DEUTERONOMY 27-30: CHOOSE BLESSING
WILL YOU CHOOSE GERIZIM OR EBAL?
One of my favorite old toys at Grandma and Grandpa Taylor's house was the Stereoscope. Cards with two side-by-side identical photos were placed into a viewer and when you looked through the viewer, it looked 3D. The same concept is used on the newer but still now vintage Viewfinder toys.
This image pair is from 1900 Shechem in Israel, a city built in the place Israel held a very important ceremony. Some people call this the "Valley of Decision." Here Moses instructs six tribe leaders to stand on Mt. Gerizim and six leaders to stand on Mt. Ebal. From Ebal the leaders would pronounce the curses that God would bring for disobedience. From Gerizim the leaders would pronounce the blessings for obedience in walking with the Lord.
The cool thing is that the Shechem valley between Gerizim and Ebal is only about a mile wide, so voices could be heard from either side and in the middle.
After some very searing words of curses from Mt. Ebal (Deut 27; 28:15-68), which seems to run much longer than the blessings, the covenant is renewed (Deut 29), and finally come the elegant and poignant words of Moses that stand as one of the lasting memories for Israel to know that blessing is not simply happened upon but given divinely and also chosen. You can choose blessing because you are choosing a life that leads to blessing others and not cursing others. It's not simply that you make moral choices and God drops money from the sky. You are making choices of love for the world, and that leads to blessing for the world. In Deuteronomy 30:11-20 Moses says,
Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.
See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.
The old Stereoscope pair of pictures, the two mountains, blessing and cursing remind us we all have a choice to make. In the words of Moses, "Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying God, and holding fast to God; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob."
What is your valley of decision right now? Are you there with others who can help you through it or are you walking alone? One of the best examples of community is how Israel walked through these decisions together. What an image of the tribal heads standing on two mounts, one mile apart, shouting curses for disobedience and blessings for obedience! What are your next steps of obedience?
LORD, one of my favorite words of blessing to hear from your scriptures is when Moses says, "The word is not far but so near, in your heart and on your lips." It brings back to mind a song that inspires me from Michael Card and the line, "No it's not up in heaven where your thoughts cannot be, nor on the ocean on some distant beach. No, the word is so near, in the innermost parts, it's a live on your lips, it abides in your heart." Yes, LORD, you are speaking to us. Teach us to listen to these words you are speaking and not ignore them! Forgive us when we claim we can't hear from you when we have your word so near to us. Help us to choose blessing, to choose life.
Greg Taylor preaches for The Journey: A New Generation Church of Christ. Greg's wife, Jill, teaches math at Broken Arrow High School and Tulsa Community College. Greg and Jill have three adult children, Ashley, Anna, and Jacob. Greg is the author of many books, including his latest co-authored with Randy Harris, Daring Faith: Meeting Jesus in the Book of John.