“Not…to the Right or to the Left.”

When God gave Joshua his orders for conquering the Promised Land, He also gave encouragement about scripture:

Only be strong and very courageous; 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 1:7-8, NASB emphasis added).

One of the themes within the book of Joshua is Joshua’s faithfulness to do all that was commanded.

The metaphor of not turning to the right or to the left expresses the concern to follow God’s word carefully.  In fact, this phrase, “not … to the right or to the left,” occurs 10 times: Deuteronomy 5:32, 17:11, 17:20, 28:14, Joshua 1:7, 23:6, 2 Kings 22:2, 2 Chronicles 34:2, Proverbs 4:27, and Isaiah 30:21. The passage in Isaiah is likely messianic. It is the Teacher who calls, “This is the way, walk in it,” when the people are turning to the right or to the left.

So, it is not surprising that Jesus, the Messiah, said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it”
(Matthew 7:14, NASB). His graphic word pictures seem to expand on the figure of speech, “not…to the right or to the left,” that we have already seen in the Old Testament. We must seriously listen to God’s will to find the blessings of eternal life.

Two problems seem to confront our culture. One is ignorance of God’s word. Many simply do not know when they have turned to the right or to the left and gone beyond God’s will. The second problem is unbelief. Many do not take God’s word seriously enough to allow it to be a constraint on their behavior even when they know what it says. God’s way appears to them to be too narrow.

Yet despite all of this, we are still faced with two paths–one is narrow, and one is broad. One leads to life. One leads to destruction.

May we not turn to the right or to the left!

                                    –Russ Holden

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