Joshua 24:14-28 When believers renew their covenant with God, a revival ensues
“Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
16 The people answered and said, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; 17 for the Lord our God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and who did these great signs in our sight and preserved us through all the way in which we went and among all the peoples through whose midst we passed. 18 The Lord drove out from before us all the peoples, even the Amorites who lived in the land. We also will serve the Lord, for He is our God.”
19 Then Joshua said to the people, “You will not be able to serve the Lord, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgression or your sins. 20 If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you after He has done good to you.” 21 The people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the Lord.” 22 Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen for yourselves the Lord, to serve Him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.” 23 “Now therefore, put away the foreign gods which are in your midst, and incline your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.” 24 The people said to Joshua, “We will serve the Lord our God and we will obey His voice.” 25 So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made for them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem. 26 And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God; and he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the Lord. 27 Joshua said to all the people, “Behold, this stone shall be for a witness against us, for it has heard all the words of the Lord which He spoke to us; thus it shall be for a witness against you, so that you do not deny your God.” 28 Then Joshua dismissed the people, each to his inheritance.
Joshua, at the wake of his retirement he detailed the history of God’s providence from the days of Abraham to where they now were. He called the people to respond by renewing their covenant with God. His powerful and exemplary lifestyle of wholehearted service towards God ushers in a national revival. Joshua advocates a lifestyle of wholehearted worship of God without compromise. The people respond to Joshua’s admonishment by renewing their covenant with God and discarding their idols. Today’s devotion teaches us that when believers renew their covenant with God, a revival ensues.
Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth.
The brief commemoration of the origins of ancient Israel was more than sufficient to move the people towards a spirited commitment towards God. God left his indelible mark at every crucial juncture and battles of the patriarchs that ensured her survival. Joshua commanded the Israelites to fear the Lord and serve Him. Fear connotes a deep reverence towards God who is impeccably holy, and who demands absolute allegiance. To serve Him is to set aside one’s self as a bond servant under God’s charge to fulfill His kingdom’s business. Hence, God’s people must serve Him with an attitude of excellence (sincerity) and faithfulness (truth). Sincerity connotes the attitude of excellence, and of giving one’s very best. Truth connotes faithfulness, working not out of dread but love and gratitude.
The Amorites and the inhabitants beyond the River Jordan are steep in idolatry and sinful practices. From time to time, the people of Israel with wandering desires secretly longed for the foreign and forbidden pleasures of sin. Throughout the history of ancient Israel, idolatry and inter-marriage with foreign women remain major threats against Israel’s sanctity.
For the Lord our God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt.
Israel is presented with a choice; to serve the God who has brought them thus far, or to serve the foreign gods. Should they choose to serve God, He will remain faithful to protect them and prosper them. But should they choose to serve foreign gods, God is no longer obligated to be their God, nor they, His people. Given this liberty, Israel made a unanimous decision to serve God. Their reason being:
a. God is love: For the Lord our God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt.
b. God is powerful: Who did these great signs in our sight.
c. God is their Father: The Lord drove out from before us all the peoples, even the Amorites who lived in the land.
Joshua, in full view of Israel makes his commitment known: as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
You will not be able to serve the Lord, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God.
Joshua, wanting to impress upon them the gravity of the moment warns them of the consequences of apostasy. By virtue of the fact that He is a holy God, and He is a jealous God, they must take their decision with utmost seriousness. As God is Creator and sovereign Ruler of the universe, He is also holy. God’s holiness is that which makes Him incomparable and He demands undivided devotion from His covenant people. God’s supremacy is what makes Him holy. However, if God’s holiness is violated by their acts of apostasy, it expresses itself in jealousy. Jealousy is God’s zeal in upholding His honour shown through acts of punishment on evil doers who violate His honor. Should the people forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, they are left to contend with God’s jealousy: He will not forgive your transgression or your sins. … He will turn and do you harm and consume you after He has done good to you. These words do not infer eternal condemnation for sinners, but sin always calls for swift retribution by a holy God.
Behold, this stone shall be for a witness against us.
After careful consideration, the people remain resolute: No, but we will serve the Lord. In so doing, the people become their own witnesses in their commitment towards a holy and jealous God: You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen for yourselves the Lord, to serve Him. This commitment necessitates a complete severance with the pleasures of sin and to reconcile themselves with God: Now therefore, put away the foreign gods which are in your midst, and incline your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel. The people follow through with their commitment by putting away their idols, their fleshly addictions to love God and to serve Him.
