Artwork by Douglas Kallerson
All that Moses Had Commanded
Joshua 8 ends with a seemingly unrelated set of verses to what has been presented in the first 29 verses. But in understanding all that has happened in the past chapters of Joshua, it is not only related, but it is a beautiful finishing to what has been so methodically presented.
Salvation is something that happens all at once. We believe the gospel and we are saved. We die to law at that moment. We are sealed with the Holy Spirit. We enter into God’s rest. We are seated in the heavenlies with Christ. We are imputed God’s righteousness. And so on. A lengthy list of things happens in a believer’s life the moment he is saved.
Innumerable books and sermons have been written on each of these individual topics. In the final Deuteronomy sermon and in these early Joshua sermons, the Lord has been taking us through a snapshot of various events that will occur in the life of national Israel someday.
Some of those things overlap with individual salvation. And one picture (in chapter 4) explicitly showed that there would be another government formed during the time that Israel is not right with God because of their rejection of Christ.
It is amazing to see how all of this has been presented, and today’s passage will complete the picture of salvation that has been so carefully presented. In their comments on verse 33, the Jamison-Faucet-Brown commentary said –
“they offered thereon burnt offerings unto the Lord, and sacrificed peace offerings—This had been done when the covenant was established (Ex 24:5); and by the observance of these rites (De 27:6), the covenant was solemnly renewed—the people were reconciled to God by the burnt offering, and this feast accompanying the peace or thank offering, a happy communion with God was enjoyed by all the families in Israel.” JFB
In not grasping the symbolism and the anticipation of Christ, they only saw a literal rendering of the verses. But this is not anticipating a renewed covenant at all. Everything has been anticipating the fulfillment of Moses and the introduction of the New Covenant. That will be clearly seen today.
Text Verse: “In that He says, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” Hebrews 8:13
The Mosaic covenant is still in effect for Israel. Someday, it will be done forever in them when they come to Christ. May that day be soon. The covenant was not even renewed at the time of Joshua. It was in effect during all of the wilderness wanderings. This is why they wandered in the wilderness.
And it is why since Christ’s coming Israel has been under the curse of the law. There will be no “renewing” of the covenant for them. There will only be a setting aside of that which is annulled in Christ. For today’s sermon, it is right that we reread Deuteronomy 27. In doing so, it will help us see a little more clearly what is going on in Joshua. (Read Deuteronomy 27).
With that noted, let’s get going. Great, great things are to be found in His superior word. And so, let us turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today, and may His glorious name ever be praised.
I. That They Should Bless the People of Israel (verses 30-35)
Chapter 8 has been concerned with the fall of Ai. The details were meticulous even if difficult at times to understand exactly what was being conveyed. But after the fall of Ai, instead of recording more conquests or other affairs dealing with the settling of the nation, it immediately goes to this account.
It is something that was explicitly referred to by Moses in Deuteronomy 11 –
“Now it shall be, when the Lord your God has brought you into the land which you go to possess, that you shall put the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal. 30 Are they not on the other side of the Jordan, toward the setting sun, in the land of the Canaanites who dwell in the plain opposite Gilgal, beside the terebinth trees of Moreh? 31 For you will cross over the Jordan and go in to possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you, and you will possess it and dwell in it. 32 And you shall be careful to observe all the statutes and judgments which I set before you today.” Deuteronomy 11:29-32
This was also seen in Deuteronomy 27:1-8 which was read a moment ago. From there, Chapter 27 went into more detail about what was to be done at the time of the building of the altar. The words now in Joshua are given to show compliance to the command. Therefore…
30 Now Joshua built an altar
az yivneh Yehoshua mizbeakh – “Then built Joshua altar.” The word az is a demonstrative adverb that generally signifies “at that time” or “thereupon.” It can refer to a point in the future when a prophecy or a statement of fact is given, such as “At that time, the Lord will do such and such.”
