Welcome to expound, our verse by verse study of God's work. Our goal is to expand your knowledge of the truth of God by explaining the word of God in a way that is interactive, enjoyable, and congregational.
Father, as we gather here, we surrender our hearts, our lives, our minds. We put away gadgets. We put away distractions, and we are saying to you that we are giving you our attention. We are here because we want to honor you. We want to worship you, and part of our worship is listening to what you would have to say to us through your word. Just like someone in love would show their honor and respect by listening to someone they love, so we want you to be the one speaking through the words of Moses that are recorded in this book. Give us ears to hear. Give us a heart to do. For your glory and for your kingdom's sake in Jesus' name, Amen.
120 years old-- that's how old Moses is when he gives the series of speeches to the new generation about to cross over into the promised land. Moses himself is only viewing it. He won't get to go walk in it, but they will. That new generation, after 40 years perched on that side of the Jordan, will soon cross over. 120 years old-- I was on Pinterest the other day, and I found a picture of a guy who is 114 years old, and honestly he looked gnarly. He was alive, but that's about it, and I know there are people who can live to that age and be somewhat vibrant, but 120? Moses has seen so much and heard so much, and he's giving the final preparation.
Now, those of you who will be with us in a few weeks when we go to Israel-- on that Friday that we're in the land, we will leave the Sea of Galilee in the morning, and we will drive south, and we will be in Jerusalem by afternoon. As we're going through the Jordan Valley, remind somebody on your bus-- one of the guides or the bus passengers-- to show you where Moses was with the children of Israel. It's right to your left as you're going south. You'll see the windy Jordan River, and you can look up on the little plateau that plane and imagine Moses with the children of Israel about ready to get in that land.
In this chapter and the next chapter, we have the three Cs of the covenant. I'll tell you more about the covenant and the covenants of God as we go through this, but first is the celebration of the covenant. I love this concept. God wants them to celebrate him and celebrate their relationship with him. There is to be an element of joy when they gather together. So celebration is the first C of the covenant.
The second is confirmation of the covenant. They are to confirm it. The are to get into the land and they are to say a verbal oath once they get there about who they are and how they got there. So there is a celebration. There's a confirmation. Then there is a conclusion. That's the third C-- a conclusion where Moses gives some concluding remarks to wrap up a covenant relationship.
Now, a covenant is an agreement, a contract, a deal, a testament. You have the Old Testament and the New Testament, or the old covenant and the new covenant. When you buy a car on payments, you make a covenant with the bank or with whatever lender you're going through. You sign papers. You agree to the terms of the covenant, and you celebrate the covenant. You drive off the lot with a new car. You're celebrating, but then comes the time for you to make a confirmation of the covenant. That's when you write the check every month. You're confirming, yep, I'm still in it. Yep, I'm still in it, and then at some point there will be a conclusion of that covenant. It will be paid off. You can drive it, or trade it in, or whatever you need to do at that point.
So in chapter 26, we have the beginning of that thought, and we enter into Moses telling them about what they are to do when the land they are going into begins to produce a harvest. They're to bring in a portion of the harvest-- in fact, the very first part of the harvest. It's called the first fruits. Now, we get into this great overtone of celebration, and I want you to notice it as we go through this chapter-- a real celebration of the covenant.
You probably know-- or at least I hope you know there were three major festivals, pilgrim feasts that were celebrated in Israel every year-- still to this day. In the spring is the feast of Passover, followed by the feast of Pentecost, which is a summer feast, and then in the fall you have the feast of tabernacles. Three times a year people were to make their way toward the central place of worship, which became Jerusalem eventually, and they were to make these great pilgrim celebrations, rejoicing, singing, eating together, but closely related to the festival of Passover and unleavened bread was the idea of bringing in the first fruits of what the land produces.
"And it shall be when you come into the land," verse one, "which the Lord, your God, has given you as an inheritance, and you possess it, and you dwell in it that you shall take some of the first of all the produce of the ground, which you shall bring from your land that the Lord, your God, is giving you and put it in the basket. And go to the place where the Lord, your God, chooses to make his name abide. And you shall go to the one who is priest in those days and say to him, I declare to date to the Lord, your God, that I have come to the country which the Lord swore to our fathers to give us."
There's an interesting principle in this whole idea of the first of something, the first fruits here. Before you are allowed to be a consumer, you must first be a consecrator, a worshipper. Before you just take it and scarf it down-- oh, look what I've grown. Look what I own. Look what I have. You are to take the very first-- not the leftovers, but the very first, the very best. And you put that in a basket, and you make a testimony. You make a confession of faith, a statement of faith. So what you are doing is once a year you are retelling your redemption story.
I'm a part of this community. This is a community that came from Egypt. We're here because of what God said. Here we are enjoying it, and before I consume it, I consecrate it. I worship the Lord. I'm not going to hoard it. I'm going to worship him with the very best, the very first that the Lord has blessed me with. And notice in verse three they are to say-- this is the word-- this is part of the words they are to say out loud, retelling their story. "I declare today to the Lord, your God, that I have come to the country, which the Lord swore to our fathers to give us." Now there is more that they will have to say.
