Tag Archives: covenant of grace

Joshua 23 & 24 – Joshua’s Farewell Discourse – Part 1


The final two chapters contain Joshua’s farewell discourses to the Israelites and their leaders.

  • “The fact that Joshua gave such speeches to the nation places him on a level with Moses as God’s anointed leader over the nation…” – David Howard.
  • The concern expressed in Joshua 1 about Joshua’s leadership, is again, put to rest.
  • Israel saw Joshua as appointed by God.


Time Frame:

Speculatively, James Boice suggests this discourse took place many years after chapter 22.

  • Joshua was about 40 when he came out of Egypt (“according to Josephus” – Boice).
  • He spent 40 years wandering.
  • He spent about 7 years in the Conquest.
  • This puts his age at the end of the Conquest (chapter 22) at about 87.
  • Assuming his farewell discourse was given before he died, at 110 (24:29), that puts the events of chapters 23 and 24 twenty+ years after chapter 22.


The main point here is that much time had probably passed.

  • New habits and patterns of behavior were beginning to take hold.
  • The powerful working of God in the Conquest was in the past.
  • The highs and lows of Conquest had given way to the cumbersome routine of life.
  • Problems were beginning to present themselves (as we will see in the speeches).


In this context, Joshua gave his final words in chapters 23 and 24.

  • He issued challenges and warnings.
  • He looked to the past and to the future.
  • He condemned idols and praised Yahweh.


Where We Are Going:

Instead of verse-by-verse, we will tackle these two chapters thematically.

  • (1) The Conquest is the Lord’s
  • (2) Exhortation to Remain Faithful
  • (3) Consequences for Unfaithfulness
  • (4) Work of God in History
  • (5) Covenant Renewal
  • (6) Depravity of Israel
  • (7) God’s Covenant Faithfulness





Joshua 23:3 (ESV) — 3 And you have seen all that the Lord your God has done to all these nations for your sake, for it is the Lord your God who has fought for you.

Joshua 23:9 (ESV) — 9 For the Lord has driven out before you great and strong nations. And as for you, no man has been able to stand before you to this day.

Joshua 23:10 (ESV) — 10 One man of you puts to flight a thousand, since it is the Lord your God who fights for you, just as he promised you.


Joshua emphasizes that the Conquest itself is evidence of God’s working on Israel’s behalf.

  • The reasons he gives seem to be grounded on the strong nation vs. the nation of slaves motif.
  • How is it a nation of oppressed slaves – not warriors – could have taken the Promised Land?
  • How is it that a nation of slaves could have defeated the “strong nations” of all the “ites”?
  • How is it that Canaanite warriors are unable to “stand before you this day”?
  • How is it that one Israelite “puts to flight a thousand” Canaanites?
  • The answer, of course, is “the Lord your God has done” (vs. 3).


Promise Fulfillment:

Joshua also emphasizes the reason why God would do such a thing.

  • God was doing “just as he promised you” (vs. 10, vs. 15).
  • God was fulfilling a promise made to Moses and later, Joshua.
  • This promise was made at Sinai – Exodus 23:20-33.


And there are a million other reasons in the grand scheme of His redemptive history to deliver the Promise Land!


Not God Alone:

Joshua didn’t mean that the Conquest would be won unconditionally because God is going to take care of everything.

  • He is not saying we are good because “it is in the Lord’s hands”.
  • The Israelites had to take it.
  • They had to fight.
  • They had to strategize.
  • They had to use discernment.
  • They had to make wise choices.
  • They had to be obedient.


Had they continually failed on these fronts, they – their generation – would not have inherited the Promise Land.

  • This also means, of course, that they could lose the Promised Land.
  • And this leads us to the second theme.





Joshua 23:6-8 (ESV) — 6 Therefore, be very strong to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left, 7 that you may not mix with these nations remaining among you or make mention of the names of their gods or swear by them or serve them or bow down to them, 8 but you shall cling to the Lord your God just as you have done to this day.

Joshua 23:11 (ESV) — 11 Be very careful, therefore, to love the Lord your God.


In love, Joshua exhorts the Israelites to remain faithful to God.

  • There are temptations are plentiful – idolatry and intermarriage.


The faithfulness he is speaking of is obedience to the Sinai Covenant.

  • Though certainly, they were to trust in Yahweh in a salvific sense as well.
  • Sinai was the conditional covenant that Israel swore itself to uphold to receive blessings – people, nation, land – from God.
  • To receive these blessings instead of curses required obedience.


Covenant at Sinai – Background:

The Sinai Covenant began as follows:

  • Exodus 19:3–6 (ESV) — 3 while Moses went up to God. The Lord called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: 4 You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”


After the terms of the Sinai Covenant were pronounced to Israel, they responded:

  • Exodus 24:3 (ESV) — 3 Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.”
  • All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.
  • The Sinai Covenant was sealed between Yahweh and Israel.


The Sinai Covenant had to be fulfilled – perfectly.

  • God had to remain faithful – and He did.
  • The people of Israel had to remain faithful – and they didn’t.


Covenant of Grace:

The need for fulfillment would be where Sinai and Grace would come together in Jesus Christ!

  • Galatians 3:11 & 13–14 (ESV) — 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” AND 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
  • Galatians 3:16–17 (ESV) — 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void.


So Sinai is not the Covenant of Grace made with Abraham.

  • They are separate covenants.


As we saw in Galatians, the covenant with Abraham involved the following:

  • Trust = righteousness
  • The promised seed = Jesus Christ


Importantly, the Covenant of Grace was always, unconditionally, in action regardless of Israel’s failure or success with Sinai.

  • It certainly intersected with Sinai but was not Sinai.



  • Abram was called righteous before Sinai.
  • The promised seed was before Sinai.
  • Israel was redeemed and delivered from Egypt before Sinai.
  • Rahab was redeemed – she was not part of Sinai.
  • Achan was condemned to die for disobedience, but this does not necessarily mean he wasn’t a member of the Covenant of Grace.
    • One could fail at Sinai and be counted as righteous.


Finally, the very fact that Israel was God’s elect was an act of Grace.

  • Deuteronomy 10:15 (ESV) — 15 Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day.
  • Deuteronomy 14:2 (ESV) — 2 For you are a people holy to the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.





Joshua 23:12–13 (ESV) — 12 For if you turn back and cling to the remnant of these nations remaining among you and make marriages with them, so that you associate with them and they with you, 13 know for certain that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you, but they shall be a snare and a trap for you, a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good ground that the Lord your God has given you.

Joshua 23:15–16 (ESV) — 15 But just as all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you have been fulfilled for you, so the Lord will bring upon you all the evil things, until he has destroyed you from off this good land that the Lord your God has given you, 16 if you transgress the covenant of the Lord your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them. Then the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you, and you shall perish quickly from off the good land that he has given to you.”


What will become of Israel if they are unfaithful?



Joshua doesn’t hesitate to point out the consequences of unfaithfulness.

  • God will no longer drive out” the Canaanites (vs. 12)
  • The Canaanites will become “a snare and a trap” (vs. 13)
  • They will become “a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes” (vs. 13)
  • Ultimately, at the hands of the Canaanites, Israel will “perish from off” the Promised Land (vs. 13)
  • God will “bring upon you all the evil things” (vs. 15)
  • God will destroy you “from off this good land” (vs. 15)
  • The “anger of the Lord will be kindled against you” (vs. 16)
  • You “shall perish quickly from off the good land” (vs. 16)


If Israel decides to “cling to the remnant of these nations” (vs. 12) they will be destroyed.

  • Like the Canaanites themselves, they will be devoted to destruction.
  • God’s wrath and holiness are not ethnically or religiously based.