At first, it appears the word is being used to indicate that as soon as the city of Ai was destroyed this was the next order of business for Israel. However, this does not logically follow. First, the next word, yivneh, is an imperfect verb and thus carries the sense of ongoing or even the future. The same form is used in 2 Samuel 7, saying –
“He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” 2 Samuel 7:13
This is especially so when considering the details of Chapter 9. The opening statement itself calls the timeline into question –
“And it came to pass when all the kings who were on this side of the Jordan, in the hills and in the lowland and in all the coasts of the Great Sea toward Lebanon—the Hittite, the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite—heard about it, 2 that they gathered together to fight with Joshua and Israel with one accord.” Joshua 9:1, 2
Although not known until it was discovered in 1980, the altar to be built is rather massive and was thus both time-consuming to erect and took many people to construct.
The ceremony to be conducted by the people will be loud. Its surrounding location was certainly occupied by people, and it is quite some distance north and west of Ai in the middle of Canaan. As such, they would have to go through lots of land (about 20-30 miles) in order to go there and erect it.
Also, the ceremony to be conducted includes the entire congregation, including women and children. It would seem unlikely, at best, that at this time Israel would bring all of these people into the midst of the nations who desired to destroy them. And more, Joshua 9:6 returns the narrative with the entire camp to Gilgal where they have been since crossing the Jordan. Noting Israel remaining in Gilgal will continue after Chapter 9.
Understanding this, and noting that Israel has already been through battles in the land, we can see that the words of Deuteronomy 27:2, “on the day when you cross over the Jordan,” do not mean literally “on the day.”
Rather, it said, “in the day,” not “on the day.” It was referring to the timeframe, not a specific day. And more, it would have to be at a time when the command could actually be carried out. It would be unreasonable to think that Israel just marched through the breadth of the land and built this altar with all their enemies just watching from a distance.
As this is so, it can be assumed that the words now, “Then built Joshua altar,” are not necessarily chronological but are categorical and expressive. Everything up to this point in Joshua has been centered on national Israel’s salvation and it also has detailed the process of salvation as it is centered on Jesus.
Now that process has been expressed and this account is given. Historically, it is given to demonstrate the fulfillment of the command, regardless as to when it actually occurred.
The narrative is highlighting the fulfillment early in the record to show this. But more importantly, it is to close out the typology that has been so carefully revealed in the opening chapters. As for the altar, it is built…
30 (con’t) to the Lord God of Israel
l’Yehovah elohe Yisrael – “to Yehovah, God Israel.” This is just what Deuteronomy 27:5 said, “And there you shall build an altar to the LORD your God.” They are His people, Israel, and He is their God. The altar is built to Him…
30 (con’t) in Mount Ebal,
It is exactingly translated: b’har eval – “in Mount Ebal.” As noted when in Deuteronomy, the name Ebal comes from an unused root meaning to be bald. Probably signifying the bald appearance of the mountain. Thus, it means something like Bare or Heap of Barrenness. The building of the altar, and the location where it is built, as well as the means by which it is built, are just…
31 as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the children of Israel,
ka’asher tsivah Mosheh eved Yehovah eth bene Yisrael – “according to which commanded Moses, servant Yehovah, sons Israel.” This specifically is a reference to the book of Deuteronomy cited above. Moses commanded this to be done, and the fulfillment of the command is now being referred to in Joshua’s accomplishment of the matter. It was…
31 (con’t) as it is written in the Book of the Law of Moses:
ka’katuv b’sepher torath Mosheh – “according to written in Torah (the Law) Moses.” The specificity of the words is to show that not only was the matter accomplished, but that it was accomplished exactly as the law itself had demanded. Not a jot or tittle of what was spoken forth by Moses was allowed to fall to the ground. A portion of that law included…
31 (con’t) “an altar of whole stones over which no man has wielded an iron tool.”
mizbakh avanim sh’lemot asher lo heniph alehen barzel – “altar stones whole which no moved upon them iron.” That was stated, without the reason for it, in Deuteronomy 27:5 –
“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.”
The reason for Moses’ instruction goes back to the first command after the giving of the Ten Commandments. In Exodus 20, it said –
“And if you make Me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stone; for if you use your tool on it, you have profaned it.” Exodus 20:25
Just as the Lord had commanded Moses, and just as Moses had commanded the people, so Joshua complied with the command…
31 (con’t) And they offered on it burnt offerings to the Lord, and sacrificed peace offerings.
va’yaalu alav olot l’Yehovah va’yizbekhu shelamim – “And they ascended burnt offerings to Yehovah and sacrificed peace offerings.” Burnt offerings are animals completely burnt on an altar to the Lord. The peace offerings were shared between the Lord and the offeror. The peace offering is one of only two offerings made to the Lord where leavened bread was offered (Leviticus 7:13).
