Near the end of this covenant that God has made with Israel, two important items need to be checked off: the public recording, and the final admonition.
Chapter 27 leads off with what I’m calling the public record: the altar and memorial that is to be built on Mount Ebal. After crossing the Jordan, the Israelites’ first task is to erect a memorial of stones, covered with plaster, “and you shall write on them all the words of this law.” They are also to set up an “altar of uncut stones, and you shall offer burnt offerings on it to the LORD your God.” This is not only a memorial but also an announcement to all who pass, that this land belongs to the LORD.
These two chapters jump back and forth between promise and threat, with threat filling the bulk of the territory. The question that has faced Israel for forty years is whether the LORD is actually capable of giving them the land. Moses reminds them that what they should be asking is whether they have the faith and discipline to keep the land once they receive it. “If you are not careful,” he warns, “to do all the words of this law…that you may fear this glorious and awesome name, the LORD your God, then the LORD will bring on you and your offspring extraordinary afflictions... And as the LORD took delight in doing you good and multiplying you, so the LORD will take delight in bringing ruin and destroying you.”
Listen to how Moses personalizes the curses: “All these curses shall come upon you and pursue you and overtake you…” They’re supposed to be seared into the minds of the Israelites, and, as commanded in chapter 6, passed down to every generation. This land belongs to the LORD, and He can take it back. He promised to give it to them, but He is not promising that they will keep it, should they fail to obey.
Remember these chapters as we read the rest of Israel’s history together. And remember that the subject of this book is the LORD. What do we learn about Him, and about His promises, in these chapters?
And one last time, our verse for this week is Matthew 22:39: And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Deuteronomy 27 and 28. Now let’s read it!
And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.