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Sunday, January 27, 2019

posted Jan 27, 2019, 2:49 PM by Site Administrator

CIRCUMCISION AT GILGAL

 

Joshua 5:1-15

Key Verse 5:9

 

Then the Lord said to Joshua, Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you. So the place has been called Gilgal to this day.

 

In the previous passage we learned about how the Israel people crossed the Jordan River. When the priests carried the ark of the covenant, the River yielded its way to the Israel people, and they crossed the Jordan River on dry ground. They experienced the power of God. It seemed that now they were ready to fight. But before having them engage in the battle, God had a few more things to do to prepare them for the battle. This passage shows us how we should prepare ourselves to live as Christian soldiers. I pray that we all may be prepared fully for the Lord’s battle through this passage.

 

First, Circumcise the Israelites again (1-9). Look at verse 1. When the kings in Canaan heard about how the Lord dried up the River for the Israelites, and how they crossed the Jordan River on dry ground, their hearts melted in fear, and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites. They could see very clearly that the God of Israel is the True God. But, instead of surrendering themselves to God and God’s people, they were looking for a way to fight by shutting their doors and gates tightly, or by allying together with other kings. In this situation, God gave Joshua a new instruction. Look at verse 2. It reads: At that time the Lord said to Joshua, Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites again. This direction was not easy to understand or obey, because they were already in the enemies’ territory. The enemies were watching every move of the Israelites, and everything was reported to their kings immediately. It was not a good idea that all the soldiers would be in pain while staying in the enemies’ territory. But despite all these reasons, God commanded them to receive circumcision. This explains the importance of circumcision. 

 

Circumcision was the seal of God’s covenant. In Genesis, we see God asking Abraham to circumcise himself and all the males in his household as an evidence of acceptingGod's covenant vision upon his life. When Abraham had his firstborn son, Ishmael, finally his dream had come true, and now his wholehearted struggle was to raise him up well - he wanted to be an exalted father, taking care of Ishmael very well, educating him very well. Being a noble or exalted father was not necessarily bad. But the problem was that, because of this desire, he could not pursue God's great covenant vision.We all have the desire to be a good father or a good mother for our children. We want to make sure that they grow well; we want to make sure that they are amply provided; we struggle to spend time with them. But often, because of this desire, our focus shifts from God to our children; our whole concern becomes our children, while we just go through the motion or doing our minimum duties barely in the church. While Abraham was living that way, God asked him to circumcise as the expression of his acceptance of God’s covenant vision and as the sign of his new dedication to it. Circumcision meant that he would cut off this small citizen's desire to be an exalted father for Ishmael so that he could live as God's covenant person to be the father of many nations. So, those who have circumcision are those who hold onto God's great covenant vision upon their life, instead of pursuing their own desires and plans; through circumcision, people become God's people who live for God according to God's will and purpose. It is indeed proper that God's people are known as the circumcised people. God becomes the God of these people, and they become God's people, and God and they together pursue God’s great vision upon their life. That’s what Christian life is all about.

 

Now God was bringing them into the promised land not so that they would live a trouble free life in their cozy houses, but so that they would be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation for the whole world. Before engaging into the battle in the promised land, they must make its purpose very clear – they needed to cut off any humanistic desires from their hearts. The conquest should be for God’s purpose, not for their own small citizen’s dream. So, God commanded them to circumcise themselves.

 

In verses 4 through 8, we see the practical reason why God commanded Joshua to circumcise them. They were the second generation Israelites after Exodus from Egypt. The first generation did receive circumcision in their flesh, but refused to live as God’s covenant people. When things went well, they were thankful and praised God; but whenever difficulties rose, they complained to God's servant Moses and regretted that they had left Egypt; they blamed God for bringing them out of Egypt. One time, they even wanted to choose a leader who would lead them back to Egypt. Simply, despite God's hard work for them and God's great salvation through the Passover and the Red Sea, their hearts were not turned toward God; they did not put their trust in God; they were not interested in God's will for them, but just wanted to have an easy and problem free life. Verse 6 describes this as disobedience to God. It reads: All the men who were of military age when they left Egypt had died, since they had not obeyed the Lord. Among 603,550 people, without counting the Levites, that had experienced Exodus through the Red Sea, only two people, Joshua and Caleb entered the promised land, because they followed their God wholeheartedly. So, did God fail because the Israel people rejected his will upon their life? No, not at all. Verse 7 reads: So he raised up their sons in their place, and these were the ones Joshua circumcised. They were still uncircumcised because they had not been circumcised on the way.