32 And there, in the presence of the children of Israel, he wrote on the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written.
The clauses are out of order in the translation. It literally reads: “And wrote (sg.) there upon the stone second Torah Moses which had written (sg.) to face (meaning in the presence of) sons Israel.” In Deuteronomy 27:3, it said, “You (sg.) shall write on them all the words of this law.”
That was written to the people as a whole, and thus it meant “you, Israel.” Now, it is referring to Joshua as noted in verse 1. He represents Israel, and so whether he actually wrote it or not, it is he who is credited with having written it on behalf of Israel.
But what exactly was written out by Israel? In Deuteronomy 27, several options were noted by comentators, such as –
“i.e. all the purely legislative parts of the Mosaic institute.” Cambridge
“i. e. all the laws revealed from God to the people by Moses, regarded by the Jews as 613.” Barnes
“It might be, as some think, the Decalogue; but a greater probability is that it was ‘the blessings and curses,’ which comprised in fact an epitome of the law (Jos 8:34).” JFB
“Not the whole book of Deuteronomy, as some think, at least not the historical part of it, only what concerns the laws of God; and it may be only a summary or abstract of them, and perhaps only the ten commandments.” Gill
“I am fully of opinion that the (תורה torah) law or ordinance in question simply means the blessings and curses mentioned in this and in the following chapter; and indeed these contained a very good epitome of the whole law in all its promises and threatenings, in reference to the whole of its grand moral design.” Clarke
Added to that, Ellicott’s commentary in Joshua says, “Not certainly the whole five books of Moses, for what stones or time would have sufficed for this? but the most weighty parts of the law, and especially the law of the ten commandments.”
Ellicott assumes that the altar is not huge, but recent archeological finds show that it is actually massive. It also assumed the account is chronological, which I argue it is not. There were certainly sufficient stones, and there would have been plenty of time.
As for the word torah, or “Law,” It can be construed in various ways. The Ten Commandments are a short summary of the Law. The term “Book Law Moses was just used in the previous verse. However, “the Law,” is a phrase that includes all five books of Moses at times. This is perfectly evident from Paul’s words –
“Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman.” Galatians 4:21, 22
What Paul refers to is found in Genesis, and yet he calls it “the law.” I would personally favor the meaning to be “The five books of Moses,” but that does not mean this is correct. However, without understanding what is said in Genesis and Exodus, the rest of the law lacks cohesion.
In understanding how sin was introduced, the consequences of a world living in wickedness, the grace of God towards Noah, the call of Abraham, and so on, one can only then begin to understand what the law was intended to do, at least in the short term.
No matter what, it is said that Joshua writes the law upon the stones and that it was Moses who had first written them down.
33 Then all Israel, with their elders and officers and judges,
Here, Israel is referred to as the man from whom the people are identified: v’kal Yisrael u-z’qenav v’shoterim v’shophtav – “And all Israel, and his elders and scribes, and his judges.” It is the nation who is the man and who is comprised of the people that is being referred to here.
33 (con’t) stood on either side of the ark before the priests, the Levites, who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord,
om’dim mizeh u-mizeh la’aron neged ha’kohanim ha’levim nos’e aron berith Yehovah – “standers from this and from this to the ark facing the priests the Levites bearing ark covenant Yehovah.” The meaning will be more fully expressed in a minute, but the ark of the covenant being borne by the priests is between the people on each side. This includes…
33 (con’t) the stranger as well as he who was born among them.
ka’ger ka’ezrakh – “According to the stranger; according to the native-born.” This doesn’t mean the two were separated as if the strangers were shoved off in a corner. Rather, it means that the two are equally represented before the Lord, whether stranger or native-born. Any who are present are deemed on the same level during this rite, and thus at all times hence. Also…
33 (con’t) Half of them were in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal,
Again, it refers to the man from whom the people find their origin: khetsyo el mul har g’rizim v’ha’khetsyo el mul har eval – “His half toward front Mount Gerizim and his half toward front Mount Ebal.” This is referring to the division of the tribes according to the word of Moses in Deuteronomy 27 –
“And Moses commanded the people on the same day, saying, 12 ‘These shall stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people, when you have crossed over the Jordan: Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin; 13 and these shall stand on Mount Ebal to curse: Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali.’” Deuteronomy 27:11-13
33 (con’t) as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded before, that they should bless the people of Israel.