I was reading this this week, and I found myself thanking the Lord that I was saved when I was 18. That was a long time ago for me, but I was saved at the end of 17 going on 18 just around my 18th birthday up in the San Francisco Bay Area. I gave my life to the Lord, and the reason I was thanking the Lord is because getting saved at 18 I was able to give to God my years of strength, the very best of my years, when had-- I have energy still, but much more energy, and I just loved the idea of a challenge and a church plan, and I was all in. I love the idea that the Lord allowed me to give to him the very best energy of my life, and that's the idea here of the first fruits.
"Then the priest shall take the basket out of your hand, set it down before the altar of the Lord, your God, and you shall answer and say before the Lord, your God"-- there is more for you to say in this confession of faith at this festival of the first fruits. "You shall say, my father was a Syrian." Some of you are thinking, well, what if my father wasn't a Syrian. What if my father was a Dutchman? I'll explain in just a moment. Every Jew could say this.
"My father was a Syrian about to perish, and he went down to Egypt and dwelt there few in number, and there he became a nation great, and mighty, and populous." The one they are referring to-- "my father was a Syrian"-- was there grandpa, grandpa Jacob. Grandpa Jacob was a wanderer. You remember grandpa Jacob. Jacob was the guy who stole the birthright because his brother didn't want it. Esau couldn't care less about it, and he sold it really for a bowl of chili stew to his brother Jacob, and so his father blessed him, gave him the primogeniture, the right of first born, gave him that blessing. His brother found out that indeed his blessing had gone to his brother. Sort of he had a double take, and he went after him to kill him. So he ran away from home. Jacob ran away from home, from the land of Canaan, where they were a nomadic people travelling around in tents. And he went to, listen, Paddan Aram, Aram. Aram is Aramaia. The Aramaian kingdom, or the Syrian kingdom-- some of your translations will say one. Some will say the other-- is north and to the east of Israel. That's where Paddan Aram was.
So Jacob left Canaan, went to Syria, Paddan Aram, where Laban was, and he worked for Laban. And while he was there working for Laban, he married his-- well, I was going to say his wife, but his wives, plural-- and had his boys, and then wandered back down in Canaan till there was such a famine in the land. And Joseph, one of his sons, was in Egypt as the prime minister, and they went down to Egypt-- 70 people altogether. 70 people. A seed was planted in the soil of Egypt. A seed was planted in ground that would be very, very difficult ground because of the slavery and the opposition they would face, but that 70 turned into several million by the time Moses brings them out. And now at the end of the 40 year stint, that new generation-- well over a million, upwards of 2, 2 and 1/2 million, perhaps. Hard to say because a whole generation has died off.
So "my father was a Syrian." Jacob wandered in Paddan Aram, and married those gals, and had those 12 kids, and here we are today. So that's part of the testimony is recounting their history, but the Egyptians mistreated us, afflicted us, laid hard bondage on us. "Then we cried out to the Lord, the God of our fathers, and the Lord heard our voice and looked on our affliction, and our labor, and our oppression. So the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders. He has brought us to this place, and he has given us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey."
You know that term. You've read that term. What does it mean, "a land flowing with milk and honey?" It means two things. It's a figurative expression, and the figurative expression is rendered culturally and agriculturally. You see, culturally all believers can say God is good. We always look at each other. Isn't God good? We say that a lot, and if you're not a believer, but you're around Christians, and you see them smiling, and enjoying life, and saying, oh, God is good, you're going I don't get this. That's the cultural expression as we realize God has been gracious to us. He's been merciful to us, but he's been gracious to us, but then there's an agricultural meaning of milk and honey.
In agriculture, in the agricultural world, there is a threshold of production known as milk flow or honey flow. That is a certain time of the year when the land is the most productive, and that the plants, the alfalfa, whatever that the animals forage upon is at its greenest, most lush. Late spring, early summer. Maybe a couple of yields of that depending on the rainfall, and when it's at its most productive and the cattle are eating the green pastures, the rich pastures, that's the-- the saying is that's milk flow. That's the milk is flowing. The animals are healthy.
Honey flow is sort of the same thing. The buds come out in the flowers, and the bees can probe it in and produce the honey, and that's the honey flow. So to say a land flowing with milk and honey is to say a very productive place, very verdant place. Psalm 23, "the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures." Those are going to provide high yield for the animal.
By the way, when you go to Israel, depending on what time of the year you go-- we're going at a good time, so it's probably greener than when we typically go in May, where it's a little bit summery and brown. People look around and go where's the land flowing with milk and honey. The milk referred to in the Bible-- I know you're thinking of those big fat cows, and probably it's referring to goats milk, and probably the honey is referring to the honey from the date, the date honey. That is, the dates are squeezed and made into a paste and that's what it's referring, the date honey and the goat's milk. It sort of takes a little bit of the romanticism out of it for some people, but I think it's good to know exactly what we're talking about.
So it's a land that is flowing. It'll be very productive. Remember, back in Deuteronomy 11, the land which you go in to possess is not like the land of Egypt where you watered it by foot, those foot pumps, but rather it's a land that drinks water from the rains of heaven. And so here it is, a land that is flowing with milk and with honey. Now, let's just talk about that expression and your personal experience. Jesus said-- and I wonder if it's true of you-- "I have come that they may have life and have it more abundantly." Jesus promised that those who believe in him trust him, follow him. Yes, we go through all of the experiences of life everyone goes through. We have doctors' visits. We have income tax. We have pains and aches. We go through life, but still Jesus promised an abundance.
