TODAY’S SCRIPTURE Joshua 8:30-35
The word covenant is often misunderstood and usually limited unfairly to a mere promise. There is definitely an element of a promise in a covenant, but it is more precisely an agreement (Genesis 21:32). Covenants between people establish mutuality; however, when God makes a covenant He is the sole initiator of its establishment and its fulfillment.¹ Furthermore, one’s entrance into it is based upon a free choice to be bound by it (Exodus 19:8).
The law and covenant of Sinai is mediated by Moses to the assembly of Israel. Moses reads the whole law to the assembly of Israel and leaves instruction for others to continue to do so (Deuteronomy 31:1-13). In fact, one of the expectations written into the Law is a reaffirmation of the law when Israel enters into the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 27:1-8). This occurred at Mt. Ebal under the leadership of Joshua (Joshua 8:30-35) and demonstrated Israel’s commitment to the covenant.
Moses has instructed Israel to build an altar on Mt. Ebal and set up stones with the Law written upon them (probably large monumental stones). The nation does so, and encamps within a valley between Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerazim in order to be blessed. At that time, Joshua reads the whole law to the “assembly [qāhāl] of Israel” (8:35), a phrase connected to the covenantal relationship between God and Israel, which include men, women, children and sojourners who hear the words of the Law (Deuteronomy 31:30; 1 Kings 8:14, 22, 55; 12:3; 1 Chronicles 13:2, etc.). The Greek version translates qāhāl with ekklēsia (“assembly”), which later becomes a phrase to refer to God’s people often translated “church” in English.
Israel assembles together on many occasions to renew their covenantal vows to God. This passage illustrates the principle behind the observance of the Lord’s Supper done in an assembly (Mark 14:22-25; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). This meal not only memorializes the Gospel but also establishes a sense of covenantal renewal every week (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
Today, I will…demonstrate my gratitude for being in covenant with my Creator God. I will give thanks for God’s faithfulness to me and I will show my thankfulness in obedience to the new covenant of Jesus Christ as member of the new Israel of God (Galatians 6:16).
¹William E. Vine, et al., “Covenant,” Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words Vol. 1 (Nashville, TN: Nelson, 1985) 50-51