Joshua Made a Covenant with the People (Josh. 24:1-18) part 4 of 5

  • Written by James Lee
  • Published: 30 March 2017

Does this mean that the old covenant (i.e., the Mosaic Covenant) was a covenant of works? No, we have already pointed out in previous sermons the peculiar feature of the Mosaic Covenant: while it was an administration of the covenant of grace, it included in it the Law and its works principle. Why? Paul explains in Gal. 3 that the law was added to the covenant of promise (i.e., the covenant of grace), which God made with Abraham. Notice: it was added to the covenant of promise, not given to replace the covenant of grace with a covenant of works. So Paul says, "Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe" (Gal. 3:21-22).

 

As you can see, the law was added in order to expose Israel's (and the fallen man's) total inability to meet the divine demand for holiness and righteousness. But simply to chide and condemn Israel for its failure was not the ultimate goal. It was actually to drive the people of Israel to what the covenant of promise actually promised: our salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, the promised Offspring of Abraham. The law was a diagnostic tool to expose Israel's true spiritual condition so that it would turn to the divine Physician for healing and life.

 

 

Joshua Made a Covenant with the People (Josh. 24:1-18) part 3 of 5

  • Written by James Lee
  • Published: 30 March 2017

In Jer. 31 God promised to establish a new covenant with His people: "Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband…" (Jer. 31:31-32). When God said He would establish a new covenant, He implied that there was an old covenant--"the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt." This referred to the Mosaic Covenant.

 How would the new covenant be different from the old covenant? God declared that the new covenant would be "not like the [old] covenant… that they broke…." The old covenant was a breakable covenant, which the people of Israel indeed broke. The new covenant would be an unbreakable covenant. How can the Mosaic Covenant be breakable? Didn't we affirm that the Mosaic Covenant was an administration of the covenant of grace? And if it is a covenant of grace, it cannot be broken, can it? Grace is God's favor extended to sinners. The sinfulness of sinners, their inability to keep God's law, is presupposed. When God established the covenant of grace, He did so with His omniscient, full knowledge of our sinfulness. He does not get shocked and dismayed because we are more sinful than He thought! That is why the covenant of grace cannot be revoked or broken. A covenant of works, like the covenant of life God made with Adam, is bilateral--that is, it requires man to fulfill certain conditions to receive the blessings of the covenant. As such, a covenant of works is breakable. The covenant of grace, on the other hand, is unilateral in nature--that is, it is not contingent on how we perform but wholly dependent on God's sovereign grace toward us.

Joshua Made a Covenant with the People (Josh. 24:1-18) part 2 of 5

  • Written by James Lee
  • Published: 30 March 2017

We can also see the Book of Deuteronomy as a covenant renewal. The exodus generation perished in the wilderness for their unbelief and rebellion. A new generation arose in their place to enter the Promised Land and take possession of it. So, Moses read the Law again (which is what Deuteronomy means) and the new generation renewed the Mosaic Covenant as the new beneficiaries of the covenant.

How about the renewal Joshua officiated here in this passage? It was prompted by his challenge to Israel to choose whom they would serve--the Lord their God or the pagan idols of Gentile nations. The people of Israel responded positively. And despite Joshua's discouraging words--"You are not able to serve the Lord…"--they persisted on their pledge to serve the Lord alone. So Joshua made a covenant with Israel on behalf of God (which was to renew the covenant already ratified at Mount Sinai). This was appropriate, now that Israel had begun living in the land and their leader was about to pass away.

Joshua Made a Covenant With the People (Josh. 24:1-18) Part 1 of 5

  • Written by James Lee
  • Published: 30 March 2017

Today's passage deals with Israel's covenant renewal. We are going to see how it applies to our life, to our worship, under the new covenant, if at all. We are going to see whether this covenant renewal is unique to the Mosaic Covenant or common in all administrations of the covenant of grace. And if there's anything unique, why and in what ways.

 

I just said that what we see in today's passage is a covenant renewal. But doesn't v. 25 say, "So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day"? But it was not a new covenant; it was a renewal of the Mosaic Covenant, which was ratified at Mount Sinai. We say this because the content of this covenant was no different from the Mosaic Covenant. At Mount Sinai, after hearing the law God gave through Moses, the people responded, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient" (Ex. 24:7). In this covenant, too, the people of Israel promise, "The LORD our God we will serve, and his voice we will obey" (v. 24).

 

 

Throughout Israel's history, we see the Mosaic Covenant being renewed on different occasions. In fact, the first instance took place almost right after its ratification. Israel broke their covenant by building a golden calf and worshipping it while Moses was communing with God up in Mount Sinai. Upon witnessing Israel's idolatry, Moses threw down the two tablets of stone (Ex. 32:19) upon which God inscribed the Ten Commandments with His own finger (Ex. 31:18). The smashing of these stone tablets was a dramatic picture of the covenant broken. The tablets represented the terms of the covenant, which Israel promised to keep. These tablets were like the contract papers. As such they were to be kept in the Ark of the Covenant.

You are Not Able (Josh. 14-26) Part 5 of 5

  • Written by James Lee
  • Published: 18 March 2017

But if even that were not enough, what should the Israelites have done? What did God want? You see, God did not point out Israel's inability as a tyrannical moral Police. He did it as the divine Physician. He pronounced His diagnosis of our sickness in order to treat us and make us whole with His healing touch. We said earlier that the self-help religions of the world cannot imagine how good and gracious God is--how patient God is not to punish sinners according to what they deserve. They can never imagine what distance God is willing to go and what price He is willing to pay to show His love for His people--as He did in fact in sending His Son Jesus Christ for our salvation! Joshua's blunt words to his fellow Hebrews pointed out a simple truth that may be unsettling but true nonetheless: we cannot save ourselves so we need God's appointed Savior. We need a Savior to do what we cannot do. He must fight the battle and defeat sin and Satan for us: He must serve the Lord in perfect obedience and unswerving loyalty on our behalf; and He must suffer and lay down His life to pay the penalty of our sin for us. And that is exactly what Jesus Christ the Son of God did for us as our wonderful Savior!

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