Is that what you experience? Is your life flowing with milk and honey? So when you see somebody, do you say, oh, God is good, or are you an Eeyore Christian? Somebody says God is good. I suppose so. I don't know. I love that psalm that we sang tonight, that expression. No one and nothing can compare, and you know I think of all the experiences that I've had in my life nothing really does compare to the covenant of mercy and grace that God has given toward me. It really is abundant.
In fact, I do still remember some of the experiences in my BC days, my before Christ days, and I would just say that life apart from Jesus is very flat and insipid. Have you ever had a meal where you taste it and go, oh man, it needs something. Usually around here we go it needs chili, right? For me, the hotter, the better. I want some green. I want some red. I want jalapenos. I want something to spice this baby up because it's just bland. That's how life is apart from Christ. It's bland. It's flat. It's insipid.
Jesus said you are the salt of the earth, and wherever you go you, you ought to add flavor because Jesus has added flavor to your life. Is your life, is your land a land flowing with milk and honey? That was the expression they were to say when they made this little pact here before the Lord. Verse 10, "And now behold. I have brought the first fruits of the land which you, oh Lord, have given me, and then you shall set it before the Lord, your God, and worship before the Lord, your God."
They make a testimony. This is who I am. This is what God said he would do. Here I am enjoying all that God has given, and I am giving this to the Lord-- back to the Lord. He has given it to me. And you shall, it says, worship the Lord, so you give a testimony, and the testimony ends in worship. I believe in testimonies. I believe you should be able to articulate in a few moments-- this is a very, very short statement they would make. You should be able like they did in Israel in antiquity at the tabernacle and at the temple-- you should be able to articulate in a short period of time your testimony. This is who I am. This is where I've come from, and this is what the Lord has done in my life, in changing my life, in giving me life.
And you should have that, the salient points of your testimony, ready at a moment's notice to be able to whip that baby out and share it with somebody. I'm going to pull out my testimony, and I'm going to share it with this person just a brief story that hopefully will create a thirst in their life for something more. And testimony should always lead to worship. Now, I've heard lots of testimonies, and I love to hear people's story. In fact, sometimes when I meet a person, I say, tell me your story. And they sometimes are taken off guard, like, I don't really have a story. Oh yeah, you do. I'll give you time. Think it over. Where were you born? When did you meet Christ? I just sort of coach them on. Tell me your story. But sometimes I've heard people's testimonies, and I go, ah, that's really not a testimony. It's a brag-a-mony. They're boasting about who they are, what they've done, and what they've accomplished, and it's oh, yeah, and then I gave my life to Christ. It's more time is spent on them, and it's a brag-a-mony rather than a testimony. I love a testimony. I do not like a brag-a-mony. God is good. You're not that hot, but what God has done for you-- now that's a testimony. So I love testimonies, is not brag-a-monies.
Also, I've noticed that some testimonies rather than being evangelistic are "evangelastic." They keep growing every time they're told, like a fish story. You've heard somebody tell a fish story, and it's really it was a six inch minnow he caught. Pretty soon it's Moby Dick. He was out there in the seas. The boat capsized. You should have seen the one that got away. Some people will stretch their testimony out. The reality is he smoked a cigarette once a week, but by the end of his story he's been a long time drug user and then a drug dealer. It's like you're just really stretching it beyond the truth.
So just tell the facts. Let it glorify the Lord. Let it cause a hunger, a thirst, and hopefully a worship of the Lord. You shall worship the Lord, your God.
Now notice this. Verse 11, "so you shall rejoice in every good thing which the Lord, your God, has given you and your house. You, and the Levite, and the stranger who is among you," when you gather together at this little festival, the first fruits, and you give this testimony, then you will get really happy. You will rejoice. I sincerely believe that God wants us to enjoy him, to enjoy the covenant that we have with him. Jesus didn't say I have come that you might have bummer and have it more abundantly. And so here we are having abundant bummer all day long instead of abundant life.
I read that a Roman soldier came to Julius Caesar asking Julius Caesar for permission for the soldier to commit suicide. Tragic. His life was tragic. He was so despondent. He was so low, and his demeanor and his words, and Caesar turned to him and said, man, were you ever alive? I ask you, man, woman, were you ever alive? Is there life that is in you? Does it come forth from you? Do you enjoy the Lord? And so I love the fact that when they got together for worship there was an element of fun in it. There was an element of rejoicing in it.
It's interesting. Christmas is supposed to be a time of rejoicing, a fun time. Most people I know, when Christmas comes, oh yeah, it's that season. And I look at the faces of people as they're driving to the mall, and trying to find a parking space, and getting through the crowds, and looking at the prices, and standing in line. It's the very opposite of what it's meant to bring. Hey, I've even been at some weddings where if you did not know any better you would swear it's really a funeral. Anxiousness. No joy. Anxiety.