The clinging to the Canaanites contrasts starkly with Joshua’s exhortation to cling to God.

  • To the Western tribes – “you shall cling to the Lord your God” (vs. 8)
  • To the Eastern tribes – “cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul” (22:5)


We saw in Joshua 22 that “cling” carried with it the idea of being covenant faithful.

  • The Greek translation in the LXX used a word for “cling” that carried with it sexual implications.
  • Israel is to metaphorically cling to God the way a man and woman become one.
  • This is a profoundly intimate faithfulness.
  • An intimate faithfulness that finds fulfillment in our Union with Christ!


So to marry the Canaanites and worship their Gods was a deeply offensive form of spiritual adultery.

  • The Israelites were to sanctify themselves and remain faithful to Yahweh – or else.



The threat of spiritual adultery is very real because, “of the remnant of these nations remaining among you” (vs. 12).


David Howard frames the problem as follows:

Joshua speaks both about a people that the “Israelites did not drive out and of land that yet remained to be conquered (see 13:2–6, 13; 15:63; 16:10; 17:11–12; 19:47). Such texts lay the foundation for the Book of Judges. The Israelites did not fulfill their mandate in its entirety, so the seeds of their corruption were in place from the beginning in the form of peoples and nations who remained living among them” – David Howard.


This is one more reason why the “rest” they obtained was fleeting – to be ultimately fulfilled in Christ.

  • God gave them the Promised Land and rest, and the Israelites perhaps rested too easy.
  • They didn’t finish the job.
  • They didn’t “finish the race” to use Paul’s words.


Maybe they figured that “it is in the Lord’s hands”.

  • But sanctification was, and is now, a work of God and of the elect.
  • It is not a one-way street.
  • Sadly, they fought to take the Promised Land.
  • But, they didn’t fight to keep the rest!


The Unraveling:

In Judges, Judah rose up and had some success in driving out the Canaanites (1:1-26).

  • But ultimately, Israel failed.
  • Judges 1:27-36 is a devastating list of Israelite failure, tribe by tribe, to separate from the Canaanites.
  • And as Joshua warned, everything became unraveled.


Judges 2:11–15 (ESV) — 11 And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals. 12 And they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the Lord to anger. 13 They abandoned the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. 14 So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. 15 Whenever they marched out, the hand of the Lord was against them for harm, as the Lord had warned, and as the Lord had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress.



Do Joshua’s words to the Israelites about the Canaanites create a principal for Christian living?

  • Are we to sanctify ourselves by separating from those around us?



Joshua 14:6-15 – Caleb Is Not About Us

Joshua 12 gives an overview of the Canaanite kings defeated by both Moses and Joshua.

  • In chapters 13-21, the land is distributed to the tribes of Israel by lot.
  • Joshua 19:51 (ESV) — 51 These are the inheritances that Eleazar the priest and Joshua the son of Nun and the heads of the fathers’ houses of the tribes of the people of Israel distributed by lot at Shiloh before the Lord, at the entrance of the tent of meeting. So they finished dividing the land.
    • By lot” is meant to reveal the “active role of Yahweh” – EBD.
    • Israel was the steward of the land; God was the owner – EBD.


The Levites were also allotted cities and pastureland per Moses’ instruction.

  • Joshua 21:2 (ESV) — 2 And they said to them at Shiloh in the land of Canaan, “The Lord commanded through Moses that we be given cities to dwell in, along with their pasturelands for our livestock.”


Sprinkled within these chapters are a number of other narratives; we will unwrap one of them.

  • Joshua 14:6-15 deals with Caleb’s special request.





Who is Caleb?

  • He was the son of Jephunneh from the tribe of Judah.
  • He was one of the spies Moses selected to spy out the promise land in Numbers 13.
  • Numbers 13:2 (ESV) — 2 “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel. From each tribe of their fathers you shall send a man, every one a chief among them.”


The spies report –

  • Numbers 13:27–28 (ESV) — 27 And they told him, “We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. 28 However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak [the Nephilim giants] there.
  • Numbers 13:31 (ESV) — 31 Then the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.”


Caleb and Joshua’s report –

  • Numbers 13:30 (ESV) — 30 But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.”
  • Numbers 14:6–9 (ESV) — 6 And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes 7 and said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. 8 If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. 9 Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.”


All of Israel rebelled against Caleb and Joshua and sought to stone them.

  • God intervened to save them and condemned Israel to wandering for 40 years.
  • Numbers 14:22–24 (ESV) — 22 none of the men who have seen my glory and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the test these ten times and have not obeyed my voice, 23 shall see the land that I swore to give to their fathers. And none of those who despised me shall see it. 24 But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it.


God promised to give Caleb the land “into which he went”; the land he spied on.

  • This brings us to Joshua 14:6-15.


His Request:

The tribe of Judah comes to Joshua and Caleb makes a request.

  • “…You know what the Lord said to Moses the man of God in Kadesh-barnea concerning you and me.” (vs. 6)


He continues…

  • Joshua 14:10–13 (ESV) — 10 And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness. And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. 11 I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming. 12 So now give me this hill country of which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the Lord said.” 13 Then Joshua blessed him, and he gave Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for an inheritance.


Couple of interesting observations:

  • It appears that the length of the Conquest to this point was about 5 years.
  • The Anakim were still present – the “giants” that brought such fear to the Israelites.
  • Caleb’s response to this – “I shall drive them out just as the Lord said”.


Why did Caleb spy out/want Hebron, the land of the Anakim?

  • James Boice has some pretty good speculation.


Hebron had a significant connection to Abraham.

  • “It was the only piece of Canaan that Abraham actually owned in his lifetime” – James Boice.
  • Genesis 13:18 (ESV) — 18 So Abram moved his tent and came and settled by the oaks of Mamre, which are at Hebron, and there he built an altar to the Lord.
  • As we will see later, it also had a covenant significance.


Moreover, many significant people were buried at Hebron.

  • Sarah was buried there.
  • Abraham was buried there.
  • Isaac was buried there.
  • Rebekah was buried there.
  • Jacob was buried there.
  • Joseph was ultimately buried there.


Whatever was behind Caleb’s affinity for Hebron, Joshua granted his request (vs. 13).

  • Joshua blessed him
  • he gave Hebron to Caleb
  • It was “for an inheritance


The concept of blessing is “rich one in in biblical thought” – David Howard.

  • The idea behind the blessing was the bestowing of:
    • Long life
    • Children
    • Land
    • And significantly, the blessing also involved “an inheritance” of Abraham’s very own land.
      • We will hit on this again in a moment.





What does the author of Joshua mean to convey with this narrative about Caleb?

  • An example of Christian living?
  • Before we investigate, we need to hear a warning.


I completely agree with Marten Woudstra when he warns:

“The example element is present, but it is embedded in a story which conveys the history of the progress of God’s redemption. The events that happen in that historical context are nonrepeatable and unique. They cannot be simply lifted out of that context for purposes of a message today.”


In other words –

  • The Bible is not about us; it is about God working out His plans of recreation, redemption and reconciliation in history.
  • This fact obviously impacts us, but it is not about us.
  • We aren’t at its center.


For example, “How to Be a Caleb” would be lifting this story out of context “for purposes of a message today”.

  • This takes all the attention off of God and the text and puts it on us.
  • The text simply becomes a means for some clever application and it loses its primacy.
  • The underlying message becomes – Scripture only has “real” meaning when we “subjectify” it.



What is the context/background that makes Caleb’s story significant?

  • Genesis 13:14–18 (ESV) — 14 The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, 15 for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. 16 I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. 17 Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.” 18 So Abram moved his tent and came and settled by the oaks of Mamre, which are at Hebron, and there he built an altar to the Lord.


God covenanted with Abram in Genesis 12 (and 15).

  • He repeated the covenant in Genesis 13:16.
  • The covenant immediately found fulfillment when Abram “settled by the oaks of Mamre, which are at Hebron”.
  • In response, Abram “built an altar to the Lord”.


So Hebron had some powerful symbolic significance.

  • It was a place of revelation from Yahweh.
  • It was a place where Yahweh began the now and not yet fulfillment of His covenant to Abram.
    • Just as Isaac was.
    • It was a place where Abram built an altar and worshiped Yahweh.


What this means is that Caleb’s inheritance of Hebron is a kind of “hyper fulfillment” of God’s covenant promises to Abram.

  • It is a specific instance of God’s continuing covenant faithfulness.
  • It is a specific instance of God continuing to work out His redemptive history.
  • It is part of the “scarlet thread” of the Abrahamic covenant of grace.
  • And because of this, it points to the ultimate covenant fulfillment,  “the inheriting of salvation in Christ” – Marten Woudstra.


Covenant Participation:

But wait…there is more!

  • Caleb’s story also shows how he was able to participate in God’s redemptive history.


Caleb was both a man of faith in God (he was counted as righteous) and an obedient follower of Yahweh (he was a recipient of the blessings of obedience).

  • How do we know?
    • His words
    • His actions
    • How he was described.


Caleb’s Words and Actions:

We saw in our OT Gospel lesson that the faith of Abram by which he was counted as righteous had two dimensions to it.

  • (1) Believing/Acting on what God has done.
  • (2) Trusting in the surety of God’s future promises.


By Caleb’s word and actions we see these two dimensions of faith expressed.

  • Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it” – (Num. 13:30)
    • Acting on what God has done.
    • “If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not fear the people of the land – (Num. 14:8-9).
      • Trusting in God’s promises


Caleb, having experienced the covenant faithfulness of God in the Exodus, trusted that God would continue to do what He had promised.

  • Caleb’s faith acted courageously “upon the promises of god” – Richard Hess.
  • Israel cowered at the presence of the Canaanites…
    • BUT – Caleb looked to God’s promises.
    • Caleb’s eyes were on God’s word and promises to Abram, not on men’s doubts.


And this trust in God’s promises is clearly expressed in our Joshua 14:10+ text:

  • “‘And now, look how Yahweh has kept me alive, as he promised, these forty-five years … and now look how I am today eighty-five years old, yet I remain as strong today as the day when Moses sent me off; my strength is the same now as then for war and for going out and coming in.’ This is the way of biblical faith—it remembers what Yahweh has done, and remembers in gratitude” – Dale Davis.


BTW – It must be pointed out that Caleb’s trust also rested squarely in God’s word.

  • what the Lord said to Moses” – (vs. 6)
  • the Lord has kept me alive, just as he said” – (vs. 10a)
  • the Lord spoke this word to Moses” – (vs. 10b)
  • give me this hill country of which the Lord spoke on that day” – (vs. 12)


“True faith always functions that way; it pleads God’s promises; it anchors itself upon the word of God. There can be no other foundation for faith” – Dale Davis.

  • This was the faith of Caleb.


Caleb Described:

Joshua 14:14 (ESV) — 14 Therefore Hebron became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite to this day, because he wholly followed the Lord, the God of Israel.

  • The NIV translates “wholly followed” as “wholeheartedly”.
  • …he has a different spirit and has followed me fully” – Numbers 14:24.
  • …he has wholly followed the Lord” – Deut. 1:36.


What does it mean to have “wholly followed the Lord”?

  • It is another expression of Caleb’s two-dimensional faith.
  • But it goes beyond that.


The phrase “wholly followed” carries with it some significant connotations.

  • (1) To be a disciple
  • (2) To be spiritually faithful instead of an adulterer or idolater


BTW – Most of the insights into this phrase come from LXX’s translation of “epakoloutheo”.


(1) Caleb the Disciple:

  • The LXX has verse 14 as “following” or “followed after” the Lord – Lexham Interlinear LXX.
  • The BDAG translates the LXX Greek as, “to apply oneself to someth. with eager dedication, follow after, i.e. devote oneself”.
  • The DBL also has “to devote oneself to”.
  • The idea here is one of a consistent, faithful follower and all that that would entail.
    • Denying self, obedience, etc.


(2) Caleb the Faithful:

  • The TDNT also suggests that there is an important contrast being made between one who goes after other gods with one who goes after Yahweh.
  • The idea is that there are those who commit spiritual adultery and idolatry and then there is a faithful covenant member – Caleb.


This concept of spiritual adultery is a common theme in the OT.

  • Numbers 25:1–3 (ESV) — 1 While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab. 2 These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. 3 So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel.
  • Hosea 1:2 (ESV) — 2 When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.”
  • Hosea 2:13 (ESV) — 13 And I will punish her for the feast days of the Baals when she burned offerings to them and adorned herself with her ring and jewelry, and went after her lovers and forgot me, declares the Lord.


But Caleb didn’t seek “her lovers” or forget the Lord.

  • He remembered and acted upon God’s promises.
  • Deuteronomy describes such a person.
  • Deuteronomy 5:32–33 (ESV) — 32 You shall be careful therefore to do as the Lord your God has commanded you. You shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. 33 You shall walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess.


Caleb was able to participate in God’s redemptive history because –

  • He believed and trusted in God’s work and promises.
  • He stood upon the truth of God’s word.
  • He was a devoted, obedient disciple of God.
  • He was faithful, not a spiritual adulterer.


Caleb’s faith had the following qualities –

  • “He did not minimize the problems—the giants and the fortified cities—but he magnified God” – BKC.
    • Trust in God does not bury its head in the sand.
    • Caleb still had to fight to secure Hebron – “I shall drive them out” (vs. 12).
    • His faith withstood 40 years of wandering in the desert and watching his peers die because of their disobedience.
      • God’s promises sustained him.
      • Romans 8:6 (ESV) — 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.


Joshua 9 – Israel and the Gibeonites

Our text centers around two recurring themes.

  • (1) God’s work in history on Israel’s behalf
  • (2) Covenant


We need to survey our text to see just how prominent each of these is.

  • And then figure out what the author of Joshua is trying to tell us.





God’s work in history on Israel’s behalf is found in the following:

  • The Canaanite kings “heard of this” (vs. 1) – presumably Israel’s victory over Ai.
  • The Gibeonites heard “what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai” (vs. 2)
  • The Gibeonites pretended to come from a far off country “because of the name of the Lord your God” (vs. 9)
  • They “heard…all that he did in Egypt” (vs. 9)
  • They heard “all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites” (vs. 10)
  • And they even knew the content of Scripture – “Because it was told to your servants for a certainty that the Lord your God had commanded his servant Moses to give you all the land and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land” (vs. 24)


Our text tells us that in reaction to God’s actions, two responses are demonstrated.

  • Response 1 – Fight – The Canaanite kings “gathered together as one to fight against Joshua and Israel” (vs. 2)
    • Joshua 10 and following unpacks this response.
    • No doubt it was emboldened by Israel’s defeat at Ai.
    • And it was one of the consequences of Achan’s sin – Joshua 7:9.
  • Response 2 – Fright – The Gibeonites hatch a deceptive scheme to trick the Israelites into a covenant in order to save themselves from God’s action in history through Israel.
    • The subject of our text, Joshua 9.


BTW – It is important to note that these two responses do have something in common in our context.

  • Fear of Yahweh (though maybe not the “hearts melted” kind of fear).
  • This is in contrast with the Israelites, whose response to God in our text revealed a lack of proper fear and right response to Yahweh.
  • More on this later.


So rebellion or relationship – those are the two responses to God’s work in history.

