The Covenant Reaffirmed

Israel's word to God bound them to obedience.

Joshua 24 (5)

Read Joshua 24.25-28.

1.  The Hebrew text says literally that Joshua “cut” a covenant with Israel. To what does that refer?

2.  Why do you suppose the text mentions both a stone and an oak tree?

Think about it.
This passage recalls certain important events in Israel’s history. Let’s explore them in chronological order. First, there is the mention of the oak tree (Hebrew, אַלָּ֔ה, aleh). Why should we care about an oak tree? First, because it was under an oak tree, or a terebinth, where Abram first encountered the Lord in the land of promise, and where he built his first altar to the Lord. It was also under a different oak or terebinth that Jacob buried the idols his children forfeited at his command in Genesis 35.4. This oak was also in Shechem, the very place where Joshua assembled the people in Joshua 24.

Second, we note the curious phrase cut a covenant in verse 25, which the NKJV translates made a covenant. In Genesis 15.8, Abram asked the Lord how he would know that the land promised by God would actually come to him. Read Genesis 15.9-21, in which God cut a covenant (v. 18) with Abram by creating a pathway from the carcasses of dead animals. The way into the promises of God is through blood (cf. Ps. 50.5).

Finally, we note the mention of “a large stone” to be a witness between the Lord and the people. This recalls the vow of Jacob, which he took at Bethel, and confirmed on a stone, when God promised to give him the land which Israel was now inheriting under Joshua’s leadership (Gen. 28.10-22). Joshua’s bringing together all these solemn and sacred events from Israel’s past gave a significance to the people’s witness that every one of them would have understood. They were the heirs of the faith of their forebears, and they must be as faithful as those who had gone before them in following and obeying the Lord.

Finally, Joshua “wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God” (v. 26). It’s not clear which words are intended here, but by writing them in the Book of the Law of God, Joshua conveyed the solemnity and irrevocability of this situation. He wanted the people to know that the words they had spoken to God were as binding on them as God’s Word is on Him.

Imagine how these events resonated in the souls of the people of Israel as they departed Shechem and made their way to their inherited lands.

Meditate and discuss.
1.  What do Joshua’s actions here suggest about the importance of understanding the history of our faith?

2.  How does the idea of cutting a covenant point forward to the work of Christ? In what sense did Jesus, like Joshua before Him, cut a covenant for God’s people?

3.  What promises have you made to the Lord? Are you willing to have Him regard those promises to be as binding on you as His Word is on Him? 

“This passage demonstrates the end for which the meeting had been called, namely, to bind the people more completely and more solemnly to God, by the renewal of the covenant. Therefore, in this agreement, Joshua acted as if he had been appointed on the part of God to receive in his name the homage and obedience promised by the people.” John Calvin, Commentary on Joshua (1509-1564AD)

Lord, You Who faithfully keep all Your Word to me, grant me mercy and grace to keep my word to You, so that…

Pray Psalm 19.12-14.

Daily seek the Lord’s cleansing and renewal, that the words you speak to Him may be true and binding, and that you may know His strength and redemption increasingly.

Psalm 19.12-14 (St. Christopher: Beneath the Cross of Jesus)
Who, Lord, can know his errors? O keep sin far from me! 
Let evil rule not in my soul that I may blameless be. 
O let my thoughts, let all my words, before Your glorious sight 
be pleasing to You, gracious Lord, acceptable and right!

T. M. Moore

Where does the book of Joshua fit in the ongoing story of God’s covenant? Our workbook, God’s Covenant, can help you discover the place in God’s work of redemption not only of Joshua but of all the books of the Bible. God’s Covenant is a valuable resource to guide you in all your studies in God’s Word. To order your copy, click hereAnd when you order, we’ll send you a free copy of Bricks and Rungs: Poems on Calling.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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