It does not say, “that they should.” It simply reads: ka’asher tsivah Mosheh eved Yehovah l’barekh eth ha’am Yisrael ba’rishonah – “According to which commanded Moses, servant Yehovah to bless the people Israel in the first.” Moses commanded at first, and now that command is being brought to completion. However, there is a distinct difference in what was said by Moses in Deuteronomy 27 and what is said about the account now –
Deuteronomy: “These shall stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people…and these shall stand on Mount Ebal to curse.”
Joshua: to bless the people of Israel.
34 And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessings and the cursings,
It is singular: v’akhare ken qara eth kal divre ha’torah ha’berakha v’ha’q’lalah – “And after, thus, read (sg.) all words the Torah, the blessing and the cursing.” The law in its entirety, with all the blessing and cursing is on full display in what is being presented to the people. The singular indicates that Joshua did the reading. Even if others read, the credit for the action is assigned solely to him.
The rite would have been performed just as was recorded in Deuteronomy, but now it is considered as a blessing upon the people as just noted in the previous verse.
34 (con’t) according to all that is written in the Book of the Law.
The translation is close enough to get the full sense of what is written. Everything was conducted exactly in accord with what is written in the Book of the Torah. That is noted with the words…
35 There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded which Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel,
The Hebrew is a bit more precise than the translation: “No there was word from all which had commanded Moses which no read Joshua in front all assembly Israel.” Exactly as he was told to read, so he read.
As it was the Levites who were to call the blessings and the curses which were then responded to with “Amen” by the people, one must wonder what Joshua read. The answer seems to be what is recorded in Deuteronomy 31 –
“So Moses wrote this law and delivered it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and to all the elders of Israel. 10 And Moses commanded them, saying: “At the end of every seven years, at the appointed time in the year of release, at the Feast of Tabernacles, 11 when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. 12 Gather the people together, men and women and little ones, and the stranger who is within your gates, that they may hear and that they may learn to fear the Lord your God and carefully observe all the words of this law, 13 and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God as long as you live in the land which you cross the Jordan to possess.” Deuteronomy 31:9-13
If this is so, then it would be a certainty that the account now is not chronological. Rather, this account would be after the land was subdued and the Feast of Tabernacles was proclaimed. At the same time, the law would have been read by Joshua with all Israel in attendance. This certainly seems likely based on the final words of the chapter…
*35 (fin) with the women, the little ones, and the strangers who were living among them.
v’hanashim v’hataph v’ha’ger ha’holekh b’qirbam – “and the women and the little one, and the stranger – the goer in their midst.” In Deuteronomy 27, it does say, “all Israel,” but that often means less than “all Israel.” It can refer to a portion of the nation and the context explains the meaning.
However, in Deuteronomy 27, the only mention beyond that is in verse 14 which says, “And the Levites shall speak with a loud voice and say to all the men of Israel.” As such, there was no requirement explicitly stated for the women, little ones, and others noted there. But the requirement to hear the entire law read is explicit in Deuteronomy 31.
Therefore, to close out the verses, I would suggest that this account is not chronological, that the events occurred after the subduing of the land of Canaan recorded in Joshua 14:15, and that this altar was dedicated at the time of Tabernacles.
As such, the reason for the placement of the verses here now is twofold. First, it is to show obedience to the command early in Joshua, simply to have it recorded and out of the way. But second, it is to complete the typology that has been so carefully and meticulously detailed in the first chapters of the book. That will be seen next.
