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. 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.
This episode of worship comes after Israel has learned that disobedience to God brings personal catastrophe. After the defeat of Ai and the discipline of dealing with Achan and his sin, Israel returns with a new attack on Ai. Joshua uses the past defeat to his advantage, preparing a sneak attack behind the city, even as the frontal assault is small. Ai takes the bait, and the assault group pretends to flee, leading the men of the city to think they are again going to teach the Jews a lesson. Then, the large ambush contingent enters the city, and by the time the men of Ai realize this, the city has been burned and the ambush group surrounds them for their doom. Ai falls like Jericho did.
This is cause for celebration, but Joshua ensures that the celebration is focused in the right direction. He creates a renewal ceremony for Israel on Mt. Ebal. There a stone altar is erected, and inscribed on it are the law of God (probably the Ten Commandments). This simple stone monument is the permanent backdrop to remind Israel of their commitment. With the nation assembled around the base of the mountain, Joshua has the Law of Moses read aloud to the people... every blessing and every curse. This was the basis of the renewal.
There are times where such a renewal emphasis is vital in the life of a follower of Jesus. It is easy to let personal defeats resign us to spiritual depression. But God wants to empower broken people with His purposes and cleanse us from sin to be useful to Him. We just need to commit to His direction as revealed in His Word and submit to His Lordship over us. And the clearest place to find that direction and purpose is in the Bible. It is when I open the pages of scripture that I get insight into my need for regular renewal.
I tend to view the practice of regular written journaling as my stone altar. I believe that the discipline of daily reflecting and writing out my thoughts about what God is saying in His Word is a way of building a monument to the Lordship of God over me. Each page at a time, a stone by stone altar is built. Upon it I see my life given over to my Savior. It is regular renewal, and without it, my life would be really directionless and unsatisfying. And at times, gaps in my writings show my spiritual failure and lack of faithfulness to God. Yet every renewal is blessed by Him. When I go back and read through these journal entries, I am encouraged by the resolute faithfulness of God to me!
- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13