"You shall rejoice in every good thing which the Lord, your God, has given you and your house, you, and the Levite, and the stranger who is among you. And when you have finished laying aside all the tithe of your increase in the third year," notice this, "the year of tithing, and have given it to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, the widow, so that it may be eaten within your gates and be filled, then you shall say before the Lord I have removed the holy tithe from my house, and also I have given them to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, the widow according to all your commandments which you have commanded me. I have not transgressed your commandments, nor have I forgotten them. I have not eaten any of it when in mourning, nor have I removed any of it for an unclean use, nor given any of it for the dead." These are all practices of pagans. Canaanites did these things. They would lay their food items on the grave of a dead ancestor.
Verse 15, "look down from your holy habitation from heaven and bless your people, Israel, and the land which you have given us just as you swore to our fathers, a land flowing with milk and honey." Now once again-- and this is, if I'm not mistaken, the third time in Deuteronomy Moses brings up the tithe, so I want to explain this to you. Tithing, giving a tenth of your income-- tithing is one of the healthiest disciplines as a believer that you can enter into. It shows your dependence upon God. It doesn't mean I give god 10% and I can squander 90%. I still have to with wisdom and prayer spend that 90%, but the tithe answers a deep question, not just what you own, but who owns you?
You can say, well, look at this. I own this, and I own that. OK, great, but who owns you? Well, I own me. OK, well then that's a problem. I'm a self-made man. That's a problem. If you're a redeemed man, a God-made man, a God-made woman, he owns it all, and does he own you? See, when it comes to money, the tithe, how can you really say God is first in my life when he's last in your budget. Oh God, I love God. God is first. I put God first. Really? Well then you would be able to see it on a line item. It would show up, and that was a decision when Lenya and I first got married that the very first check we would write when we deposited the paycheck from the local hospital where I worked-- we would write a check to the Lord's work, and so the tithe.
Now, here's something most people don't recognize because people wonder about tithing. That's really an Old Testament principle. It's not a New Testament principle. The idea in the New Testament is you give freely what you purpose in your heart, 2 Corinthians says, but did you know in the Old Testament there was not one tithe. There were three tithes. It was actually-- if you look at a Jewish person's year of income, he gave more than 10%. He gave the tithe, and there was number one the tithe of the produce of the land. It was given to the Levites to support that worship system in Israel. Number two, there was the festival tithes where you would bring that tithe into the place of worship, and you would bring your friends and your family, and you would eat part of it, and you would celebrate together at the festival tithe.
And then number three is the tithe mentioned here. By the way, that second tithe is mentioned in Deuteronomy 12. This third tithe is mentioned in Deuteronomy 14, and then recapped here. This third tithe is the tithe for the poor, the widow, the fatherless, the stranger, the oppressed, but most scholars will agree that the Jews gave not one, not two, but three different tithes of what they owned and what they made in these areas. So Lord, it's yours. I'm giving it to you. It's going to support these people. It's going to bless these people, but you should never look at a tithe as giving whatever you give to the Lord's work. You should never see it as a burden. Oh, yeah I got to write that check.
Well, I'm mourning like it says here. So when I mourn I like to go shopping, and it cheers me up. Gets me out of my mourning. So I'm not going to tithe this week or this month. I'm going to buy those shoes or that stereo. It should never be a burden. It should be part of your belief. It shouldn't express the burden that you have. It should express the belief that you have. I believe that God has given it to me. I believe that God owns it all, and if I say he's first in my life I want him first in my budget. That's just a part of the covenant.
By the way, that is the only area in life in which God says to believers test me in this. You're not to test the Lord, your God. You're not to tempt him except in one area. Malachi 3, God says to Israel test me in this, because you've robbed me, Israel. And they said, how have we robbed you? He said in tithes and offerings, but test me in this that when you give if I won't open the storerooms of heaven, the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing that you can't even contain. And here's what God is telling them in Malachi 3-- you can't outgive me. Try it. Try to outgive me.
If you give, I'll give you more. I'll bless you in ways you can't imagine. Jesus said give and it will be given to you, pressed down, running over. Well, how do I know it's true? Why don't you try it? You cannot outgive God. That's why when we gather together it's like in God, good. So that was their proclamation.
Verse 16-- did I already read verse 16? Having one of those moments. "This day the Lord, your God, commands you to observe these statutes and judgments, therefore you shall be careful to observe them with all your heart, with all your soul. Today you have reclaimed the Lord to be your God, and that you will walk in his ways and keep his statutes, his commandments, his judgments. You will obey His voice. Also, today the Lord has proclaimed proclaimed you to be his special people, just as he promised you that you should keep all his commandments, and that he will set you high above all nations, which he has made in praise, in name, in honor that you may be a holy people to the Lord, your God, just as he has spoken."
I want to explain something to you because it's really the preamble to where we're going now in the rest of this book. We're getting into an area of covenant-- remember I told you what covenant means-- but something more specific known by theologians, and Bible scholars, and Bible students as the Palestinian covenant. It has nothing to do with the Israeli Palestinian conflict. The idea of the Palestinian covenant is a covenant of land that is the nation of Israel over in the Middle East. The Palestinian covenant was the land God promised to Abraham, Isaac, to Jacob, the 12 tribes, and their progeny, their offspring.