An altar of stone you shall make for Me
You shall make it according to My word
Large stones and plaster, so shall it be
Follow the instructions just as you have heard
Make it on the mountain of the curse
And set it up just as I have commanded you
Not a point I have stated shall you miss, that would be perverse
Everything I have said, you are certainly to do
The typology must be maintained carefully
So that what it anticipates will be clearly understood
Do just what you have been instructed by Me
And you will have done just as you should
II. Pictures of Christ
As we have seen, and to again understand what is going on in these Joshua sermons, we have been seeing the process of salvation in individual passages, but they all happen at once. *Moses, the law dies. Israel accepts Christ’s fulfillment of the law. *Israel enters the Jordan (Christ); Israel is baptized into Christ’s death (Chapter 3). *Israel, signified by the stones carried to Gilgal and which are then rested there, enters its rest (Chapter 4). *Two sets of stones are set up, signifying the heavenly government of Jews and Gentiles (Chapter 4). *Israel is circumcised; Israel has put off the body of sins of the flesh / The reproach of the past is taken away when believers are circumcised by the Lord (Chapter 5). *Believers partake of Christ as their Passover (Chapter 5). *The Lord is the Leader of the people, and they are brought into “holy ground.” (Chapter 5). *Access to that holy ground is brought about by acceptance of Christ’s work (Chapter 6). *Coming out of the state of anathema (kherem) is realized through the love of Jesus (1 Corinthians 16:22) and pursuing the true gospel of Jesus Christ seen in Galatians 1:8, 9 (Chapter 7). *Christ’s prevailing over the law is highlighted (Chapter 8). And now, Christ, the embodiment and fulfillment of the law is detailed here.
If you remember the sermons from Deuteronomy 27, everything about the construction of the altar anticipated Christ Jesus. The reason for building this altar without any iron tool is because the unhewn stone is something that God created.
If man were to shape the stone, then it would include man’s efforts in it. Thus, it would lead to either idolatry of the altar that man had made in order to fellowship with God, or it would lead to idolatry of self because man had erected the place where God and man fellowshipped.
Either way, that would indicate works-based salvation. It is man attempting to reconcile himself to God by his efforts rather than accepting God’s provision in the process of reconciliation.
Obviously, Israel had to build the altar, or no altar would be built. But not hewing the stones provides the typology – it is God’s work, not man’s effort, that is the basis for the altar.
God made the stones. For man to add his effort into what He had made would then be contrary to the premise of the Bible. Man is saved by grace, not by works.
The erection of the altar itself cannot be equated to a work any more than the compilation of the Bible. God gave the words, man recorded the words, and through the words man meets with God. Likewise, God made the earth and the stones, man simply arranges them into an altar, and God then meets with man.
And more, that altar anticipates Christ in that God made man (the building block of humanity) without any human effort, and humanity has then moved itself around in order to reproduce, eventually leading to Christ. The fact that Israel assembled the stones does not in any way damage the picture of Christ. Rather, it enhances it.
Using even, or stone, provides its own picture of Christ’s humanity. He is the fulfillment of this altar where man comes to fellowship with God. Stone is used to speak of the Lord and of the Messiah in Scripture, such as –
“I will praise You,
For You have answered me,
And have become my salvation.
22 The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This was the Lord’s doing;
It is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day the Lord has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:21-24
That is then cited six times in the New Testament when speaking of the Messiah by Jesus, or by Peter when referring to Jesus as the Messiah. In Isaiah 28:16, Isaiah says –
“Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation,
A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation;
Whoever believes will not act hastily.” Isaiah 28:16
That is cited by both Paul and Peter when referring to Christ as well. It is God who fashioned Christ’s humanity. Thus, to shape a stone for this altar would typologically be to fashion a false “christ” of one’s own choosing. This is the reason for the specificity in the command. The earthen altar, or one of stone, pictures Christ who was alone fashioned by God.
To hew the stones would then say that the people were fashioning their own salvation, rejecting the only true Lord who is willing to meet with man. In these verses, the credit is given solely to Joshua as the builder of the altar. It anticipates Christ being the One who is the focal point of fellowshipping with God.
The noting of the altar being built “to the Lord God of Israel” meant that these are His people, and that He is their God. The typology, gives a clear reference to Paul’s words of Romans 11 that “all Israel will be saved.” As he says –
“And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:
‘The Deliverer will come out of Zion,
And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
27 For this is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins.’” Romans 11:26, 27
The people will someday cross through Christ as a nation, and they will be there before Christ, the embodiment of the law, pictured by this altar. It is said to be on Mount Ebal.
