BY LARRY STOUT, ELDER
This week (1/27/19) Pastor Raphael’s message “The Reading of the Bible,” based on Joshua 1:1-9, emphasized the blessing of the Word of God which comes from having the proper perspective in reading it. The purpose of reading in a biblical sense involves more than just mental comprehension of the content, it also outlines a path of life. Joshua 1: 7 offers a key element to our reading of the bible, “Only be strong and very courageous, being careful TO DO according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go .” In short, believing means action.
When we think of “strength” and “courage,” it conveys the idea of some internal fortitude. But in the Hebrew language, there were no such things as abstract concepts. The strength and courage commanded in Joshua 1:7 must take place in tangible form. This is why God adds the words, “to do,” which in the Hebrew literally means, “to make.” We ‘make’ what we believe a reality by our doing what it says.
This is emphasized in the second chapter of the book of James. “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” (v.14). “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (v.17). “But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (v.18). “Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?” (v.20). “You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works.” (v.22). “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” (v.24). “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” (v.26).
Jesus’ ministry continually reinforced this truth. In Luke 5, there is a story involving his first disciples, and he used one of their boats to speak to the crowds. Verse 4 tells what happens next, “And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish.”
Peter had experience on his side — an entire night of fishing that resulted in no fish! All of us know what Peter is talking about. We have had fears, disappointments, troubles, both night and day. We want and need help, and Jesus offers it. He tells us to believe His Word and act upon it. Peter’s testimony resembles our state as well. We know our situation all too well. We hear Jesus’ answer — and now we have a choice. Only ACTING in faith on what Jesus’ has said is true faith.
All of this is key to understanding the promise to Joshua that he will have success and be prosperous (Joshua 1:7-9). The success with prosperity in “going” (acting in faith) that was promised to Joshua was not a prosperity in the American sense of the word, but signifying that the final destination will be successfully reached. And indeed, God did keep His word to Joshua, which is seen in the end of the book, “Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.” (Joshua 22:43-45).
This is our promise as well. Our “partnership in the gospel,” an action faith or walk by faith as it is generally called, has a wonderful destination, “because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now….I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:5-6).