Covenant Loyalty in Joshua

What are some ways that the theme of covenant loyalty and renewal in Joshua applies to Christians today?

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Well, the themes of covenant renewal, loyalty in Joshua and how all of that applies today to the Christian life is obvious on the one hand, but tricky on the other, because you look at chapter 1, the whole conquest and success of Joshua is dependent. There's an "if" there, so it's conditional. It's put in a conditional way, that if you follow the law and don't walk away from the law, this left and right — and [the] language is "to meditate on it," to think about it day and night. So, it's Psalm 1… This is traditional loyalty, covenantal loyalty that's asked of Joshua, that the Psalms pick up, covenant faithfulness — Deuteronomy — obedience to God's law from the heart. And if he does that, then he'll have success. And so, there's a conditionality there that's built into the conquest and the success of what Joshua will do, and then, how that's then passed on at the end of his life. So, chapter 1 and chapter 24, this whole covenant renewal in 23, 24, is a very powerful moment because then he tells the Israelites, "You have to do the same thing." But then he says, "I know you're not going to do it, but for me and my house, that's what I'm going to do." So, he kind of sets himself apart from the others because he doesn't think they're going to do that. And so, that's the dilemma of the Old Testament. There is the standard being asked. Yeah, covenantal loyalty, faithfulness to God's law, obedience from the heart, knowledge of God's Word, that's all there. And then, "If you do that, then I'll grant you success." … But somehow, no one quite gets there. And so, of course, now comes Jesus in the new covenant, and he is the faithful Israelite. He fulfills Joshua 1. He fulfills Psalm 1… "Blessed is the man … who meditates on the law day and night." He doesn't sit with sinners. Joshua 1 — he never departs to the left and to the right, and then he'll have success. And that language of "success" is very intentional because it's picked up in Isaiah 53, that the servant that's coming, Jesus, he will have success. It's the same kind of language. And that success is obedience to God's law. So, in the New Testament, we are absolutely, 100% called to follow and obey the law and to be faithful to God's law. I mean, look at all the imperatives by Paul and Jesus: "You've got to obey me." "If you are a disciple, you follow me." But now, the fundamental difference is that we've had one who has been faithful … just like that beautiful song by Augustus Toplady, "Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee." So, we hide in Christ's faithfulness, in his holiness, in his obedience, and so we obey out of Christ's faithfulness and Christ's success. We hide in his success. And as we follow him, we too will have that statement, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

Answer by Dr. Thomas Petter

Dr. Tom Petter is Associate Professor of Old Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.