As a refresher from Deuteronomy, Ebal is to the north. Or, in reference to the layout of directions in the Bible, Gerizim is to the right, and Ebal is to the left. Thus, it matches the scriptural pattern of the right hand of blessing and the left hand of cursing. For example –
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.” Matthew 25:31-33
Ebal is the mountain of curse, the bald mountain. Thus, there is metaphor being conveyed. The altar pictures Christ, but so does the location and designation of the mountain, just as Paul details in Galatians 3 –
“For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.’ 11 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for ‘the just shall live by faith.’ 12 Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.”
13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’), 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” Galatians 3:10-14
Christ became the curse so that His people could be freed from the curse of the law. The Gentiles got it and have continued to get it for two thousand years. Israel will get it someday, probably not too long from now, as well. With that noted, verse 31 said that everything was done in accord with all that Moses commanded and of the things written in the Book of the Law.
Joshua doing these things is typical of Christ who has completed everything the law details. Exactly as it is written, Jesus accomplished without allowing a jot or tittle of the law to fall to the ground. In Israel’s coming to Christ, the next words concerning Israel offering burnt offerings and sacrificing peace offerings are then fulfilled.
To fully understand these offerings would take a review of Leviticus. But for those who were here during those sermons, every single detail of these pictured Christ. For the whole burnt offering, that can be summed up with Paul’s words of Ephesians –
“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” Ephesians 5:1, 2
As noted, the peace offerings are offerings that are shared between the offeror and God. It is an offering that is accompanied by leavened bread. That signifies God’s acceptance of man, despite his sin because of the sacrifice of Christ. Of this, Paul says –
“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:19
Christ is our offering, and He is our sacrifice, and it is through Him that we can now fellowship, or have peace, with God. Together, these two are also seen in Hebrews –
“Therefore, when He came into the world, He said:
‘Sacrifice and offering You did not desire,
But a body You have prepared for Me.
6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin
You had no pleasure.
7 Then I said, “‘Behold, I have come—
In the volume of the book it is written of Me—
To do Your will, O God.”’” Hebrews 10:5-7
The sacrifices and offerings of the law only anticipated what is perfectly realized in Christ.
The act of Joshua writing the “second Torah Moses” on the stone is an obvious picture of Jesus being the embodiment, the mishneh torath, or second Torah of Moses. The word mishneh signifies a copy, a double, a repetition. The point is that Jesus is the repetition of the law. He gave it to Israel through Moses, and He presented Himself as the fulfillment of it to them –
“For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me.” John 5:46
Just as Joshua wrote the words of the law on the altar “in the presence of the sons of Israel,” Jesus – the embodiment of the law – came to dwell in the presence of the sons of Israel.
In verse 33, it was noted that all Israel with all his elders and scribes, and his judges stood on either side of the ark before the priests, the Levites, who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord. The priests picture Christ in His priestly duties and the term “ark covenant Yehovah” pictures the sacrifice of Christ that fulfilled the Old and then issued in the New Covenant.
The elders and scribes and judges are the seat of power in Israel. Thus, the words are emblematic of Jesus’ words to Israel concerning Jerusalem, Israel’s seat of power –
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing! 35 See! Your house is left to you desolate; and assuredly, I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” Luke 13:34, 35
Israel will call out to the Lord Jesus, and He will return to them with mercy, grace, and salvation. But more, it also noted in verse 33, that this included the stranger (ger) as well as the native-born (ezrakh).
When Israel comes to Christ, there will be those in the land who are not of Israel, but they will receive the same salvation and blessing as the native-born. Ezekiel explicitly speaks of that day following the tribulation period, meaning the millennium –
“It shall be that you will divide it by lot as an inheritance for yourselves, and for the strangers [ger] who dwell among you and who bear children among you. They shall be to you as native-born [ezrakh] among the children of Israel; they shall have an inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel.” Ezekiel 47:22
With that noted, verse 33 then referred to the people standing half toward Mount Gerizim and half toward Mount Ebal. This comprises the blessings and the curses for or against Israel. Christ is the Source of both for the people, but He was willing to take the curses upon Himself for them. That is certainly why the verse said, “to bless the people Israel in the first.”
In coming to Christ, there is no longer a curse. Rather there is only blessing. The substance of the text in Joshua clearly indicates this. The intent was for Christ to come, fulfill the law, and to bless Israel in their acceptance of that. They rejected Him, and they fell under the curse of the law. However, some great day they will come to Him, and they shall be blessed.
