When Joshua renewed the covenant with the new generation of Israelites at Shechem (Joshua 24:1-27), Joshua challenged them to be faithful to God. He said: “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the river and in Egypt, and serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:14).
This beautiful passage speaks of the solemn convocation of the people of Israel at Shechem in order to celebrate the renewal of the covenant with the God who had given them a special place to live: the land of Canaan, their promised land.
In worship, Israel prepared for this solemn occasion. The people came together to renew their vows to God and to dedicate their lives to his service. Joshua demanded three actions from the people before they could present themselves to God.
The first action that Joshua demanded from the people was that they should fear God. The fear of God was the attitude expected of every believer in the Old Testament. Fear of God was the attitude of reverence that children must have before their parents, the attitude of worship that a creature must have before his creator.
The second action that Joshua demanded from the people was their faithful service to God. The NIV Bible has “serve him with all faithfulness,” and the NET Bible has “with integrity and loyalty,” but the Hebrew has “in wholeness and faithfulness.”
Wholeness describes the harmony that must exist between the interior life (the life of faith) and the exterior actions (the work of faith). It is the kind of life that reflects faithfulness in words and actions toward God and other people.
The third action that Joshua demanded from the people was the renunciation of other gods. This exhortation meant that Israel must enter into a personal relationship with God and God alone. The God of Israel demands exclusive and absolute service and worship from his people.
Joshua asked much more than the people could give to God, but God deserves much more than Israel and we can give to him.
Today as you pray and worship him in the beauty of his holiness, let this time of prayer and worship be a time of covenant renewal. Come before God and offer him the same faithfulness and commitment that he has shown to you.
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Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary