Recap of the book of Joshua up to now:
Moses dies, Joshua is to lead into the promised land / They untie and share in sacrifice / Rahab and the spies model active faith / God brings them across the Joran by miracle / They take time to memorialize that event / God deepens the connection with His people / The miracle at Jericho teaches them devotion / disobedience effects the whole community / Sin is dealt with and the forgiven community is victorious…now what?
Now the Israelites will be led by God to renew their covenant relationship with Him, together as a nation. This event is meant to connect the nation back to the 2nd giving of the law in Deuteronomy 5-28 (Covenant Renewal…AGAIN)
The Place: Shechem. Abraham was there, Jacob’s Ladder & Well, Samaritan Woman & Jesus. It is a place where revelation and relational renewal has happened. Relational Renewal is a principal God wants His people to practice! We need renewal, it is not an option, it is commanded, demonstrated, ritualized and practiced… Practice is the key part: you can talk about renewing your relationship with God but it actuality requires intentional practice.
30 At that time Joshua built an altar to the Lord, the God of Israel, on Mount Ebal, 31 just as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the people of Israel, as it is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, “an altar of uncut stones, upon which no man has wielded an iron tool.”
- 1st thing (one they got there) was to build an altar
- This was part of what had been commanded for them to do in Deuteronomy 27
- Uncut stones: all of the previous alters by Abraham, Issac & Jacob
- Use of uncut stones differentiated Yahweh’s alters from Canaanite altars
And when you have crossed the Jordan, set up these stones on Mount Ebal, as I command you today, and coat them with plaster. Build there an altar to the Lord your God, an altar of stones. Do not use any iron tool on them. Build the altar of the Lord your God with field stones and offer burnt offerings on it to the Lord your God. Sacrifice fellowship offerings there, eating them and rejoicing in the presence of the Lord your God. And you shall write very clearly all the words of this law on these stones you have set up.” ~ Deuteronomy 27:4-8
- Very Specific instructions for the Altar and the Stones to display the Law
And they offered on it burnt offerings to the Lord and sacrificed peace offerings. 32 And there, in the presence of the people of Israel, he wrote on the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written.
- They sacrificed, it cost them something…time to build and then animals
- They were plastered stones on the alter with the Ten Commandments on them
33 And all Israel, sojourner as well as native born, with their elders and officers and their judges, stood on opposite sides of the ark before the Levitical priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, half of them in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, just as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded at the first, to bless the people of Israel.
- The entire nation was gathered, just like us they need to be together
- Six tribes on either side is symbolic that we all can be on either side
- Natural amphitheater makes it so from Shechem you can hear on both mounts
- We saw a part of what was commanded in Deuteronomy
- This ceremony of renewing the Covenant was ‘To Bless The People’
34 And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law. 35 There was not a word of all that Moses commanded that Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the sojourners who lived among them.
- What makes sense is that he read from Deuteronomy 5 through 28
- Beginning with the ten commandments through the blessing and curse
- All that Moses commanded is recapped in Moses ‘Farewell Address’
- The whole assembly, gather around God’s Presence (Ark) and God’s Word
- Everyone was included (Rahab’ Family)
The last thing read was the Blessings and Curses.
Curses & Blessings:
Curses for: Making Idols / Dishonoring Parents / Moving Land Markers / Oppressing The Marginalized / Sex with Animals / Sex with Relatives / Secret & Paid Killing
‘Not Carrying Out The Whole Law’
Blessings for Obedience: City / Country / Offspring / Crops / Land / livestock / Food Preparation / Defeat of Enemies /Status / Buildings / Favorable Weather
This provides no place to just be ‘Good’ or not as bad as that guy… There is no 3rd place! C.S. Lewis said: “There is no neutral ground in the universe; every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counterclaimed by satan.” It is a call to: ‘Be perfect as our Father is Perfect’, a call to surrender your life to Christ…the only way to be perfect!
The renewal of the covenant relationship with God requires sacrifice. The sacrifice we have the privilege of making is laying down our lives for Christ and the Gospel.
God Unifies His people around The Scriptures, the centrality of it in our lives gives us our ‘Cultural Identity’ and surrounds us with blessings.
There is no spiritual neutrality…our relationship with God is either one of blessings or of curses. For the Israelites it was surrender to God’s ways…for us it is the same.
God desires His people to hear His word together and be accountable to each other for obedience to it.
Have you intentionally renewed your relationship with Christ on a regular basis? Why or why not?
What sacrifices do you make and will you make to honor God in your life?
How can you get God’s Word into a more central and prominent place your life?
Do you consider your relationship with God to be communal or individual?
VISION & PRACTICE
God wants our relationship with Him to be regularly renewed and reinvigorated, honoring Him means intentionally practicing aspects of rededication.