The Shechem Covenant

When Israel were firmly established in the promised land, and Yahweh had given them rest from their enemies (Joshua 23:1), Joshua was now old and near the end of his life and he summoned all Israel before him – somewhat similar to Moses before him.
For a final time he addressed Israel to reiterate all their recent history and the gravity of their covenant relationship with their God, Yahweh.

Joshua 23:2-3 WEB
that Joshua called for all Israel, for their elders and for their heads, and for their judges and for their officers, and said to them, I am old and well stricken in years:
3 and you have seen all that Yahweh your God has done to all these nations because of you; for Yahweh your God, he it is that has fought for you.

Did Joshua admonish them to keep all the law of Moses (see the Moab Covenant)?

Joshua 23:6 WEB
Therefore be you very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that you not turn aside from it to the right hand or to the left;

Did he warn them against turning back from loving and obeying Yahweh?

Joshua 23:11-12 WEB
Take good heed therefore to yourselves, that you love Yahweh your God.
12 Else if you do at all go back, and cleave to the remnant of these nations, even these who remain among you, and make marriages with them, and go in to them, and they to you;

Does Joshua remind them that Yahweh has not failed in a single promise?

Joshua 23:14 WEB
Behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and you know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing has failed of all the good things which Yahweh your God spoke concerning you; all are happen to you, not one thing has failed of it.

Does he warn them against breaking the covenant of Yahweh, and turning to other gods?

Joshua 23:16 WEB
When you disobey the covenant of Yahweh your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods, and bow down yourselves to them; then will the anger of Yahweh be kindled against you, and you shall perish quickly from off the good land which he has given to you.

In chapter 24 at Shechem, Yahweh reminds them through Joshua of everything that He had done starting with Abraham (please read the whole chapter):

Joshua 24:2-4 WEB
Joshua said to all the people, Thus says Yahweh, the God of Israel, Your fathers lived of old time beyond the River, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nahor: and they served other gods.
3 I took your father Abraham from beyond the River, and led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his seed, and gave him Isaac.
4 I gave to Isaac Jacob and Esau: and I gave to Esau Mount Seir, to possess it: and Jacob and his children went down into Egypt.

Joshua 24:6 WEB
I brought your fathers out of Egypt: and you came to the sea; and the Egyptians pursued after your fathers with chariots and with horsemen to the Red Sea.

Joshua 24:11 WEB
You went over the Jordan, and came to Jericho: and the men of Jericho fought against you, the Amorite, and the Perizzite, and the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Girgashite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite; and I delivered them into your hand.

Joshua 24:13 WEB
I gave you a land whereon you had not labored, and cities which you didn’t build, and you dwell therein; of vineyards and olive groves which you didn’t plant do you eat.

Joshua advises them that in light of all this that they ought to sincerely and faithfully serve Yahweh – and he puts them on the spot to ‘choose whom you will serve’:

Joshua 24:14-15 WEB
Now therefore fear Yahweh, and serve him in sincerity and in truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River, and in Egypt; and serve you Yahweh.
15 If it seem evil to you to serve Yahweh, choose you this day whom you will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve Yahweh.

The people answered decisively and chose Yahweh:

Joshua 24:16-18 WEB
The people answered, Far be it from us that we should forsake Yahweh, to serve other gods;
17 for Yahweh our God, he it is who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and who did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way in which we went, and among all the peoples through the midst of whom we passed;
18 and Yahweh drove out from before us all the peoples, even the Amorites who lived in the land: therefore we also will serve Yahweh; for he is our God.

However, Joshua had some reservations – ‘can you really serve Yahweh as you say? And think what will happen IF you forsake Him!’:

Joshua 24:19-20 WEB
Joshua said to the people, You can’t serve Yahweh; for he is a holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your disobedience nor your sins.
20 If you forsake Yahweh, and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you evil, and consume you, after that he has done you good.

Nevertheless, the people insisted they could and they would:

Joshua 24:21 WEB
The people said to Joshua, No; but we will serve Yahweh.

Joshua said ‘ok but you are witnesses against yourselves!’, and they said ‘alright, so be it’:

Joshua 24:22 WEB
Joshua said to the people, You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen you Yahweh, to serve him. They said, We are witnesses.

