Blessing & Cursing
I apologize for again turning to the same period of history as a recent post but I have found my mind returning there because as a church when we have begun a new chapter in the leadership of our congregation I have again been drawn to the time when the nation of Israel faced a change in their circumstances. Deuteronomy 11:29 – when the Lord your God has brought you into the land which you go to possess, that you shall put the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal. The Israelites were faithful to this unusual instruction, and we read in Deuteronomy 27:11-13 that the Israelite’s split into two groups, one to stand on Mount Ebal and pronounce curses, while the other goes to Mount Gerizim to pronounce blessings. What a ceremony! If I might be allowed a little poetic licence; what a visual picture that as they passed between these two mountains as they entered the Promised Land that Gods word and their obligations to follow it were so vividly enacted. They would hear on one side the blessings being shouted at them and they were to respond with Amen, and on the other side they would hear the curses shouted, to which there were again to respond Amen, or in English, so let it be! As they would pass these mountains not only in their own generation but in subsequent generations, they would always be reminded of the blessing and cursing of God’s word. The ceremony has a covenant like feel to it, like the dividing and passing between the two halves of a sacrificed animal as described in other places. However, if I am to understand correctly not only the actual ceremony was a reminder of these events but also the peculiar geography of these two mountains. Mount Gerizim, the mount of blessing, was green and had many springs on its lower slopes which would feed the town of Shechem. This town lies in a natural amphitheater between the two mountains. Mount Ebal, the mount of cursing, in contrast was much more arid and inhospitable with no water sources to be found on it. So the mountain of blessing was a very real blessing to the people in the provision of water in a particularly arid region. The mountain of cursing was barren and provided no water or blessing to others. As these mountains received the scant rainfall that fell in this region one mountain collected and channeled water to the people around, providing refreshing pools, while the other provided nothing. It is interesting that the word for blessing in Hebrew is very similar in root to the Hebrew word for a pool. But what does all this mean? Well Gods pattern here is revealed, his desire is to bless others through blessing us, but we must allow that blessing to flow through us for the blessing of others. Are we a vibrant mount of blessing or a barren mount of curses? Geographically these two mountains stood side by side and received the same rainfall but one of them produced abundance of water for others and the other kept it for itself and gave none away. Even today they bear this distinction. The difference is stark, as Gods people we should bring blessing and not barrenness. Or to put it another way we are given gifts of God not that they might be gifts for our own glory, but that we might use them for others. God’s gifts are never meant for our benefit but for others benefit. If one has a gift it is not that they might receive glory and praise for that but that they might edify others through the godly exercise of that gift, if one has a gift it is not that they might elevate themselves, but that they might in the exercise of their gift elevate others. Whatever our gifts, let me encourage you, as I encourage my own heart, that we might not be barren Christians but that we might be mountains of blessing providing living water to others.