God promised a certain portion of land to Abraham, but then not just to all of Abraham's offspring, but to Isaac, not Ishmael. He said I will bless Ishmael, and I have a covenant for Ishmael, and I will bless them with land, but not this land. This land of Israel-- I've given it to Abraham, to Isaac, and not Ishmael, to Jacob, and not Esau.
Now, when it comes to covenants in the Bible, there are many different covenants as I think you know. There's the covenant called the Edenic covenant. Have you heard of that? The covenant in the Garden of Eden. That was a conditional covenant. You obey me, and then you're in the Garden of Eden. If you disobey me, bye bye. It's conditional, but then there's the covenant called the Abrahamic covenant. God promised Abraham a people, a land, a blessing-- Genesis Chapter 12. That is called an unconditional covenant. There's two classifications-- conditional, unconditional. Self explanatory. Self apparent as to what it means.
The Abrahamic covenant, an unconditional covenant. This is what I am going to do. Genesis 12-- I will. I will. I will. This is nothing that you have to do. This is what I'm going to do. That's an unconditional covenant. When we get to the law of Moses, or the Mosaic covenant, what kind of a covenant is that? It's a conditional covenant. If you do this, I'll do that. If you don't do this, I won't do that. If you obey, I'll bless you. If you disobey, we see that all the way through the pentateuch.
When it comes to the Palestinian covenant, this land allotment, is it an unconditional covenant, or is it a conditional covenant? It's an unconditional covenant. Now, it's sort of a trick question, and I'm not trying to be mean, but it has a Fuller answer than just unconditional covenant. Its arrangement is conditional. It's allotment is unconditional.
You're going OK, you lost me. Let me explain it to you. I'm giving you this land. It's a gift. I'm giving it to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, 12 tribes, all you, the people of Israel, your progeny, the Jewish people. This is your land unconditionally. However, your tenure in the land, your status in the land is highly conditional as you'll see. Now this is all a preamble when we get to chapter 28. Not tonight, but when we do, you'll see that. You'll see it. If you obey me, you'll be in the land. If you disobey me, I'm kicking you out of the land, but with part of the promise that's conditional to kick them out is the promise to bring them back, because God says after I kick you out you're going to be stewing in your idolatry in another country, and you're going to repent. And when you repent and you call on me, I'm going to bring you back into this land.
So the arrangement is conditional. The allotment of the land is unconditional. So God brought them back, and then they were gone for 2,500 years, and May 14, 1948 God brought them back. So their tenure is conditional. The allotment of the land is unconditional. That is called the Palestinian covenant.
Now, Moses with the elders of Israel commanded the people saying, "keep all the commandments, which I command you today, and it shall be on the day when you cross over the Jordan to the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you, that you shall set up for yourselves large stones and white wash them with lime." Now I just want you to get the scene if you don't mind. When Moses says, when you cross over the Jordan, they're looking at the Jordan. They're at the edge of the land of Moab at the banks of the River Jordan on a plateau just above it, and they can look over the Jordan and they can see toward Jericho, toward the Judaen hills, toward Sumeria off to their right. It's all before them. The Jordan River is right there.
So he says, when you cross over, you get these stones and you whitewash them with lime and you shall write on them all the words of this law. "When you have crossed over that you may enter the land which the Lord, your God, has given you, a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord God of your fathers promised you." In the Jordan Valley, where they were, and in the area of the Dead Sea just south of them-- lowest spot in the world, 1,290 feet below sea level-- that area, that whole land is filled with limestone. Limestone is what all the buildings there when you go to Israel you'll see are built out of. All the houses built out of limestone. Ancient temple built out of limestone.
So they would take gypsum, which is a product of lime, and they would roast the gypsum, and that would make a stone mortar whitewash that would keep for a long time, and they would paint the stones with it. So ancient peoples would get this lime, gypsum, roasted gypsum white wash paint, and they would paint stones with it. And public announcements were put on stones like that. Why would it be whitewashed? Because when you write something on it, you could plainly see it. It stands out. The writing stands out on it. You get the picture.
So public announcements were made this way. So God says, you're going to get these stones. You're going to set them up. You're going to white wash them, and then you're going to write my law on those stones once you get over into the new land. Hold that thought. "Therefore it shall be when you have crossed over the Jordan," verse 4, that on Mount Ebal, which is right in the center of the land in Sumeria, "you shall set up these stones which I command you today, and you shall whitewash them with lime. And there you shall build an altar to the Lord, your God, an altar of stones. You shall not use an iron tool on them. You shall build with whole stones the altar of the Lord, your God, and offer burnt offerings on it to the Lord, your God. You shall offer peace offerings, and you shall eat there and rejoice before the Lord, your God. And you shall write very plainly on the stones all the words of this law."
So they cross the land. They wander around. They get to the center of the land in Sumeria where you have two mountains. They'll both be mentioned in the next paragraph-- Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim. Mount Ebal and Gerizim are like twin little mountains. They're both 2000 feet above sea level cradled right in the middle, Mount Ebal to the north, Mount Gerizim to the south. Right in the middle is the area of Shechem, Sychar, Jacob's well. John chapter 4, Jesus went to Sumeria, Sychar, Jacob's well. On either side of that are these two mountains. Go to Mount Ebal. White wash the stones. Write all the law on them.
