THE BOOK, A STONE, AN OAK
Joshua 24:22 And Joshua said unto the people, Ye are witnesses against yourselves that ye have chosen you the LORD, to serve him. And they said, We are witnesses. 23 Now therefore put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the LORD God of Israel. 24 And the people said unto Joshua, The LORD our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey. 25 So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and set them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem. 26 And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God, and took a great stone, and set it up there under an oak, that was by the sanctuary of the LORD. 27 And Joshua said unto all the people, Behold, this stone shall be a witness unto us; for it hath heard all the words of the LORD which he spake unto us: it shall be therefore a witness unto you, lest ye deny your God. 28 So Joshua let the people depart, every man unto his inheritance.
The commander of the Lord’s armies has called all Israel together for the last time. He will shortly pass off the scene, so Joshua uses this opportunity to instill faithfulness and commitment to the Lord’s name. And he calls them together to Shechem, not to Shiloh, where the tabernacle is pitched.
And here in this account, recorded for us in the above listed passage, we find three things Joshua uses to confirm that covenant of loyalty. There is the book of the law of God, a great stone, and an oak.
The book of the law of God: Please notice that it states that Joshua wrote THESE WORDS in the book of the law of God! What words? The words of the people’s public confession that they will always follow the Lord and his law! For here, not only are the words from God to the people penned, but also the words from the people to the Lord are therein inscribed!
For not only do we read of God’s word judging us; John 12:48 He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.
But we also read of our own words being noted by God upon which our judgment is being prepared! But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned. (Matt. 12:36-37).
Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name. (Mal. 3:16).
And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. (Rev. 20:12).
The essence of the book is the revelation of the Person of the Word! Hebrews 10:5 Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: 7 Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. Luke 24:44 These are the words which I spake unto you, … all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.
In our verse twenty five we read a very important phrase, and set them a statute and an ordinance. This phrase is also recorded in Exodus 15:25. This is at the very heart of a covenant! For the statute was the “enacting of laws cut in stone or metal tablets.” (Strong). It was the decree of the person, or persons, to live according to that inscribed pledge before God! (See Josh 24:1). And the ordinance was the privilege from God, in response to that commitment. It is the same word translated due, in Deuteronomy 18:3, and, the right of, in Deuteronomy 21:17.
In Exodus 15:23-26 we find that the surface issue of not having proper water to drink was that which brought Israel to attend to the statute, to diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord, and do that which is right in his sight. Then the Lord would grant them the right of never having any of the diseases of Egypt to come upon them.
And this then being such a serious covenant, or contract, between the two parties of Israel and God, Joshua writes within the pages of the book of the law of God!
A great stone: We are familiar with the references of God’s being the rock of our salvation (Psa. 95:1). And we know of the words of 1 Corinthians 10:4 that plainly states that the Rock of the wilderness, that followed them was Christ! Please also revisit 1 Peter 2:4-10 in which we see individual believers listed as lively stones, and to Christ as a chief corner stone.
But what we don’t want you to miss are the words in our verse 27 which state that their stone hath heard all the words of the LORD! Therefore we have made our confessions, and our profession of Christ before the “living stones” of the other members of His body! And we have done so, as well in the hearing of the Person of Christ Himself!
And we would do well to understand that those words, it hath heard, are from the exact same Hebrew word translated, will we obey in verse 24 of our passage. For there is a rightful expectation both from other believers, and from the Lord Jesus himself, that we should keep the words of this covenant! For if there’s anything needed among professing believers in this age of trucebreakers (2 Tim. 3:3), it is a consistent, stedfast submission to our personal covenant with God! Strong says that these two phrases mean, “to hear with implication to obedience!”
An oak: Joshua raises the great stone up under this tree in Shechem. Why in Shechem and not back in Shiloh, where the tabernacle resides? And if the tabernacle was not here in Shechem, why is the oak said to be by the sanctuary of the LORD?
First it was the place sanctified by Abram’s worship at the first appearing of God to him. Genesis 12:6 And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land. 7 And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.
Secondly, it was the place where Jacob, (soon to be renamed, Israel), on his way to raise up an altar at Bethel at God’s command, purged his household from all idols, burying them under THE oak which was by Shechem! Therefore it was a place sanctified by its usage!
Genesis 35:1 And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother. 2 Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments: 3 And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went. 4 And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem.
We call our meeting rooms “sanctuaries.” But this is only true if we set them aside for the ministry of the Holy Spirit to impart Christ to us through the spiritual revelation in preaching. But we drag dead bodies into them for “funerals.” We all stand to honor a bride, giving her more honor at one of her several weddings than we do Christ. And we use them for political and social meetings, and then wonder that we don’t have a revival of God’s glory among us!
But this place was a sanctified place! It was the place of THE oak of Shechem where Jacob cleansed himself and his household of idolatry on his way to worship at Bethel, which means, “the house of God.” And dear reader, did not we go by way of THE tree of Calvary and tear the idols from our hearts, on our way to dwell in the house of the Lord forever?
And now our heavenly Joshua has raised up the great stone of our public commitment to Christ over those idols! And now as “all things have become new,” we have no desire to dig them up again! That is our statute! And his ordinance is his pledge to see that we have everlasting life, never to every finally fall away!
1 Thessalonians 1:9 For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; 10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.
John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.
Pastor Gene Breed