A Study of Joshua 1:8-9
The most life-changing decision we can make is our commitment to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. That’s a decision I made as a child and ratified in college. I don’t remember the date of my childhood decision, but I remember very well September 3, 1971, when, at age 19, I gave the Lord my life as fully as I knew how. Shortly afterward, a friend encouraged me to memorize Joshua 1:8. He said if I memorized this verse and put it into practice, I would go through life bumping into success. I did memorize Joshua 1:8, and later added Joshua 1:9—and he was right.
This Book of the Law shall not depart out of your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written therein; for then you will make your way prosperous and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
The liberator and lawgiver of Israel, Moses, had led the Israelites to the Plains of Moab, where they were massed for the invasion of the Promised Land. Moses preached a series of sermons, which we call Deuteronomy, then climbed alone to the top of Mount Pisgah and disappeared. In Joshua 1:2, God announced: Moses my servant is dead. Joshua became Commander-in-Chief, and in chapter 1 the Lord gave him the instructions he needed. Joshua might have expected some military strategy or battle plans, but the Lord simply told him to meditate on the Book of the Law day and night.
What is the Book of the Law? It’s the only Bible Joshua had—the five books Moses. We have sixty-six books now, but Joshua only had five. But God told him to read those five books every single day, to study them, to meditate on them, and to practice them.
God told him: Meditate day and night on Genesis and its opening words, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Think of the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Think about the Exodus, the parting of the Red Sea, the Ten Commandments. Think about Leviticus, which tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves and teaches us about holiness. Study Numbers and its story of the twelve spies. Read and learn the sermons that comprise Deuteronomy. Think of these words when you wake up in the morning, as you go about your day, and as you fall asleep at night.
Biblical meditation is the habit of pondering, personalizing, and practicing Scripture. You do not have to memorize a verse or a passage to meditate on it, but it’s very helpful to do so. We should train our minds to meditate on Scripture all the time, as we train a vine to climb a trellis. We should always have Scriptures circulating in our brains like water through a fountain. We should learn to start quoting Scripture to ourselves whenever we have a spare moment.
Something very powerful happens when you memorize a Bible verse. God uses biblical memorization and meditation to rewire our brains. The Bible says we are transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). The Bible says, “The mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6).
The Wall Street Journal carried an article by Elizabeth Bernstein entitled “One Habit to Make You Happier Today.”
Repeating a positive phrase, or mantra, to yourself creates new pathways between neurons in your brain, conditioning you to feel calmer and healthier.
Do you have a personal mantra? You should. Research shows that thinking of a word or phrase that affirms our values – and repeating it over and over – produces powerful physiological changes….
Every thought we have is made up of a complex pattern of activity influenced by gene expressions, neural connections, proteins and other chemicals in our brain. The more we have a thought, the stronger that circuit grows…. This isn’t a bad thing—as long as we’re thinking thoughts that are beneficial….
Mantras can create and strengthen new neural pathways that are positive and not toxic. And that can make our brain much calmer and happier.
The word mantra is derived from the verb root, “man,” which means “to think,” in Sanskrit, the liturgical language of Hinduism and Buddhism. The earliest mantras appeared 3,500 years ago and were repetitive prayers and hymns. By the time meditative yoga developed, in the last few centuries (before Christ), mantras were being used to calm and control the mind….
They’re effective because they are repetitive and simple, making them easy to turn into a habit. We don’t have to search for the positive thought to call up; we already have it.
People invoke mantras during times of stress, such as business launches, academic finals, first marathons, and life-threatening illnesses. Some are joust one word: “Breathe.” “Shine.” “Love.” Others are phrases: “This too will pass.” “You’ve come this far, not push to go further….” “Never give up.”
Reading this, I thought I thought to myself—why didn’t she include biblical meditation? That’s the real way and the only way we significantly rewire our thoughts. The author is correct in talking about the benefit of reminding ourselves of some truth, but she simply gave us artificial things to say to ourselves. We don’t need mantras from Hinduism; we need manna from heaven. We don’t need clichés; we need Scripture. Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.”
The Lord told Joshua to repeat Scripture to himself day and night. In doing that, he would discover three lifelong blessings:
First, we have success in whatever we do: This Book of the Law shall not depart out of your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written therein; for then you will make your way prosperous and then you will have good success.
Notice how this is stated: Then you will have good success. Good success means God’s success, godly success. There is a kind of success that is not good. When you gain the whole world but lose your own soul, that’s not the kind of success you want. When the Bible uses the word “success,” we have to define it in God’s terms. It may not include fame and fortune. Rather it is a life that fulfills God’s perfect plan for us. God has a plan for every single day of your life, and as you learn to push out all the wrong thoughts and meditate on all the right ones, there’s something about that process that rewires our minds and helps us think as God does.
When we meditate day and night on God’s Word, our minds are remodeled and remolded, and we began looking at life from His perspective. That is what we call wisdom, and it results in success, for God never thinks in terms of failure. None of His promises can ever fail. Not one word He has spoken can fail. The Psalmist said that when we meditate of God’s Word day and night, we become like trees planted by rivers of water that bring forth their fruit in season and their leaves will never wither. Whatever we do will prosper.
Second, we have strength for whatever we face. Verse 9 says: Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.
When we meditate on God’s Word day and night, it imparts strength to us and it prevents us from becoming discouraged. I prone to discouragement and fear, but my most powerful weapon in combating these tendencies is biblical meditation. A few weeks ago, I grew quite upset and fearful about something. It was so bad I spent three hours at my upstairs desk, pouring over God’s Word, studying out certain promises, claiming them in prayer, and appropriating them by faith. But at the end of those three hours, I had managed to ward off a wave of fear and discouragement, and the Lord enabled me to be strong and courageous. Emotionally I was still somewhat fragile; but spiritually I had regained my footing. There is something about getting into God’s Word that galvanizes us against discouragement.
Third, we have the sustaining presence of God wherever we go. Verse 9 ends with the words: …for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
What is it about biblical meditation that creates a sense of the presence of God? We know someone is near us when they whisper in our ear. How does God whisper in our ear? He speaks to us primarily through His Word. And when we internalize His Word and meditate on it, the Holy Spirit takes that Scripture and speaks to us day and night. The Lord whispers to us and guides us and rebukes us and corrects us and trains us in righteousness, that we may be equipped for every good work.
Conclusion: In Joshua 1:8-9, the Lord told Joshua and us that if we want to move forward into the future, if we want a battle plan for life, if we want to figure out how to cross the Jordan River and go the next stage, if we want to bump into success wherever we go and have strength and a sustained sense of His presence, we have to become people who read and study and meditate on and live according to the Bible. Don’t let Satan capture your mind with sexual fantasies or fear or anxiety or the shallow philosophy of this world. The Bible says, “The mind governed by the flesh is death; but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6). The power of Scripture memory and meditation, if properly practiced, can counteract those other things and tear down strongholds. Scripture memory and meditation is the only habit I know that can force out
So find a verse or a passage – perhaps Joshua 1:8-9 – and study it over and over; maybe memorize it; and train your mind to think about it all the time. Repeat it to yourself. Ponder, picture, personalize, and practice it. Make it your personal motto. And somehow through that process the will of God will begin to unfold naturally in your life with success, strength, and a sustained sense of God’s presence all the time.
Note: For more about this, check out my book, Reclaiming the Lost Art of Biblical Meditation.