Covenant Life: Yesterday, Today, and Forever (Joshua 24)

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Covenant Life: Yesterday, Today, and Forever (Joshua 24)

On Sunday we looked at Joshua 24, the last chapter in Joshua, and concluded our series on this Jesus-centered book.

In Joshua 24, the soon-to-be-departed leader of Israel called Israel to renew their covenant with God. By reminding Israel of God’s grace in their past and calling them to seek Yahweh’s grace for their present, Joshua renewed a covenant that anticipated a greater covenant in the future.

Indeed, as we have seen in all of Joshua, this book points to Jesus with remarkable, and at times shocking, clarity. It is not a book where we have to read Jesus back into the Old Testament. Instead, as the first book written after Moses, a book that helps us learn to read the rest of the Prophets and Writings, Joshua (Yeshua = Jesus) is unmistakably Christotelic (written to bring us to Christ at-the-end). And Joshua 24 may be the most fulsome in  leading us to Christ. At least, that’s what I argue in this sermon!

You can listen to the sermon online. Response questions and additional resources can be found below. Continue reading

Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament: 10 Things about Joshua 24

michel-porro-vfaFxFltAvA-unsplashIn 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

When Did the Kingdom of God Begin?

war“The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all.”
Psalm 103:19

32 And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, 33 this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm, “‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’
Acts 13:32–33

In his excellent little study on the title ‘Son of God,’ (Jesus the Son of God: A Christological Title Often Overlooked, Sometimes Misunderstood, and Currently Disputed), D. A. Carson asks the question: When did the kingdom of God begin? In typical fashion, Carson tears down any reductionistic answer and provides a vision of God’s kingdom that acknowledges the ongoing, sovereign rule of God over all creation (Ps. 103:19) and the kingdom of God that came when Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to earth (and rose again to heaven).

Drawing on passages that cover the range of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, Carson shows how Christ inaugurated the kingdom. And it’s here where Carsons shows the polyvalent ways the Gospels speak of Christ’s kingdom. Indeed, his kingship is seen at his birth, in his life, and on the cross. Yet, it is in his resurrection and ascension where the exalted Christ “receives” his crown, if you will. While the New Testament bears witness to the forthcoming consummation of the kingdom, Christ’s service is rewarded with his crown in his resurrection (cf. Phil. 2:5–11).

Carson shows how this works and his thoughtful answer to the question of the kingdom’s beginning is worth considering and remembering as we read passages like Acts 13:32–33; Romans 1:4; and Hebrews 5:5–6, to name only a few. Here’s his answer to the question, “When did the kingdom of God begin?” Continue reading

Beloved, Keep the Faith: What Jesus’s Final Words Say That Joshua’s Can’t (Joshua 23)

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Beloved, Keep the Faith: What Jesus’s Final Words Say That Joshua’s Can’t (Joshua 23) (Sermon Audio)

In Joshua’s penultimate chapter in Joshua, we hear a word from Joshua calling for an ultimate commitment to God. Speaking to the people he has led out of the wilderness and into the Promised Land, Joshua says “Be very careful, therefore, to love the Lord your God” (v. 11).

In short, Joshua’s last words to Israel urge Israel to keep the faith. Only, as Joshua 24:31 indicates, Israel’s faithfulness is very short-lived. Only one generation after Joshua continues to keep the covenant (renewed in Joshua 24). Thus, for all that Joshua has done and said, it is ultimately ineffective. And as we read his words today, we can feel the same kind of discouragement, if we don’t place the weakness of his sermon with the eternal life that Christ gives with his final words.

Indeed, in this week’s sermon we will see how Joshua’s final words, like his entire life, are meant to lead us to Christ. From this connection everything that Joshua can be applied to us today, with (re)assurance that our faith will endure because Christ himself is keeping us (Jude 2), even as we keep ourselves in the love of God (Jude 21).