  • Nothing much has changed in 3000 years.
  • Except, of course, the current trend in this post-enlightenment age, where materialism dominates, is to deny the historicity of God’s work altogether.


BTW – Are those who rebel against the God of the Bible actually exempting themselves from relationship with Him?

No…they are under God’s wrath.


Speaking of the work of God in history, the following have been denied on Bible Secrets Revealed and Unbelievable Radio (a podcast) just this week by “enlightened” materialist scholars and lay folk:

  • Virgin birth
  • Historicity of Abraham and Isaac
  • Resurrection
  • Destruction of S&G
  • Jesus’ claim of divinity


Richard Dawkins on Unbelievable Radio (13 minutes in):

On the OT, “I’d be surprised if very much of it was factual…the Pentateuch is clearly the Jewish foundational myth…the creation myths and the myths for the origin of the Jewish people…some inherited from earlier peoples like the Sumerians. There is really no reason at all to be talking about the Jewish myths anymore than any of the other myths around the world…”


And then there is the devious form of rebellion clothed in the garments of relationship – the prosperity Gospel.

  • This has been exported to Africa and is wreaking spiritual havoc on millions.





The centrality of Covenant is found in the following:

  • The Gibeonites pretend to be from a far away country and say, “now make a covenant with us” (vs. 6).
  • Israel entertains the idea but is cautious – “how can we make a covenant with you” (vs. 7).
  • The Gibeonites urge the Israelites on – “We are your servants. Come now, make a covenant with us” (vs. 11).
  • And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them” (vs. 15).
  • Then “after they had made a covenant with them” they discovered the truth (vs. 16).
  • Then they couldn’t attack them “because the leaders of the congregation had sworn to them by the Lord” (vs. 18).
  • Many of the Israelites wanted to exact revenge, but they were not permitted to because the leadership had “sworn to them by the Lord” (vs. 19) and “because of the oath that we swore” (vs. 20).
  • So Joshua “delivered them out of the hand of the people of Israel, and they did not kill them” (vs. 26).


There are a couple of things we need to flesh out with this covenant business.

  • (a) Use of deception
  • (b) Honoring a covenant forged in deception


(a) Covenant by Deception

We just saw that the Gibeonite covenant with Israel was born through deception.

  • Specifically the Gibeonites:
  • acted with cunning” – vs. 4
  • And “made ready” supplies and provisions that looked “worn-out” – sacks, wineskins, sandals, clothes and “dry and crumbly” food.
  • All of this was done to look as if they came “from a distant country” (vs. 6).


Why was it important to look as if they came from far away?

“Israel was allowed to spare and make treaties with cities that were far from them, but they were explicitly directed not to make peace with the cities of the peoples whom the Israelites were dispossessing” – David Howard.

  • Exodus 34:11–12 (ESV) — 11 “Observe what I command you this day. Behold, I will drive out before you the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 12 Take care, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you go, lest it become a snare in your midst.
  • Deuteronomy 20:10–11 & 16 (ESV) — 10 “When you draw near to a city to fight against it, offer terms of peace to it. 11 And if it responds to you peaceably and it opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall do forced labor for you and shall serve you. 16 But in the cities of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes,
  • Did the Gibeonites know this?
    • Most think probably not.


(b) Honoring a Covenant

Why did the Israelites have to abide by this Covenant?

  • It is clear that except for the leadership, they didn’t want to.
  • Then all the congregation murmured against the leaders” (vs. 18).


We hope to figure this out by looking at some specifics of this covenant.

  • Specifically its ANE context and covenant type.


We need to understand that covenants and pacts between potential enemies was nothing new.

  •  “Treaties had a significant impact on the political shape of the ANE from the 3d to the 1st millennium B.C.” – AYBD.
  • Politics of this era were steeped in covenant/treaties.


There were many kinds of political covenants/treaties in the ANE.

  • This one, many argue, is known as a Suzerain-Vassal Treaty.
  • The suzerain is the sovereign or state that has political control.
  • The vassal is the inferior person or state in the relationship.
  • “The relationship of the vassal to his suzerain was not ‘brotherhood’ but ‘servitude’. The vassal was forbidden to seek alliances with other great powers but was to ‘acknowledge’ only the suzerain as his overlord (cf. Hos 13:4), [and] to be at enmity with his enemies” – AYBD.
  • On the flipside, the suzerain was to protect the vassal and provide military aid.
    • Joshua 10:6-7


Joshua 9 makes clear that the Gibeonites saw themselves as the vassal and Yahweh/Israel as the suzerain.

  • And the reason for this was not just Israel’s military victories, but also the work of Yahweh on Israel’s behalf.


There was another element of these covenant treaties that is important to consider.

  • Such a treaty, “at its core was an oath [meaning “by the life of the gods”], taken before the state deities of one or both parties. It was at the same time an imprecation [a spoken curse], calling down divine wrath on the oath breaker.” -AYBD


In the case of our text, the oath was sworn to Yahweh.

  • Joshua 9:15 (ESV) — 15 And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live, and the leaders of the congregation swore to them.
  • In ANE language and the context of the Israelites Yahweh worship, it would be to Him that this oath was sworn.
  • “The deities before whom the oath was taken were thought to act as guarantors of the treaty, punishing the one who transgressed it” – AYBD.


Swearing an oath to Yahweh had some significant baggage.

  • An oath “sworn by the Lord God of Israel…could not be broken” – Woudstra.

“Oath taking and swearing are solemn affairs in the Old Testament. To take an oath…was to give one’s sacred and unbreakable word that he would follow through on what was promised. Because of the sacred, unbreakable nature of an oath, this treaty that the Israelites made with the Gibeonites, even though it was obtained under false pretenses, could not be revoked” – David Howard.

  • Another example of this is the Jacob/Esau story.


One example of a Scriptural foundation for this:

  • Zechariah 5:1–4 (ESV) — 1 Again I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, a flying scroll! 2 And he said to me, “What do you see?” I answered, “I see a flying scroll. Its length is twenty cubits, and its width ten cubits.” 3 Then he said to me, “This is the curse that goes out over the face of the whole land. For everyone who steals shall be cleaned out according to what is on one side, and everyone who swears falsely shall be cleaned out according to what is on the other side. 4 I will send it out, declares the Lord of hosts, and it shall enter the house of the thief, and the house of him who swears falsely by my name. And it shall remain in his house and consume it, both timber and stones.”
  • See also Ezekiel 17:16-21 and Malachi 3:5.


And the best example for our purposes of the sacredness of covenant keeping involves Saul, David and the Gibeonites.

  • 2 Samuel 21:1–3 (ESV) — 1 Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year. And David sought the face of the Lord. And the Lord said, “There is bloodguilt on Saul and on his house, because he put the Gibeonites to death.2 So the king called the Gibeonites and spoke to them. Now the Gibeonites were not of the people of Israel but of the remnant of the Amorites. Although the people of Israel had sworn to spare them, Saul had sought to strike them down in his zeal for the people of Israel and Judah. 3 And David said to the Gibeonites, “What shall I do for you? And how shall I make atonement, that you may bless the heritage of the Lord?


Joshua was all too familiar with God’s concern for honoring a covenant – think Achan.

  • This commitment to covenant is something difficult for us to understand.
  • One reason is that our individualist culture conflicts with the honor/shame culture of the ANE on this kind of issue.





We said earlier that Joshua 9 shows that the Israelites were deficient in the area of fear of God and wisdom.

  • We get this from a key verse of Joshua 9.
  • Joshua 9:14 (ESV) — 14 So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the Lord.
    • In fact it seems the Gibeonites acted in wisdom and the Israelites did not.


Scripture is clear about the relationship of fear and wisdom.