Now, here's a question. When he says write all the law on that does that mean write all the Ten Commandments, or does it mean write all the blessings and the cursings, which we're about to read in a moment, and in the next chapter, which we won't read till next time if the Lord hasn't come back before then. Anyway, so were they to write the Ten Commandments, the blessings and cursings? Were they to write the entire book of Deuteronomy? Were they to write all of the Torah on there when he says write it all? That would be a lot to write. Am I right?
However, do you remember last week and the week before I mentioned this code, this Mesopotamian code called the Code of? H? Begins with an H? Code of Hammurabi. The Code of Hammurabi. I mentioned it two weeks in a row. This is the third week I'm mentioning it. So next week when we have the test you'll know what it is, right? It's that compilation of laws from Mesopotamia that in certain ways resembles the laws of Moses. The Code of Hamurabi-- is it in the British Museum? That's where it is, I believe. I believe it's in the British museum, because I know I've seen it in one museum. I think it's the British Museum in London.
On one single stone of diorite-- is the name of the stone. It's an igneous rock, dark rock. On a single pillar of diorite are 232 paragraphs, 8,000 words, recorded on one stele, one stone. So if they were to put 12 stones like they did in the Jordan River up on Mount Ebal in symbolic of the tribes, you could put all of the law easily. In the same manner as the Code of Hammurabi found now in the British Museum, you could have that on Mount Ebal. So you're going, man, that's a lot of writing. Couldn't they just cut and paste? No? No texting. No look it up. You're writing it by hand.
Now, this is what I've discovered. When you write something down, it galvanises it in your mind and in your heart. I can just tell you from personal testimony. I remember in my early Christian walk, the days before computer, I had a typewriter, a little portable Smith Corona typewriter. And there was one particular Bible teacher that was teaching through the book of Daniel, and I had his-- I'll date myself-- cassette tapes. Have you ever heard of a cassette tape? You have to go to a museum now to find these things. I had cassette tapes of his teaching through Daniel because he hadn't written it out in a book, but it was so rich that I decided I would listen to the tape, and I would write down every word, word for word, of all of his tapes through all of the 12 chapters of Daniel. And I ended up with a pretty thick typewritten book that was his commentary, and I discovered that it really galvanized the contents of the prophecies of Daniel in my early Christian experience in a way nothing else could have. So I wrote it or I typed it by hand.
The idea of writing the law of God by hand and having people witness that, that experience would do something for them. It be long. It would be tedious, but it would be rich, and it would build their root system. So they were to do that.
Something else. Notice this. Verse 8, "and you shall write very plainly on the stones the words of this law." Now did you notice before that God says don't cut them out with an iron tool. Just get stones au natural just as they are, and use that stone, and write on it. You don't have to dress it up. You don't have to make it super cool and super artistic and all this flare. Basically what God is saying is I don't really care about your talent here. I'm not impressed with it. What I really care about is that my word is heard, that you read it plainly. It's just a plain straight up teaching of the scripture that I want you to read, I want you to write, I want you to hear. Don't make any fancy altar, or, oh look it. I can do this. No, it's all about the word here. It's the covenant. It's the testimony of God's word, but again, did you notice verse 7?
"You shall eat there, and you shall rejoice before the Lord." Here's the deal. Over and over again this phrase keeps coming up. When they gather together, I believe-- here's a principle. I believe it. I really truly believe this-- that God wants the experience to be worshipful, but enjoyable, and you can do both. When I went to church as a young person, as a kid and a teenager, I hated it. It was so boring-- the old liturgy and the stuff. I mean as a teenager and as a pre-teen, I so didn't relate, so didn't care. They were on such a different wavelength.
And so that is why-- and some parents will get upset with me when their kids come up after a service, and they go hey, Pastor Skip, can I get up on the platform? Sure, and they'll come up. They'll run around. They'll jump off of it, and parents go this is the Lord's house. I go, come on. Let them. My son jumped off of it. I jump off of it. It's a building. It's used for a purpose. It's a lunch sack. The lunch sack isn't important. The lunch is. What's in the sack is important. So what takes place here is important. The building itself, the structure, secondary to the primary purpose.
So that is why I've always believed-- let's have a little fun. So we'll have certain nights where-- 4th of July. Love to gather outside. Have great worship. It's fun. It's enjoyable. Bring food out into the food court. 4th of July fireworks. Rejoice in the Lord. Some nights when we've been in the Old Testament, we brought in Krispy Kreme donuts. Have you been a part of our Krispy Kreme nights? The description reminds me-- the manna, the description of manna reminds me of Krispy Kreme donuts. I'm just thinking, yeah. Hot now right out of the oven Krispy Kreme.
So you bring that in. You taste it, and you taste and see that the Lord is good. I just love that idea that let's make it worshipful, but enjoyable. When we used to have baptisms before we built a baptismal, we used to go out to a sod farm into a murky lake, but we played volleyball, and had barbecue, and we just had fun as God's people. And I think that when we gather together it ought to be respectful and worshipful, but also enjoyable, because I don't want your kids and grandkids having the same experience I had and the testimony I had. Church, nope. No relatability there. I want them to go, yeah, at my church, I jumped off the platform when I came. I had a blast. Broke my ankle once, but you know what? It was all good.