You can listen to the sermon online. For more on Joshua 23, you can read this week’s Ten Things blogpost: Love God, Flee Idols, and Remember That Jesus is with You: 10 Things about Joshua 23.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

 

Love God, Flee Idols, and Remember That Jesus is with You: 10 Things about Joshua 23

michel-porro-vfaFxFltAvA-unsplashJoshua 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

At Christmas Don’t Lose Jesus’s Divinity: Celebrating the Incarnation with ‘Extra’ Care

pro-church-media-kSjsDWDn3WM-unsplashWhat happened was that at the incarnation, while continuing to exist eternally in the form of God, He added to that by taking the form of a servant.
— J. N. D. Kelly —

 Given the importance of the extra in historical theology, it is surprising how quickly it is rejected or replaced with something else. The extra is crucial in helping the church to explain the full scope of the Scriptural presentation of the incarnation and how the Son functioned in and through both natures,
— Stephen J. Wellum —

At Christmas we celebrate the birth of baby Jesus. And with candles glowing and carols singing, we draw near to the babe born of Mary and celebrate the fact that God is with us—Immanuel.

At the same time, when we celebrate Christ’s condescension, there can arise a significant misunderstanding about Christ’s humanity. In song, as well as sermon, we find lyrics that describe Jesus “leaving heaven,” or not knowing about why he is coming to earth—“Baby Jesus, do you know you will die for our sins?”  These boilerplate Christmas tag lines, but are they true? Do they faithfully represent the miracle of the Incarnation?

On the surface, they may sound fine. They praise God for Christ’s birth and his sacrificial mission to bring salvation. Yet, when we probe more deeply, it becomes apparent lyrics like these and many unchecked thoughts about the birth of Christ assume beliefs that have often been described as heretical in church history.

In particular, Christmas has a way of unwrapping the kenotic heresy—the belief that when Jesus emptied himself (ekenōsen) and became a man,  he also left many (or all) of his divine attributes behind. The theory, expressed in many ways, asserts that for the Son of God to become human, he must set aside his omniscience, his omnipotence, and his omnipresence. After all, true humanity does not uphold the universe, right?! For Jesus to be fully human then, his humanity must be fixed in one place, ignorant of many things, and unable to do all the things that God does. Continue reading

Seeing the Streams of Scripture: A Biblical-Theological Approach to Philippians 2

trail-wu-2a1TKBuc-unsplash.jpgBy myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.’
— Isaiah 45:23 —

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
— Philippians 2:8–11 —

Whenever we read the letters of Paul we are sure to encounter quotations from and allusions to the Old Testament. Often in the same passage, there are multiple layers from the Law and the Prophets. Commentators are usually in agreement when there are explicit citations or linguistic repetitions. Interpreters of Scripture are much more at odds when there are not direct biblical parallels.

One example of this kind of interpretive difference is found in Philippians 2:5–11. In Paul’s famous “hymn,” there is an unmistakeable quotation from Isaiah 45:23 in verses 10–11. There are also many connections with the Servant in Isaiah 53. But one connection that is more tenuous is the relationship between Christ who obeyed God unto death and Adam who disobeyed God unto death.

In a remarkably balanced presentation on Adam and Christ in Philippians 2:5–11, Matthew Harmon rightly affirms the many conceptual connections between Adam and Christ. At the same time, he rightly denies any linguistic connections between Philippians 2 and Genesis 1–3. This helpfully sets up a discussion concerning what it takes for allusions to be recognized in the Scripture.

Yet, instead of siding with a narrow reading of Philippians 2 which denies all connections between Christ and Adam (a Pauline theme developed explicitly in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15), Harmon shows how the explicit connections between Philippians 2 and Isaiah 53 stands a servant typology that goes back to Israel, and from Israel to Adam. Continue reading

Blessed Are the Peacemakers: Six Old Testament Lessons for the New Testament Church

jonathan-farber-_lpQA9ox6IA-unsplash.jpgWhen the Western tribes of Israel heard that Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh built an altar near the Jordan River, they were ready to go to war (Josh. 22:10–12). This altar threatened God’s favor on Israel, and the obedient sons of Israel were ready to act. Fortunately, before they took up swords against their brothers, they sent a delegation to inquire about this altar.

