The Covenant Renewed at Mount Ebal
30 Then Joshua built on Mount Ebal an altar to the LORD, the God of Israel, 31 as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded the Israelites. He built it according to what is written in the Book of the Law of Moses—an altar of uncut stones, on which no iron tool had been used. On it they offered to the LORD burnt offerings and sacrificed fellowship offerings. 32 There, in the presence of the Israelites, Joshua copied on stones the law of Moses, which he had written. 33 All Israel, aliens and citizens alike, with their elders, officials and judges, were standing on both sides of the ark of the covenant of the LORD, facing those who carried it—the priests, who were Levites. Half of the people stood in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the LORD had formerly commanded when he gave instructions to bless the people of Israel.
34 Afterward, Joshua read all the words of the law—the blessings and the curses—just as it is written in the Book of the Law. 35 There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read to the whole assembly of Israel, including the women and children, and the aliens who lived among them.
Ebal and Gerizim
In today’s passage, we read that half of Israel ascends to the top of Mt.Ebal, and half to Mt.Gerizim to hear a complete reading of the Law. To understand the significance and meaning of this moment, we have to go back to Deuteronomy 27-28, where we read that God commanded Moses to divide the people at Mt.Ebal and Mt.Gerizim, and at Gerizim, proclaim the blessings that accompany obedience to the Law, and at Ebal, pronounce the curses that would follow disobedience to Scripture.
You see, Ebal and Gerizim signifies Israel’s commitment to the totality of Scripture, not just the blessings and the happy parts, but the warnings and curses as well. As Israel divided themselves at these two mountains, they committed themselves to everything that God’s Word promised for them, to Scripture as an undivided whole, not as separated sections they could accept and reject as they desired.
I have problems with certain passages of Scripture not so much because they are not clear, but because they don’t fit with my selfish ideas of morality. I don’t want God’s holiness to be so pure and demanding, because that would mean my sins are very scarlet. So all I want is Gerizim, all those blessings from a harmless God who doesn’t challenge my fragile assumptions, is spotlessly politically correct, and never treads on my personal goals and aspirations…and I ignore Ebal, all the nasty bits about my sin and God’s holy judgment. But when I do this, I am guilty of picking and choosing the character of God, trying to force God to fit my own model like a child transferring the ocean into his little sand bucket. But really, the exact opposite is far more fitting: letting God pick and choose my character instead because he’s so much better at it than me.
1. How have these passages in Joshua changed your conception of God’s character?
2. Are there parts of Scripture that you subconsciously avoid? Why do you think you do so?
3. In what ways have you been guilty of choosing the God you want serve?
4. What ways can your life reflect both Ebal and Gerizim, a commitment to all of Scripture, and to all of God’s character?