Then Moses verse 9, "and the priests and the Levites spoke to all Israel, saying take heed and listen, oh, Israel. This day you have become the people of the Lord your God, therefore you shall obey the voice of the Lord, your God, and observe his commandments and his statutes, which I command you today. And Moses commanded the people on the same day saying, these shall stand on Mount Gerizim." That's the mountain to the south of that city of Shechem. "To bless the people." That's in the heart of the land they're going. "When you have crossed over the Jordan"-- now here's the tribes that will stand there-- "Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin. And these shall stand on Mount Ebal to the north to curse Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali. Interesting line up.
The tribes that stand on Mount Gerizim to bless are the tribes that descended from the sons of the wives of Jacob. Do you remember the wives of Jacob? What were their names? Leah and Rachel. Those sons, or the offspring of those sons, would stand to give the blessing, and then the other tribes were the offspring of the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, the handmaidens of those two women. They would stand, and they would pronounce the curse if obedience was not carried out, and the priests would be right in the valley in the middle.
Verse 14, "and the Levites shall speak with a loud voice and say to the men of Israel"-- now here's the 12 curses that are mentioned-- "cursed is the one who makes a carved or molded image, an abomination to the Lord, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and sets it up in secret, and all the people shall answer and say, Amen." Now, before we read these and close off the night, Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim, Sychar-- it's in the middle of the country. It's in the hills of Sumeria. Now, let me just give you the little history so I can take it from here and take you all the way to the New Testament.
So here's what happened. Children of Israel did that. They settled the land. Joshua chapter 8 records this ceremony where they actually did this. They put up the stones. They did the blessings and the cursings. Everything that is written here Joshua did when they crossed over the land. They settled in different areas of that real estate. As time went on, the people of Israel disobeyed the Lord over, and over, and over, and over, and over again. So eventually in 722 BC, the Assyrians under undertake Tiglath Pileser and Shalmaneser came down and took the 10 tribes of Israel to the north, northern tribes, away captive. And when they took them captive in 722 BC, the Assyrian practice was to interpopulate the remaining peoples because they would conquer the land and then remove the people. Remove the population, especially the very best.
Those people that were left in the land, the very poor, were interpopulated with other people groups taken captive by the Assyrians previously. So they would relocate large population bases of different countries they have taken over. Get the picture? So now you have a whole different new group of people living in the northern area after the Assyrians take control and captivity of that area. Those Jews left in the land eventually marry some of those people. Some of those people, foreign people, have foreign gods, and idolatry is huge. It's on the rise. And there is not a pure Jewish bloodline in that area any longer. So people down south, Judea, those two tribes, Benjamin, Judah, down where the temple was-- they didn't like those people up in the northern area, the Samaritan area because they were not purebred Jews. They were intermingled, intermarried, and worshipped foreign gods and goddesses.
So eventually the Babylonians took Judea captive, 586 BC. 70 years later, they come back into the land. As they're starting to rebuild the temple-- Ezra, Nehemiah, you know the story-- the Samaritans, the people up north go, hey, we want to help. The Judaeans say you can't help us. The rift that was already there is now deepened. It gets so deep that the Samaritans build a rival temple on Mount Gerizim, this mountain that you're reading about-- a rival temple in Sumeria with animal sacrifices to rival, to compete with the temple down south in Judea.
The Jews think this is blasphemy. It's wrong, et cetera, et cetera. This is why we read in John chapter 4 Jesus needed to go through Sumeria. He wanted to see that city saved and set on fire with the gospel, and so he came to a well, Jacob's well, city of Sychar. On the other side, Mount Ebal, Mount Gerizim. Blessings and cursings were given, and when the woman at the well sees Jesus, remember what she said? Why are you asking me for a drink? For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. That is true. That was true, but Jesus wasn't your typical Jew.
Jesus has dealings with everyone. Jesus has dealings with anyone. Jesus loves all men, all women, all backgrounds, and seeks to save them, and a revival broke out in that city of Sumeria and then again later on when the early church-- Philip went there, et cetera. That's the brief history of this region.
All the people shall say Amen. Let's finish this up. Verse 16, "cursed is the one who treats his father or mother with contempt, and all the people shall say, Amen. Cursed is the one who moves his neighbour's landmark." He wants to gain more land, "and the people shall say, Amen. Cursed is the one who makes the blind to wander off the road, and the people shall say, Amen." What dirty rat would do that? "Cursed is the one who perverts the justice due the stranger, the fatherless, the widow, and all the people shall say, Amen. Cursed is the one who lies with his father's wife because he has uncovered his father's bed, and all the people shall say, Amen. Cursed is the one who lies with any kind of animal, and the people shall say, Amen." And Amen.
"Cursed is the one who lies with his sister, the daughter of his father, or the daughter of his mother, and all the people shall say, Amen. Cursed. It is the one who lies with his mother-in-law, and all the people shall say, Amen. Cursed is the one who attacks his neighbor secretly, and all the people shall say, Amen. Cursed is the one who takes a bribe to slay the innocent, and all the people shall say, Amen. And cursed is the one who does not confirm all the words of this law, and all the people shall say, Amen."
