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CURSING AND BLESSING
Intro: Ill. Context and why they were in this location.
God used this time at Ebal and Gerizim to focus Israel's thinking and to remind them why they were in the Promised Land in the first place.
They were not there only to defeat their enemies, to claim the land, and enjoy their new home.
They were there primarily to serve the Lord, and to honor Him; to be a witness to the lost pagans around them about the glory of their God.
They needed to be reminded, and so do we. It's a little too easy for us to drift in our spiritual lives. There are times when we need to refocus on the things that matter most in life.
How about you? Have you allowed yourself to drift in your spiritual life? Have you wandered from the place of blessing, service and surrender? Ill. Ephesus - Rev. 2:1-7.
This passage has something to say about that today.
The mountains of Ebal and Gerizim represented a place of either curing or blessing to Israel, depending on what they did with what they learned there.
Their experience reveals some areas of life where we also need to learn focus. Notice these areas with me today.
I. REFOCUS ON GOD’S GRACE - Salvation - Wonder
Altar built on Ebal, the mountain of cursing. A reminder of sin, and its consequences. Ill. Pro. 13:15; Rom. 6:23 - Sin is a killer! Ill. What it kills.
Only one sacrifice for sin: blood - Heb. 9:22.
The burnt offerings had to do with sin. The sinner was to bring a sacrifice to the priest. The sinner placed his hands on the head of the animal, symbolically transferring his sins to the animal. The animal was then slaughtered and burnt on the altar. It was a picture of a sinless substitute dying in the place of the guilty. The burnt offering spoke of sin, cleansing, and forgiveness.
The peace offerings had to do with fellowship. The grateful worshiper would bring a sacrifice to the priest. The animal would be killed and a portion offered up to God on the burnt altar. The rest would be prepared and eaten by the priests and the worshiper. It was to be a time of worship and gratitude for the Lord’s blessings, presence and peace. It pictured rejoicing, fellowship, and blessing.
No tools - a reminder that salvation is by grace alone. Not by our works, or our religious adornments.
That altar was a reminder that they were sinners, but they could be saved from the curse of the law through the grace of God.
The Law says, “Thou shalt not.” But, God knows that we will! He knows that we cannot be good enough, holy enough, or righteousness enough to please Him and earn our own salvation. That is why He sent a perfect substitute. God sent Jesus Christ into this world to die on an altar of wood, a Roman cross, to die as a substitute for sinners. God sent Jesus to do for us that which we could never do for ourselves, 2 Cor. 5:21. He sent Him to die on that altar to provide a way whereby we might be save by the grace of God, apart from our own efforts or religious works, Eph. 2:8-9.
The grace of God is still the only hope we have!
By the way, the altar was built before the Law was read. A means of cleansing was provided before the problem of sin was highlighted.
I. Refocus On God's Grace
II. REFOCUS ON GOD’S GUIDELINES - Service - Walk
Ill. Context - Deut. 27-28. Their "amen's" voiced their commitment to honor the law and their understanding that keeping it meant blessing, while disobedience meant cursing.
When the Law was read and the people voiced their ascent to it, they were making a commitment to honor, obey and pass on the Law of God.
We are not saved by keeping the Law. Thank God, because no one can keep the Law perfectly, and that is the standard, James 2:10. The Law serves as a standard for living.
Those who honor the Law will be blessed; those who do not will be cursed.
We know that as Christians we are not under the Law. The Law is not something that we have to pursue to try and attain the favor of God. The Law is not something we must keep in order to assure our salvation.
Yet, the Law is something that God has written in our hearts, “Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another,” Rom. 2:15.
We do not keep the Law in order to earn anything from God; we keep the Law because we love Him. We want to live for Him because He died for us. That is why the child of God lives a different kind of life than the world around him. The law should be our delight - Psa. 40:8
The Law of God is not a means of salvation; it is a way to demonstrate our love for Him. The Law of God is not a harsh set of commandments; it is the standard for a life that seeks to honor God. Honoring the commandments of God is the saint’s way of saying, “I love You Lord!” John 14:15
Honoring the Law of God puts us into a place of special blessing, and it brings His blessings into our lives - John 14:21
We need to refocus on the truth that living by God’s standard brings us into a place of blessing, while refusing God’s standard for living brings us into a place of cursing.
I. Refocus On God's Grace
II. Refocus On God's Guidelines
III. REFOCUS ON GOD’S GLORY - Surrender - Worship
Surrounded by their enemies, Israel put aside their fears, submitted to the will of God and worshipped.
We need to come to the place where we are not distracted and not deterred by the presence of the enemy.
Verse 33 tells us that the Ark of the Lord was in the valley between the two mountains. The Ark of the Lord represented the manifest presence of God Himself. On one side of the Ark was the mountain of blessing. On the other side stood the mountain of cursing. The picture is clear! To be on the right side of the Lord is to be in a place of blessing, while to be on the wrong side of God is to be in a place of cursing.
There are no grey areas today. There is only black and white. There is only right and wrong. Walk in the right, the Word of God, and you will be blessed. Walk in the wrong, and you will suffer God’s punishment.
We need to reach the place where nothing is more important than living our lives as a statement of active, visible worship to His glory, Rom. 12:1-2.
His glory is all that matters - 1 Cor. 10:31.
Conc: where do you stand? Are you on Ebal, the mount of cursing, or are you on Gerizim, the mountain of blessing? Which side of the things of God are you on?
Where do you stand today?
Have you allowed some things to drift in your life?
There is still a place of surrender, sacrifice and service for all those who want the blessing of God on their lives. Where are you?