Joshua 24: Covenant Renewal
April 11, 2020
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Joshua 24, Psalm 81, Mark 4:21-41, 1 Corinthians 8
The covenant renewal at Shechem. A blessed day, long in the memory of Israel, and symbolic of our covenant with Christ and our call to commit to him. Joshua gathers the people (24:1), and then tells them what God says. “Thus says the Lord” (24:2). And in his description of God’s message to them, he outlines what God has done for them: how he called Abraham and multiplied his offspring, how he rescued them from Egypt, how he defeated their enemies (24:2-13). He wants them to realize that this whole story means that “it was not by your sword or your bow” (24:12). In fact, God says, “I gave you a land on which you had not labored and cities that you had not built, and you dwell in them. You eat the fruit of vineyards and olive orchards that you did not plant” (24:13).
This means, therefore, that Joshua now issues a call to them to decide (24:14-15). God’s sovereign acts of salvation do not mean that we have nothing to do. We still have a choice that must be made. “Choose this day whom you will serve” (24:15). Will we serve the living God? Or will we serve other so-called “gods” of fame or personal egotistical ambition or money or comfortable lifestyle? Whom will we serve? We must choose! Joshua says that as for him and his household, he will serve the Lord (24:15). As ever, he leads, he shows the way, but he does not force. He presents them with a choice.
They decide that they will serve the Lord (24:16-18). It is God who has rescued them and therefore they are committed to serving him. Never one to shy away from tough consequences—and as Jesus tells us to count the cost when we consider following him (Luke 14:26-28)—Joshua tells them that in their own strength they cannot serve God (24:19-20). And if, having committed to serve God, they abandon him, then God will turn against them (24:20). God is no man’s fool; saying we “follow” God but actually not following God puts us in no better a condition than someone who says they don’t follow and also doesn’t follow God. Theoretical devotion is not the object, but real, practical covenant commitment to the Lord God.
They persist in their commitment to God (24:21-24), and Joshua sets up a stone as a remembrance, a record, a memorial of this day that will stand as a witness to what they have committed (24:25-27). With this solemn day concluded, and the covenant renewed, the people go back to their inheritance (24:28).
The Book of Joshua concludes with Joshua’s death (24:29-33). We are told that, “Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua and had known all the work that the Lord did for Israel” (24:31). The implication is clear, and well-known for those who are familiar with the Book of Judges: soon after these leaders have gone the way of all flesh, the followers will follow other gods. It is a warning that we pass on to the next generation our covenant loyalty to God. But we, who have the True Joshua, the Lord Jesus, have one who will never leave us nor forsake us (Josh. 1:5), and who has died, but behold he lives! We need not fear for the future of the church which Jesus has promised, against which the gates of hell shall not prevail (Matt. 16:18)!
Somewhat surprisingly, perhaps, the final sentence is given to the death of the chief priest, Eleazar (24:33). In one way or another it is clear that a generation, the generation that spied out the land and faithfully committed to take it according to God’s promise, that generation is passing away.
Praise God that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8)! And then today, this day, commit again to follow him with all passion and urgency that we might be that generation that “takes the land” and fulfills God’s calling on our lives, and does not take a backward step but sees the kingdom of God grow and go forward!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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