Then Joshua told them, "You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the LORD." "We are witnesses!" they said.
I. THE TERMS OF THE COVENANT. It was to bind the people to their promise to renounce the old life of sin and idolatry, and to enter upon and remain in the true service of God. Nations are proud of protecting treaties, constitutional pledges, charters of liberty, etc. No nation ever took a more important covenant than this. The chief question for all of us is whether we will live for the world or for God. The gospel brings to us a new covenant. The promises are greater, the terms are more light. Yet we must choose and resolve and yield ourselves in submission to it if we would enjoy the advantages its offers. This covenant has two sides. God pledges His blessings, but we must pledge our devotion. His is the infinitely greater part. Yet if we fail in ours God's promises of blessing no longer apply.
II. THE OBJECTS OF THE COVENANT,
(1) It was to preserve the memory of the pledge. Men make resolutions in moments of exaltation which they are apt to forget when the feelings which gave rise to them have subsided. Yet it is just then that they are most necessary. They are not needed when they are freely made, because the impulse to resolve would carry out the action without the resolution. Their real value is for those seasons of trial and service when the lack of a strong spontaneous impulse makes it necessary to fall back on some fixed principle.
(2) It was to secure the execution of the pledge. It is easy to promise. The difficulty lies in the performance. God is only mocked with the devotion of the sanctuary which is not followed by the service of the daily life. Hence we need to preserve and carry the high impulses of worship into the work of the world. Many men live two lives, and the life of the Sunday has no bearing on that of the week day. We should use all means to bring religion into life.
III. THE FORM OF THE COVENANT.
(1) There was an appeal to memory. The people were to be witnesses against themselves. We should treasure in the memory and often call to mind the thoughts of our seasons of spiritual elevation.
(2) There was a written record. Writing remains unchanged with the varying moods of men. It may he well to write our higher thoughts and deeper resolves for our own subsequent private meditation. The New Testament is a written covenant.
(3) There was a memorial stone. This would be always visible. So the covenant would be often called to mind. We often need to have our memories refreshed and our thoughts called back to the great practical truths of Christianity. Hence the utility of preaching not only new ideas, but truths that all of us know, and yet that all need to be reminded of, and to have often brought before us for practical application. The stone would not lose its value as it became old and familiar. Truth does not grow feeble with age, nor is it the less important because it is the more familiar. - W.F.A.
If ye forsake the Lord... He will turnI. THE REASONABLENESS OF EXPECTING THAT ABUSED MERCIES MUST LEAD TO MORE AGGRAVATED PUNISHMENT. We see this clearly in the history of Israel. Their career as a nation was marked by perfidy and ingratitude; at almost every step of their progress we find them in rebellion against the Most High — "forsaking the Lord, and serving strange gods." And how did God deal with them when they thus acted? Is it not the case that He scourged them, and caused them to suffer punishment? Look at the plagues that befel them in the desert; look at the slaughters which God permitted them to experience in warfare with their enemies. And who can survey the subsequent history of the Jews, and not read a fulfilment of the threatening contained in our text? And what we are desirous you should gather from the foregoing observations is mainly this, that no experience of good at the hands of the Almighty affords warrant to expect that future disobedience will not be visited with righteous severity. "If ye forsake the Lord and serve strange gods, then He will turn and do you hurt and consume you, after that He hath done you good."
II. THE JUSTICE OF THE DEALING WHICH IS REFERRED TO IN THE THREATENING BEFORE US. NOW it will be admitted that every reason was given Israel to expect the continuance of the Divine favour and protection. We think it easily to be perceived that one main purpose of the Almighty in the calling of Israel as a nation was to maintain upon earth, through means of that race, the pure knowledge of Himself; to afford a witness to the unity of Jehovah, and against idolatry; to secure glory to Himself by the exhibition, on the part of this people, of a consistent obedience. Surely, then, if this purpose was, through the nation's profligacy and disobedience, altogether thwarted, if all the resources which God gave them of national strength were abused and corrupted, indeed it were strange not to perceive that their conduct in this respect released every presumed obligation "to do them good," and in short vindicates to the letter the justice of the warning, "If ye forsake the Lord, and serve strange gods, then He will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that He hath done you good." And now, to take a more comprehensive range, from looking at the case of the Jewish people let us turn to that of mankind in general. Does it appear that God can be just in the apportionment of unmitigated wrath to mankind, notwithstanding all the manifestations of His determination to do them good? There are two grand exhibitions to be met with of God's merciful intention towards mankind at large, to do them good. The first of these is furnished by creation, and the second by redemption. Our object of inquiry is simply this: whether the display of God's love