Sun beating down, heat rising up, sweat rolling down and still the man chipped away at the tall stone in front of him. With each pounding of the hammer, more stone pebbles spattered down the stone face adding to the already deep pile of sand and chips. Sand had gathered in the tiny wrinkles of his skin, and his sweat only partially washed the bits of grit away. For hours and hours, perhaps for days he worked on each stone. Words formed as the grit fell away.
יהוה קרא משׁה...
... YWHW called unto Moses
Can you imagine having to stand in the heat of the day, while the body responds with rivers of sweat, or the chill of night working by the light of a flickering torch, beating on a rock? Joshua did. He wrote a copy of the law, every word of the law on those stones while the Children of Israel stood by. All the important people, the elders and the judges on this side, and all the regular people like you and me on that side; half in front of Mount Ebal and the other half in front of Mount Gerizim.
In the valley of Achor, the Children of Israel found themselves between a rock and a hard place, literally. The mountain to one side of them was Mount Gerizim, the name translates rocky, and to the other side was Mount Ebal which means bald: a Rock and a Hard Place.
At least today we have air conditioned buildings and chairs to sit in. We don't have it nearly as hard as the first congregation did. How does our worship compare with the first congregation?
Joshua 8:33 Then all Israel, with their elders and officers and judges, stood on either side of the ark before the priests, the Levites, who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, the stranger as well as he who was born among them. Half of them were in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded before, that they should bless the people of Israel.
God called His children, stiff-necked people. It was an idiom that came from when an ox rebelled against the yoke making it difficult, if not impossible, for its owner to yoke it to a wagon or plow for the daily chores. We know it now as being stubborn, untrainable, and useless.
Let’s compare a lesson taught by Jesus just before He offered Himself as perfect sacrifice for the entire world. In Luke we find the parable of the fruitless fig tree:
The Owner of a vineyard says, “To no avail have I searched for figs on this tree for three years. It is soaking up valuable nutrients from the ground that could be better used by a fruitful tree. Cut it down.”
The Keeper says, “Lord, allow me to prune it, fertilize it, dig around it a bit and if it bears no fruit next year, then we shall cut it down.” The decision was made to remove a non-bearing plant from the vineyard because it was useless to the Owner’s purpose. What do you think is God’s desire when it comes to Christians who bear no fruit? Is it even possible for a Christian to bear no fruit?
We Christians are between a Rock and a Hard Place, our heads are stubborn things while our heart remains tender. Sometimes God finds teaching us lessons requires some bloody noses, and scraped up knees because we are human and we have not only fleshly desires but there is a ruler of this world called Satan who whispers alluring seduction in our ears which are attached to our heads.
The Rock is the commandment of God expressed by Jesus which is simply “Believe in Me and you shall not perish but have everlasting life.” The Hard Place is our stubbornness and propensity toward sin, and lack of belief. Oh, yes, the Bride of Christ is sick with unbelief.
Some Christians do not believe there truly is a person who was the highest angel of all who fell and is even now hard at work trying to bring as many with himself to Hell as possible. Some Christians do not believe miracles still happen today. Some Christians believe in God, but do not believe He will do what He says He will do. Some Christians find great pleasure in slicing and dicing siblings in Christ because the siblings don’t believe every jot and tittle they do.
That is just the tip of the iceberg. The Children of Israel forgot so quickly what God had done for them, freeing them from slavery, opening the sea for them and closing it over their pursuers, and providing their food and water for forty years without a garment or shoe to wear out. No matter how often God delivered them, generation after generation turned their backs on Him, carving deaf and blind idols from half a log to bow before and burning the other half to warm their hands.
For three years Jesus walked among the Jews healing the sick, blind, lame and raising from the dead and Judah was still unfruitful. When one compares the million or so people in Judah to the one hundred twenty faithful few, as Joel states, The vine has dried up, And the fig tree has withered; The pomegranate tree, The palm tree also, And the apple tree— All the trees of the field are withered; Surely joy has withered away from the sons of men. Joel 1:12.
We soon forget what God has done for us in such a magnificent way. We sin, and wait such a long time as David did to confess our sin and repent from it. Why?
I have found such perfect joy when settled within the will of my Father. The joy of the LORD is my strength. I want to please Him. That hasn’t always been the case because I listened to the seductions of Satan for a time. I knew it was sin, but rationalized I deserved a little pleasure in my harsh life. Who hasn’t said that to himself or herself? During that time, I bore zero fruit. I was barely able to hold a Bible much less open it. Thank goodness I went through that period after I had taught my children to love the LORD and to trust Him. Thank goodness my parents were close by shinning a light in my darkness so I could find my way back into the light.
Yes, it is possible for a Christian to walk through the Valley of the Shadows and bear no fruit, but that is only for a season. One of the assurances of Christianity is the bearing of fruit. For periods of time the Children of Israel did bear fruit, did follow the Law, and did turn their face toward the Almighty; just as for periods of time they walked in darkness. But, the people who walked in darkness saw a Great Light. And now we are the light of the world. We reflect God's glory in this dark world. This is the kind of worship that God adores. He calls us to stand between the Rock and the Hard Place. That is where we are protected.
God planned something better for us today. Because of the Holy Spirit we never walk alone, and our darkness is never total. Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!
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