As the Israelites prepared to enter the Promised Land, the Lord commanded them to set up stones, covered in plaster, upon which they must write the words of the Law as a remembrance and testimony to future generations.
Like the boundary stones they were commanded not to move, these visible monuments to God’s Word established it in a permanent way and prevented the next generation from easily distorting it. I was reminded recently of how valuable it is to establish memorial stones for future generations. The experiences we treasure because we experienced the deliverance of the Lord should be shared with our children in tangible ways.
These stones were to form an altar upon which they would sacrifice to God peace offerings. They were also to celebrate and rejoice in the Lord over His blessings in this place.
God also called the Levites to call out some specific sins as ones that would bring a curse upon the people, and the people were to affirm their understanding of the curse of sin by responding, “Amen!” Let it be so.
This scene described, with half the tribes atop Mount Gerizim shouting the blessings of God and half atop Mount Ebal shouting for a curse upon those who violated God’s standard is a dramatic illustration of Joshua’s call for the people to choose between God and idolatry, between blessings and curses, and between life and death.
The altar described at the beginning of the chapter was to be set upon Mount Ebal, the mountain from which the curses for violating God’s commands were shouted. This is the point where the sacrifice must be applied, the point at which we were cursed because of our failure to perfectly keep God’s law.
But in Jesus, we have the perfect and final peace offering. The curse our sin deserved was laid on Him, and we now have peace with God through Him. Although our sin may still lead to negative consequences, it is not because we are cursed by God. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)