Saturday after the Twenty-Second Sunday after Trinity Sunday
Scripture: Deuteronomy 27:1-26 (NKJV)
1 Now Moses, with the elders of Israel, commanded the people, saying: “Keep all the commandments which I command you today. 2 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 whitewash them with lime. 3 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 is giving you, ‘a land flowing with milk and honey,’ just as the LORD God of your fathers promised you. 4 Therefore it shall be, when you have crossed over the Jordan, that on Mount Ebal you shall set up these stones, which I command you today, and you shall whitewash them with lime. 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. 6 You shall build with whole stones the altar of the LORD your God, and offer burnt offerings on it to the LORD your God. 7 You shall offer peace offerings, and shall eat there, and rejoice before the LORD your God. 8 And you shall write very plainly on the stones all the words of this law.”
9 Then Moses and the priests, the Levites, spoke to all Israel, saying, “Take heed and listen, O Israel: This day you have become the people of the LORD your God. 10 Therefore you shall obey the voice of the LORD your God, and observe His commandments and His statutes which I command you today.”
11 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.
14 “And the Levites shall speak with a loud voice and say to all the men of Israel: 15 ‘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!’ 16 ‘Cursed is the one who treats his father or his mother with contempt.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’ 17 ‘Cursed is the one who moves his neighbor’s landmark.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’ 18 ‘Cursed is the one who makes the blind to wander off the road.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’ 19 ‘Cursed is the one who perverts the justice due the stranger, the fatherless, and widow.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’ 20 ‘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!’ 21 ‘Cursed is the one who lies with any kind of animal.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’ 22 ‘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!’ 23 ‘Cursed is the one who lies with his mother-in-law.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’ 24 ‘Cursed is the one who attacks his neighbor secretly.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’ 25 ‘Cursed is the one who takes a bribe to slay an innocent person.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’ 26 ‘Cursed is the one who does not confirm all the words of this law.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’
Note here that the whitewashed stones, on which all of the law of Moses was written, were set out as an altar on Mt. Ebal. And when all the twelve tribes are assembled on Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal to pronounce blessings and curses, it is from Mt. Ebal that the curses come. It is from that mountain where the Law and the sacrifices were that the curses also come. The blessings come from a different place. And all we hear are curses that will fall on the people of Israel if they break the Law.
It is appropriate that we hear curses associated with the law. That is what the law is to us. St. Paul refers to this chapter of Deuteronomy when he says, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” (Gal. 3:10). The law shows us our need. The law drives us to Christ. And instead of curses we receive blessings in Christ. “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law.” (Gal. 3:13). And so on a different mountain we hear the words “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:3). Jesus is our Mt. Gerizim from which blessings come. He fulfills the law of Moses for the Israelites and for us so that we do not need to hear the curses falling upon us. We get to hear the great news of our righteousness in Christ. Let us never forget that the law points us to Jesus.