The Nineteenth (and Concluding) in a Series of Sermons on the Book of Joshua
Joshua knows that he is soon to die. But before he goes to be with the LORD, there is one very important thing he must yet do. As Israel’s covenant mediator, Joshua must call the people of Israel to assemble at Shechem, the ancient home of Abraham and Jacob and that place where the entire nation of Israel renewed their covenant with YHWH (Joshua 8:30-35) shortly after they entered the land of promise. Since the nation of Israel was established at Mount Sinai as a covenant community, Israel must renew their covenant with YHWH before the covenant mediator dies. Joshua will remind all Israel of what the LORD has done for them, before the people swear their oath of covenant allegiance to YHWH with the words “we will serve the LORD.” Joshua knows that his impending death means that Israel will soon enter a new chapter in redemptive history. This covenant renewal ceremony will be a fitting end to the life of a man who has served faithfully served the LORD and led his people into the land of promise.
We conclude our time in the Book of Joshua. Lord willing, next Sunday, we will turn to the Book of Judges. As we will see, Israel’s situation changes greatly as slowly but surely the people begin to drift away from the LORD and begin to do what is evil in his sight (Judges 2:11). But even as a new chapter in the redemptive drama is soon to unfold, the present chapter in Israel must come to an end. Throughout our study of Joshua we have followed the people of Israel from those days in which they were still camped on the plains of Moab across the Jordan River from Canaan until that time when they finally conquered the land of Canaan and drove out the Canaanites. Throughout this period in Israel’s history, Joshua has been the covenant mediator, Israel’s leader and the general of the army. As I have pointed out, Joshua is a true biblical hero in every sense of the word. Other than one instance in his youth when he was mildly rebuked by Moses (Numbers 11:28), everything else in the narrative depicts Joshua as a man of great faith, a strong and wise leader and a brilliant and courageous general. But Joshua’s impending death means that great changes lie ahead for God’s people–and it falls to Joshua to prepare them for what will come to pass. That means renewing the covenant.
As we saw last time, Joshua summoned the leaders of Israel to remind them of blessing-curse structure of the covenant that YHWH had made with them at Mount Sinai. Joshua pointed out to these men that their greatest fear should be that future generations of Israel would become enamored with pagan religions and that their children would marry outside the faith of Israel. The task of driving out the Canaanites from the fringes of the promised land must be completed so that these pagans cannot exercise any influence upon Israel. The leaders of the nation must be fully aware of severity of the covenant curse. Just as Israel took possession of the land, so too Israel would be cast from the land should the people turn their backs on YHWH and worship and serve other “gods.” YHWH is a jealous God and although he is long-suffering and loves his people, he will not tolerate the people of Israel worshiping and serving other “gods.” And yet, sadly, this is exactly what will happen in Israel in the not too distant future.
To read the rest of this sermon, click here