From the Word: 32 And there, he engraved upon the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he inscribed in the presence of the children of Israel. 33 And all Israel, foreigner and native, with their elders and officers and their judges, stood on both sides of the ark before the Levitical priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord—half of them in front of Mount Gerizim, and half of them in front of Mount Ebal—as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded at the beginning, to bless the people of Israel. 34 And afterward, he read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the scroll of the law. 35 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 were among them. (Joshua 8:32–35)
From the Confessions: The Large Catechism, The Ten Commandments
The First Commandment
You shall have no other gods before me.
Let everyone, then, be careful to esteem this commandment above all things and not regard it lightly. Search and examine your heart diligently, and you will discover whether or not it cleaves to God alone. If you have a heart that expects nothing but what is good from him, especially in need and distress, and that renounces and forsakes everything that is not God, then you have the only true God. If, on the other hand, your heart embraces anything else, from which it expects more good and help than from God, and does not take refuge in him, but in times of trouble flees from him, then you have an idol, another god.
Pulling It Together: If you have ever watched someone incise a single letter into slate, you can imagine how long it took Joshua to engrave the whole law on the altar at Mt. Ebal. If you were an Israelite, having just passed through Jericho and Ai with Joshua, you would not need to imagine. You would have taken note how long it took him because it would have been the central activity in all of Israel. After engraving the law, he read it to all the people. Now here, you need not imagine. As he read the law to them, would it have convicted them of any sins? When it is read to you, or when you read it, hopefully, you feel guilty too. I say hopefully, because there in the midst of your guilt, having trespassed the commandments of the Lord, you have the opportunity to keep the law. You have the occasion for faith.
When you are guilty and your conscience troubles you, do you run to the bedroom to sleep away your shame? Do you turn to a bottle, to increased work, the gym, or any other diversion? Or do you turn to the Lord, expecting all good, especially that best and greatest of all good things: forgiveness in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit? If, in your guilt, you turn to God, then you have honored him as God above all else—even above your own sin. And in this, you may know that yours is no religious idol, but instead, the one true God.
Prayer: Forgive me my trespasses, Lord. Amen.
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Portraits of Jesus is a nine-session Bible study that explores the "I AM" statements given to us by Jesus himself. In comparing Jesus' words with related Scripture in both the Old and New Testaments, the study provides a well-rounded look at the center of our faith in Christ.