Bible: What Does Joshua 23-4 Teach Us About Covenant Renewal?
Obey the Word of the LORD
Consequences of Bad Behavior
Old Joshua, knowing that death stood at his door, assembles all of Israel's leaders and addresses them (vv. 1-2).
He reminds them of Yahweh's victories on their behalf (v. 3), and encourages them with the truth about His future faithfulness to drive out the rest of the peoples now occupying their inheritance (vv. 4-5).
Joshua then admonishes them to keep the Law, so that they would not compromise spiritually with those pagans who still remained (vv. 6-7a).
He establishes strict guidelines, both negative and positive (vv. 7b-8), and promises continual victories if they would just love Yahweh and Him alone (vv. 9-11).
However, Joshua also warns them that if they stray from the true God and marry the unbeliever, then the LORD will no longer give them good success; instead, Israel will decline and become a miserable people under discipline until they perish (vv. 12-13).
Finally, the dying general again reminds his captains of God's goodness (v. 14; cf. 21:45).
He does not stop there, however, but also assures them of the LORD’s severity should they transgress the covenant.
In fact, the apostasy seems a certainty, for Joshua does not say "if you transgress," but "when you have transgressed" (vv. 15-16; see Deut. 30).
[God is under no illusion about the quality of His people's faithfulness; as a good Parent, He warns them of the consequences of their behavior].
Mounts Ebal and Gerazim (Located in Shechem)
The Role of Repentance
What role do you see repentance playing in individual lives?
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Apparently on a separate occasion from the preceding chapter, Joshua again assembles the leaders of Israel, this time at Shechem (v. 1; cf. 23:2).
He presents a special message from the LORD: a history lesson of God's faithfulness to His people from the time of Abraham to the present.
Joshua reminds them that Yahweh brought Abraham out of idolatry (for Terah, the patriarch's father, worshipped idols), saved him, and then blessed him with Isaac (vv. 2-3).
Israel then sojourned in Egypt until Moses, at which time He redeemed them, saved them from Pharaoh's chariots at the Red Sea, and brought them into the wilderness (vv. 4-7).
Afterwards, God defeated the Amorites (v. 8), Balaam (v. 9), Jericho (v. 10) and other pagan peoples (vv. 11-12), and gave Israel everything that they now possess (v. 13).
Having established Yahweh's right to receive their total devotion, Joshua exhorts Israel's leaders to serve the LORD (v. 14).
As their spiritual and national leader, he declares forthrightly his own allegiance to God (v. 15).
Not desiring to appear disloyal, they aver the same plus much more (vv. 16-18).
Joshua, understandably uncertain of their faith, warns them (in so many words) that they cannot serve God [presumably he meant in their own strength] (vv. 19-20).
The rulers, nevertheless, adamantly confess their willingness to follow Yahweh, to which word Joshua makes them swear (vv. 21-22).
As an immediate test, he then tells them to bring forth fruits of their repentance by putting away their present idols (v. 23).
Operating from their profession of commitment, Joshua makes a covenant with them (vv. 24-25), writing these words in his book and setting up a large stone as a witness to Israel's stand (vv. 26-28).
[Joshua employs the suzerainty treaty format to compose this entire chapter. See the book of Deuteronomy].
After a while Joshua dies, and the elders stand by their word to follow Yahweh (vv. 29-31).
Israel buries Joshua in his inheritance (v. 30), entombs Joseph's bones in Shechem (v. 32), and inters Eleazar, Aaron's son, in the mountains of Ephraim (v. 33).
[With the deaths of their present famous leaders and the final interment of Joseph, Israel stood at the threshold of a monumental decision.
With no “special one” to direct them, would they continue in their commitment beyond the times of the elders, or would they revert to their former paganism?]
1. What does “meditate” mean? (See chapter 1)
2. What might the Levites have been thinking when Joshua told them to stand in the Jordan?
3. To uncover who took the spoil, why did God examine each tribe?
4. What life principle did Joshua wish to teach Joseph (chapter 17)?
5. What role did the congregation have in determining the guilt of the accused manslayer?
6. Why was establishing cities of refuge so important at this time?
7. What lesson should Israel have learned from its debacle with the Gibeonites?
8. Why did God allow the Israelites to enslave other nations? Should we deem the anti-slavery stance an eternal principle of justice?
9. What two principles of government does chapter twenty teach?
10. Why did the tribe of Levi receive no land for an inheritance?
11. What part did the Book of Jasher play in Joshua?
12. At the end of his life, how did Joshua demonstrate to Israel that God is faithful?
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