Joshua Reads the Blessings
30-32 One day, Joshua led the people of Israel to Mount Ebal, where he told some of his men, “Build an altar for offering sacrifices to the Lord. And use stones that have never been cut with iron tools, because that is what Moses taught in The Book of the Law.”
Joshua offered sacrifices to please the Lord and to ask his blessing. Then with the Israelites still watching, he copied parts of The Book of the Law of Moses onto stones.
33-35 Moses had said that everyone in Israel was to go to the valley between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim, where they were to be blessed. So everyone went there, including the foreigners, the leaders, officials, and judges. Half of the people stood on one side of the valley, and half on the other side, with the priests from the Levi tribe standing in the middle with the sacred chest. Then in a loud voice, Joshua read the blessings and curses from The Book of the Law of Moses.
Think back on the times in which God has moved in your life. Those special moments in which God was specially present. A particular time challenge or need where God ‘showed up’ and there was nothing that you could do but say thank you. God brings those moments into our life as touchstones. They become desperately important when you may at other times be feeling his absence. They are like a memory to remind you that God is there.
For all their disobedience, the people of God in the Old Testament knew how important memories are. Often at important moments in the narrative after a particular experience of the presence of God they pause in the story. It is then they build an altar or a monument that will be used to remind them of what God did.
Earlier in the fourth chapter of Joshua, after crossing the Jordan, they gather twelve stones and build an altar. Joshua tells them why those stones are there. “In the future when your children ask their parents, “What do these stones mean?” tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God” (Joshua 4:21-24).
The same ritual takes place in this chapter but this time not only is a monument erected but Joshua pauses to read the law of the covenant between God and his people. It is done with the ark of the covenant, the symbolic presence of God in their midst. It is a healthy reminder that if God is faithful, we are called to be faithful as well.
Remind us O God, of those times when we have known your presence. Grant us the memory to dwell there and rest in the knowledge that you are our God and we are your people. Help us not to lose sight and help us not to let go. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.