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Monday, October 24, 2011

Sunnyside Road hay bales, Lancaster County, PA
We passed this scene along Sunnyside Road on Saturday. I stopped to take the photo and moved close to a fence and snapped several shots. As I left my elbow touched the fence right on my funnybone and guess what? It was an electric fence! I can tell you that getting a shock on the funnybone prompted a shrieking "WHOO", which Ester got a kick out of! Yesterday afternoon we passed the scene again and all the bales were neatly stacked at the side of the field.

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"The Oak Tree Covenant"

"So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made for them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem. And Joshua recorded these things in the Book of the Law of God. Then he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak near the holy place of the LORD. 'See!' he said to all the people. 'This stone will be a witness against us. It has heard all the words the LORD has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God'" (Joshua 24:25-27).

Oaks in front lawn 10/24/11

The two oak trees in our front yard are probably about twenty-five years old since our home was built in 1986 and prior to that time was farm land. That’s pretty young considering the lifespan of an oak, but they’ve become large stately trees over a relatively short period of time.  Some species of oak have a life span of 600 years and they may have had an even longer lifespan 4,000 years ago.

The church property where I pastored in New England had a huge oak tree in the back. I often wondered if this tree might have been around at the time of the American Revolution or even at the time the first Pilgrims landed at Plymouth in 1620, which was just 25 miles east of the church. Taunton, the town where we pastored, was founded less than twenty years after Plymouth. My family had devotions under this large tree one night and I sought to teach the spiritual lesson found in the daily text.

An oak tree at Shechem is first referenced in Scripture in Genesis 12:6 where Abraham received assurance from God that He would keep His promises. Later, as Abraham's grandson Jacob grew in his faith, an oak tree at Shechem was the place where Jacob's family made a firm stand for God in burying their false gods under it (Genesis 35:4).  And in our daily text
many years later an oak tree at Shechem was the place where Joshua made a tangible memorial to the people concerning their covenant renewal to faithfully serve God.*

As Joshua's life was coming to an end he called the people to Shechem and made a powerful appeal to serve God which includes a proclamation memorized by many Christians: "As for me and my house we will serve the Lord." In my family we often end our prayers by reciting this verse together. I am blessed when Ester adds the word "forever" at the end. Although it's not in the original text I certainly believe it is a proper expression of commitment.

After Joshua made the personal proclamation and challenged the people to do the same, he then took a large stone and set it up in a place clearly identifiable to the people, under the oak tree.  He said the stone would be a "witness against us."  The purpose of Joshua's action seems to be that of a memorial that would remind the people of their solemn commitment to follow the Lord.

You may choose to display a symbol
so that you'll have a visual reminder such as Joshua did when he placed the stone under the tree. Matthew Henry states, "Joshua binds them to it by a solemn covenant. He set up a monument of it. In this affecting manner Joshua took his last leave of them; if they perished, their blood would be upon their own heads. Though the house of God, the Lord's table, and even the walls and trees before which we have uttered our solemn purposes of serving Him, would bear witness against us if we deny Him, yet we may trust in Him, that He will put His fear into our hearts, that we shall not depart from Him. God alone can give grace, yet He blesses our endeavors to engage men to His service."

Today, let us all personally renew our covenant to serve and obey the Lord!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily Prayer: Father, the habits we regularly repeat indicate what establishes our values. Good habits seem hard to make but very easy to break, while bad habits seem easy to make but very hard to break.   Would You place regular reminders in our path that keep us repeating the excellent habit of spending "alone" time with You in prayer and in Scripture reading.  Even as the people said to Joshua on that notable day, "We will serve the Lord our God and obey Him" we make a renewed covenant with You on this ordinary day and repeat, "We will serve the Lord our God and obey Him!"  To repeat this verse, but ignore its instruction would be breaking our covenant with you, so we pause and reflect on this verse before we solemnly make this declaration: "Through Your grace we will serve and obey You, our God."  Amen.

* I realize of course that it cannot be stated with certainty that this was the very same oak tree in each instance.  However given the lifespan of an oak tree, and the clear landmark status this oak tree held in Shechem, it very well could have been. I also believe it's significant that the definite article is used in each instance, signifying a specific oak.  Here is the text of the verses referenced above: "Abram passed through the land as far as the site of Shechem, to the oak of Moreh" (Genesis 12:6). "So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods they had and the rings in their ears, and Jacob buried them under the oak at Shechem" (Genesis 35:4).

Clarification/explanation: Friday I shared that it was Brooksyne's birthday and used an unusual way to share her age, stating that she was 5 and ˝ dozen. Well I had intended for this to be taken as 5 and 6 (1/2 dozen) or 56 (so now you know!).  However several alert readers correctly understood this to also mean in the sense of 5 dozen + 1/2 dozen or 66. I first heard this quip from a friend of ours who had just had a baby adding to his already large family. When asked how many kids he had he told people he had 3 and 1/2 dozen which initially makes your head spin (42 children!!!) Of course he was creatively stating that he had nine kids.

Caned rocking chair 10/23/11
We stopped to visit with a friend yesterday who is 88 years old.  You might expect him to be retired but he still keeps busy caning chairs. I thought when I saw this rocking chair it was a single sheet of factory made material but actually it's individual strands hand-woven. Pretty impressive workmanship regardless of age!  See video of this project.

Pink rose 10/23/11
Last night we had dinner with friends who had beautiful roses at the entry of their home.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"The Family Prayer Song"  Video  Maranatha Singers  This is a song using Joshua's proclamation of faith, "As for me and my house we will serve the Lord."

"I'm Determined, I've Got a Made-up Mind"  Video  Brooklyn Tabernacle  A great song expressing steadfast commitment.

Shortly after moving to our current home in 2002 I took a photo of the oaks at the peak of their rustic red leaf color and created a picture using pdf (may load slowly).  I can tell by the size of the trunk that they have grown a lot!

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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