Talks of what we as Christians should have as our “authority” (ex. tradition, scripture or some other combination) are always quite charged and it seems everyone has their opinions about the matter. This week, as I was studying for a survey study on the first few chapters of Joshua, I noticed something that I had never really seen before. It has to do with the supremacy of the written Word over and above direct revelation.
“…be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. 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 1:7b-8)
There is something new in the book of Joshua, something that hadn’t been completed until right before (or after, it doesn’t really matter, since it is God’s Word and not primarily Moses’) the death of Moses. The completion of the first five books of the Bible (the Pentateuch). Before that, the chosen people of God had relied on direct revelation from God – Abram, Isaac, Jacob, all interacted on a personal level with the Lord, as did Moses. Even Joshua was spoken to directly by God, but something was different. The written word was presented to Joshua as primary, a non-negotiable as it were, a rule for living, a supreme rule for life. No longer was the man of God to wait for instructions, but he was to do all the God had already spoken in His Word, and focus on that, in addition to what God would specifically instruct Him to do through direct revelation. No longer was he to wait on God for instructions on how to follow or please the Lord, as Moses had, but rather he had been given the instructions and was to heed the message as written.
Nothing was left to be passed down by word of mouth, but God took great care in making sure that it was written down, and then commanded it to be meditated on, and carefully obeyed.