Israel Renews Their Covenant Commitment
Open Your Bible
Joshua 24:1-33, Deuteronomy 7:9, Romans 8:28
BY Patti Sauls
They had walked the aisle before, but this time the bride and groom had twenty years of marriage under their belts. As they held intimately familiar hands, the couple promised to stick together for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish till death would part them. They declared, “I do…again” as an affirmation of vows made years ago and as a recommitment to keep these vows for years to come.
Publicly declaring and doubling down on unconditional love and faithfulness is no small thing. To say that marriage is hard is a colossal understatement. Renewing vows can be a bold celebration of victory in the face of opposition, as well as a humble agreement to continue the arduous journey, one day at a time.
It was no small thing for Joshua to conduct a covenant renewal ceremony between God and His people either. All seemed well as Israel settled down in the promised land, finally free from battle. But Joshua knew the people needed to double down on their commitment to the Lord because they were surrounded by nations worshiping false gods. It would be so tempting to cheat on God by adopting the idolatry around them, to put their hope in their new land and homes, forgetting and forsaking the one, true God.
In his final act of leadership, Joshua gathered Israel’s leaders in the city of Shechem for a vow renewal ceremony. This spot was no accident. Hundreds of years earlier, Abraham faithfully left his homeland and followed the Lord to Shechem (Genesis 12:6). Under the well-known oak of Shechem, Jacob buried his family’s idols in obedience and commitment to God (Genesis 35:4). Here once again, Joshua calls God’s people to remember and recommit, to demolish idols and turn toward the Lord.
“Fear the LORD and worship him in sincerity and truth.
Get rid of the gods your fathers worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt,
and worship the LORD” (Joshua 24:14).
Once again, God’s people promised, “We will” (v.16).
But then a surprising correction from Joshua threatened to derail the ceremony: “You will not be able to worship the LORD, because he is a holy God” (Joshua 24:19). God is perfect, and Israel was not. Neither are we. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Despite our promises and best intentions, we cannot keep our vows to God. We will stray. We will forget. We will forsake. But God has not forsaken us. “The righteousness of God is through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (v.22). Through Jesus, our unfaithfulness—our sin—is forgiven, so that we can be in right relationship with God. He completes the ceremony, saves a colossally hard union, and fulfills all the vows—both His and ours.
What God has joined together, no one can separate.