This peace-keeping mission is what Joshua 22:10–34 describes, and in these verses we find a tremendous model for peace-making in the church today.  In what follows, we will consider six priorities for genuine reconciliation.

Six Priorities for Peace-Making 

First, peace requires a faithful (high) priest.

When the Western tribes learned of the altar, they gathered at Shiloh to make war. Only before proceeding on that path, they sent a priest by the name of Phinehas. Phinehas is well-known to us because of his actions in Numbers 25. There, he atoned for the sins of the people by taking a spear in his own hand and killing Zimri and Cozbi. This appeased God, ended the plague brought on by Israel’s sexual immorality, and proved Phinehas’s faithfulness as a priest.

Now, following his lead, the delegation of Israel went to inquire of their brothers. What becomes apparent in this peace negotiation is that these brothers acted in faith and did not sin against God or them. Thus, a faithful priest was necessary for making peace. Only now with the split between the tribes of Israel, peace is made by putting the sword down and not going to war. The lesson in this is that faithful priests knew how to divide clean and unclean (Lev. 10:11). Phinehas excellence, therefore, is proved by his ability to make this decision.

At the same time, it is vital to see that a priest is still needed to make peace. In the new covenant, Christ is the peace of his people, one who has made peace by his cross and one who preaches peace to those far and near (Eph. 2:14–17). Moreover, Jesus lives to intercede for his brothers (Heb. 7:25). Thus, the unity of the church is preserved by Christ and his priesthood.

Likewise, Jesus as our great high priest also teaches God’s people how to be priests to one another. As Matthew 5:9 says, those who make peace prove themselves to sons of God, which is to say, they prove themselves to be faithful priests in God’s household. (Faithful sonship was always the source of true priesthood). Today, if the church has any unity, it is because Christ is the one who is mediating the new covenant and praying effectively for his people to become peace-makers. Continue reading

Give Thanks For the Gifts Jesus Gives You: A Thanksgiving Meditation on Ephesians 4

pro-church-media-p2OQW69vXP4-unsplash.jpgBut grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”
— Ephesians 4:7–8 —

As we approach Thanksgiving, it is good to remember that thanksgiving is more than a feeling prompted by turkey and stuffing. Thanksgiving is a way of life for those who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ. And thanksgiving is one of the chief ways that Jesus builds up his church.

Here’s what I mean: Scripture teaches us that we are created to give thanks to God for all that he has given to us. We praise him for his good gifts in creation, and we adore him especially for his mercy in salvation. Yet, in Paul’s letters to the churches, there is peculiar focus on giving thanks for the people whom Christ has given us. And it is worth considering this particular gift as we celebrate Thanksgiving. Continue reading

The Last Battle: Five Portraits of Warfare for Life in an Embattled World (Joshua 11–12)

joshua07The Last Battle: Five Portraits of Warfare for Life in an Embattled World

Sometimes reading the Old Testament is difficult because it is so far away and so different from today. But other times, we see in the struggles of Israel and actions of God experiences that mirror (or even foreshadow) our own. On Sunday, that was certainly the case, as finished the first half of Joshua.

In Joshua 11–12 we found the conclusion of Joshua’s conquest of Canaan. And in these two chapters we saw five portraits of war that provide us with five principles for life.

Importantly, these principles are not just for life in general, but for life in a fallen and embattled world. Truly, our lives are enmeshed in a spiritual battle and Joshua 11–12 helps us see how to fight the fight of faith. You can find the sermon here and response questions and additional resources below.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

Response Questions

  1. How is the gathering of armies in verses 1-5 different from what Israel has faced previously? How does God counsel Joshua? (v. 6)
  2. What is significant about Moses’ command? (11:12–15)
  3. How should we understand this battle in light of God’s sovereignty? (11:20)
  4. What does this battle (chapter 11) and these victories (chapter 12) teach us about the Lord?
  5. What truths and attributes of God do you observe in this narrative?
  6. How ought we to respond to these truths?

Additional Resources

On Joshua

On Spiritual Warfare