9.29.08, Joshua 8:30-35

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.

Questions:

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?

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8 thoughts on “9.29.08, Joshua 8:30-35

  1. mc: “Apparently these people aren’t Israelites (hence the alien) and yet were still allowed to hear the words of God, “not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read to the whole assembly”. Old school missions? I think so, but unsure. PPeter, can you clarify?”

    several layers to this question: scripturally, particularly in isaiah and in psalms, God’s love for all people is quite clear, and it becomes crystal clear in the book of Acts. salvation being universally available was always God’s plan.

    culturally, non-Israelites were able to live amongst the Jews, and given many rights, although they were still never completely integrated. for instance, they were not permitted to enter into the temple area in the same way as Jews were.

    there was some basis for “missions” in the OT – when speaking to the pharisees, Jesus tells them that they would travel far for a single convert, implying that they had some form of what we could call missions. but you can’t put a one-to-one comparison because without the gospel, missions is woefully incomplete – it is what you could call proto-missions.

  2. wc: “How come I see so many people living the highlight of their lives, plunged in financial comforts and stability with no struggles which don’t seem to be a curse although they don’t follow God’s words… Are God’s blessings and curses different from what we believe to be “blessings and curses”? If they are, how do they differ?”

    ah, this is a good question that highlights a common conception of blessings and curses. financial comfort, like any comfort, is not always a blessing, but serves to make us more self satisfied. a life with no struggles is not what you want – struggles build perseverance and character and hope, and in some sense, prove that we are following Christ’s footsteps to calvary. a Christian without struggles is a Christian who is not putting his or her faith out there.

    the blessings we are promised are far different. we are not promised wealth, but providence, enough for every day without fail. financial wealth can make no promise like that, as you can see from the financial state we’re currently in. we’re not promised a life without struggle, but one where God always provides a way through those struggles, and transforms those struggles into our biggest assets. the world cannot make a promise that it can do the same.

    in essence, we are promised the blessings of the Kingdom, not the blessings of this world…

  3. ec: “Deuteronomy 23:1 ESV – No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the Lord ~ reads to me another law we must follow in order to get to Heaven…”

    the OT is difficult, and needs to be explained…and does not need to be explained. let me explain.

    first, the OT does not need to be explained because it is a revelation of God’s character. God is obviously incredibly holy and just and faithful, and by bypassing the OT, we often forget these characteristics and soften God. but it is not God who has to change to fit our conceptions, but rather we who must transform our minds and mentalities.

    realize that this relates mentalities and morality that are millenia older than our own. it is not appropriate to impose our 21st centuries norms onto culture that were so incredibly different. i’m quite sure people in the year 5500 AD will look at us and be scandalized by what we thought was right. this is standard post-modern thought.

    now, the explanation – in the referenced passage, it says that eunuchs and those without genitals cannot enter into the temple, not that they are prohibited from heaven. but most importantly, you have to keep the entire plan of grace, including Jesus in mind. after Christ comes and transforms everything, we read in the book of Acts that philip encounters an ethiopian man, reads the book of Isaiah with him and baptizes him… and the man was a eunuch. always keep the larger revelation in mind!!

  4. We don’t follow a lot of the punishments of the law of Moses any more. Paul even says that its not by works. So we don’t offer sacrifices ox or sheep to God. However we try to obey the ten commandments. I understand why we don’t offer sacrifices but are we still supposed to follow the laws written in the Old Testament?
    (had a hard time trying to word this question)

  5. I have a comment to make on #2 because it’s something that I have thought about as well. Mainly, how is it that those who seem to be seeking after God whole-heartedly (missions, full-time min, etc) seem to be burdened with so many “troubles” or lead a more difficult life than those who seek the comforts of the world.

    I just wanted to point out that appearances are deceiving. We do a good job of pretending like we are doing fine with our comforts when in reality we are dying. It’s easy to look at other people and think that they are doing just fine based on outward appearances, but I think it’s most evident when we look at ourselves. I can step back and see how much I’ve been blessed in a “worldly” sense and still realize how much I struggle spiritually.

