In the last chapter of Joshua, we see Joshua leading Israel to renew their covenant with God before he dies. In this final act of faithfulness, Joshua finishes what he started—bringing Israel into the land—and receives the honorific title Servant of the Lord. Here are 10 things about this covenant renewal and the close of Joshua.
1. Joshua 24 is one of many covenant renewals in the Bible.
Beginning in Deuteronomy (or Exodus 32–34), Israel adopted a practice of renewing their commitment to Yahweh. When there was a transition of power (like from Moses to Joshua), or when there was a sin that broke covenant with God (e.g., the Golden Calf or the sin of Baal-Peor), Israel’s faithful leaders led the nation to renew their covenant.
For instance, when Achan’s sin brought judgment on Israel, Joshua led the nation to renew their covenant with God (Josh. 8:30–35). At the same time, this covenant renewal came at a time when Israel was entering a land filled with idols. So, it also had a positive sense of confessing Israel’s faith to Yahweh in a land filled with idols. For both reasons, it makes sense that we find a covenant renewal in Joshua 8.
Now, in Joshua 24 we find another covenant renewal. Much like Moses, he assembles the people of God as he anticipates death. He presses Israel to be faithful to the covenant Yahweh made with them at Sinai. Joshua is not initiating a “new” covenant; he is calling the people to recommit themselves to the first covenant. And in this way, he repeats and reinforces a model of faithfulness that will be seen throughout the Old Testament. Other examples of covenant renewals in the Bible include:
- Asa leads Israel to renew their commitment to God (2 Chronicles 15)
- Josiah leads Israel to renew the covenant with God when he discovers the book of the Law (2 Kings 23)
- Ezra and Nehemiah work to lead the nation of Israel to recommit themselves to God when the second temple is built (Ezra 10; Nehemiah 9–10)
- The Lord’s Supper is a covenant renewal, as the church remembers Christ’s new covenant every time they take the elements (1 Corinthians 10–11)
This string of covenant renewals helps to set the context of Joshua 24 and its importance in redemptive history. Continue reading
Joshua 23 is the penultimate chapter in the book and a call for Israel to make an ongoing, ultimate commitment to Yahweh. Here are ten things about this chapter to help us understand its main point with applications for us today.
1. Joshua 23 is the second of three assemblies that close the book of Joshua.
In the last three chapters of Joshua, the book comes to a close with three assemblies. In chapter 22, an emergency meeting is called when the Western tribes fear that the Eastern tribes committed idolatry by building an altar on the banks of the Jordan. In chapter 24, Joshua leads the nation to renew their covenant with Yahweh. But in Joshua 23, before that formal process of agreement, Joshua gives a more personal appeal for Israel to love God with all their heart and to guard themselves from idolatry.
In this way, Joshua 23 serves as a bridge between Joshua 22 and Joshua 24. It unites the three chapters with the theme of idolatry—or rather, a warning against idolatry. More specifically, this chapter focuses on the leaders in Israel, who are listed in verse 2: “elders, leaders, judges, and officials.” Importantly, as Joshua comes to the end of his life (vv. 1–2, 14), he is looking to this next generation of leaders to keep covenant with God. This shows how the nation prospers when the nation has faithful leaders (cf. 24:31). Continue reading
In his commentary on Deuteronomy, Daniel Block considers the relationship between God’s covenant with Abraham and his covenant with Israel. Entitled “the covenant with your forefathers” in Deuteronomy 4:31, he asks whether this is a reference to God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (cf. Exod 2:24; 6:4; Lev 26:4)? Or a reference to the covenant God made with Israel at Horeb (Deut 4:13)? Or is it somehow a reference to both?
In eight points, Block shows why it is best to see these two covenants as organically related. Instead of singularly referring to the covenant with Abraham or the covenant at Horeb, he explains that God’s covenant with Israel continues the covenant with Abraham. Adding legislation to the original covenant with Abraham, it extends the promises to Abraham and adds national stipulations for Abraham’s offspring. In this way, Block helps us read Moses on his own terms and to see how the biblical covenants relate to one another. Here’s how Block explains it: Continue reading
In his short study on biblical covenants, Covenant and God’s Purpose for the World, Tom Schreiner provides a helpful comparison between Adam and Noah. As our men’s Bible study looks at this section of Scripture today, I share Schreiner’s eight evidences for seeing textual connections between Adam and Noah. Clearly, Moses wrote Genesis 1–11 to show how Noah is a Second Adam.
