of the story and presence of God, it charges us to have faith and courage, and encourages us to obey carefully all that God has so that we will be blessed.


Ultimately, we are left with the same choice as Joshua, - will we trust God and prosper, or will we break faith with him and fail? The challenge is that so many of us fail. I’m not Joshua and you aren’t either. We stumble and we turn to the left and right. What will God do with us then?

That’s where the beauty of Joshua is seen even more. Joshua’s original name was Hoshea (salvation) and it was changed to Joshua (Yahweh saves) (Numbers 13:16). This is because Joshua is a type of Jesus. In fact, the Hebrew name Joshua is the name Jesus in Greek. Joshua is a signpost to tell us about someone greater who would come and give his life for our failures. The one who would not defeat giants, but the serpent of old that all of us have succumb to. And who ultimately will lead us into the promised rest (Hebrews 4:11-16). He is ready and willing to sympathize with our weaknesses, and gives us confidence to come boldly to have mercy and grace help in our time of need. He is the real leader that all of us need.

(Hebrews 13:20-21) says He is the great shepherd of the sheep, who by the blood of the eternal covenant, will equip of to do all that is pleasing in His sight. This is the definition of success. Because we may have enormous wealth, power, pleasure, and a world that says “we’re successful”, but if we miss the presence of God and His sabbath rest, provided by Jesus, we have missed it all. Let God define and equip us for success in the way he describes here so that we can live to his glory forever!