  • Psalm 111:10 (ESV) — 10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!
  • Proverbs 1:7 (ESV) — 7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
  • Proverbs 9:10 (ESV) — 10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.


Like they failed to seek God’s will coming off the high of Jericho, they failed to do so coming of the high of the defeat of Bethel and Ai.

  • Obviously not a wise thing to do.

Dale Davis asks “Do we need the guidance of God only when we are in doubt? Do we not need to be careful when we begin to think, ‘There is no need to consult the Lord on this matter—it’s quite clear’?” – Dale Davis.


What is it about peak experiences that lead us to run ahead of God?

  • We seem to lose a healthy dose of fear and reverence of God.
  • Not a good place to be.
  • The Psalmist says “lean not on your own understanding”.
    • BTW – “Lean not” NOT “use not”.
  • “Joshua 9 warns God’s people against such cocky independence” – Dale Davis.
  • They expressed doubt in the Gibeonites story.
    • Joshua 9:7 – “perhaps you live among us”.
  • But in the end, they relied only on themselves.





Rahab deceived the leadership of Jericho to save the Jewish spies, herself and her household.

  • The Gibeonites deceived the Israelites to save themselves.
  • In each instance, the end result for the deceiver was life and inclusion in the redemptive history of Israel.


David Howard puts it like this:

“A postscript to the story of the Gibeonites can be seen after the exile, in two lists in the Book of Nehemiah. In both cases, men from Gibeon are listed among the Jews who were repairing the walls or who returned from Babylonian exile (Neh. 3:7; 7:25). They appear to have been fully assimilated among the Jews, as much believers in Israel’s God as was Rahab and other foreign ‘converts’ and as much the recipients of God’s grace.”


What are we to take away from these events of deception?


They appear to say more about God’s grace than about the deceivers.

  • Israel was chosen by God, they never earned their place in redemptive history.
  • They were special because of God’s good pleasure.
  • “For the Christian, the inclusion of the Gibeonites in God’s covenant community (like Rahab) challenges any attitude of self-righteousness” – Richard Hess.
  • And as we saw last week, God’s grace is running rampant throughout the O.T.


And consider this –

  • Israel was commanded to wipe out the Canaanites.
  • And thus far we have seen the following:
  • Rahab the Canaanite found inclusion in Israel.
  • Rahab’s Canaanite household found inclusion in Israel.
  • And the Canaanite tribe, the Gibeonites, found inclusion in Israel.


And at the same time we saw Israel itself come under a “cherem” of God because of Achan’s sin.

  • These facts should indeed dispense with “any attitude of self-righteousness”.
  • Not to mention they don’t seem to comport with a “myth” made up to give the Jews some street cred.
  • In fact, between the Jews actions and God’s grace, they look kind of stupid in many of these so-called “myths”.



The Gospel in the Old Testament

Old Testament Law and Old Testament Gospel


Introduction – Why This Lesson:

In Joshua 1, God says repeatedly that Joshua’s success is dependent on his obedience.

  • If Joshua obeyed, spoke, and meditated on the law, he would succeed in securing the promise land.
  • These verses make it appear that Joshua’s relationship with God was based on Joshua’s works.
    • And of course, so does much of the Pentateuch.


Some Scriptural examples:

  • Deuteronomy 10:12–13 (ESV) — 12 “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good?
  • Deuteronomy 30:8–10 (ESV) — 8 And you shall again obey the voice of the Lord and keep all his commandments that I command you today. 9 The Lord your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your cattle and in the fruit of your ground. For the Lord will again take delight in prospering you, as he took delight in your fathers, 10 when you obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes that are written in this Book of the Law, when you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.


But we can’t help but wonder where the Gospel of grace is in this relationship.

  • In Joshua 1:9 the text tells us – “…for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
    • What is God’s presence supposed to mean in the context of all this law?
    • Skeptically, God’s presence could be construed as bad news for Joshua.


But on the other hand, God’s presence could just as likely point us to the Gospel of grace in the OT.

  • But why might we see an OT Gospel of grace in God’s presence?
  • What is the OT Gospel anyway?
  • And how do we square the Law with this OT Gospel?



Not knowing the basics on these issues gives way to some serious misconceptions about the OT.

  • Michael Horton puts the misconceptions like this:

“Many of us were raised not knowing what to do with that first half of our Bible. The idea was, Israel in the Old Testament was under the law and Christians in the New Testament are under grace. This means that the Old Testament equals works-righteousness and the New Testament equals the gospel of grace” – Michael Horton.

  • This view couldn’t be more wrong.


And these misconceptions are understandable.

  • The OT seems to suggest that God’s law can be kept.
  • “The general assumption of the OT is that the law can be kept, although occasionally another note is struck (see 24:19, Ps. 143:2)” – Marten Woudstra.


Leading to Bad Teaching:

But what’s worse is that our misconceptions lead to terrible teaching.

  • The idea of “works-righteousness” begins to crowd out the “gospel of grace”.
  • It is simply easier to understand and to teach law rather than grace.
  • And doing so mistakenly puts humanity in a position where they think they can mediate their relationship to God through their behavior.
    • Do works = Be righteous
    • Religion formula 101


Sally Lloyd-Jones frames this problem in context of teaching our children:

“When we drill a [OT] Bible story down into a moral lesson, we make it about us. But the Bible isn’t mainly about us, and what we are supposed to be doing—it’s about God, and what he has done. Children don’t need to be told to try harder, believe more, or do it better. That just leaves them in despair. The moral code always leaves us in despair. We can never live up to it” – Sally Lloyd-Jones.

  • This results in the development of an overly pious, moralistic, and legalistic relationship with God and His word.
  • Not the more desired and accurate Guilt-Grace-Gratitude progression.


Michael Horton is even more adamant about this flaw in teaching.

“David really lived in history. And the usefulness of that life, measured by the fact that the Bible records great segments of it, is not determined by how many instructive lessons we can learn from character studies, for there were greater men and women of character, no doubt, who never made it into the Bible. David’s inclusion into the canon of Holy Scripture is defined by the place he had in redemptive history—not only as a precursor of Christ, the Son of David, but as someone to whom the gospel promise came, in spite of all his failures and unfaithfulness” – Michael Horton.


Review Summary:

So to answer the questions we have raised and put aside our OT misconceptions, we need to dive a little deeper into a number of issues.

  • We need to know what the OT Law is.
  • We need to know what the OT Gospel is.
  • And we need to know how they relate to each other.


We need to be aware of some obvious basics as we go forward.

  • Yes, God commands, demands and expects obedience, as we saw with Joshua.
  • And yes, obedience led to blessings – disobedience led to curses
  • But…obedience to God’s law did not save Joshua, Moses, or anyone else.
    • Salvation was not a blessing arising out of an act of obedience to the Law
  • Galatians 3:21b (ESV) — 21b For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law.
  • “Since we are unable to achieve righteousness by adhering strictly to the law, the role of the law is not to justify…” – Millard Erickson.
  • Yes, salvation via an OT Gospel of Grace is present in the OT.
    • A Gospel involving Faith–Grace–Done work of God–etc.





What is the OT Law of God?

  • Before we can get into the role, use and purpose of the law and deal with our misconceptions, we need to get an idea of what the OT law is.


Three Kinds of Law:

Typically, the OT law is seen in three categories.

  • Ceremonial Law
  • Civil Law
  • Moral Law


Ceremonial Law:

These laws governed Israel’s religious life.

  • “There are the special feasts and fasts, together with the elaborate sacrificial system and temple worship” – Michael Horton.
  • These laws were given as part of the Mosaic covenant on Sinai – a renewal of God’s covenant with Abraham – Calvin and Sailhamer.
    • Sinai is often called a different “administration” of the covenant of grace.