The people’s resolution to serve God wholeheartedly is recorded in the book of the law of God that include a statute and an ordinance. A statute is a prescribed commandment and an ordinance is a decision made by the parties involved. In addition, a large stone that serve as an enduring witness of the covenant is set up. The stone functions as a reminder of God’s faithfulness towards Israel as well as the consequences should they deny God.
The only way to be saved is to burn our idols and love God wholeheartedly.
Up to the point of Joshua’s address, the people of Israel have been given to idolatry. While Israel is used to God’s constant provision and protection, they suppose a little wayward pleasure does not hurt. Even as they follow through the rituals of sacrifices and speaking words of honour towards God, they are not wholehearted in their worship. Through the mouth of prophet Isaiah God speaks concerning the people,
Because this people draw near with their words
And honor Me with their lip service,
But they remove their hearts far from Me,
And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote. Isaiah 29:13
The people suppose they could glean the best of both worlds, but the end of which is utter destruction. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them (see 2 Peter 2:21). As a result, generations of Israelites incurred unimaginable sufferings, families are torn apart and persecuted throughout history. It is dangerous to enter into a covenant with God without first considering the cost of wholehearted commitment.
Many churchgoers, enticed by the prospect of unconditional love and eternal blessings flocked to the church expecting full commitment from God concerning their problems. They will commit to attend weekend worship services, the giving of tithes and offerings, but will not love God wholeheartedly nor follow His ways. Even though they do not have idols of other gods in their houses, they harbour them in their hearts; the idols of money, power, sensuality, and self-rule. Their minds are constantly occupied with their personal progress and the cares of life. They read the bible for the sole purpose of prospering themselves as opposed to knowing God and serving Him.
Figure 5.3 describes one who has his sights trained towards blessings, and who uses God as a means to get what he wants. Figure 5.4 depicts one whose vision is to know God and to serve Him with gratitude. To the latter (figure 5.4) belongs glory and eternal blessings but utter destruction to the former (figure 5.3). Jesus taught,
No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. Matthew 6:24
It is not possible for a man to serve two masters at the same time. One who loves God wholeheartedly will not be in good conscience repeatedly succumb to temptations of the flesh. The Holy Spirit is sent to regenerate believers by breaking the power of sin that reigns within our bodies. As Joshua speaks to ancient Israel, the Spirit is speaking to us today, “Now therefore, put away the foreign gods which are in your midst, and incline your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.”
When believers renew their covenant with God, a revival ensues.
A covenant is a bilateral commitment made by two parties. Hence, it takes two parties to enforce a covenant with each other. While God is perfectly faithful to His part of the covenant, we cannot say the same about man. Although we can count on God to keep His part of the bargain, we fear that we may turn our backs on Him. Hence, it is important to constantly renew our covenant with God. Joshua leads Israel into renewing their covenant with God that results in repentance and a national revival.
There are two elements in the covenant: a stature and an ordinance. A statute is a prescribed commandment, something that God wants to me focus for a season. It could pertain to a certain discipline, a character flaw, or a project that needed special attention. An ordinance is an expressed agreement to abide by God’s instruction. Church members can renew their commitment towards God and towards one another as a community. Nothing pleases God more when believers renew their love and commitment to Him and to one another.
Are you accustomed to compromising your standards in favour of an easier time? By compromising your standards in small ways, you set yourself up for bigger compromises and eventual ruin. What starts out as an inconsequential lapse of judgment, grows over time into deception and a seared conscience. Do not exaggerate and compromise the truth in all that you present. Be very careful in how you relate with persons of the opposite gender, and do not be taken by passion. In matters concerning money, be totally honest and transparent in all transactions.
It is good practice to renew your covenant with God periodically. If God has a statute for you, write it down in an ordinance and paste it at a convenient location. In doing so, we achieve clarity in what God wants us to do in every season.
Dear Lord, I renew my covenant with you, to love you with all my heart, spirit, mind and might. I put away all idols, and break the bondages of addictions and desires that go against your ways. I will heed your instructions and serve you faithfully. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.