So Joshua said ‘well you had better get rid of all the foreign gods that you still have among you, and seriously turn your hearts to Yahweh the God of Israel’:

Joshua 24:23 WEB
Now therefore put away, [said he], the foreign gods which are among you, and incline your heart to Yahweh, the God of Israel.

And the people confirmed:

Joshua 24:24 WEB
The people said to Joshua, Yahweh our God will we serve, and to his voice will we listen.

So that day a covenant was made and ratified with the people of Israel at Shechem, just prior to Joshua’s death:

Joshua 24:25-27 WEB
So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and set them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem.
26 Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God; and he took a great stone, and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of Yahweh.
27 Joshua said to all the people, Behold, this stone shall be a witness against us; for it has heard all the words of Yahweh which he spoke to us: it shall be therefore a witness against you, lest you deny your God.

Notice that Joshua wrote down all the words of the covenant – the statutes and ordinances, and set up a great stone as a witness to it. After this Joshua died – verse 29.

Israel did serve Yahweh and remained faithful – for a period:

Joshua 24:31 WEB
Israel served Yahweh all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, and had known all the work of Yahweh, that he had worked for Israel.

Do you remember the scriptures concerning the Sinai covenant and the people’s responses:

Exodus 19:8 WEB
All the people answered together, and said, “All that Yahweh has spoken we will do.” Moses reported the words of the people to Yahweh.

Exodus 24:3 WEB
Moses came and told the people all the words of Yahweh, and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice, and said, “All the words which Yahweh has spoken will we do.”

They confidently asserted they could and would obey and remain faithful, but Yahweh and Moses knew differently:

Deuteronomy 31:16 WEB
Yahweh said to Moses, Behold, you shall sleep with your fathers; and this people will rise up, and play the prostitute after the strange gods of the land, where they go to be among them, and will forsake me, and break my covenant which I have made with them.

Deuteronomy 31:29 WEB
For I know that after my death you will utterly corrupt yourselves, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will happen to you in the latter days; because you will do that which is evil in the sight of Yahweh, to provoke him to anger through the work of your hands.

Why is that?

Deuteronomy 29:2-4 WEB
Moses called to all Israel, and said to them, You have seen all that Yahweh did before your eyes in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh, and to all his servants, and to all his land;
3 the great trials which your eyes saw, the signs, and those great wonders:
4 but Yahweh has not given you a heart to know, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, to this day.

However, in the latter days things are going to be quite different:

Deuteronomy 30:1-6 WEB
It shall happen, when all these things are come on you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you shall call them to mind among all the nations, where Yahweh your God has driven you,
2 and shall return to Yahweh your God, and shall obey his voice according to all that I command you this day, you and your children, with all your heart, and with all your soul;
3 that then Yahweh your God will turn your captivity, and have compassion on you, and will return and gather you from all the peoples, where Yahweh your God has scattered you.
4 If [any of] your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of the heavens, from there will Yahweh your God gather you, and from there will he bring you back:
5 and Yahweh your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it; and he will do you good, and multiply you above your fathers.
6 Yahweh your God will circumcise your heart, and the heart of your seed, to love Yahweh your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, that you may live.

Notice the heart of Messiah Jesus and what he came saying:

John 5:19-20 NRSV
Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.
20 The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished.

John 5:30 NRSV
“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me.

John 14:10-11 NRSV
Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.
11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.

John 14:18-21 NRSV
“I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.
19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live.
20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.
21 They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

Are we also instructed to allow Messiah mind to be in us?

Philippians 2:5 NRSV
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

Summary
So we see that the people of Israel entered into a covenant at Shechem, prior to Joshua’s death, in which they chose to obey and serve Yahweh and committed themselves to love Him and to keep all the law of Moses. In particular they were to have no other gods – Yahweh was their God and they were His people. They said they could do it and that they would do it – unfortunately history tells a different story, a story of a nation that splits into two, of idolatry, foreign gods, abominable practices, broken covenants, captivity and enslavement, even the disappearance of the majority of the tribes of Israel, all forewarned by many prophets sent to them by Yahweh beforehand. These same prophets also foretold the coming of ‘a new covenant’ and a Messiah to deliver them.

We have already covered ‘the Messiah’ in a number of articles, and we will look at ‘the new covenant’.