Importantly, these laws are no longer in effect post-Jesus:

“As we can see, especially from the book of Hebrews, all of these types and shadows are fulfilled in Christ. They all pointed to Him. He was the temple, so why go on with temple worship? He was the sacrifice, so how could we offend God by thinking there was still a need for a better or fuller sacrifice for sins? Therefore, the ceremonial laws vanish with the coming of the one they were designed to foreshadow” – Michael Horton.


Civil Law:

Because Israel was a theocracy, civil laws were issued by Yahweh to regulate how Israel was to operate as a society and nation.

  • This law included things related to the death penalty, economic statutes, etc.
  • “Just as Israel’s ceremonial laws prefigured Christ as the great prophet and priest, so her civil laws prefigured Christ as the great king” – Michael Horton.
  • And like the ceremonial law, “so too we ought not to seek to return to the Jewish theocracy when we have the fulfillment of Christ’s kingdom in His spiritual reign through the proclamation of the gospel” – Michael Horton.
  • These laws were also given on Sinai and were part of the covenant renewal – a new administration of the covenant of grace.


A further word about the ceremonial and civil laws:

  • Calvin called the ceremonial and civil laws, “supplements to aid in observing the moral law” – John Sailhamer.
  • These were not originally part of God’s law but were added at Sinai.


Why were they added?

  • Both Paul and Jesus give us insight into this question.
  • Galatians 3:19 (ESV) — 19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary.
  • “…the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners” – 1 Timothy 1:9.
    • because of transgressions” of the “lawless and disobedient
  • “Jesus also said that the law (of divorce) was given ‘because of the hardness’ of Israel’s heart” – John Sailhamer.
    • because of your hardness of heart” – Matthew 19:8
  • Both of these reasons are exemplified by Israel’s making of the golden calf at Sinai.


Why have they been abrogated?

As already alluded to, in the new covenant of grace mediated through Jesus, the old administration of the covenant of grace “passed away, [therefore] so did the law that had become a part of it (cf. Heb 7: 12: “For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well”) – John Sailhamer.


And “In the New Testament, we not only do not find explicit calls to obey various ceremonial or civil laws of the Old Testament, we find it expressly forbidden, as a return to shadows after the reality has come. However, the New Testament does reiterate the moral laws of the Old Testament, giving them fuller explanation and a particular New Testament application” – Michael Horton.

  • So what of the “moral laws of the OT”?
  • The moral law is the third type of law and is still in effect post-Jesus.


What is an important implication of this abrogation?

  • In the OT, an adulterer could be stoned.
  • In the OT, an old man collected fire wood on the Sabbath and was put to death.
  • In the OT, God’s people were to not eat certain foods.
  • In the OT, God’s people were not to wear clothes made of different materials.
  • So why don’t Christians stone adulterers or refrain from eating certain foods, etc.?


Tim Keller puts the answer as follows:

“One way to respond to the charge of inconsistency may be to ask a counter-question— ‘Are you asking me to deny the very heart of my Christian beliefs?’ If you are asked, ‘Why do you say that?’ you could respond, ‘If I believe Jesus is the resurrected Son of God, I can’t follow all the ‘clean laws’ of diet and practice, and I can’t offer animal sacrifices. All that would be to deny the power of Christ’s death on the cross. And so those who really believe in Christ must follow some Old Testament texts and not others’” – Tim Keller.


Moral Law:

Formalized in the 10 Commandments, this law was “given to regulate personal [moral] conduct for covenant members” – John Sailhamer.

  • This law has always been in existence.
  • Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and Joshua all lived under the moral law of God.
  • “Every person—even the most perverted or confused person—has the law written on his or her conscience” – Michael Horton.


J. Budzisewski says our knowledge of this law resides specifically in our “deep conscience”:

Now, deep conscience “is the interior witness to the foundational principles of moral law“. In it resides “the knowledge of basic goods, of formal norms, and of everyday moral rules.” It is not a feeling but an innate knowledge of morality. In fact, it was “designed as a witness to moral truth” by God. Therefore, it “cannot be erased, cannot be mistaken, and is the same in every human being.” And knowledge of moral truth obligates us with duties to self, neighbor and God.


The apostle Paul puts it like this:

  • Romans 1:19–21 & 32 (ESV) — 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened…32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.


BTW – This means the 10 Commandments weren’t given because of “a lack of data” – Horton.


Both Jesus and the OT sum up the moral law in this way:

  • “Individuals are to love God with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength, and their neighbor as themselves” – Michael Horton.





Now having a basic understanding of what OT law was, we need to look at its purpose or use.


Three Uses of the Law:

What was the purpose of all this law?

  • Generally, three uses of the law have been identified.
  • They have gone by a variety of terms.
  • Here I have tweaked these terms a bit for simplicities sake.
    • Civil Use
    • Condemning Use
    • Conforming Use


Civil Use:

The “first use of the law is that of a deterrent in the civil sphere” – Michael Horton.

  • How were citizens of Israel to conduct themselves as citizens?
  • How were they to handle the inheritance of assets, etc.?
  • God’s civil law answered these questions for the people of Israel.
  • And importantly, this law is “part of God’s common grace and is not a means of special grace” – John Sailhamer.
  • In other words, this use of the law is relevant to the believer and unbeliever alike.
  • A nation’s laws are for the good of her people, believer and non-believer alike – Romans 13:1-7.


Condemning Use:

Paul explains this use of the law as follows:

  • Galatians 3:24 (ESV) — 24 So then, the law was our guardian [or tutor] until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.
  • “The function of the law is to bring men and women under conviction of sin and of their inability to meet the demands of the law” – John Sailhamer.
  • “Just when we think we are not quite as bad as the guy down the street living with so-and-so, the law puts us on trial and compares us—not to other fallen men and women, but to God. This is meant to drive us to despair so that we seek our shelter from God’s wrath…” – Michael Horton.
  • This use of the law is also relevant to both believer and unbeliever alike.
    • The law condemns all because, simply put, we can’t keep it.


Scripture is clear on this point – all are unrighteous.

  • Psalm 143:2 (ESV) — 2 Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.
  • Jeremiah 17:9 (NTL) — 9 The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked.
  • Romans 3:23 (ESV) — 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
  • John 2:24–25 (ESV) — 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.


It must be said, that the law is not the problem.

  • Romans 7:12 (ESV) — 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
  • The law is “holy and righteous and good”.


The problem is that the sinful heart “employs the law for its own purposes” – Alistair Begg.

  • Paul puts it like this –
  • Romans 7:9 (ESV) — 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.
  • Romans 7:11 (ESV) — 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.


The sinful heart corrupts the law in at least two ways.

  • (1) It purposely disobeys it and relishes the rebellion.
  • (2) It creates a religion of works and works righteousness.


But, when the condemning use of the law comes into contact with a “circumcised heart” – a heart given eyes to see and ears to hear – it has the following result.

  • Psalm 32:3–5 (ESV) — 3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. 5 I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.


So, where the law solicits religion or rebellion from the sinful heart, it solicits confession and repentance from the circumcised heart.

  • If grasped with a “circumcised heart”, this use of the law will lead one to “acknowledge” and “confess” and thus into the Gospel of Grace.
  • Romans 7:24 (ESV) — 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
    • The words of a “circumcised heart” to be sure.


Conforming Use:

This use of the law has effect only for believers.

  • The law is meant to conform believers to the will and character of God.
  • It answers the question, what is God’s will for my life as a believer.



