My first thought when I saw the Bible passage from my daily reading schedule was that it was rather irrelevant to my life:
Then Joshua built on Mount Ebal an altar to the Lord, the God of Israel, 31 as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the Israelites. He built it according to what is written in the Book of the Law of Moses—an altar of uncut stones, on which no iron tool had been used. On it they offered to the Lord burnt offerings and sacrificed fellowship offerings. 32 There, in the presence of the Israelites, Joshua wrote on stones a copy of the law of Moses. 33 All the Israelites, with their elders, officials and judges, were standing on both sides of the ark of the covenant of the Lord, facing the Levitical priests who carried it. Both the foreigners living among them and the native-born were there. Half of the people stood in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the Lord had formerly commanded when he gave instructions to bless the people of Israel.
34 Afterward, Joshua read all the words of the law—the blessings and the curses—just as it is written in the Book of the Law. 35 There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read to the whole assembly of Israel, including the women and children, and the foreigners who lived among them. Joshua 8:30-35
As I read it, my second thought was, “How incredibly tedious that must have been!” Imagine having to write on stones a copy of the law of Moses! I pictured all the people standing around while Joshua carefully chiseled the Ten Commandments into stone. I wondered what the letters looked like, whether or not he was tempted to use abbreviations, and whether he lightly scratched the words in first to make sure he had room for all ten commandments on his stone. Did he make mistakes and have to start over?
As I read further, though, I saw that “there was not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read to the whole assembly…” Whoa! That’s a lot of words, way, way more than just the Ten Commandments. While I might read the Ten Commandments carefully, I tend to skim over much of the law, because of how much of it there is and how many details. It can take me days just to read through it all.
The process of writing a copy of the law of Moses on stones must have taken a really long time. And then he read the whole thing to the whole assembly, including women and children… Tedious indeed, both for Joshua and for all the people in whose presence Joshua did the writing. How many days did it take? Maybe weeks? How in the world did they keep those children occupied while Joshua chiseled words into stones? And how did they keep the children quiet while he read the whole thing? We sure do have it easier, being able to simply copy, paste, and share… Or do we?
Yes, it certainly is easier to copy, paste, and share. After all, I copied and pasted the passage into this post, rather than type it all out, to save time. But what if I had typed it out? Or what if I had hand written it? When I’ve written out Bible passages or a poem in careful calligraphy to give as a gift to someone or to have in my sketchbook, I dwell on and in those words in a way that sinks into my soul, rather than simply skimming across the surface of my consciousness. Then when I go about my day, those words remain with me, shaping and enriching my thinking in a way that copying, pasting, sharing, and saying I’ll ponder them never does seem to.
It’s the same idea as when I sketch a scene, rather than simply snapping a quick picture. When I see a tremendous cloud formation and snap a photo with my cell phone, I might remember to look back at it. But when I stop, settle on a stone, and slow down to sketch the sky, I connect with the clouds and with the world around, and especially with myself and God in a way that I never do when I am rushing through my day, saving time.
Yes, it does save time to quickly skim a passage rather than dwell in it; to snap a photo rather than sketch it (or take a carefully studied photograph); to quickly copy, paste, and share an interesting meme; but to what end and at what cost?