    I think in this case the words of Paul do ring true in Philippians 4:10 – 13, where he talks about being content in plenty and in need. I guess just to say in light of this, the hardships/struggles we face will always be subjective to those observing them. We are promised blessings from the Kingdom and that shouldn’t be seen as a “cop-out” answer if people think it is.

  6. In the Old Testament, blessings were thought of as the outcome of obedience to God and curses, disobedience.

    What do blessings and curses in our lives mean today? Are both given to us when God sees fit or can we somehow “earn” God’s blessings?

  7. – why do we obey some of the Law, but not all of it?

    there’s a long answer to this, but i’ll give the short one. we don’t offer sacrifices because those were meant to atone for sin…we have a perfect and eternal atoning sacrifice in Jesus Christ though, making any other sacrifice useless!

    so why do we try to obey the 10 commandments? because the 10 commandments are the ways we show our love for God. don’t think of them as laws but as rules for a relationship: you are not to have other gods before you because you are in a love relationship with the Lord – other gods would be like cheating! you keep the Sabbath day holy so that you can spend time with God, remembering his providence and your relationship. you don’t steal or hurt others because you love them as Christ loves them.

    so the 10 commandments are still very useful for us because they give us some guidelines on how we can show our love for God, and our love for others, not because we are saved through our obedience to the Law.

  8. rl’s question – what do blessings and curses mean for us today? can we earn God’s blessings?

    that’s a good question, and i think that it’s helpful to look for different words than “blessings” and “curses”. rather than God blessing us when we do good, and cursing us when we do bad, from a human perspective, you can also think of it in terms of consequence!

    when we spend time out of the Word, or in harmful relationships, or hurting ourselves or others, we reap negative consequences: broken relationships, guilt, regret, deaf ears and eyes to God’s love. these seem like “curses”, but they are really consequences of our own choices. it wasn’t so much that God cursed us, but that we are cursing ourselves…

    i think God wants us to obey the Law so that we avoid bad consequences in our lives, so we don’t curse ourselves! now, this is different from discipline, which is God correcting us so that we can be in better places. but the beauty thing is that God can use both our mistakes and discipline both to do good things for us!

Comments are closed.

9.29.08, Joshua 8:30-35

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.

Questions:

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?

8 thoughts on “9.29.08, Joshua 8:30-35

  1. mc: “Apparently these people aren’t Israelites (hence the alien) and yet were still allowed to hear the words of God, “not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read to the whole assembly”. Old school missions? I think so, but unsure. PPeter, can you clarify?”

    several layers to this question: scripturally, particularly in isaiah and in psalms, God’s love for all people is quite clear, and it becomes crystal clear in the book of Acts. salvation being universally available was always God’s plan.

    culturally, non-Israelites were able to live amongst the Jews, and given many rights, although they were still never completely integrated. for instance, they were not permitted to enter into the temple area in the same way as Jews were.

    there was some basis for “missions” in the OT – when speaking to the pharisees, Jesus tells them that they would travel far for a single convert, implying that they had some form of what we could call missions. but you can’t put a one-to-one comparison because without the gospel, missions is woefully incomplete – it is what you could call proto-missions.

  2. wc: “How come I see so many people living the highlight of their lives, plunged in financial comforts and stability with no struggles which don’t seem to be a curse although they don’t follow God’s words… Are God’s blessings and curses different from what we believe to be “blessings and curses”? If they are, how do they differ?”

    ah, this is a good question that highlights a common conception of blessings and curses. financial comfort, like any comfort, is not always a blessing, but serves to make us more self satisfied. a life with no struggles is not what you want – struggles build perseverance and character and hope, and in some sense, prove that we are following Christ’s footsteps to calvary. a Christian without struggles is a Christian who is not putting his or her faith out there.

    the blessings we are promised are far different. we are not promised wealth, but providence, enough for every day without fail. financial wealth can make no promise like that, as you can see from the financial state we’re currently in. we’re not promised a life without struggle, but one where God always provides a way through those struggles, and transforms those struggles into our biggest assets. the world cannot make a promise that it can do the same.

    in essence, we are promised the blessings of the Kingdom, not the blessings of this world…