Verse 34 indicated that Joshua read all the words of the law. As noted, that is something only required at the Feast of Tabernacles. Jesus is the fulfillment, embodiment, and ending of the Law of Moses. Joshua’s reading of the law is an anticipation of Israel’s acceptance of Jesus who the law anticipates.
As such, verse 35 noted the complete and total compliance of Joshua in reading the law before all the assembly of Israel. It is an exacting note that Jesus did just what He said needed to be done when speaking to Israel –
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. 19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:18-20
The meaning of the “kingdom of heaven” must be determined from the context. In the case of Israel the nation, it is referring to entry into the millennium by coming through Christ’s fulfillment of the law. Until Israel accepts that, they are bound to the law.
But, like each individual today, the nation will someday exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees when they come to Christ and are imputed His righteousness. With this understood, the chapter ended with the words, “with the women, the little ones, and the strangers who were living among them.”
As noted, it is a definite hint that the rite was conducted at the time of the Feast of Tabernacles. That is more certain when understanding that it is the only feast mandated during the millennium. Israel will have Christ Jesus dwelling among them, and they will observe this as a memorial year by year. That is recorded in Zechariah 14, and which we will see before we close today.
The lesson we can learn, once again, from today’s passage is that we need Christ. Be it individually or Israel as a nation, we cannot do without what He offers. One is either under law (whatever law that may be) and he will stand condemned before God, or he is under grace – the grace of God in Christ – and he will stand approved before God.
This is the great and often repeated picture that we are being presented with in Scripture. Hold fast to Jesus, forget the nonsense that people tell you about observing the law, and forget about working your way to heaven.
Christ has done the work. Christ has made the way available. Christ is the Door through which we can enter. Rest in Christ, trust in Christ, and be reconciled to God through the wonderous workings of God in Christ. Amen.
Closing Verse: “And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.” Zechariah 14:16
Next Week: Joshua 9:1-18 It’s plain to all who are observants, yes to everyone… (We are Your Servants, Part I) (18th Joshua Sermon)
The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and purpose for you. It is He who has defeated the enemy and who now offers His people rest. So, follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.
All that Moses Had Commanded
Now Joshua built an altar to the LORD God of Israel
———-in Mount Ebal
As Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded
———-the children of Israel (in his Torah school)
As it is written in the Book of the Law of Moses:
“An altar of whole stones over which no man
———-has wielded an iron tool
And they offered on it burnt offerings to the LORD
———-and sacrificed peace offerings
And there, in the presence of the children of Israel
He wrote on the stones a copy of the law of Moses
Which he had written, according to all Moses did tell
Then all Israel, with their elders and officers and judges
On either side of the ark before the priests, the Levites stood
Who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD
The stranger as well as he who was born among them
———-all lookin’ good
Half of them were in front of Mount Gerizim
And half of them in front of Mount Ebal as well
As Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded before
That they should bless the people of Israel
And afterward he read all the words of the law
The blessings and the cursings, according to all that is written
———-in the Book of the Law, as it does tell
There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded
Which Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel
With the women, the little ones too
And the strangers who were living among them, so he did do
Lord God, turn our hearts to be obedient to Your word
Give us wisdom to be ever faithful to You
May we carefully heed each thing we have heard
Yes, Lord God may our hearts be faithful and true
And we shall be content and satisfied in You alone
We will follow You as we sing our songs of praise
Hallelujah to You; to us Your path You have shown
Hallelujah we shall sing to You for all of our days
Hallelujah and Amen…
30 Now Joshua built an altar to the Lord God of Israel in Mount Ebal, 31 as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the Book of the Law of Moses: “an altar of whole stones over which no man has wielded an iron tool.” And they offered on it burnt offerings to the Lord, and sacrificed peace offerings. 32 And there, in the presence of the children of Israel, he wrote on the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written. 33 Then all Israel, with their elders and officers and judges, stood on either side of the ark before the priests, the Levites, who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord, the stranger as well as he who was born among them. Half of them were in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded before, that they should bless the people of Israel. 34 And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessings and the cursings, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law. 35 There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded which Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, with the women, the little ones, and the strangers who were living among them.