 

The Israel people’s failure is a great warning for us.Even though they had the circumcision in the flesh according to God’s instruction, even though they had worship service, these things did not mean anything when they did not follow God wholeheartedly. We must not say, Since I experienced Exodus from Egypt, I am okay. We must not say, I received the baptism, so I am saved. Instead, after experiencing God's salvation, we must accept God’s will for us and live for God by putting our trust in Him. We must live our life in obedience to God's will and purpose - such people are children of God.Before experiencing God's salvation, we could not live for God because we didn't know God. Instead, we lived a sinful and self-seeking life only to invite God's judgment on us. But now, by God's grace, we have been brought to God, and our eyes are opened to see who our God is - the Creator of heaven and earth. So, now we can love Him, because we know that He has been so good to us. Now as children of God, we can really live for God. Today, let’s circumcise our heart and live as God's covenant people, fathers and mothers of many nations, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. That’s how we can be prepared for the battle for the Lord.

 

Look at verse 9. Let’s read this verse together:

 

Then the Lord said to Joshua, Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you. So the place has been called Gilgal to this day.

 

When they received the circumcised, God was so happy and shared his testimony, saying, Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you. After long struggle, finally, God had removed the reproach of Egypt from them through circumcision. The word, reproach means, shame or disgrace. The Israel people were born as slaves and lived as slaves in Egypt; naturally, they picked up the Egyptian way of life, value system, hope and desire. Then, one day, by the power of God, they came out of Egypt and became God's people. But in their real life, they were not like God's people at all; instead of being holy, righteous, and glorious, they were really sinful, selfish, worldly, and materialistic - they were lazy, unfaithful and unthankful. Instead of living as beautiful children of God, so humble, obedient and lovely, they were disobedient, grumbling and selfish. As they had lived in Egypt for four hundred years as slaves, the Egyptian lifestyles, attitude and behaviors had soaked into their bone and marrow; their way of thinking, their value system, their desires were those of Egypt. When God saw them behaving like the Egyptians in their day to day practical lives, not like children of God, He was sad; He was angry; he had deep pain because of that. God had borne the sinful behaviors of sinful people for the past forty years, struggling hard to remove all the residues of Egypt from his people Israel. It took for him just one day to bring out his people Israel from Egypt, but it took for him forty years in the desert to remove Egypt from them. It was God’s lonely and painful battle, and finally, after forty years’ long fight, as they received circumcision at Gilgal, God had rolled away the reproach of Egypt from his children! What glorious day it was! God was happy; He rejoiced. In joy, he proclaimed his victory, saying, Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.

 

This testimony of God makes us check ourselves out. We were born in the world and lived as members of the world, developing worldly value system, lifestyle, hope and desires, for about at least 20 years. Simply, the sin of the world hassoaked into our bone and marrow that we are sinful, worldly and materialistic in thoughts, words and actions naturally. As a result, many people, after accepting Jesus Christ, still live according to their worldly and sinful value system and desires, giving terrible influence to others. They do not act like children of God, but they do exactly they did in the worldtrying to be popular, or even trying to seduce others, flirting with their eyes, looking for girlfriends or boyfriends even in the church - that's the reproach of Egypt, so shameful and wicked. Some people come to church and struggle hard to occupy high positions so that they can exercise authority - they live exactly how the politicians in the world live - that's the reproach of Egypt; because of these people, many churches experience great troubleWhen children of God see the beauty of the daughters of men and marry anyone they choose, it is the reproach of Egypt; even some children of God envy the people of the world for their success. Some people come to church just on Sundays, then, they doggedly pursue a career or success in the world – God’s people doing it is the reproach of Egypt. How much God wants to remove it from us so that we may become like real children of God, holy and righteous, cool and awesome! How much God wishes that we may be truly sanctified in Him! This is the reason why we must fight against our sin, against the sinful lifestyles and cultures of this world. Now we must be rooted and built up in God with unshakable godly value system and hope. We must be really a new people in Jesus Christ. God is working hard to roll away the reproach of Egypt from us – this is what God is doing today in our lives. Today we must make our hearts’ determination to live as children of God. Today is the day we must receive the circumcision of our hearts and roll away the reproach of Egypt from us. When you receive the circumcision of your heart, God will be happy, saying, Today, I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.  

