This seems like a happy ending, doesn’t it? We, along with that rock (vv. 26-27), are witnesses to what the Israelites claimed that day. “We would never abandon the Lord and serve other gods.” Even after Joshua pressed them a bit more, they stood firm that they would serve the Lord. The story of God’s people will continue with the Book of Judges, 1st and 2nd Samuel, and 1st and 2nd Kings. We will see for ourselves what “never” looks like and where the leaks in faith come about.
Joshua does a fine job of presenting God’s message to the people that day. God takes them down memory lane to remind them of his great power. They have the inheritance they do because of God. They are stirred with adoration and gratitude. It does us good, too, to remember God’s mercy and love. Those remembrances are what we can cling to when the going gets rough.
“If you fully obey” seems to suggest that the blessings from God have a price tag. However, to have God’s blessing of protection, prosperity, and provision would seem like a wonderful reason to be obedient. Many people are enticed by rewards or positive reinforcement. God’s promise to give the land to the Israelites is a promise he kept. Now, to be set apart even more and be known for their allegiance to God and his provision, they only have to obey God.
The blessings here encompass more than just personal gain. Israel should be blessed in the field with bountiful crops, with herds having plenty of offspring, protection from harm, even when away from home, and much more. You would think the people would be ecstatic, overflowing with joy and gratitude. After all, they have just been wandering around for many years. They were about to have a life of abundance without having to be on the move. They were going to be able to establish roots at last.
Our reading today starts with the reminder to give back to God the first fruits. This is done to show our thanks and obedience. Even today we have our own practices of giving. The idea of bringing actual food as an offering doesn’t happen, at least in the culture I grew up. Instead, we give our money, a portion of the wealth God has blessed us with, as an offering.
When we bring our gifts, we should remember and declare, as is shown here, what God has done for us. He has surely rescued us from harm, given us great blessing, and loved us when we weren’t the most lovable. We all have a story. I’m sure there are many stories we can think of where God has intervened. We may not have realized it at the time, but looking back we know it had to be God. We should never forget how God has moved in our lives, just like Moses is telling the people to never forget Egypt and God’s hand of deliverance.
If you’ve ever attended a lecture or webinar, or heard a sermon preached, you’ve heard repetition. It’s how you drive home certain points. Maybe the orator is crafty, and you don’t even know you’ve heard the message before. It is powerful to repeat a message. We often need to hear things multiple times and multiple ways before we actually understand or take action.
Today, Moses is recalling stories from their journey. He starts with the rescue in Egypt. It is important to remember what has happened to us, too, because there are life lessons all along the way that can help us navigate other situations. Moses wanted to keep the stories alive not only to encourage the people who had been there personally, but more so for those that came after that hadn’t seen for themselves. These stories point to the greatness of God.
When you imagine what it was like to have God’s voice thundering from the fiery mountain, what do you feel? Did you just read the words and not really put yourself in the moment as if you were there, too? I know I did when I read it the passage the first time. Take a moment and re-read the passage. The people were afraid. They wanted Moses to risk his life, so they’d be safe. Yet, they did said they’d obey God.
Sometimes it’s easy to let someone else take the heat in our place. Do you remember “drawing straws” to see who would have to do the dirty work? Most people tend to want to avoid confrontation. Sure, there are plenty of risk takers out there these days. But fear can paralyze us from taking action. These people in our reading today were clearly fearful for their lives. How cool was it that God spoke to all of them?