Bible Readings for July 17th
In Joshua 24, we find God burying another one of his mighty workmen, Joshua. But before Joshua goes to his grave, he renews Israel’s covenant with Yahweh. We should not miss that the covenant renewal process begins, once again, with the story of Yahweh’s grace toward Israel in Joshua 24:1–13. Just as in Deuteronomy 1–3, and then again in Deuteronomy 29 when Moses renewed the covenant in the land of Moab, the story of Yahweh’s redemption precedes Israel’s recommitment to obey Yahweh’s law. In this way, Yahweh continually reminds his people that grace came first, not law. We do not obey the law so that God will love us; we can only seek to obey God’s law when we recognize that God has already demonstrated his love toward us.
Then, once Joshua works through the full story of Yahweh’s mercy toward his people, he demands that the people choose which God (or gods) they will serve. He pleads with them to put away the false gods that their fathers served and serve only Yahweh. Leading by example one final time, Joshua announces, “But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Josh. 24:15). Thankfully, the Israelites swear to serve only Yahweh, “for he is our God” (Josh. 24:18).
Joshua’s response, however, might catch us off guard. He rejects their words, saying, “You are not able to serve the LORD, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins” (Josh. 24:19). There is truth to this—as we will see in the book of Judges, Israel will quickly slip into lasting patterns of rebellion and apostasy.
Still, Joshua doesn’t reject Israel’s commitment altogether. Instead, he simply holds them to their word by renewing the covenant there in Shechem (Josh. 24:25), writing the words of God’s law on a giant stone set up as a witness against Israel if they should ever rebel against Yahweh (Josh. 24:26–27).
This was as much as Joshua could do at this point in salvation history, but it was not enough. God’s people would not be changed through words written externally, on stone, under the old covenant. Indeed, we cannot be transformed unless God writes his words internally, on our hearts, through the new covenant ministry of the Holy Spirit.
If you are in Christ, you are able to serve Yahweh, even though he is a holy and jealous God—not because you are righteous, but because God himself has begun to write his covenant on your heart, transforming you from the inside out. This good work will not be completed until the day of Jesus Christ, but make no mistake—God will be faithful to complete the work that he has begun in you (Phil. 1:6).
Therefore, as for you and your house, serve the Lord.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.