Summary: As we enter a new year we are in a place of decision - like standing in Shechem, between Mount Gerizim and Ebal. In the coming year will you choose blessings or curses?
BLESSINGS OR CURSES?
There is a story about a mountain climber who wanted to climb the highest mountain. He began his adventure after many years of preparation. Since he wanted the glory just for himself, he decided to climb the mountain alone. The night felt heavy in the heights of the mountains, and the man could not see anything--all was black, zero visibility and the moon and the stars were covered by clouds.
As he was climbing, only a few feet away from the top of the mountain, he slipped and fell into the air falling at great speed. The climber could only see black spots as he went down and the terrible sensation of being sucked by gravity. He kept falling...and in those moments of great fear, it came to his mind all the good and the bad episodes of his life. He was thinking about how close death was getting, when all of a sudden, he felt the rope tied to his waist pull him very hard. His body was hanging in the air...only the rope was holding him.
In the moment of stillness, he had no other choice but to scream, "Help Me God!" All of a sudden, a deep voice coming from the sky answered, "What do you want me to do?" "Save me, God!" yelled the climber. "Do you really think I can save you?" asked God. "Of course I believe you can!" "Then cut the rope tied to your waist." There was a moment of silence, the man decided to hold on to the rope with all his strength.
The rescue team tells, that the next day, a climber was found dead and frozen, his body hanging from a rope. His hands were holding tight to it...but he was only 10 feet away from the ground. Every day we have to choose whether to take God at His word or not. Will we believe Him or trust the circumstances that we see around us.
God has poured out His blessings upon us as His children. However, often we choose to get in the way of those blessings by our own decisions and actions. Every day we choose to receive or reject. We choose either blessing or curse. This was the case with Israel:
Deut. 11:26 See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse-- 27 the blessing if you obey the commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you today; 28 the curse if you disobey the commands of the LORD your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known. 29 When the LORD your God has brought you into the land you are entering to possess, you are to proclaim on Mount Gerizim the blessings, and on Mount Ebal the curses.
There are many times in the Old Testament when God asked Israel to take a moment and remember what He had done for them. There are times in our lives when it is wise to do the same thing. Back in the days before GPS when navigating a ship it was important to regularly take measurements in order to make course corrections. New years is a time when many people do the same thing. They stop for a moment, look back at where they have come from and make course corrections for the coming year.
The book of Deuteronomy was a time like this. The Lord had lead Israel out of captivity in Egypt and brought them to the promised land. Because they were not ready He had made them wander in the wilderness for 40 years. The time of wandering was over and now they were about to enter into the promise land. God spoke through Moses to the nation of Israel to review with them everything that had happened and everything they had been told. He was giving them a choice. They could choose to obey or disobey, to be blessed or to be cursed. To demonstrate this point in a very clear way He instructed the people to take part in a ceremony of decision.
The people would stand between the 2 mountains (Gerizim and Ebal) and hear the choices and then make a decision – to be blessed if they obeyed or cursed if they disobeyed.
Latter in chapter 27-30 God would lay out more specifically exactly what the Levites were to say. After each blessing and curse was recited by the Levites the people would respond by saying “Amen”. This was not just a simple approval but a solemn formal assertion that they would do it.
When Israel entered the promised land they faced their first 2 cities – Jerico and Ai. These 2 cities showed very clearly the difference between blessings and curses. Against the large and fortified city of Jericho they obeyed the Lord and they had a great victory. Against the small and undefended city of Ai through Achan’s sin they disobeyed and were defeated.