Blessing or Cursing

Title: Blessing or Cursing

Bible Book: Joshua 8 : 28-35

Author: J. Mike Minnix

Subject: Curse; Blessings; Choices; Forgiveness



The message in this service will be a bit different, for I plan to show you two Old Testament mountains and the symbolism they have for each one of us. It is interesting how the Lord used time, objects, and places to teach us His truth. He has taken every point on the clock to point to the one who offers us more than mere time in life - He points to Jesus who offers us eternity. He takes every object and reveals an example of blessing or cursing. He uses places in history to make sure we understand the truth we so desperately need. So turn with me to Joshua 8:28-35 and note an interesing time, place and event that contains the promise of blessing or cursing for every life.

Joshua 8:28-35:

So Joshua burned Ai and made it a heap forever, a desolation to this day. 29 And the king of Ai he hanged on a tree until evening. And as soon as the sun was down, Joshua commanded that they should take his corpse down from the tree, cast it at the entrance of the gate of the city, and raise over it a great heap of stones that remains to this day. 30 Now Joshua built an altar to the LORD God of Israel in Mount Ebal, 31 as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the Book of the Law of Moses: “an altar of whole stones over which no man has wielded an iron tool.” And they offered on it burnt offerings to the LORD, and sacrificed peace offerings. 32 And there, in the presence of the children of Israel, he wrote on the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written. 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. 34 And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessings and the cursings, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law. 35 There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded which Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, with the women, the little ones, and the strangers who were living among them.

The entire story of the defeat of God's people at a place called Ai is one of the most interesting in the Bible. It has been said that military leaders throughout history have studied this passage regarding the victory the Hebrews won in the second attempt to defeat the city. Even some of our own American military leaders have studied it.

You see, the people failed to take the city the first time they attacked Ai and that was a spiritual problem. They botched it because of Achan's sin, and because of their lack of prayer. But, after repentance, the Lord gave the people direction and Joshua took part of the soldiers up on a hill where the enemies at Ai could see them. When the soldiers of Ai came out to attack Joshua, a hidden contingency of Hebrew soldiers went into Ai from another direction and set the city on fire. When the soldiers of Ai turned to see their city on fire, the Hebrews attacked them in mass and destroyed the army from Ai. Military leaders have been intereseted in this victory because it reveals a unique way of enticing an enemy from a secure position into a trap.

It is important to see that God gave direction to His people even after they had sinned. When they were willing to turn back to Him, He was willing to bless them. In essence, we can choose blessing, or we can choose cursing. There are two mountains mentioned in this text and they represent the two choices of mankind - to be blessed by God or to be cursed in rebellion against God.

After Joshua had taken over following Moses’ death, the Hebrew people crossed the Jordan to go into the Promised Land. After defeating Jericho, they came to a small city named Ai. After they conquered the Ai, the children came to a valley between two mountains - on one side was Mount Ebal and on the other side was Mount Gerizim. Mount Ebal is called the mountain of cursing and Mount Gerizim is called the mountain of blessing or mercy.

Once they were in the valley, Joshua separated the people toward the two mountains. No doubt, Joshua was remembering that which is recorded in Deuteronomy 27 regarding the two mountains and how important they were. Joshua was carrying out a prophetic act that I’m sure he did not fully understand. He was pointing to something that was going to happen many years later. He was pointing to the cross where the Lord Jesus Christ was to die many, many years afterward.

To be sure, in life there is a mountain of misery and there is also a mountain of mercy, and each person must choose one or the other. God calls us to the mountain of blessing, but each individual must decide decide which mountain to accept.

I. The Example of the Savior

In our review of this story, we note that an altar was placed on one of the mountains. On which mountain was the altar placed? One would think that it was placed on Mount Gerizim, since that is the mountain of blessing, but the altar was actually placed on Mount Ebal, the mountain of cursing! Why would God want them to erect the altar on the mountian of cursing? There is a great and inspiring symbolism involved in the altar being built upon Mount Ebal – the mountain of cursing.