Walk away with this. God doesn't want you to live a cursed life. He wants you to live a blessed life. The blessings will come in the next chapter, chapter 28. The blessings will come. God doesn't want you to be cursed. He wants you to be blessed. You will be cursed if you live your life according to your own dictates, your own will, your own way. You will be blessed if you live your life according to his will, his way, his commands, his agenda. That's the bottom line. It's as simple as that.
So when we get to the New Testament, that word, blessed, or blessed comes up again. The beatitudes-- blessed are you. The Greek word makarios-- oh, how happy is the one. There's that idea again-- enjoying the Lord. Oh, how happy, how blissful to be congratulated, fully satisfied, living abundantly is that one. So that's the life that the Lord has in store for you, the blessed life. It begins with faith. Jesus said to Thomas who required to see and touch the wounds of Jesus. He said, Thomas, you believe because you have seen. Blessed, blessed are those who have not seen, but they believe. They believe.
Your entrance into the blessed life is faith, trusting in Jesus Christ. If you haven't done that, it's a great time to do it. Father, we conclude this service tonight thanking you. Lord, thanking that you are merciful to us, gracious to us, desiring to make us your people, anxious to be able to say now you're my people. Now you're under my covenant. I pray, Lord, that we will be anxious to repeat our story of redemption. Say this is who I am. This is where I've come from. This is what the Lord has done for me, and this is where I'm going.
And we'll be cursed, Lord, if we decide to throw away your commandments, your law, your word, your truth, and make it up as we go along, live for ourselves, but we will be blessed if we seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. If we make you number one, even though we haven't seen. If we by faith trust that your son, and his death on Calvary's cross was enough to atone for our sin, and we trust in him, we'll be blessed. Our heads are bowed. Our eyes are closed. We're about to close this service. Perhaps you've come, though, and your life is anything but blessed, but you want to go to the Lord. You want to be under the blessing of the Lord. You're tired of what life has produced. The ground is barren and empty. It's not full. It's not abundant. You're not satisfied, but you've heard that God is in the business of making a covenant with people, and the covenant is the new covenant, and it's not based on your deeds, but it's based on the work, the finished work of Jesus on the cross 2000 years ago.
And if by faith, you will surrender your life to him, he will forgive you of your past. He will take away your sin, and he will see you as perfect, and righteous, and holy in him, and he'll place within you a seed that will grow, and be productive, and sprout joy and peace. If you want that, if you want to give your life to Christ tonight, or you need to come back to the Lord because you've wandered away from him, I want you to raise your hand as we close this service. Just raise your hand right now. Keep it up for a moment so I can acknowledge it. God bless you to my right, and you, and you, and you, all four or five of you to my right. Toward the back. Anybody else? Raise that hand up. God bless. Over on my left.
You've been invited by a friend or a relative, but you have yet to commit, to surrender your life to the Lord. Raise it right now. Say yes to him. God bless you. Father, for those with raised hands, thank you. God bless you. We pray, father. Give them encouragement right now, and give them courage to make a stand for you, not only tonight, but every day after this. Bless them. Impact them with truth and grace, and satisfy the longing of their soul in Jesus' name. Amen.
Would you stand to your feet. If you raised your hand, as we sing this final song, I'm going to ask you to get up from where you're standing, find the nearest aisle, and walk right here, and stand right here right now, where I'm going to lead you in a prayer to receive Christ as your Savior, as your Lord. Jesus called people publicly, so come on. Nick show them how to do it. Come stand right up here. Counselors will come, and they'll show you. They'll encourage you as they come. Jesus called people publicly. If you raised your hand, we want to see you up here. Well, I want to lead you in a prayer personally.
It'll take just a moment.
Awesome. Please, come.
That's right. Like the song says, come just as you are. It doesn't matter what you've done. It doesn't matter what baggage or what addiction, what practices you've been involved in. You want a fresh, clean start, a do over. You want to find forgiveness. You come. Come and stand right up here, right up in the front. Don't be afraid. We want to be a family that walks with you through whatever you're going through. You come. Anyone else? We're about to pray. Anyone else?
For those of you who have walked forward, so glad you're up here. I'm going to lead you right now in a prayer. I'm going to ask you to pray this prayer out loud. Say these words after me. Say them from your heart. Say them to the Lord. Let's pray. Say, Lord, I give you my life.
Lord, I give you my life.
I am a sinner, and I know it.
I am a sinner, and I know it.
Please forgive me.
Please forgive me.
I believe in Jesus Christ.
I believe in Jesus Christ.
That he came from heaven to earth.
That he came from heaven to earth.
That he died for me on a cross.
That he died for me on a cross.
That he shed his blood for my sin.
That he shed his blood for my sin.
And that he rose again from the grave.
And that he rose again from the grave.
And I believe that he's alive right now.
And I believe that he's alive right now.
I turn from my sin.
I turn from my sin.
I turn to Jesus as my savior.
I turn to Jesus as my savior.
I want to follow him as my Lord
I want to follow him as my Lord.
Help me to do that.
Help me to do that.
In Jesus' name.
In Jesus' name.
Amen. Amen. Congratulations.
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