Joshua renews the covenant
- Main Reading: Joshua 24:1-15 [16-26]
- Accompanying Reading: Matthew 4:8-10
“What shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:37-38
God is faithful, and his faithfulness summons us to put away idolatry from our lives and answer Christ’s call to discipleship and embrace life in the Spirit. In our passage this week, Joshua, in his final speech, recalls to Israel the faithfulness of God and calls upon them to obedience – to abandon the worship of false gods and to serve the Lord alone.
At the end of his life (Jos 23:14), Joshua has gathered all of Israel’s leaders at Shechem – the same place where God had called Abraham (Gen 12:1-9). Israel has finally entered and established herself in the promised land. Leadership continuity weighs heavily on Joshua’s mind. Joshua “gathers the people in order to ensure their allegiance to the leader on whose behalf he led Israel during his tenure, Yahweh himself.” 
Joshua begins by reminding Israel of what God has done for her. He reminds the Israelites of God’s grace in calling and blessing Abraham even though he worshipped false gods (Jos 24:2). Israel did not enter the promised land by dint of her own merits or the merits of her ancestors. Her status as the chosen nation reflects from the very beginning the grace of God in choosing her as opposed to her own self-worth in being chosen.
Joshua reminds Israel that it was the Lord alone who saved Israel, not the false gods that the Israelites worshipped (Jos 24:14). Joshua then traces God’s saving hand from the time of their forefathers in the distant past up until their present state of peace and rest in the land (Jos 22:2). The stress in this passage is how the Lord alone is the source of Israel’s (many) blessings (Jos 24:13). It is not clear specifically what the hornet reference in 24:12 is, but it is understood, generally, as relating to, or the cause of, the terror that other nations had of Israel and her God (e.g. Jos 2:9).
Joshua encourages his leaders not to see God’s actions as one-off events but to see the larger story of salvation in their midst. Their story is the continuation of the story of God’s faithfulness. Israel’s entry into and her obtaining the promise land are not the end of the story. God’s desire remains for Israel to be to God a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex 19:6).
And so, in 24:14, Joshua calls on Israel to respond to God’s faithfulness with their own faith. He calls on them to “fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness.” The danger of idolatry is a consistent concern of the book of Joshua, and here at its end, Joshua is explicit in his warning to Israel not to turn away from the God of Israel and to worship idols.
Israel cannot be faithful to the Lord and worship false gods at the same time. A decision must be made to follow God (obedience) or to follow the ways of the world. Joshua had already made this choice as he states, “for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Jos 24:15) and his choice is reflected in his leadership of Israel throughout the book of Joshua.
Israel’s response (Jos 24:16-18) is emphatic – how could they renounce the God who is the source of all their blessings? (compare with John 6:68). Joshua, however, challenges this response in 24:19; his primary concern isn’t just that they recognise God’s grace in their life but that they respond to that grace. Joshua wants them not just to make a choice but to live out their choice – in this case by renouncing false gods.
Joshua is calling Israel to repentance, a (permanent) change of heart and of mind to serve God alone. He desires them to recognise that Yahweh is their Lord and Saviour not just in a general sense, but also in a personal sense that acknowledges their obligation to God as their Lord. In 24:25, Joshua records Israel’s commitment as a covenant between Joshua and the people; and he placed a stone as a witness to Israel’s commitment to “serve the Lord” (Jos 24:21, 26).
Serving the Lord in the light of Jesus Christ
As with Israel’s calling, so our election in Christ is not due to our own faithfulness or works, but it is by the grace of God. It is the faithfulness of God in Jesus Christ that is the foundation of our faith and his faithfulness leads us to make a response. Just as when Israel surveyed God’s mighty works in calling Abraham, the exodus and the giving of the promised land, so, when we survey the wondrous cross and our salvation and hope in Jesus Christ, we are called to a life of faithful obedience – to serve our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Like the ancient Israelites, we are given a choice: “will it be God or the world; Christianity or secularism; militant, atheist paganism or the gospel of redemption?” . Our response should be more than just a promise of loyalty; we should live out our faith, to “walk and not faint” (Isa 40:31). We turn away from the false gods and from objects in our lives that we “worship” (overly value), give offerings to (dedicate money to) and serve (devote time and energy into).  We do not do this on our own, but we have the gift of the Holy Spirit to bring about our repentance (Acts 2:37-39).
How does this text testify to Jesus Christ?
Israel is not faithful to her commitment and she is exiled eventually from the land. “Yet beyond exile, the greatest promise made to Abraham will be fulfilled: namely, the gift of a Seed in whom all the families of the earth will be blessed, a greater Joshua who will conquer, subdue, and rule the world in righteousness forever… Unlike what happens in Joshua, believers do not inherit merely a plot of land in a sliver of the Middle East. Rather, they “shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5)… [and] because of Christ’s resurrection we have been given “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pet. 1:4). 
- John 6:66-69
- Acts 2:14-41; 4:12
- 1 Cor. 10:21–22
- James 4:4-10
- David G. Firth, The Bible Speaks Today: Joshua, 2015. Digital edition.
- Joseph R. Sizoo, The Interpreter’s Bible: Joshua, 1953. 669.
- Robert L. Hubbard Jr., The NIV Application Commentary: Joshua, 1994-2004. Digital Edition
- The ESV Gospel Transformation Bible, 2013. Digital Edition.