“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17)
Today, the ruins of biblical Shechem lie between two mountains and next to a church that is built over an ancient well. These two mountains, Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal, stand as reminders of the blessings and curses of the Law, and the well refreshingly reminds how God, Himself, fulfilled His Law and poured out His grace.
Ancient Shechem is where Abram (later Abraham) is first mentioned in the Promised Land.
“Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The LORD appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your offspring I will give this land.’” (Genesis 12:6-7)
Centuries later, in fulfillment of the Lord’s promise to Abraham and to renew the covenant of the Law of Moses, we see Joshua and the Israelites gathered at Shechem. “Then Joshua built an altar to the Lord, the God of Israel, on Mount Ebal.” (Joshua 8:30) Six tribes stood just south of Shechem in front of Mount Gerizim. The other six tribes to the north of Shechem in front of Mount Ebal. That day the Israelites listened as Joshua “…read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the book of the law.” (Joshua 8:34)
Israel would gather at Shechem again later and listen to Joshua remind them of their history and of God’s faithfulness. He implored them to remain faithful to the LORD. Passionately they responded, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods…”(Joshua 24:16) What was Joshua’s reply to them?
“Joshua said to the people, ‘You are not able to serve the LORD. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.” (Joshua 24:19-20).
1400 years later an offspring of Abraham and namesake of Joshua (Joshua from Hebrew is the same name as Jesus from Greek) journeyed through this area where he stopped at a well for a drink and had a conversation with a Samaritan woman from Sychar. At the time of their profound conversation in the 1st century AD, ancient Shechem lay in ruins. Joshua had been right. The sinful Israelites had broken the covenant of the holy LORD. They could not obey the Law. They needed grace. The woman at the well, Jacob’s Well, was a Samaritan. The Samaritans were a mixed ethnicity of people, Israelites intermingled with other gentile races but holding to the Torah, the five books of Moses, as their scripture. As a result, her hope was rightly placed in her expectation of a coming person, who would be anointed of God.
“The woman said, ‘I know that Messiah (called Christ) is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.’
Then Jesus declared, ‘I, the one speaking to you–I am he.‘” (John 4:25-26)
When you look at this picture of Shechem, the two unmovable mountains represent the concrete consequences of obedience or disobedience to the Law. The deep well represents the limitless depths of God’s grace. Like the Israelites of old, when I look at the mountains of Gerizim and Ebal, I want the blessings. But I am cursed if I try to attain them through my own efforts. I cannot serve the LORD on my own merit, for he is Holy and I am not. What I truly need is what the Samaritan woman found at the well – Jesus. Because Jesus perfectly fulfilled the Law, He is able to offer us the living water of His grace. If we drink from what he has fully done for us, then we will live with him forever and share in His blessing. The Old Covenant of the Law is important for us to understand because it teaches us the perfection of God’s holiness, reveals the measure of our sinfulness and points to the only One who can fulfill it!
“So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.” (Galatians 3:24)
“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17)
Two mountains and a well…choose you this day…Christ!
Blessings in Christ,