The altar on Mount Ebal was a prophetic event pointing to the cross of our Lord. Years after Joshua and the people had built an altar on Mount Ebal, Jesus died on a hill that was a mountain of cursing just outside Jerusalem. You see, Jesus died in my place and your place on a hill called Calvary, and on that cross He took the curse of sin for us. He was offered up on the altar of God’s judgment so that we might escape the judgment and receive mercy instead. I can dwell on the mountain of blessing because Jesus paid for my sin on the mountain of cursing.

In John's Gospel, chapter 4, Jesus confronts the woman at Jacob's Well. In an attempt to change the subject of her own sin, she asked Jesus if Mount Gerizim was indeed to be a mountain of blessing. She was pointing back to the actual event that occured in Joshua and was prophesied in Deuteronomy. Jesus replied that the mountains didn't matter, but only those who worship in spirit and truth are redeemed. Jesus was denoting that the Old Testament mountains pointed to truth - to the fact that a sacrifice was needed for man to be saved, and only a pure sacrifice is effectual. The mountains were symbols and not important in and of themselves. In other words, there is no place of perfect blessing, but there is a person of perfect blessing - and that person is Jesus, who died on the mount of cursing for us!

II. The Reciting of Scripture

Secondly, we see in this passage that God gave orders regarding these two mountains long back in Deuteronomy before the Hebrew people came there to defeat the people of Ai. His Word clearly described what they were to do regarding the two mountains.

Back in Deuteronomy 27 God commanded through Moses when His people entered the Promised Land that they were to be separated between two mountains and that scripture was to be recited there. They were to go up on the mountains of Ebal and Gerizim as a divided company of Israelites and the Word of God's blessing would be read on Mount Gerizim while the word of God's curses would be read on Mount Ebal.

The people were to be reminded that there are two paths in life. One leads to destruction and the other to delight - one path leads to joy, but he other leads to judgment. If I accept what Jesus did for me at Calvary (the mount of cursing), I get to live on the mount of blessing now and forever. If I choose to live my own way, I will live on the mount of curses now and forever. Why is this so? Because I am sinner and sin requires judgment. Since Jesus has taken my judgment on the mount of curses, I can believe upon Him and He grants me the mount of blessings as a divine gift in this life and in eternity.

III. The Choice of the Sinner

When we worship and study God's Word together in this church, we call upon people to receive Jesus and discover the joy of living on the mount of blessing! We speak the blessing of the Lord and we warn of the curses of judgment. Then we give an invitation for people to choose which they will receive - the blessings of the Lord or the curses of judgment brought about because of our sins! It is up to each individual to choose! Most of us here today have chosen the mount of blessing! We repented from sin and believed upon the Savior long ago. Our sins were laid on Jesus at the mount of cursing and we are now and forever living on the mount of blessings. Yet, there is likely someone here today who has never chosen to trust Christ. You have the opportunity to turn from sin and believe upon Him today. You can move from the place of cursing to the place of blessing because of Jesus Christ.

Some years ago an artist portrayed temptation in a painting. The picture revealed a man standing at a crossroad where one sign said, "Right," while the other sign read, "Wrong." Interestingly, each road looked the same to the man in the painting. For the person viewing the painting, however, there was a view over the hillside. Out beyond the path marked Wrong there was a great pit waiting to trap the unsuspecting traveler. There are only two paths - only two mountains! Jesus took the mount of curses for you when He died on the cross for your sins. He did that so that all who believe upon Him might dwell on the mount of blessing.


Turn to Jesus in faith and be saved.

Turn to Jesus in renewal and be revived.

Turn to Jesus in obedience and follow His calling on your life - it is the only path to true peace.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

Some sing, “I did it my way,” but I changed my song to, “I came God’s Way.” That, my friend, has made all the difference in my life and my eternity!

Posted in


Scroll to Top