Devotional by Lauren Webb
Scripture for Today: Joshua 1:8 (NIV), “This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to meditate on it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do.”
Recently, I gifted my husband a pair of sunglasses. He loves to fish, so these sunglasses have special shades that soften the glare of the sun on the water while not diminishing the colors of the day. Shadows would not be darkened beyond view; the sparkle of water droplets reflecting the sun still catching the eye.
It struck me that this is how we the western church view Scripture if we are not careful.
We place the shade of our culture over our eyes; filtering the Word of God through this vantage point. We soften shadows of His wrath while delighting ourselves with the sparkle of promised blessings. The vibrant colors reflect a route to the acquisition of favors or the satisfaction of our desires.
As we read Joshua 1:8, there can be two problematic approaches when viewed through these cultural shades. One, we skip the first portion that holds instructions:
This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to meditate on it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it.
Through our cultural lenses, these instructions require work, time, and maybe even a schedule change. We quickly dismiss this as unrealistic expectations. Reading the Bible every day, praying to God for guidance and direction, meditation on His Word all require something unnatural in us.
It is equal parts illuminated intellect and a renovation of our affections towards Him which is uncomfortable and messy. He has offered grace and will provide the faith required but we have been given a charge of responsibility to be in His Word every day. We want to skip this part and jump straight into the blessing:
For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do.
This is really what we want to hear. That God will provide the desires and satisfactions we hope for in this world.
The second problematic approach to Joshua 1:8 is a contract versus covenant expectation.
The incorrect assumption is that God will provide grace through His Word and then we reciprocate with faith in what He says. We want the checks and balances sheet clean. If we check off all the boxes of good Christian living such as reading our Bible and attending church regularly then our view of success will occur.
Paul strongly wrote against this theology in Ephesians 2:8-10, “For you are saved by grace through faith and this is not from yourselves; It is God’s gift –not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are His creation, created in Chris Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.
Both faith and grace are gifts from God. The focus of our salvation is Christ, not ourselves. Joshua 1:8 cannot be view as a contract. If we X then God will Y.
However, if we remove our cultural sunglasses and read the Scriptures for what they say, we find God’s words to Joshua mean so much more. This Scripture was never about the acquisition of favors or the satisfaction of desires but a promise of communion and relationship with the Father.
To never depart from His instructions, reciting them day and night, is to have a relationship with God. To fully observe and obey is an act of love between the Creator and created. A good relationship will require time, energy, effort, and definitely a schedule change. But, to be with Him and Him with you is a promised relationship that provides both success and prosperity in whatever you do in the Kingdom of God.
- Use Philippians 1:9-11 to pray for your relationship with Christ to grow in love, discernment, knowledge, and fruit. Ask God to help you set up tangible practices to be in His word every day.
- God knows what’s in man’s heart and mind. He knows our weaknesses and struggles. He wants us to draw near to Him through His Scriptures so that through the knowledge of Him we will find our true identity. Ask Him for help in reading His word. He is always faithful to those who seek Him.
- God has plans and works for each of us who call on His name. Our expectations of what that looks like can get in the way of our obedience. What are some practices that could be set in place to safeguard our walks in faith?