Lord, remind us to honor You for our victories.
Read JOSHUA 8:30–35
The Covenant Renewed at Mount Ebal
30 Then Joshua built on Mount Ebal an altar to the Lord, the God of Israel, 31 as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the Israelites. He built it according to what is written in the Book of the Law of Moses—an altar of uncut stones, on which no iron tool had been used. On it they offered to the Lord burnt offerings and sacrificed fellowship offerings. 32 There, in the presence of the Israelites, Joshua wrote on stones a copy of the law of Moses. 33 All the Israelites, with their elders, officials and judges, were standing on both sides of the ark of the covenant of the Lord, facing the Levitical priests who carried it. Both the foreigners living among them and the native-born were there. Half of the people stood in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the Lord had formerly commanded when he gave instructions to bless the people of Israel.
34 Afterward, Joshua read all the words of the law—the blessings and the curses—just as it is written in the Book of the Law. 35 There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read to the whole assembly of Israel, including the women and children, and the foreigners who lived among them.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘I urge you … in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship’ (Rom 12:1).
Imagine you are watching Joshua as a war movie. We have had the triumph at Jericho, the reversal at Ai followed by the dramatic execution of Achan, then the clever strategy of Joshua leading to victory over Ai – and suddenly the scene changes to … a worship service. It is a reminder that, for the writer, the Book of Joshua is not primarily about a military campaign or conquering territory but about Israel’s relationship with God (The movie idea is from Davis, 2000, p71). Thus, for the people to renew their covenant with God is entirely appropriate. That the location of the ceremony is at Mount Ebal, close to Shechem, is not without significance, since it was there that Abraham had first received the promise of the land and where Jacob had settled (Gen 12, 33). For the writer, this is the climax of the events of chapters 7 and 8, as Israel starts her new life in the land, showing that ‘Trouble Valley could become Hope’s Door for every generation’ (EJ Hamlin, Joshua: Inheriting the Land, 1983, p69).
Joshua is not only reminding the Israelites of the true nature of the conquest but also calling them publicly to renew their covenant with God and to accept the conditions that the covenant entails. Some churches have a covenant service at the beginning of the year. That can help, encourage, and challenge us. For Israel, renewing the covenant shortly after Achan’s covenant violation (Josh. 7:11) adds poignancy. Israel has learned the hard way not to take God’s presence for granted. The burnt offering, wholly consumed, is a symbol of the people giving their whole selves to God, just as Paul wrote that we should do (Rom 12:1). We can also see the burnt offering prefiguring the death of Jesus, which deals with sin and re-establishes the covenant relationship between us and God.
In a society that encourages self-reliance, humility is counter-intuitive. How do we learn to recognize and be grateful for God’s grace and mercy?
Lord, teach us how to be as comprehensive as Joshua. Teach us to read and regard all of Your Word.