Here are his eight observations. I’ve added the italicizes to highlight the observations.
First, God’s work of ordering and shaping the creation occurred when the earth was covered with water and chaos (Gen. 1: 2). So too, after the flood the earth was inundated with water, and a new beginning took place when the water receded.
Second, God created the birds, creeping things, and animals to flourish and multiply on earth (Gen. 1: 20–21, 24–25). After the flood, the birds, creeping things, and animals again began to propagate on the earth (8:17–19). Continue reading
A few years ago, Crossway Books began a series called Short Studies in Biblical Theology. These books are wonderful introductions to various topics on biblical theology. So far they have included,
Most recently, I read Tom Schreiner’s book on covenant, where in 120 pages he unpacks in plain language the biblical covenants from the covenant in creation to the new covenant in Christ. While the whole book is worth reading, I found his discussion on the first covenant a helpful introduction to God’s with mankind mediated through Adam, what some have called a creation covenant.
Six Evidences for a Covenant in Creation
On this disputed understanding of Genesis 1–2, Tom Schreiner summarizes six reasons for seeing a covenant in creation. While his work does not delve into the technical aspects of the debate, his clear presentation should give the reader a strong biblical case for seeing God’s creation in covenantal terms.
Here is a summarized version of his list with a few reflections on his points. Continue reading
Just as the food we eat expresses and establishes the relationships we have, so too meals in the Bible establish and express kinship relationships. Even more, a meal is often a central part of entering into a covenant. And once that covenant is established, a shared meal is one of the greatest ways our identity is formed and reinforced. Let’s follow these two strands through Scripture to see how they shine light on the Lord’s Supper.
In Genesis 26:26–33, Isaac and Abimelech “cut a covenant” (v. 28); this covenant is followed by a meal: “So he made a feast, and they ate and drank” (v. 30). Likewise, when Jacob and Laban “cut a covenant” to repair the breach of trust between them (Genesis 31:43–54), a sacrifice and a meal ratified the agreement: “Jacob offered a sacrifice in the hill country and called his kinsmen to eat bread” (v. 54). This pattern of sacrifice and feasting accompanied most covenants in the Old Testament. And we certainly see the Lord feeding his people and feasting with them throughout the Old Testament. Continue reading
Robert Letham’s Union with Christ is a good overview of a subject that is vital for understanding how we receive all the benefits Christ procured through earthly life and death. One of the things I appreciate about his approach is the way he defines “union in Christ” in covenantal categories. Even if appeals to the classical “covenant of grace” / “covenant of works” approach to the biblical covenants, his approach rightly assigns “union in Christ” to a covenantal concept.
Of late, I have heard some people speak about “union in Christ” and Christ’s mediation (a la 1 Timothy 2:5) without paying attention to the biblical idea of the covenants. Letham corrects this sort of approach. He shows how “union in Christ” cannot be explained our understood apart from understanding Christ as a “covenant head” and someone who is united to us in a “covenantal” relationship. Here is how he summarizes his understanding of Union in Christ:
Testamentum Imperium, an online international journal, just published a copy of a paper I wrote called “Repentance as a Gift in the Old Testament.” It traces the idea of repentance throughout the Old Testament and argues that God’s grace precedes and enables repentance, as it explicitly does in the New Testament (cf Acts 3:26; 2 Tim 2:25).
Researching this subject affirmed in my thinking how important it is to rightly understand the covenant structure of the Bible, how much greater the New Covenant is than the Old, and how humanity is absolutely dead without God’s gracious intervention. Faith and repentance, in the Old and New Testaments depend on God’s regenerating work.
Moreover, the paper reiterated to me how many systematic disputes (e.g. Credobaptism vs. Paedobaptism, Covenant Theology vs. Dispensationalism) are tied to a misreading of the covenants in Scripture. Differences of (scholarly) opinion on the continuity and discontinuity of the Bible lead to differing views of many doctrines.
In my paper, I argue that genuine acts of repentance under the Old Covenant anticipate the greater reality of the New Covenant. In this way, repentance is always a gift from God that not only offers but effects contrition and corresponding faith in the life of his saints. While there are many instances of insincere repentance–one thinks of Pharaoh–all genuine repentance is initiated by God’s sin-conquering grace. Repentance is therefore one of God’s great gifts, as it is instrumental for the sinner’s salvation.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the paper: “Repentance as a Gift in the Old Testament”
Still learning how to read the Bible, dss