in creating or redeeming mankind offers any reason to conclude that, in harmony with His justice, He cannot "turn and do them hurt, and consume them." To begin with creation: no man can doubt that his creation is the proof of a purpose on God's part to "do him good." Beyond all question this purpose was man's happiness, but then his happiness was to consist in assimilation to the Godhead; and if upon man devolve the guilt of having voluntarily destroyed and renounced that similitude, where is the inconsistency of the dealing, should God "turn and do him hurt, and consume him"? The nobler the faculties wherewith he was endowed the brighter the evidence of God's purpose to "do him good," the stronger then seem to me the reasons wherefore wrath should be executed upon those by whom the faculties are abused and the evidence slighted. We turn, lastly, to the manifestation of God's goodness as displayed in redemption. There have been those who have argued — redemption is the evidence of a love so surpassing, they can never believe God will sentence to destruction those whom He has redeemed at such cost. "The method of our atonement involves an expenditure of such wisdom and mercy, that how can we conceive of the Almighty as permitting its objects finally to perish?" Mast to reason thus is equally, as in the former instances we have adduced, to overlook one main purpose of God in the scheme of human redemption. Is it not strange that men who have been made the objects of a sacrifice so costly should regard it so lightly and requite it so coldly? We may wonder that redeemed sinners should perish, but is it not more wonderful that redeemed sinners should refuse to be saved? Again, let us revert to the purpose of God in redemption. Indeed it was to bless the whole earth; it was to ransom humanity from the bondage of evil, and to exalt it to transcendent felicity. But after all, throughout every dealing of God with His intelligent creatures, we may discover the purpose to treat them as responsible beings, free to reject the overtures of His mercy. Now, redemption is offered upon certain terms; man is required to repent and to believe in order to be saved. It is no part of redemption to offer him an entrance into heaven irrespective of a moral fitness, to render him meet for heaven's enjoyments; and in the acquisition of this moral fitness man is required to co-operate with the Divine Spirit. He can refuse to profit by what God hath done for him, and thus prove himself a despiser of the love which is so unsearchably great. He can resolutely withstand the design of the Almighty in redemption, namely, that he should glorify God, both in his body and soul; and, I ask, if it be possible for Him to act thus, is there not justice in the sentence which awards him to suffer in spite of all the declared willingness of God to do him good?
(Bp. R. Bickersteth.)
II. TO INQUIRE HOW AND WHEN, OR IN WHAT RESPECTS, AND AT WHAT PERIODS OF TIME, WE ARE WITNESSES AGAINST OURSELVES THAT WE HAVE CHOSEN THE LORD TO SERVE HIM.
1. You yourselves are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord to be your God. You know and confess that you have been dedicated to God in baptism; and some of you know it was your own act and deed when capable of choosing for yourselves. You also know in your own consciences that you are often present at the table of the Lord, and there you renew your covenant with God afresh.
2. You are witnesses against one another that you have chosen the Lord to serve Him. You have seen the transactions that have passed between God and you in His house; you have seen some baptized themselves, some presenting their children to baptism, and so renewing their own covenant with God; some sealing their religious engagements at the Lord's table.
PeopleAaron, Amorites, Balaam, Balak, Beor, Canaanites, Egyptians, Eleazar, Esau, Girgashite, Girgashites, Hamor, Hittites, Hivite, Hivites, Isaac, Israelites, Jacob, Jebusites, Joseph, Joshua, Nachor, Nahor, Nun, Perizzites, Phinehas, Seir, Serah, Terah, Zippor
PlacesCanaan, Egypt, Euphrates River, Gaash, Gibeah, Jericho, Jordan River, Moab, Red Sea, Seir, Shechem, Timnath-serah
TopicsChosen, Decision, Joshua, Replied, Servants, Serve, Witnesses, Yes, Yourselves
Outline1. Joshua assembles the tribes at Shechem
2. A brief history of God's benefits from Terah
14. He renews the covenant between them and God
26. A stone the witness of the covenant
29. Joshua's age, death, and burial
32. Joseph's bones are buried
33. Eleazar dies
Dictionary of Bible ThemesJoshua 24:14-23
7160 servants of the Lord
LibraryFebruary the Tenth Registering a Verdict
"The Lord our God will we serve, and His voice will we obey." --JOSHUA xxiv. 22-28. Here was a definite decision. Our peril is that we spend our life in wavering and we never decide. We are like a jury which is always hearing evidence and never gives a verdict. We do much thinking, but we never make up our minds. We let our eyes wander over many things, but we make no choice. Life has no crisis, no culmination. Now people who never decide spend their days in hoping to do so. But this kind of life …
John Henry Jowett—My Daily Meditation for the Circling Year
A Summary of Israel's Faithlessness and God's Patience
Jesus Sets Out from Judæa for Galilee.
Meditations for Household Piety.
The Promise to the Patriarchs.
Sovereignty and Human Responsibility
And for Your Fearlessness against them Hold this Sure Sign -- Whenever There Is...
Covenanting Performed in Former Ages with Approbation from Above.
The First Commandment
Moses and his Writings
"The Carnal Mind is Enmity against God for it is not Subject to the Law of God, Neither Indeed Can Be. So Then they that Are
Gen. xxxi. 11
Manner of Covenanting.
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