Joshua, piles of rocks, and a Kickstarter campaign!

Deut. 27:4 & 8 - "And when you have crossed over the Jordan, you shall set up these stones, concerning which I command you today, on Mt. Ebal, and you shall plaster them with plaster...and you shall write on the stones all the words of this law very plainly."

Last weekend our church completed a 13 week survey of Deuteronomy in one of our classes. In chapter 27 Moses told the nation that when they entered the land of Canaan, they were to go to the top of Mt. Ebal and set up a pile of white-washed stones and write the law on them. Next, they were to construct an altar to God of uncut stones. Finally, they were to organize the nation into two groups, placing one group on Mt. Ebal and another on Mt. Gerizim, very much like filling opposing sides of a modern stadium. Then the Levites would recite the blessings and curses of the law as one side of the "stadium" verbally confirmed the curses by saying "Amen" while the other side verbally confirmed the blessings. Israel kept Moses' instructions after defeating Ai in Josh. 8:30-35.

As time passed and subsequent generations walked to the top of Ebal, what do you suppose went through their minds when they came upon the pile of sun-bleached rocks and the altar of uncut stones? The truth is, the book of Joshua is nothing short of list of rock piles!

  • Josh 4:19-24 - The twelve stones taken from the bed of the Jordan river crossing.
  • Josh. 6:20 - The walls of Jericho itself became a monstrous pile of debris (some of which you can still see today).
  • Josh. 7:22-26 - There was a great heap of stones that marked the spot where Achan was killed for his rebellion.
  • Josh. 8:28-29 - Ai and it's king were covered in stones.
  • Josh. 8:30-35 - The covenant was renewed with a stone altar and white-washed stones.
  • Josh. 10:11 - God miraculously defeated some of Israel's enemies with hailstones.
  • Josh. 10:27 - Large stones were set against the cave where the bodies of the five Amorite kings were buried.
  • Josh. 22:26-27 - The tribes who lived east of the Jordan built a stone altar to serve as a witness of their covenant with God and relationship with the tribes west of the Jordan.
 The hills west of Tel Jericho.

The hills west of Tel Jericho.

Each of these rock piles was meant to serve as a monument to God; to remind Israel what he had done at each location, and more importantly remind them what each event taught them about his nature or character! As Israelites traveled the land they were meant to point out these significant locations to their children and use them as opportunities to teach them about God, to help them use their imaginations as they visualized the riverbed crossing or Jericho falling, they would be used to corroborate the historical event and motivate them to greater faith in God. The stones themselves were not special, but the events the stones marked taught them valuable lessons about God. So, what does Mt. Ebal and piles of rocks have to do with you?

While most of these ancient rock piles are lost to history, archaeological digs and traveling the Bible land itself serves students of the Bible in a way similar to the way the stone markers served ancient Israel! These things give us a new perspective on events we are separated from geographically and chronologically. Gary D. Meyer wrote an online article back in 2014 to explain the practical value of Biblical archaeology and travel:

As a child attending First Baptist Church in Calvin, Okla., my image of the Holy Land looked like eastern Oklahoma, filled with rolling hills and oak trees. As I read the Bible, I pictured what was familiar to me. The Jordan River looked like the South Canadian River. I imagined David picking up smooth stones from a brook similar to Sandy Creek near my home. Later, as I saw photographs of biblical places and terrain, my contextual understanding grew.

Then in 2005, I took my first trip to Israel.

I expected the trip to be a spiritual mountaintop experience and it was in some ways. But, as I visited the places where Jesus walked, the Old Testament cities and Jerusalem, it was the lay of the land and the ruins that made an impression on me. It was real to me in a new way. Travel like this creates a framework for study of the Bible. Archaeology exposes ancient ruins and provides clues to the way people lived so we can better understand the cultures and people mentioned in the text.

Gaining a contextual framework for Bible study through archaeology and travel has given me a greater love for the Bible. Armed with a better mental picture of the biblical world, the pages of the Bible spring to life as I read. The message is the same — it is God’s true Word — but I am able to approach this message with a fresh attitude.
— http://townhall.com/news/religion/2014/09/16/digging--traveling-in-biblical-lands-n1892673

As helpful as these excavations and trips are, it simply isn't possible for every Bible student to pick up a shovel or spend two weeks touring Israel. For this reason, it is a wonderful habit for students of the Bible to become active and discerning readers so they can benefit from those who have been able to make those trips and participate in recent digs. Along these lines, there is a group of friends who wondered if they could in some way use the internet and video as additional resources that everyone the world over could use to experience the blessings of a Bible lands tour.

In order to provide such a tool, a new production company called Appian Media was created, and they have invited me join their first four-man team with the goal of traveling to Israel this June to create 5 online videos about the life of Jesus! They want every Bible student to be able to experience the sights and sounds from the world that Jesus grew up and lived in. Whether you ever make a trip to Israel or not, as you study your Bible we want your mind's eye to more accurately visualize The Sea of Galilee, Capernaum, Gethsemane, and more. 

Just as the piles of rocks in Joshua's day were insignificant on their own, they helped those who viewed them to remember their history, imagine what God had accomplished, and subsequently be motived to greater faith in him. Lord willing, as these videos are completed they will help students of the word around the world to remember, more accurately imagine and come to greater reverence and awe of God! 

Appian Media is a non-profit startup. That means in order for these videos to actually be created and made available online, funds need to be raised to cover the costs of production. To achieve that, Appian Media has launched a crowd funding event on Kickstarter (bit.ly/followingthemessiah) which went live last Tuesday! As of today, God has blessed them with almost 50% of their goal in less than a week! What we would request is that you please pray for our team and the material we are trying to produce. Specifically, please pray...

  • That what we do will glorify God, that people would come to greater faith and awe in Christ.
  • That what we say and write is consistent with and inspires greater respect for God's inerrant word.

Beyond that, please consider supporting the project!

  • Please visit the Kickstarter page (bit.ly/followingthemessiah), learn more about the project and tell others about it!
  • If you are able and want to help produce this material, consider becoming a financial backer of the project.

If you have any questions about this project, please feel free to contact me and ask away! Lord willing we will be able to share the news in a few days that funding is complete and we're on the way!

God bless,

Jeremy