Summary: Three principles to obeying the crucial word of God taken from the renewing of the covenant at Shechem.
We might sometimes think, you know, we should be out there, doing great stuff, lots of stuff for God. Get all busy, let the Word be made known, destroy the arguments of non-believers.
The people of Israel, in their conquest for the land of Canaan, they were busy fighting the battle of Jericho and after that, the battle of Ai. They lost the battle of Ai because of the covetousness of Achan, yet God delivered them victory when they waged war again. When morales are high, shouldn't you just go on ahead and take out more cities?
But yet, in Joshua 8:30-35, we see an abrupt shift from burying the King of Ai's body (8:29) to suddenly being at Mount Ebal, near Shechem hearing the blessings and curses of the law (8:30). Why this abrupt shift? And remember that Shechem was more than twenty miles north of Ai. To get an entire nation after just having fought a victorious battle, moving twenty miles north with women and children. What for?
Yet, we realize this is in obedience to the command of Moses to Israel in Deuteronomy 27:1-8. The crucial word of God is to obeyed. What more, Israel had just experienced the curse of God's anger in Joshua chapter 7 and his favor in chapter 8. It was a timely and important reminder to the people of God the blessing and curse of God's law (8:34).
Dale Ralph Davis describes this reminder like a 'timeout' for the people of God to remember their covenant with him. They are 'wrenched from conquest to covenant'.
So what do we learn from this passage? Through points regarding obedience to the crucial word of God. Three 'G's. Obedience is groundwork, obedience is gross (total), obedience is done in gratitude. Groundwork, gross, gratitude.
Firstly, obedience is groundwork.
There has to be obedience in our hearts before we do anything. We do God’s work in a way that is obedience to his will. Obedience to his word is more important than fighting his war. It was precisely that Israel sped on ahead to fight Ai without first examining obedience that they failed.
Some application to our daily lives. Before we work in our jobs for our salaries, we have to know that the first fruits belong to God (Joshua 7). Or do we think that the fruits we reap from our work wholly belong to us? If we do, we won’t have gratitude to God. We will still have the heart of Achan in us, to want to desire all things to ourselves and not giving the first fruits to God. If we do, we will not depend on God.
Before we gain achievements in our studies, job, family, know that all achievements come from the Lord. It is grace. It is just like the people of God did nothing to bring down the walls of Jericho. It was a gracious gift from God.
Before we carry on each day in life, we should come to obedience to know that all failures are not apart from God’s good will or discipline (Joshua 7). If not, we will be very anxious and helpless with our failures. Or, we will be bitter with God instead of submitting to his discipline.
We should come to obedience to give God all glory when we meet with success. It is also that when we meet with setbacks, that we will not despair.
So moving you get busy and move on, make sure that you fill your tanks full with a heart to obey.
Secondly, obedience is gross. Our obedience to God is a total obedience. Five times in Joshua 8:33-35 the word ‘all’ is repeated. This tells us that crucial word of God is applicable to all of God’s people. All of God’s people is under all of God’s law for us. His word is not to be kept in just a seminary, but a word of personal obedience to all, including housewives, children and sojourners (8:35).
There is no exception to anyone. All ages, all incomes, all educational levels, all vocations, all races, in fact, whether you are a Christian or not, you are under God’s law. This tells us that everyone before God is accountable if we have obeyed his word. Yet it also shows us that Christianity is not an elitist religion.
What are the specific laws read on Mt. Ebal and Gerizim? If we turn back to Deuteronomy 27, we know that we have to examine if we have honoured our father and mother (Deut 27:16). We have to examine if we have stolen from our neighbours, our bosses, our colleagues (Deut 27:17). Have we misled the helpless (27:18)? Have we been righteous with those who are in need (27:19)? Have we hurt those around us in secret? Or do we just obey some laws thinking that we are ok and neglect the rest?