I will be leading us in Communion at the end of today’s post. If possible, pause your recording and/or reading and get some juice/wine and bread ready so you can join me. Communion is more than remembering and honoring; it is a declaration of, the release of, and celebration of victory!
Two Mountains and a Cross
God hid pictures of the Cross in the Old Testament. The pieces of furniture in the Tabernacle, for instance, were in the shape of a cross. Other pictures were given, through actions and events that took place. One of these occurrences was at a mountain named Ebal. Located across the valley below was another mountain, Gerizim, and these two locations became very significant.
Ebal was barren and rocky - that’s where it got its name, which means “stony heap of barrenness.” Gerizim, on the other hand, was fertile and lush. Because of their appearances God chose them for a very symbolic act. He used Ebal to represent the curses and judgments associated with sin. Lush and fertile Gerizim, on the other hand, would picture the blessings of redemption.
Representatives of six tribes of Israel were positioned on Mount Ebal, the other six tribes were represented on Mount Gerizim. The remainder of the nation was placed in Shechem, the valley between them. The two mountains created a natural amphitheater of sorts in the valley, making it perfect for this prophetic depiction.
In a powerful ceremony, the blessings of obedience to God were read from Gerizim to the listeners below. The curses and destruction resulting from sin and disobedience were read from Ebal. (Joshua 8:30-35). These blessings and curses can be found in their entirety in Deuteronomy, chapters 27 and 28.
It must have been quite dramatic for the listeners below as these blessings and curses rang out across the valley. Through this dramatic enactment, the message to Israel was clear: the choice of whether you'll be blessed or cursed is entirely up to you.
What was not so clear that day was the hidden picture of the Cross and our redemption. Israel was instructed to build an altar on Ebal and offer sacrifices to Jehovah. No such altar was built on Gerizim. Our fallen, cursed condition, pictured by Ebal, required a sacrifice in order to redeem us. The altar pictured the Cross, and the sacrifices offered there pictured Jesus, our Lamb, slain to take our curse and spiritual death. He went to "Ebal" for us, the place of barrenness and curses, in order to give us the life, fruitfulness, and blessings represented by Gerizim. The New Testament makes this clear:
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us - for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree" - in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” (Galatians 3:13-14)
This was a powerful picture, but there was another part of the ceremony that day that made the symbolism even more poignant. The representatives did more than offer sacrifices on Ebal's altar. They were told to first whitewash the stones and write on them the Law of Moses. This is detailed in Deuteronomy 27:1-8. Why this strange act? Not until Holy Spirit interpreted it for us through Paul's writings did we find the answer:
“And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His Cross.” (Colossians 2: 13-14 KJV)
The words of the law on Ebal’s altar pictured “the handwriting of ordinances that was against us,” which Jesus blotted out with His precious blood and nailed to the cross. Absolutely amazing.
I'm sure these Israelites on the mount of cursing didn't know they were painting a picture of the cross, where Christ would cancel the curses they were writing and bestow on us the blessings of Gerizim. It must have been quite a day for Christ as He watched this enactment from heaven. Perhaps He even winced a time or two as He watched the sacrifices and listened to the curses being read from Ebal. The pain He would endure when fulfilling these prophetic actions would be horrific, and He knew this. And yet, He must have smiled when He heard the wonderful blessings being read from Gerizim. "For the joy set before Him [Christ] endured the Cross," the writer of Hebrews told us (Hebrews 12:2).
You may want to take some time and read Deuteronomy 27 and 28. Think of the price Jesus paid at the Cross, and determine to receive the blessings poured out there. Consider declaring the blessings mentioned in the 28th chapter over yourself and your family. Perhaps do it daily for a while.
Years after this ceremony, the Samaritans built a temple on Gerizim which became their chosen place of worship.This was probably due to their breach with the Jews. The woman at the well referenced this in John, Chapter 4. Though not sanctioned by God, it's easy to see why they chose Gerizim as their place of worship. The problem is, however, we can't bypass Ebal (the Cross) and go directly to Gerizim (the blessings). Many people try to do this, but there simply is no way home... without starting at the Cross.
In the words of the great hymn, At the Cross:
“Alas! and did my Savior bleed?
And did my Sov'reign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?
“Was it for crimes that I have done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! Grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!
“Well might the sun in darkness hide
And shut its glories in,
When Christ, the mighty Maker, died
For man the creature's sin.
“Thus might I hide my blushing face
While His dear Cross appears;
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
And melt mine eyes to tears.
“But drops of grief can ne'er repay
The debt of love I owe:
Here, Lord, I give myself away -
'Tis all that I can do!”
“At the Cross, at the Cross
Where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away,
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day!” (1)
If you would like to sing along with a choir, here is a version found on YouTube: https://youtu.be/WmXLJGmTLV8
Pray with me:
Father, we are so grateful for Your gift of grace - by it we are safe from eternal condemnation and empowered to live a life of victory. Jesus, it's Your cross that made this grace available, and today we choose to reflect upon and return to it.
Help us to daily partake of this fountain, to acknowledge and appreciate its significance. Christ’s cross is the reference point for all of life’s treasures. We are asking that You teach us to fully appropriate this heavenly endowment - canceled curses and bestowed blessings of redemption. We partake of it now as we eat the bread. (Eat the bread)
Receiving the full rights of Your family is a choice left to us. We choose to live in the charted course of blessing laid out in Your word, Father. We also choose to obey Your commandments and walk in Your ways.
We boldly declare that Your blessings pursue and overtake us, such that we are favored everywhere we go. Blessed shall be all that we produce and touch, and victory over our enemies will be secured.
At the foot of the Cross, there is redemption, a fountain of blessing and abundant life. We choose to sit before the old rugged cross and drink deeply as we enjoy these blessings. And through Christ’s powerful blood, we decree that Baal’s hold over our nation is broken! (Take the cup)
Click on the link below to watch the full video.