Be watchful to do according to all the law which Moses my servant commanded you. Veer neither to the right or the left in order that you might succeed in every way you shall go. This book of the law of Moses shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night so that you might observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous and then you will have success. (Josh 1:7-8)
The success of Joshua’s ministry was to be measured by his faithfulness to the word of God. Moses was commanded to write the word of God and to rehearse it before the ears of Joshua (Exod 17:14). Before Joshua can lead his people through the baptismal waters of the Jordan to receive the inheritance promised by covenant to their fathers, he must understand his great commission. He is sworn to “incarnate” the law of Moses before the people. Uniquely, Joshua must demonstrate a righteousness established by the law and seen in his complete obedience to the word. He must move forward in utter submission, without any defection to the right or left, but straight ahead. He must dedicate himself not just to a singular way of righteousness in space, he must dedicate himself also to a comprehensive commitment in time, meditating on the word of God day and night. In this way he will be assured of good success.
Moses wrote in the beginning of his law that the word of God brought blessing to man (Gen 1:28), the same divine word that established day and night (Gen 1:5). The authority of the word of God to give blessing and to distinguish between day and night is the opening teaching of the Torah of Moses, the first part of the Hebrew Bible. The Book of Joshua is traditionally the first book of the prophets, the second part of the Hebrew Bible. This book too establishes the word of God as the foundation of blessing to those who respect its authority day and night (Josh 1:8). The book of Psalms, which introduces the third part of the Hebrew Bible, likewise opens with the promise that the one who meditates on God’s word day and night will stand in the way of blessing in the day of judgment.
Each of the three parts of the Hebrew canon introduces the same theme. The Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings are each addressed to one who would uniquely demonstrate the walk of righteousness which cannot be charged with veering at any point, and which expresses the word of God and that only all the time. This life would be characterized not only by tremendous courage for the day of battle, but also for its remarkable blessing in the day of triumph. It would exemplify great suffering followed by great glory. No one better exemplifies the blessed and triumphal life commanded of Joshua and Israel than Jesus, the true Joshua. Only Jesus kept the law of Moses continually, never veering to the right or the left. Only Jesus always did only what His Father commanded Him, meditating in His word day and night. Only Jesus was completely courageous in the battle, and only Jesus was blessed completely in the day of triumph.
Joshua was commanded to express his singular devotion to the word of God before he told Israel to arise and go forward to pass with him through the baptismal waters of the Jordan. Before Jesus went to his death, which He called His “baptism,” Jesus remarked to His disciples that He had accomplished all the words of His Father. Then this true Joshua likewise expressed His singular devotion to the word of God. “In order that the world should know that I love the Father, just as the Father has commanded me, so I do.” (John 14:31) Like Joshua before Him, who had commanded Israel to pass over Jordan to receive their inheritance, so Jesus said to His disciples before His baptism in death, “Arise, let us go hence!” (John 14:31) After three days Israel passed through the waters of baptism to receive their inheritance under Joshua (Josh 1:11.) Likewise after three days the true Israel would pass through the waters of Christ’s baptism to receive their inheritance under Jesus (1 Cor 15:3-4).