ISSL Reflections December 5 2021 Deuteronomy 5:1b–3; 10:12–13; 27:1–10 Post 3

In the last post I drew attention to the directions to make an altar of stones on which tools had not been used and of unhewn stones. With that in mind let’s return to these Scripture passages and read again.

Deuteronomy 5:1-3 (NRSV)

Moses convened all Israel, and said to them:

Hear, O Israel, the statutes and ordinances that I am addressing to you today; you shall learn them and observe them diligently. The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. Not with our ancestors did the Lord make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today.

Deuteronomy 10:12-13 (NRSV)

So now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? Only to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord your God and his decrees that I am commanding you today, for your own well-being.

Deuteronomy 27:1-10 (NRSV)

Then Moses and the elders of Israel charged all the people as follows: Keep the entire commandment that I am commanding you today. On the day that you cross over the Jordan into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall set up large stones and cover them with plaster. You shall write on them all the words of this law when you have crossed over, to enter the land that the Lord your God is giving you, a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you. So when you have crossed over the Jordan, you shall set up these stones, about which I am commanding you today, on Mount Ebal, and you shall cover them with plaster. And you shall build an altar there to the Lord your God, an altar of stones on which you have not used an iron tool. You must build the altar of the Lord your God of unhewn stones. Then offer up burnt offerings on it to the Lord your God, make sacrifices of well-being, and eat them there, rejoicing before the Lord your God. You shall write on the stones all the words of this law very clearly.

Then Moses and the levitical priests spoke to all Israel, saying: Keep silence and hear, O Israel! This very day you have become the people of the Lord your God. Therefore obey the Lord your God, observing his commandments and his statutes that I am commanding you today.

I suspect most of us when we think about becoming a people of God think of obedience to the statues and commandments we hear in Scripture whether from Moses, the prophets or Rabbi Jesus. We even think of some form of sacrifice we offer to God. But do we think of the altar on which those sacrifices are made?

The directions for building the altar are interesting to me. And not so much the method of building as the materials of building the altar.

The people as they go about becoming the people of God are to build the altar of stones they find in its natural state. Of stones they have not “worked on.” Natural stones they find in the world.

Is it too much to think God asks us to come in our “natural” God-given condition?

To my mind, too often we may think of things we have to do, to change, to get ready to become the people of God. It is not about our “getting ready,” it is more about placing ourselves before God as we are, in our “unhewn” condition.

It will fit together. God will give us direction and walk the path with us as we become more fully formed as God’s people.

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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