THE ALTERNATIVES: BLESSING OR CURSE

Scripture Reading:  Joshua 8:30-35

“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.  And afterwards he read all the words of the law, the blessing and curse, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law.”  (Joshua 8:33-34)

After the experience at Ai, God put His people back into the classroom.  He directed them to a location 25 miles north of Ai and a few miles west to a valley between two mountains — Mount Ebal to the north and Mount Gerizim to the south.  Both of these mountains were about 1,000 feet above the valley between them.  Moses had given instructions to the people prior to his death concerning what would happen here (Deuteronomy 27,28).  Half of the people were to stand before Mount Ebal and the other half were to stand before Mount Gerizim.  Then both the curses and the blessings of the law were to be read to them.

Joshua followed the instructions given to him by Moses.  He built an altar to the Lord as prescribed by Moses (vs. 30,31).  The people offered burnt offerings on it.  Then in the presence of the people, Joshua wrote on stones a copy of the law of Moses.  This act was a declaration that God’s law was to be the law of the land.  The altar demonstrated God’s way of dealing with sin.  The law was the standard but the problem was that people sin and sin brings judgment.  The sacrifice showed that it was possible to have a substitute (an innocent victim) to die in the place of the sinner.

The altar was constructed on Mount Ebal.  In Deuteronomy 27:11-13, Mount Ebal was designated as the place where the curses were to be read.  Mount Ebal was a reminder of the curses that result from disobedience.  Mount Gerizim was a symbol of the blessings that came from obedience.  Joshua read the curses (Deuteronomy 27:15-26) and then he read the blessings (Deuteronomy 28).

The alternatives were clear — blessing or curse, life or death.  Moses stated it clearly in his instructions to Joshua:  “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse.  Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying His voice, and holding fast to Him, for He is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob, to give them” (Deuteronomy 30:19,20).

Jesus is the sacrifice that was offered up on our behalf.  He bore the curse for us.  Now we are free to choose life as we love and obey God.  When we do, we will receive God’s richest blessings upon our lives.

Lord God, I choose life.  Thank You for providing the Substitute who died in my place, who bore the curse of the law on my behalf.  Thank You for Jesus Christ.  Now I choose life.  I choose to love You, to obey You and to hold fast to You.

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