It is probable that the events of Joshua 1 take place in the Tent of Meeting: ‘Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the “tent of meeting.” Anyone inquiring of the Lord would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp’ (Exodus 33:7). This was the place that Moses would go and speak with the LORD ‘face to face’ but it was for ‘anyone’ who wanted to inquire of the LORD; even before any structured form of community worship the way was open for people to approach God in prayer. Joshua, verse 11 tells us, never left the tent but he must have witnessed Moses’ encounters with God over and over. Now in Joshua 1, after the death of Moses, God speaks to Joshua with a promise that he too would know the sort of intimacy with God that Moses had: ‘As I was with Moses, so I will be with you’ (Joshua 1:6).
Joshua was on the brink of a new chapter in the history of the Israelites who had spent forty years wandering around in the wilderness, and God instructs Joshua to ‘be strong and courageous’ three times and reminds Joshua to ‘obey all the law my servant Moses gave you’ (Joshua 1:7). What follows in verse 8 is a surprise: ‘Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night’. The demonstrative pronoun, ‘this’ is pointing to what God refers to as the ‘Book of the Law’, הַזֶּה הַתּוֹרָה סֵפֶר (sep̄er hat torah hazzeh). There can be no other conclusion God was either holding, touching or motioning towards the scroll containing the first five books of the Law, written by Moses, the Torah. The words of God, that had once been limited to two stone tablets had now grown to a comprehensive size. It represents a significant moment in the history of writing; it would be many centuries before writing practices in the ancient world of the Near East changed from writing on stone or clay to writing on parchment. This was the first Bible, and it was the first document of its type, to be copied over and over throughout the generations to come. Moreover, this scroll was to form the backbone of the Jewish people’s sense of identity and relationship with God; it contained the very words concerning the account of creation, the giving of the law, the story of the patriarchs, the journey of the Israelites out of slavery, and even the coming of the Messiah.
And so, in Joshua 1 God is telling Israel's new leader to start a new chapter, to take the scroll with him across the Jordan and ‘meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything in it’. From the very beginning, God’s will has always been to provide his people with his words, from this first scroll that Moses wrote and gave to Joshua, to the voluminous book of two testaments that we have today. Moreover, God’s invitation and encouragement has not changed, and as we get to grips with its divinely inspired contents, the words, stories, poems, history, and so much more, and when God’s words start filling our hearts and minds ‘day and night’ we will, Joshua 1:8 assures us, be ‘prosperous and successful’.