“At that time Joshua built an altar to the LORD, the God of Israel, on Mount Ebal, just as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded…And there, in the presence of the people of Israel, he wrote on the stones a copy of the law of Moses…And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law. There was not a word of all that Moses commanded that Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the sojourners who lived among them.”
Israel had just won two major victories upon entering the promised land. (With a defeat in between due to sin that had to be rooted out – it was, and the Lord gave them victory once again.)
We see in these verses that just after the second victory, Joshua is careful to obey what had been commanded: to build an altar to the Lord and record the Law on stones. All Israel gathered, with the Ark of the Covenant in their midst, and Joshua read every word of the Law.
This refocuses the people after the victories. It brings attention where it should be: to their God who gave them these victories, to His commands, and to His promises and warnings.
How beneficial this pattern would be in our lives. That with every victory and every celebration, we “build an altar” to the Lord in thanks and continued devotion. We bring our focus to Him and His Word, praising His faithfulness and reconnecting with the commands that were issued from His heart that is kind and good, His heart that is love. Intentionally recalling whose we are and how He has called us to live, and that this is a beautiful reality worth rejoicing over because of who He is.
It is a guard against losing our way. Against getting so distracted by busyness and so caught up in details that we forget that all of this is really about Him. And that keeping Him and His desires as our center, keeping the gospel of Christ as our focus, really leads to the fullest and best life for us. That focus is what brings us deep, sustaining joy and unexplainable peace. In victory and apparent defeat (though our God is never defeated; He has purposes and sovereignty in all things). In happiness and sorrow. Our God is with us in all of it and His promises stand firm.
When we intentionally bring our focus to His Word it solidifies the foundation on which we stand. And sometimes we need that reminder more in the good times than in the bad – because it might be easier in the good times to allow those distractions and forget how much we still need God. To forget what our true aim is – to follow, obey, and glorify the Lord joyfully – and to forget what all of that looks like.
Today, wherever we are in our story, may we be intentional about focusing our attention on the Lord. To “build an altar” of thanks, devotion, and surrender. To meditate on His Word. On what He has done, what He has promised, and how He has commanded us to live. Abiding in Him, His love, and His Word. Because that is joy for us. That is life for us. And that is what connects us to the One who will lead us rightly and give us strength and hope throughout our days.