I love the Word of God; it’s about people, real people. The children of Israel were just like us! They were people with every day issues and faults that are familiar to us.
Every time the people were confronted with their sin, they repented and promised to serve the one true God with all of their heart. Then, just like us, they went right back to “life as usual.”
God knew this and kept reminding them of the rewards and victories that accompany acknowledgement of who He is. At the same time, He told them there would be hard consequences if they turned away. (the whole books of Deuteronomy and I & II Kings)
God knew the hardness of the people’s hearts (Deuteronomy 31:16-18) and repeatedly cautioned the Israelites of the outcome if they chose to turn away from Him. God even had Moses write a song and sing it for the people as a lasting reminder to them that He knew what they would do and that their actions would have consequences. (Deuteronomy 31:15-20 and the song is written in its entirety in Deuteronomy 32)
As a reminder to the people of God’s mercy, Joshua set a stone before the people. The stone would be a reminder, a “witness” of their own decision to NOT serve God. A reminder of how patient their God was.
It was not a declaration of punishment but a reminder of what would happen when they turned away—again. It was a symbol of covenant and a reminder of God’s mercy to forgive them. (Joshua 24:25-27)
Jesus, God’s son, died to set us free from the bondage of repeated sin. It is important that we realize that the Word says when we turn away; we nail the Son of God to the cross, again. (Hebrews 6:4-6) The only difference between us and the Israelites is that it isn’t a rock that is witness to our rebellion today; it’s a cross.
Joshua 24:24 And the people said to Joshua, “We will serve the LORD our God and obey him.”
Deuteronomy 31:15-20 Then the Lord appeared at the tent in a pillar of cloud, and the cloud stood over the entrance to the tent. And the Lord said to Moses: “You are going to rest with your ancestors, and these people will soon prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of the land they are entering. They will forsake me and break the covenant I made with them. And in that day I will become angry with them and forsake them; I will hide my face from them, and they will be destroyed. Many disasters and calamities will come on them, and in that day they will ask, ‘Have not these disasters come on us because our God is not with us?’ And I will certainly hide my face in that day because of all their wickedness in turning to other gods.
“Now write down this song and teach it to the Israelites and have them sing it, so that it may be a witness for me against them. When I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, the land I promised on oath to their ancestors, and when they eat their fill and thrive, they will turn to other gods and worship them, rejecting me and breaking my covenant.
Joshua 24:25-27 On that day Joshua made a covenant for the people, and there at Shechem he reaffirmed for them decrees and laws. And Joshua recorded these things in the Book of the Law of God. Then he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak near the holy place of the Lord.
“See!” he said to all the people. “This stone will be a witness against us. It has heard all the words the Lord has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God.”
Hebrews 6:4-6 It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit) who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.
Prayer: Please, forgive me for the times that I have rebelled against your will for my life, Father. Help me to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit so that I know the path you want me to take and the attitudes that will glorify you in my words, plans and actions. Thank you for the price you paid at Calvary so my rebellions are forgiven. Amen.
Note: The entire book of Deuteronomy and the Books of I&II Kings show God’s repeated efforts to bring His people close to Him. Again and again, they turned aside. God’s patience and his anger at their disobedience are told of in these books. A good read for those who love the Lord and want to serve Him.