JOSHUA BUILT AN ALTAR
Joshua 8:30 Then Joshua built an altar unto the LORD God of Israel in mount Ebal, 31 As Moses the servant of the LORD 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 hath lift up any iron: and they offered thereon burnt offerings unto the LORD, and sacrificed peace offerings. 32 And he wrote there upon the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he wrote in the presence of the children of Israel. 33 And all Israel, and their elders, and officers, and their judges, stood on this side the ark and on that side before the priests the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, as well the stranger, as he that was born among them; half of them over against mount Gerizim, and half of them over against 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 cursings, according to all that is written in the book of the law. 35 There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel, with the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that were conversant among them.
Would to God that every worship experience in this day were this much commanded by the Lord! Joshua’s Then (v.30), was based on previous instruction from Moses, the servant of God, and upon the inward dealings of the Holy Spirit! True worship is only by those whom God seeks out to worship him in spirit and truth! John 4:23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
Israel’s Sanctifying Presence
One of the most difficult tasks of the true minister of God is to get the church to understand her blessedness in the Lord! The Lord has raised up his servant Moses to command in very explicit detail that which Joshua is carrying out in this passage. (Read Deuteronomy 11 and 27). For the Lord will make Israel know that their presence, on his behalf, has a sanctifying effect upon this new land. For he has made the true, spiritual church to be two effectual, sanctifying elements unto this present world, which itself, lieth in wickedness! (1 John 5:19). Those two spiritual elements are salt and light. (See Matthew 5:13,14).
Just one believer has a sanctifying effect upon the unbelieving members of their family. 1 Corin. 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.
Every meal is sanctified by the believers thanksgiving. 1 Tim. 4:4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: 5 For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
Therefore Joshua comes to accomplish a monumental task here in the literal center of this land, going to great effort to establish in the minds of all, that the Lord God is exacting his crown rights over this entire land, through his people!
And there is nothing more sanctifying to any people than the presence of the word of God! And Joshua both wrote, and read, every word of the law of Moses in the presence of all the children of Israel! And listen to our Heavenly Joshua (same word Jesus in the Greek) on the subject of being sanctified by the spirit of his word:
John 17:13 And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. 18 As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.
The one thing essential in order to accomplish all else that Joshua was commanded was the building of the altar. All else depended on this. And since it was at the heart of the rest of these matters, he was not left without Gods instruction as to its construction.
Exodus 20:24 An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee. 25 And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it. 26 Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon.
It is made obviously clear that the altar was not to last longer than the worship! And it was clear that there would be places (plural), that would require the building of other altars for spontaneous, contemporary worship of God there. And just as man, the worshipper, was made of the earth, so the altar, like man’s flesh, was to last specifically for the time of his present Spirit led worship! Then, the altar, like those worshipping there, would again eventually return to the ground. For an earthly altar would soon be dissolved by rain and the other elements of God’s natural order.
Of course this doesn’t set well with religious man! He wants permanent religious structures, embellished with physical grandeur. But that has always gotten religionists in trouble! Jeremiah 7:3 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. 4 Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, are these. 14 Therefore will I do unto this house, which is called by my name, wherein ye trust, and unto the place which I gave to you and to your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh. Matt. 15:3 But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?
And less we put all this off on the Roman Catholics, let’s not forget our attraction, not only to, “That old country church,” but also to those long standing buildings where our famous preachers once stood and preached. And even though we are instructed in the forgetting of those things which are behind, we will continue to pour money and effort into places from which the Holy Spirit has moved on, as the gospel continues to make its circuit throughout the earth.
In chapter 27 of Deuteronomy, Moses instructions were that this altar could be built of uncut stones but then plaister them with plaister. Here again worship should not be entered into by the works of the flesh. The chisel was not to force the stones to fit together. For neither the fleshly affections of religionists, nor any other works of the flesh shall be allowed to glory in God’s presence. (1 Corin. 1:29). They were to be just natural stones found in the field and brought together for the present worship experience. Sinners, saved by the grace of God, being themselves in Christ, should be those who preach, pray and worship!
And again, the plaister would provide a smooth place to record the words, as written in the hearts of the true believers, but remaining in the outdoors, (as true believers are in, but not of the world), were not to be lasting past their usage. For the time then present, they would be delightful and sound, true witnesses of the gift of the word among us. But each generation requires their own “present” witness. For faith is ever acting. It never lies dormant! And the effect of this gospel goes from faith to faith! Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
Let us not attend museums of past workings of the Holy Spirit! Let us have souls believing God now, preaching, teaching and singing in true, present faith to sanctify the Lord and his word in holy worship!
Pastor Gene Breed, January 13, 2012