This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Joshua 1:8
Any serious student of Scripture ought to read this promise and ask a simple question: how could the contents of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy have anything to do with Joshua’s success in fighting the enemies in the Promised Land? What does Leviticus have to do with battle? Numbers with wartime strategy?
The answer is found in the inhabitants of the Promised Land. There were Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Amalekites, Termites (okay..I couldn’t resist) and Jebusites. At first glance one would think the biggest problem the Israelites would face would be defeating their enemies. Jericho loomed large. However, conquest would not be the problem–conformity would.
Joshua is filled with one successful conquest after another. Judges tells a completely different story. Under Joshua’s leadership, Israel trusted God and God fought for them. Under the judges’ leadership, Israel conformed and God unleashed their enemies on them. God’s law is what separated Israel from everyone else around them. God’s law distinguished them as civilized, compassionate children of the Most High God. As long as they followed it, they prospered. When they didn’t, the consequences were dire.
Consider Leviticus 18:21 Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molek, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the Lord. Why would God issue a command not to sacrifice children? Because Israel’s enemies were sacrificing their children! The law insured Israel would not conform to such heinous practices. Conformity is devastating.
God’s Word still equals success. The world is still sinful. Jesus prayed about that:
I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. John 17:14-17
God told Joshua the key to his success against the enemy was the Word. Jesus affirmed God’s command to Joshua: sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. The danger for Joshua and the Israelites was conformity. The danger for Jesus’ disciples was conformity. The danger for you and me is conformity.
You will either conform to the world or confront it. There is no middle ground.
Amen to that last statement. Too often, we ride the fence and try to stay in the middle – one foot in the world and one set apart from it. It didn’t work then and it doesn’t work now. Still super tough to confront, but always better than conforming.