  3. ec: “Deuteronomy 23:1 ESV – No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the Lord ~ reads to me another law we must follow in order to get to Heaven…”

    the OT is difficult, and needs to be explained…and does not need to be explained. let me explain.

    first, the OT does not need to be explained because it is a revelation of God’s character. God is obviously incredibly holy and just and faithful, and by bypassing the OT, we often forget these characteristics and soften God. but it is not God who has to change to fit our conceptions, but rather we who must transform our minds and mentalities.

    realize that this relates mentalities and morality that are millenia older than our own. it is not appropriate to impose our 21st centuries norms onto culture that were so incredibly different. i’m quite sure people in the year 5500 AD will look at us and be scandalized by what we thought was right. this is standard post-modern thought.

    now, the explanation – in the referenced passage, it says that eunuchs and those without genitals cannot enter into the temple, not that they are prohibited from heaven. but most importantly, you have to keep the entire plan of grace, including Jesus in mind. after Christ comes and transforms everything, we read in the book of Acts that philip encounters an ethiopian man, reads the book of Isaiah with him and baptizes him… and the man was a eunuch. always keep the larger revelation in mind!!

  4. We don’t follow a lot of the punishments of the law of Moses any more. Paul even says that its not by works. So we don’t offer sacrifices ox or sheep to God. However we try to obey the ten commandments. I understand why we don’t offer sacrifices but are we still supposed to follow the laws written in the Old Testament?
    (had a hard time trying to word this question)

  5. I have a comment to make on #2 because it’s something that I have thought about as well. Mainly, how is it that those who seem to be seeking after God whole-heartedly (missions, full-time min, etc) seem to be burdened with so many “troubles” or lead a more difficult life than those who seek the comforts of the world.

    I just wanted to point out that appearances are deceiving. We do a good job of pretending like we are doing fine with our comforts when in reality we are dying. It’s easy to look at other people and think that they are doing just fine based on outward appearances, but I think it’s most evident when we look at ourselves. I can step back and see how much I’ve been blessed in a “worldly” sense and still realize how much I struggle spiritually.

    I think in this case the words of Paul do ring true in Philippians 4:10 – 13, where he talks about being content in plenty and in need. I guess just to say in light of this, the hardships/struggles we face will always be subjective to those observing them. We are promised blessings from the Kingdom and that shouldn’t be seen as a “cop-out” answer if people think it is.

  6. In the Old Testament, blessings were thought of as the outcome of obedience to God and curses, disobedience.

    What do blessings and curses in our lives mean today? Are both given to us when God sees fit or can we somehow “earn” God’s blessings?

  7. – why do we obey some of the Law, but not all of it?

    there’s a long answer to this, but i’ll give the short one. we don’t offer sacrifices because those were meant to atone for sin…we have a perfect and eternal atoning sacrifice in Jesus Christ though, making any other sacrifice useless!

    so why do we try to obey the 10 commandments? because the 10 commandments are the ways we show our love for God. don’t think of them as laws but as rules for a relationship: you are not to have other gods before you because you are in a love relationship with the Lord – other gods would be like cheating! you keep the Sabbath day holy so that you can spend time with God, remembering his providence and your relationship. you don’t steal or hurt others because you love them as Christ loves them.

    so the 10 commandments are still very useful for us because they give us some guidelines on how we can show our love for God, and our love for others, not because we are saved through our obedience to the Law.

  8. rl’s question – what do blessings and curses mean for us today? can we earn God’s blessings?

    that’s a good question, and i think that it’s helpful to look for different words than “blessings” and “curses”. rather than God blessing us when we do good, and cursing us when we do bad, from a human perspective, you can also think of it in terms of consequence!

    when we spend time out of the Word, or in harmful relationships, or hurting ourselves or others, we reap negative consequences: broken relationships, guilt, regret, deaf ears and eyes to God’s love. these seem like “curses”, but they are really consequences of our own choices. it wasn’t so much that God cursed us, but that we are cursing ourselves…

    i think God wants us to obey the Law so that we avoid bad consequences in our lives, so we don’t curse ourselves! now, this is different from discipline, which is God correcting us so that we can be in better places. but the beauty thing is that God can use both our mistakes and discipline both to do good things for us!

Comments are closed.