Do According to God's Word
Moses was cognizant of the importance of having God's presence. When God announced that He would not go up with the Israelites to the promised land, Moses offered such a solemn prayer to God:
If Thy presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here....
Is it not by Thy going with us, so that we, I and Thy people,
may be distinguished from all the other people
who are upon the face of the earth? (Ex. 33:15-16)
Can we then derive from his second prayer that the lack of distinction between the Church and the world is the result of God's absence from the Church?
Moses' successor, Joshua, also realized the paramount importance of having God's presence. Immediately after the death of Moses, he was blessed with this promise from God and was told of the required conditions. With faithfulness, the admirable Joshua fulfilled all the specified conditions and thus enjoyed all the blessings of this promise. God's presence empDowered him to conquer thirty-one Canaanite kings; and thus the Israelites were able to establish a foothold in Canaan.
In the Bible, there are about 2,000 promises from God, most of which have conditions. The lazy nature of human flesh appreciates only the promises, not the conditions. In order to please man, some preachers totally exclude these conditions from their sermons on God's promises. Such preaching can be likened to a man drawing pictures of a cookie to satisfy hunger. As a consequence, people who listen can never obtain what has been promised, and will never be satisfied. Eventually, the highway leading to heaven is filled with spiritually starved souls.
Dear co-workers in Christ, when preaching on God's promises, please tell your congregation the conditions required for attaining them. Otherwise, you will deceive yourselves as well as others. May God have mercy upon us, that we will not be like the blind leading the blind.
The remainder of this chapter describes the four conditions required for God's presence. Each action verb introduces one condition:
• To do. . .
• To observe.. .
• To meditate.. .
• To trust...
To Do-"...so that you... do according to all that is written." (Josh. 1:8)
All Scripture is written for us to do accordingly. The Bible says,
But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. (Jas. 1:22)
And, our Lord Jesus has also said,
My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it. (Luke 8:21)
Frequently preached from the pulpit in the last days is "what something is," but seldom "h o w something should be done." After the delivery of a beautifully outlined and presented sermon, the congregation often is still at a loss as to how God's truth should be applied to their daily lives.
Several years ago, I was invited to preach at the annual meeting of a certain denomination. There was a brief time for sharing before my message. One person, quoting Joshua 1:9 as the theme of his sharing, encouraged the congregation to trust in this promise-
Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.
He seemed to have the gift of eloquence, and the congregation was beside itself with joy at the cadence of his voice. But, sitting in the last row, I almost shouted out, "Brother, you are lying! You are deceiving these honest souls with honey-coated words!" He told them what God's promise was, without even mentioning the conditions required (doing, observing, meditating and trusting in God's Word). How could they enjoy God's promise then? Following their discovery that they could not claim that promise, would they not doubt God's Word even more? Such impractical preaching is not only unprofitable, but also harmful!
How can we do according to God's Word then? We have to first observe His Word before we can do accordingly.
To Observe-"...that thou mayest observe ...all that is written...." (Josh. 1:8) [KJV]
This second condition is the primary reason why most Christians today cannot do according to God's Word. "To observe" in the Old Testament can be translated as "to keep," "to follow" and "to safeguard." Its other translations are "to preserve" (Mal. 2:7), "to guard" (Gen. 41:35), "to keep" (1 Sam. 9:24), "to keep for" (Ex. 22:7) and "to keep watch" (Ps. 141:3). In other words, the original meaning of "to observe" is "to keep or to safeguard God's Word in our heart."
"To observe" and "to do according to" often appear together jn the Old Testament (ref.: Deut. 4:6; 5:1; 6:3; 7:11-12). Such usage is tantamount to saying that in order to do according to God's Word, we first have to observe His Word in our heart. The Bible tells us:
For as he thinks within himself, so he is. (Prov. 23:7)
For from it [the heart] flow the springs of life. (Prov. 4:23)
Even our Lord Jesus has said,
The good man out of his good treasure brings forth what is good....(Matt. 12:35)
What a person's character is and how he behaves depend solely on his beliefs and conceptions. If God's Word is not in him, how can he do accordingly? When a person's mind is empty, how can his words and actions be rich in content? On the other hand, when a person is richly filled with God's Word, what he says and what he does will naturally be governed and administered by God's Word. Only then, can God's glory be manifested.
