Wednesday, November 21, 2018

2018.11.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ Joshua 8:30-35

Questions for Littles: What did Joshua build in v30? To whom? Where? According to whose command (v31)? Written where? What could not be done to this altar? What did they offer on it? In whose presence did the writing in v32 take place? Upon what did Joshua write? What did Joshua write? Who stood on opposite sides of the ark in v33? What particular groups are mentioned as being there? In front of where were one half of them standing? In front of where were the other half of them standing? Who had commanded this meeting? What was the ultimate purpose of it? What did Joshua read in v34? Which particular parts does v34 emphasize to us that he read? What does v35 emphasize about how much Joshua read? What does it emphasize about to whom Joshua read?
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, Joshua has what seems like an odd response to victory over Jericho and Ai: he makes an altar and a giant Ten Commandments monument (Deuteronomy 27 specified that it should be upon large, white-washed stone) in the valley between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerazim.

Once the sacrifices are offered and the monument is set up, the nation shouts back and forth at each other in a ceremony to renew the vows of the covenant.

The way Moses had said it in Deuteronomy 27, these blessings and curses would hearken back to Moses’s own day, on which he had said, “Take heed and listen, O Israel: This day you have become the people of Yahweh your God” (27:9). So here, at the end of Joshua 8, it is something like a marriage renewal ceremony.

And what a ceremony it is! At first the people of Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali—standing together on the foot of Mount Ebal—shout across the valley, “Cursed shall be… cursed shall be… cursed shall be…” And after every curse, the whole nation says, “Amen!”

And at the foot of Mount Gerazim, the other six tribes stand and shout blessings across the valley (perhaps those in the first half of Deuteronomy 28).

If you go back and read some of the particular applications of the ten commandments in Deuteronomy 27, you see that this national covenanting ceremony emphasized the individual, moral responsibility of every single Israelite, right down to little children.

And that is exactly what we see in our Old Testament passage today. Everyone was there—from the highest officials of the land whose duty it was to apply the law to others, to the women and children and even foreigner residents who were expected to know and keep the law.

Each one’s personal obedience was an essential part of the national covenant. And your own, personal, obedience to Christ’s law is an essential part of your family’s covenantal relationship with God, your church’s covenantal relationship with God, and your nation’s covenantal relationship with God.

Be careful not to confuse this with the legalistic idea that your obedience keeps you righteous before God. Only Christ’s obedience and sacrifice do that. However, these other covenantal relationships of which you are a part are very real. And you can expect real blessings and real curses to result from individual obedience or sin… just ask the nation that had this ceremony following the incident with Achan!!
Of what household, church, and nation are you a member? How does your morality affect them, both internally and also covenantally, before God? Who/what is the only hope for improving this?
Suggested songs: ARP65A “Praise Awaits You, God” or TPH89B “My Song Forever Shall Record”

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