“Christians cannot conform perfectly to this law, and they ought never to approach the law as though they could even come close to its moral excellence. Rather, believers ought to approach the law as the perfect standard God requires as the expression of His moral character and live, not in order to meet God’s requirements (for that is achieved only in Christ), but in order simply to obey God’s requirements. In the former approach, one sets out to earn God’s favor by attaining His own righteousness; in the latter, one sets out to obey a gracious heavenly Father simply because He has already accepted him or her as righteous and holy” – Michael Horton.


This is the relationship King David had to God’s law; he speaks of this use of the law as follows:

  • Psalm 19:7–11 (ESV) — 7 The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; 8 the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; 9 the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. 11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
  • “Revive” here means “to return”, “bring back”, or “restore”, the very thing this use of the law is to do for the believer.


Only the Gospel of Grace can bring us into this relationship with the law.

  • And as David’s words make clear, this relationship did exist in the OT.
  • As we have said, the Gospel of Grace was in the OT and we are headed there.


Blessings and Curses of the Law:

In the OT, and especially in Deuteronomy, much is made of the blessings of obedience and curses of disobedience to the law.

  • Joshua, having replaced Moses and being tapped by God to take the promise land, would have been well aware of the blessings and curses.
  • And in Joshua 1:6-9 the blessings and curses were no doubt part of the equation.



All of Israel was subject to the curses of disobedience – even those who were saved.

  • The bulk of the disobedience curses are outlined in Deuteronomy 27:9ff and Deuteronomy 28:15-68.
  • Deuteronomy 28:15 (ESV) — 15 “But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you.



Likewise, all of Israel could find blessings in obedience as the covenant people of God – even those who were not saved.

  • The bulk of the obedience blessings are outlined in Deuteronomy 28:1-14.
  • Deuteronomy 28:1–2 (ESV) — 1 “And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. 2 And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God.


But – and this is a very big but – there was never a time in the OT where a blessing of obedience is salvation.

  • We have already seen why this is.
  • The main blessing was always nation, people and land – not salvation.
  • But it must be repeated to emphasize that the OT does not contain a message of works righteousness.
  • Salvation is by the Gospel of Grace – which we will get into soon.


Paul taught us this:

  • Galatians 3:10–11 (ESV) — 10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”


Summary of Law:

So it should be clear that the law of God was operating in two contexts.

  • Although all of Israel was chosen by God – Deuteronomy 7:6 (ESV) — 6 “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.
  • Not all of Israel was the elect – the remnant – the saved.
  • And whereas the unbeliever of Israel had one relationship to God’s law.
  • The believer had another relationship to God’s law.
  • There were many similarities, but there were some drastic differences.
  • The law could not conform an unbeliever to the will and character of God.
  • And the law could not condemn a person who was righteous by faith.
  • And though obedience would bring the blessings of nation, people and land, it would never result in salvation.


And this finally leads back to the questions we had earlier.

  • What saved the elect of Israel?
  • What was the Gospel of the OT?
  • Why did the writer of Joshua want to make the connection between Joshua’s obedience and the presence of God? 


Galatians 3:7–9 (ESV) — 7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.”





Thus far we have seen that Joshua 1:6-9 clearly suggests that Joshua’s success depends on his relationship with the law of God.

  • Because of the nature of his relationship to the law, we proceeded to learn a few things about God’s law.
  • We saw three kinds of law – ceremonial, civil and moral.


Interestingly, we saw that the ceremonial and civil laws were added by God at Sinai because of what Paul calls the Israelite’s transgressions.

  • “The laws are a sign of Israel’s failure. The laws in the Pentateuch are a graphic picture of Israel’s failure to obey God” – John Sailhamer.


We saw three uses of the law – civil, condemning and conforming.

  • Importantly, the conforming use is in effect only for the elect.
  • Only the elect/saved can be conformed to the character of God.
    • Millard Erickson puts it as follows, the law was “the standard God set for those people who would adhere to” the covenant of Grace.
    • It condemned those not adhering to this Covenant.


We also examined the concept of blessings from obedience and curses from disobedience of God’s law.

  • All the Israelites had this blessings/curses relationship with God’s law.
  • The saved and the unsaved alike.
  • But, the chief blessing of obedience related only to people, nation and land.
  • Never is a blessing of obedience salvation in the individual spiritual sense.


So understanding the law, we can now turn to salvation in the OT.

  • We can finally answer the question how were OT people saved.
  • What is the Gospel in the OT?
  • And what is the importance of the presence of God that the author of Joshua wanted us to take notice of to this Gospel?


Some Preliminaries:

Like the concept of “life after death” and resurrection, the concept of spiritual salvation gradually shows up in the OT.

  • “Although the OT begins to point [to spiritual salvation], the majority of references to salvation speak of Yahweh granting deliverance from real enemies and out of real catastrophies” – TWOT.
  • So as you read through the OT, just as you won’t find much talk of either “life after death” or resurrection, you won’t find much talk of “being saved”.
  • However, spiritual salvation is always under the surface because of God’s covenant of grace with Abraham.
  • So, “the acts of salvation in the OT build toward the final act of salvation which will include all people under its possible blessing (Isa. 52:10)” – TWOT.


Scriptural Examples of Spiritual Salvation:

Allusions to spiritual salvation:

  • Psalm 24:5 (ESV) — 5 He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
  • Psalm 51:14 (ESV) — 14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
  • Isaiah 46:13 (ESV) — 13 I bring near my righteousness; it is not far off, and my salvation will not delay; I will put salvation in Zion, for Israel my glory.”
  • Isaiah 62:11 (ESV) — 11 Behold, the Lord has proclaimed to the end of the earth: Say to the daughter of Zion, “Behold, your salvation comes; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.”
  • Ezekiel 37:23 (ESV) — 23 They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions. But I will save them from all the backslidings in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.


Now we can look at the Gospel of the OT as contained in:

  • (1) Covenant of Grace
  • (2) Faith
  • (3) God’s Presence as His Done Work, Future Promises and the object of saving Faith.


(1) Covenant of Grace:

The Covenant of Grace “is that arrangement whereby God planned to save man from the just consequences of his sin; namely, immorality, misery, death, and damnation” – Calvin Knox.

  • “The covenant of grace is the progressive historical account of the administration of the Gospel in the history of redemption” – R. Scott Clark.


Adam and Eve:

“The first Gospel promise in Genesis 3:15 announces the covenant of grace, i.e. redemption of the elect by the Mediator” – R. Scott Clark.

  • Genesis 3:15 (ESV) — 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

“God manifested his grace here in two ways. First, he would make Adam and Eve enemies of Satan and therefore friends of God. Second, through the promised Redeemer God would break the power of Satan over men. When Christ died on Calvary’s cross, Satan’s power was broken. Wherever the gospel of the crucified One is preached with the blessing of the Spirit, Satan is powerless to enslave” – Calvin Knox.


This expression of the Covenant of Grace in Jesus is immediately followed by a present reality for Adam and Eve.

  • Genesis 3:21 (ESV) — 21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.
  • God apparently killed an animal (a sacrifice) and used its skin to symbolically “cover” their sin.



In spite of man’s depravity and evil heart, God changed/modified/relented in the Adamic curse on the land (many scholars argue).

  • Genesis 8:21–22 (ESV) — 21 And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. 22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”



“The Abrahamic covenant is a renewal of the…covenant/promise made to Adam (Genesis 3:15; 17). In the history of redemption, the covenant of grace was renewed in Abraham such that he is the father of all who believe (Romans 4:11; John 8:56)” – R. Scott Clark.

  • Genesis 12:1–3 (ESV) — 1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”


Other OT Mentions:

Throughout Israel’s history, God revealed more and more about how he would ultimately fulfill His covenant.

  • Hosea 2:19–20 (ESV) — 19 And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. 20 I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.
  • Jeremiah 31:33 (ESV) — 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
  • Ezekiel 36:26–27 (ESV) — 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.


