This is an excerpt from week 6 of my weekly podcast. You can listen to the complete episode here: Journey – Exploring the world of the Bible – God’s Story, or click the picture below. One topic addressed this week was covenants and the Book of Joshua.
Covenant Renewal Between Mts. Ebal and Gerizim
From Jericho the Israelites went up the Watershed Ridge Route to the town of Shechem where Joshua carried out Moses’ instructions from Deuteronomy 11, reminding the people of the covenant God made with them through Moses:
“See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse— the blessing if you obey the commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the LORD your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known. When the LORD your God has brought you into the land you are entering to possess, you are to proclaim on Mount Gerizim the blessings, and on Mount Ebal the curses.”
(Deuteronomy 11:26–29 NIV)
Continuing in Joshua 8:
“There, in the presence of the Israelites, Joshua copied on stones the law of Moses, which he had written. All Israel, aliens and citizens alike, with their elders, officials and judges, were standing on both sides of the ark of the covenant of the LORD, facing those who carried it—the priests, who were Levites. 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.
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. 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 aliens who lived among them.”
(Joshua 8:32–35 NIV)
The people have been circumcised, they are observing Passover and the covenant with God has been renewed. The message of these chapters is very clear. The Israelites are here in this Promised Land because they are God’s covenant people.
Check out Deuteronomy 28 where the blessings and curses Joshua probably read are located. The blessings begin with this statement:
“If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth.”
After the blessings the curses begin this way:
“However, if you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you.”
Do you understand how this relationship between God and the Israelites works? It’s pretty clear, right? Follow His commands, receive blessings. Disobey, receive curses.
Are you surprised then that in Chapter 9 the Israelites are already making mistakes?
God, Israel, Gibeon and Covenant
The Gibeonites, a local tribe living near Jerusalem, deceives the Israelites into making a covenant of peace with them by leading them to believe they are from a far off land. Perhaps the Israelites should have done some research before blindly joining into a covenant with people who they knew next to nothing about. What had God told the Israelites in Exodus 23:31?
“I will establish your borders from the Red Sea to the Sea of the Philistines, and from the desert to the River. I will hand over to you the people who live in the land and you will drive them out before you. Do not make a covenant with them or with their gods. Do not let them live in your land, or they will cause you to sin against me, because the worship of their gods will certainly be a snare to you.”
(Exodus 23:31–33 NIV)
Why don’t you make a covenant with these people? Remember the seriousness of a covenant that we learned about with God’s covenant with Abraham? The Israelites are in covenant with God, so when they join in covenant with the Gibeonites, they also bring God into covenant with the Gibeonites.
It is for this reason that in chapter 10, when the Gibeonites are attacked by the five kings of the Amorites, God went with Joshua to rescue the Gibeonites. Why not let the Gibeonites be wiped out by the five kings, thereby allowing this covenant-making mistake to be erased? Because God honors His covenant commitments no matter what!
If you appreciate this post please listen to the full podcast by clicking this link: Journey – Exploring the world of the Bible – God’s Story. A new podcast will be posted each week through May, 2015.
Grace and peace.