In order to do according to God's Word, we must first let His Word richly dwell in us; otherwise, all advice and encouragement are just wishful thinking, perceivable, but not attainable. How can we observe His Word in our heart then? To observe God's Word, we have to practice "meditation."
To Meditate-"This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night...." (Josh. 1:8)
Meditation is a spiritual art and a form of worship. What a pity we Christians of the last days have forgotten all about this! No wonder our spiritual lives cannot grow.
Several years ago, I was invited to conduct a special series of seminars sponsored by a seminary. One day, after a meeting, a student approached me and asked if I had any secret in studying the Bible. My answer was, "No, I don't have any particular secret. Nevertheless, there is one thing I am afraid most seminarians today are unaware of-that is, the importance of meditation! Many a time, right after reading the Bible, we forget what we have just read. But, if we meditate on the passage for a couple of minutes after each reading to let God's Word dwell in us, then, over a period of time, we will be able to pool together various findings from previous meditations, and blend these findings together harmoniously. Gradually, we will have rich new insights in every verse of the Bible."
Some may think that meditation is a term used by other religions. This is true; other religions do meditate. Some universities even offer courses on meditation, teaching students to empty their minds of all thoughts, hoping that through such an action, they may have an "out of body" experience some day. This, of course, is very dangerous! Emptying one's mind will give place to evil spirits, and thus allow Satan opportunities to take advantage of the person. The meditation taught in our Bible, however, is none other than God's own revelation.
There are two words in the Old Testament that ought to be translated as "to meditate." Coincidentally, they are both found in Psalms 77:12 and 143:5.
I will meditate on all Thy work, And muse on Thy deeds. (Ps. 77:12)
I meditate on all Thy doings; I muse on the work of Thy hands. (Ps. 143:5)
Both verbs, "to meditate" and "to muse," should be translated as "to meditate." For instance, in Psalm 1, the one who yields his fruit in his season is the one who meditates on the law of the LORD day and night (vv. 2-3). And in Psalm 119, meditation can help us regard God's ways (v. 15), and handle those who talk against us (v. 23); but we need divine understanding from God in order to meditate (v. 27). The psalmist further says that he who knows how to meditate will have more insight than all his teachers (v. 99). Meditation is great!
I do suggest that if you spend half an hour on personal devotion each day, the best time allotment is 10 minutes in prayer, 10 minutes in Bible reading, and 10 minutes in meditation by asking questions with who, what, when, where, how and why. The initiation of something worthwhile is always difficult; perfection, however, is the product of constant practice. Meditation is no different.
To Trust-"Only be thou strong and very courageous,...observe to do a·ccording to all the law...." (Josh.1:7) [KJV]
Before we can effectively "do according to," "observe" and "meditate" on God's Word, we need to have the prerequisite of trusting in His Word.
Most exegetical studies on Joshua 1:7 are influenced by its preceding verse, assuming that "be strong" and "courageous" refer to "not being afraid of the Canaanites" (v. 6). In reality, the subject of consideration in verse 7 is God's Word; and the verse demands that we have abundant faith in His Word. It is the same as Joshua's later encouragement to the leaders of the Israelites:
Be very firm, then, to keep and do all that is written
in the book of the law of Moses, so that you may not tum aside
from it to the right hand or to the left.... (Josh. 23:6)
Many Christians of the last days are just like Gideon's 22,000 soldiers: timid, frightened, and with no faith in God's Word. They cannot meditate, and even if they try, their efforts are futile.
The conditions required for God's presence may be summed up as follows:
(1) To have God's presence, we must do according to His Word;
(2) To do according to His Word, we must let His Word dwell in us;
(3) To let His Word dwell in us, we must know how to meditate;
(4) To meditate, we must trust in His Word.
If we follow these four steps diligently, our God who is faithful will definitely be with us, as He has promised in the Great Commission, "and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:20). Praise the Lord!