Summary of Covenant of Grace:

“In the covenant of grace God promised eternal life to those who put their trust in the promised redeemer. At different times and within distinct contexts, the covenant of grace was administered in a variety of ways. God’s covenant with Israel at Mount Sinai was one way in which the covenant of grace was administered. The new covenant that Christ initiated by his death and resurrection is another distinct administration of the one covenant of grace. The Sinai covenant and the new covenant are thus the same covenant with different administrations” – John Sailhamer.


(2) Faith in the OT:

(1) Faith Connected to Righteousness of God

  • Just as in the NT, salvation in the OT involves the righteousness of God.
  • And as in the NT, in the OT this happens “through faith”.
  • Genesis 15:4–6 (ESV) — 4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
  • Habakkuk 2:4 (ESV) — 4 “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.


And looking at the OT spiritual salvation texts we just cited one sees clearly the connection made between spiritual salvation and righteousness.

  • Psalm 24:5 puts it so clearly when it speaks of a “righteousness from the God of salvation”.
  • This is the same idea when Ezekiel says that God “will cleanse them” from their sin – Ezekiel 37:23.
  • And this is why David speaks of being delivered from “bloodguiltiness” and praising God’s “righteousness” in Psalm 24:5.


Paul puts this relationship of faith and righteousness as follows:

  • Philippians 3:9 (ESV) — 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith
  • 2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV) — 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.


(2) Faith Connected to Law Fulfillment

  • Faith’s relationship to righteousness also carries with it another NT parallel.
  • In the NT, believers are seen by the Father as having perfectly met the requirements of the law.
    • Because of our union with Christ, we participate fully in the benefits of Christ’s perfect obedience.
  • His works are seen as our works.
  • This perfect obedience of Christ is the basis for the imputation of God’s righteousness to us.


Interestingly, the same is said of Abraham.

  • Genesis 26:3–5 (ESV) — 3 Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. 4 I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, 5 because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.


Now, it must be noted that the law as referenced by Moses in verse 5 did not exist yet.

  • So Moses has done either one of two things:
    • (1) He has committed an anachronistic error.
    • (2) He is teaching us something about the nature of the righteousness that is by faith.
    • The answer is of course, the second.
    • Moses is showing us the relationship between faith and law fulfillment.
    • “Abraham could not have ‘kept the Sinai law’ in a literal sense, as it had not been given until the time of Moses (cf. Ex 15: 25b). Abraham lived a life of faith, and God counted that to him as his ‘keeping the law’ (cf. Gen 15: 6)” – John Sailhamer.


Now we can move on to the significance of the presence of God to the OT Gospel.


(3) Presence of God – Done Work, Future Promises and the Object of Saving Faith:

We saw in our handling of Joshua 1:6-9 that God’s presence provides the foundation and context for Joshua’s conquest historically of the promise land.

  • We saw via the connection to Deuteronomy that the author of Joshua wants us to make God’s presence of utmost importance to Joshua’s success.
  • Being strong and courageous; knowing, talking about, meditating on and obeying God’s law; and not being afraid or dismayed are all possible because of the presence of Yahweh.


So how does the presence of God relate to the Gospel of the OT?

  • A question we asked in our Joshua 1:6-9 lesson.
  • The answer is that the presence of God, as we are about to define it, is the object of saving faith.
  • And because it is the object, not the faith, that does the saving; God as the object of faith is foundational to both the Gospel of the OT and the NT.


What is the presence of God?

  • Very simply, it is the self-revelation of God in history.
    • Certainly, not just this – His covenant faithfulness, holiness, eternity, etc and so much more.
  • It therefore includes His word spoken into and His active involvement in history.
  • In the beginning, God acted and created (in history) and made Himself known to Adam and Eve with His words, “And God said…
  • The God we love and trust is the God whom has revealed Himself to us – His revelation of Himself in history.
    • Or what we can infer about Him from the things He has revealed.


A couple more examples of presence of God as Revelation:

  • Exodus 20:2 (ESV) — 2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
    • God then goes on to present the 10 commandments.
  • He created; He brought them out; He has the authority to command.
  • Ezekiel 36:27 (ESV) — 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
  • John 1:14 (ESV) — 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.


Two Aspects of Our Faith in God as He Has Revealed Himself to Us:

It is God as He has revealed Himself that is the object of our saving faith.

  • And in this respect, faith is “cumulative” or “progressive”.
  • As God reveals more, faith will trust the “more”.


And in the OT, as in the NT, faith in God has two aspects.

  • (1) Faith in the Done Work of God in history.
    • Faith is to trust that God has done what He has said He has done and then submit to the implications of this.
  • (2) Faith in the Future Work of God in history – His Promises.
    • Faith is to trust that God will do what He has said He will do and then submit to the implications of this.


John gets at (1), the Done Work of God in history when he says:

  • John 3:16 (ESV) — 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.


The writer of Hebrews speaks of (2), the Future Work of God when he says:

  • Hebrews 11: 1–2 (ESV) — 1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction [evidence] of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation [the approval/attestation of God].
    • Commendation means, in contrast to John 2:24, that Christ did entrust Himself to them.
  • The things hoped for are the promises of God.
  • Two examples:
    • For Abraham an example would be the offspring
    • For us an example would be resurrection


This is not blind faith – it is grounded in the Done Work of God.

  • If God created everything and brought Abraham out of Ur – a “done work” of God – then Abraham has every rational reason to trust that God will do in the future what He has promised.
  • This is why Abraham can have assurance of his “offspring”.


Likewise, if Joshua trusted that God brought them out of Egypt, then he also has every rational reason to trust in God’s future promises.

  • Specifically, he can have every reason to trust that God will deliver the promise land.
  • In the same way, given the Done Work of God through Christ’s incarnation, death, burial and resurrection, we have every reason to trust in our own resurrection.


All of these are the “assurance of things hoped for” – the Future Promises of God – grounded in the Done Work of God.

  • Offspring
  • Promise Land
  • Resurrection


Quick Summary:

So the Gospel of the OT should be taking shape now within:

  • (1) Covenant of Grace
  • (2) Faith and Righteousness
  • (3) Presence of God – Done Work and Future Promises
  • BTW – there are obviously more aspects to the Gospel of the OT.


Our response should be Faith and Trust which involves submitting to all the implications of the God’s Done Work and Future Promises.

  • Our response should not be religious – works righteousness!


A Final Question:

What about the necessity of Jesus in Salvation?

  • How are the faithful of the OT “connected” to Christ, whom they did not know?


The simple answer is that the OT Gospel looked forward to the Done Work of the Messiah.

  • We know this to be true because the NT tells us.
  • Hebrews 11:13 (ESV) — 13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
  • This means that OT faith in both the Done Work and Future Promises of God is ultimately faith in Christ.


Paul also addresses this concept we he talks about the forbearance of God in dealing with the sin of the OT believer.

  • Romans 3:25 (ESV) — 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
  • God’s forbearance is “a ‘truce with the sinner’, awaiting the final revelation and redemption in Christ (Acts 17:30)” – NBD.
  • “In the Old Testament, God gave his people a forbearance until Christ could come and pay their sin-debt for them. In this way they could avoid the punishment for their sins, even though Christ had not yet died for them” – Greg Johnson.
    • What does this say about OT sacrifice?


Final Summary of OT Gospel:

“The believing Jew, therefore, whether he understood what he was doing or not, was committing himself to the God of the promises, the God who had faithfully formed the nation of Israel and brought her out of Egypt and into the land, and the God who had revealed all along that sin could be atoned for by means of blood sacrifice…The person who committed himself in faith to that God, and all that He had revealed about His saving and keeping power, was saved” – John Feinberg.