Monday, February 1, 2010

They did what?

Take a look at Joshua 8:34-35:

34 And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law. 35 There was not a word of all that Moses commanded that Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the sojourners who lived among them.

Joshua 8:34-35 (ESV)

This is shortly after the victories of the Israelites at Jericho and Ai.  Joshua has built an altar on Mount Ebal and the people are gathered to offer sacrifices and be reminded about the law.

How does Joshua go about reminding them of the law?  Well, he doesn't scratch out a leaflet with bullet points.  The first thing he does is make a copy of the law on the stones of the altar.  Now, it's possible this is a situation where the leader is credited as doing something when, in fact, he commanded it and someone else did it.  I don't know, but I do know it would have truly embedded in the carver's mind the words of that law.  I think Joshua did it himself.  So, as leader of the Israelites, he has now reminded himself of the law. 

Yet he didn't do it alone.  Joshua 8:32 says he did this in the presence of the sons of Israel.  He had an audience who watched it happen.  Now, I've never watched someone carve words into stone, but it doesn't strike me as a quick process.  The sons of Israel watched. 

Then, something happens that would boggle the minds of church service planners of today.  Look at Joshua 8:34-35 again.  (It's at the top or in the pop-up)  Joshua reads all the words of the Law.  Now, this is neither the Law as it grew into by the time of the New Testament, where you had Torah plus Midrash plus Talmud.  Neither is it just the Ten Commandments.  It's most likely the bulk of the book of Deuteronomy.  Perhaps a portion of Leviticus as well.  In other words, there's a lot to be read here. 

Which Joshua read it.  To the people of Israel.  Not just the older people.  What does it say? The women and the little ones?  Can you imagine if next Sunday you had everyone in your church, from oldest to youngest, were brought into the sanctuary and the pastor said "We're all going to be in here while I read aloud the book of John.  It'll take a few minutes, but it's important, and I want you to listen."?  You'd have a fit.  Go ahead and admit it.  Most pastors wouldn't do it because they can't handle the fidgety children in their services.  Many parents would just take their kids and walk (we have some parents that are rarely back since we lowered the maximum age in children's church because I think once you're past 10 you are way too old. We're actually at the point that 7 and up are in church.) because they can't handle it.  Not the kids.  The parents can't handle the idea of their children with them.  Non-parents would walk out because they can't worship with all of the 'distractions' around them.

In short, we'd fall apart quickly if we tried to do this.  We might could handle the reading of 3 John, but not the whole Gospel of John!  Why?  Is our hunger for God so weak?

I think it has become that weak.  The people of Israel knew they were dependent on God.  They had a foothold on the land, but didn't have enough to survive on their own.  They were surrounded by their enemies. 

Yet is our life so different?  Can we not learn to hunger for God's Word and transmit that hunger to our children?  Is it not worth it?



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