1. A SOLEMN CHOICE
a. What choice did the Lord set before His people at the border of the promised land, and what can we learn from this? Deuteronomy 11:26–28.
“Obedience is required; and unless you obey you will stand on worse than neutral ground. Unless you are favored with the blessing of God you have His curse. He requires you to be willing and obedient, and says that you shall eat the good of the land. A bitter curse is pronounced on those who come not to the help of the Lord.”—Testimonies, vol. 2, p. 166.
b. Name the two mountains selected for the pronouncement of the blessings and curses. Deuteronomy 11:29. How were the tribes of Israel divided for this sacred duty? Deuteronomy 27:11–13.
“Ebal and Gerizim, upon opposite sides of the valley, nearly approach each other, their lower spurs seeming to form a natural pulpit, every word spoken on one being distinctly audible on the other, while the mountainsides, receding, afford space for a vast assemblage.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 500.
2. TRAINING THE MIND FOR VICTORY
a. What command regarding Mount Ebal had been given through Moses, to be performed when the people would pass over Jordan? Deuteronomy 27:2–8.
b. What else was to be done for the purpose of fixing the law in the minds of the people? Deuteronomy 6:6–9; 31:19–22.
“In the days of the wilderness wandering the Lord had made abundant provision for His children to keep in remembrance the words of His law. After the settlement in Canaan the divine precepts were to be repeated daily in every home; they were to be written plainly upon the doorposts and gates, and spread upon memorial tablets. They were to be set to music and chanted by young and old. Priests were to teach these holy precepts in public assemblies, and the rulers of the land were to make them their daily study. ‘Meditate therein day and night,’ the Lord commanded Joshua concerning the book of the law, ‘that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.’ Joshua 1:8.”—Prophets and Kings, pp. 464, 465.
c. What benefit do we, too, gain from memorizing God’s law and meditating on the promises and warnings found in His Word? Psalm 119:11.
“Several times each day precious, golden moments should be consecrated to prayer and the study of the Scriptures, if it is only to commit a text to memory, that spiritual life may exist in the soul.”—Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 459.
“The mind must be restrained and not allowed to wander. It should be trained to dwell upon the scriptures; even whole chapters may be committed to memory, to be repeated when Satan comes with his temptations. Even while you are walking on the streets, you may read a passage and meditate upon it, thus fixing it in your mind, and God will flash the knowledge obtained into the memory at the very time when it is needed.”—The West Michigan Herald, October 26, 1904.
3. CARRYING OUT PREVIOUS INSTRUCTIONS
a. How did Joshua carry out the instructions that had been given through Moses with regard to Mount Ebal? Joshua 8:30–32.
“According to the directions given by Moses, a monument of great stones was erected upon Mount Ebal. Upon these stones, previously prepared by a covering of plaster, the law was inscribed—not only the ten precepts spoken from Sinai and engraved on the tables of stone, but the laws communicated to Moses, and by him written in a book. Beside this monument was built an altar of unhewn stone, upon which sacrifices were offered unto the Lord. The fact that the altar was set up on Mount Ebal, the mountain upon which the curse was put, was significant, denoting that because of their transgressions of God’s law, Israel had justly incurred His wrath, and that it would be at once visited, but for the atonement of Christ, represented by the altar of sacrifice.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 500.
b. How did Joshua station the leaders and people for that grand ceremony, and what should we notice about the way the stranger was welcomed? Joshua 8:33.
“Six of the tribes—all descended from Leah and Rachel—were stationed upon Mount Gerizim; while those that descended from the handmaids, together with Reuben and Zebulun, took their position on Ebal, the priests with the ark occupying the valley between them.”—Ibid.
“Let those who believe the word of the Lord read the instruction contained in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. There they will learn what kind of education was given to the families of Israel. While God’s chosen people were to stand forth distinct and holy, separate from the nations that knew Him not, they were to treat the stranger kindly. He was not to be looked down upon because he was not of Israel. The Israelites were to love the stranger because Christ died as verily to save him as He did to save Israel. At their feasts of thanksgiving, when they recounted the mercies of God, the stranger was to be made welcome.”—Testimonies, vol. 6, pp. 273, 274.
4. AVOIDING FORMALITY IN RELIGIOUS SERVICES
a. What was the climax of the Mount Ebal ceremony? Joshua 8:34.
“Silence was proclaimed by the sound of the signal trumpet; and then in the deep stillness, and in the presence of this vast assembly, Joshua, standing beside the sacred ark, read the blessings that were to follow obedience to God’s law. All the tribes on Gerizim responded by an Amen.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 500.
b. Why was it appropriate for the congregation to say “Amen”? Psalm 106:48. Why is it often appropriate for us to say “Amen” too?
“When the word of the Lord was spoken to the Hebrews anciently, the command was: ‘And let all the people say, Amen.’ When the ark of the covenant was brought into the city of David, and a psalm of joy and triumph was chanted, ‘all the people said, Amen, and praised the Lord.’ This fervent response was an evidence that they understood the word spoken and joined in the worship of God.
“There is too much formality in our religious services. The Lord would have His ministers who preach the word energized by His Holy Spirit; and the people who hear should not sit in drowsy indifference, or stare vacantly about, making no responses to what is said. The impression that is thus given to the unbeliever is anything but favorable for the religion of Christ. These dull, careless professed Christians are not destitute of ambition and zeal when engaged in worldly business; but things of eternal importance do not move them deeply. The voice of God through His messengers may be a pleasant song; but its sacred warnings, reproofs, and encouragements are all unheeded. The spirit of the world has paralyzed them. The truths of God’s word are spoken to leaden ears and hard, unimpressible hearts. There should be wide-awake, active churches to encourage and uphold the ministers of Christ and to aid them in the work of saving souls. Where the church is walking in the light, there will ever be cheerful, hearty responses and words of joyful praise.”—Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 318.
5. SECRETS TO HAPPINESS
a. What else was included in the ceremony of blessings and cursings? Joshua 8:35. What was to be repeated on a regular basis? Deuteronomy 31:10–13.
“[Following the reading of the blessings, Joshua] then read the curses, and the tribes on Ebal in like manner gave their assent, thousands upon thousands of voices uniting as the voice of one man in the solemn response. Following this came the reading of the law of God, together with the statutes and judgments that had been delivered to them by Moses.
“Israel had received the law directly from the mouth of God at Sinai; and its sacred precepts, written by His own hand, were still preserved in the ark. Now it had been again written where all could read it. All had the privilege of seeing for themselves the conditions of the covenant under which they were to hold possession of Canaan. All were to signify their acceptance of the terms of the covenant and give their assent to the blessings or curses for its observance or neglect. The law was not only written upon the memorial stones, but was read by Joshua himself in the hearing of all Israel. It had not been many weeks since Moses gave the whole book of Deuteronomy in discourses to the people, yet now Joshua read the law again.
“Not alone the men of Israel, but ‘all the women and the little ones’ listened to the reading of the law; for it was important that they also should know and do their duty.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 500–503.
b. Name some of the blessings and cursings. Deuteronomy 28:1–13; 27:14–26.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. How are the blessings and curses given to ancient Israel relevant today?
2. How has memorizing and meditating upon Scripture benefited me at times?
3. Why was the stranger together with the leaders and people on the mount?
4. In what ways can I be more supportive of the task of my local minister?
5. Why is it important that all learn their duty to God from a young age?