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August 16 – From conquest to covenant

“…and afterward [Joshua] read all the words of the law, the blessings and the cursings, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law.” – Joshua 8:34

Scripture reading: Joshua 8

At first, it may seem that the last verses of Joshua 8 are out of place and don’t belong here. Why the sudden shift from combat and conquest in the first part of the chapter, to covenant and commandments in the last part of the chapter? It is because the detailed account of Ai’s defeat by Israel given to us in the first 29 verses of this chapter establishes the reason why Israel praises God so profusely in the last part of the chapter!

This is seen even more clearly when chapters 7 and 8 are viewed as a whole. For remember that in chapter 7, Israel was experiencing the curse of the LORD’s anger because of unconfessed sin. But once that sin is propitiated, in chapter 8, Israel experiences the great blessing of the Lord in its defeat of Ai. So how appropriate for Joshua to take a break from fighting and to gather all of Israel to Mount Ebal in order to give praise and thanksgiving to God. Joshua reminds them of both the promised blessings of God and of the promised curses of God found in the covenant.

The covenant renewal in verses 30-35 teaches Israel that their success in the conquest of the Promised Land comes not because of them, but in spite of them. Their success comes not when Palestine is rid of pagans, but when their heart is rid of sin! With Israel, may we too praise our mighty, majestic, and merciful God.

Suggestions for prayer

Thank the Lord for His covenantal faithfulness. Thank Him for sending His Son to be our curse for us. Thank Him for crediting us with Christ’s righteousness.

This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois.

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