 

Second, Celebrate the Passover (10-12). Look at verse 10. On the evening of the fourteenth day of the month, while camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, the Israelites celebrated the Passover. They were already in the enemies’ territory, but there, they celebrated the Passover – one of the Seven Feasts God commanded them to keep every year. In our terms, the Passover was a festival. More practically, they were having a festival in the enemies’ territory! Wow! Our God is really cool and awesome! David sang victoriously in Psalm 23 saying, You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. While they had this festival in the enemies’ territory, the enemies could not do anything; simply, the Israelites were untouchable. At the night of the Passover in Egypt, the Israel people experienced the power of the blood of the Passover lamb, and they could leave Egypt, where they had been living as slaves for the past four hundred years, and started a new life in God as free people. The Feast of the Passover was to celebrate God’s deliverance from their slavery. It is very symbolic that right before engaging into the battle in the promised land, they celebrated the Passover. Remembering God’s grace of salvation was the foundation of their new life as soldiers for God’s army.

 

What is the foundation of your new life in Christ? Some people live as disciples of Jesus because such a life of helping needy people is something noble; some others live as Jesus’ disciples because it is very cool to stand before many people and deliver powerful messages; Some people come to church because there, they can enjoy some good fellowship with sincere people; some people do the work of God because of the fear of God’s judgment. All these things cannot be the true foundation for our new life as Christian soldiers. When things do not go very well any longer, when they receive mistreatment or ridicule instead of praise and respect, when the fear of God’s judgment is gone, when what they have desired does not come to them any longer, all these people go away and are not found in the Lord’s army any longer. This kind of foundations cannot withstand the challenges of this world at all; they are too weak to be the foundation for our new life in God. Only God’s grace of salvation, when we remember who we were – terrible sinners deserving God’s judgment, and who we have become – beautiful children of God – only because of God’s grace, out of thanks and heart’s desire, we can live as Jesus’ disciples despite all kinds of difficulties and challenges that we face in our mission life. We are willing to give up all things in the world and live as Jesus’ disciples not so that we can gain anything, but only because we are thankful for his grace upon our lives. Only Jesus Christ is the Rock Foundation for our new life. Let’s remember what God has done for us. Celebrate the Passover.

 

Look at verses 11 and 12. Let’s read these verses together: 

 

11The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain. 12The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate of the produce of Canaan.

 

God had been providing for them manna from heaven every day for the past forty years. Now, they were in the enemies’ territory to do God’s work, but from the very next day when they entered the enemies’ territory, God stopped providing food for them! No more food supply for the soldiers in frontier! Wow! That must have been a big issue. The day after the Passover, the Israel people got up early in the morning as usual, went out to gather some manna, but there was nothing! Oh, no! Probably, they were shocked and puzzled. God’s message was utmost clear – they must figure out how to manage their food problem in the battle field by themselvesGod would not give them food any more. In the enemies’ territory, there was only one solution – conquer enemies and get what they needed. God wanted them to be really wholehearted and desperate. In this way, God was building up their fighting spirit. Serve God’s work with such a sense of desperation and wholeheartedness. God seeks such people who worship Him in spirit. And God also wanted them to be independent and self-supportive in the mission field, not like little eaglets sitting in the nest and waiting for the mother eagle and crying for food all the time, but like real eagles soaring on wings, looking for prey, and solving their food problem by themselves. God saw them really capable of such a task!

 

ThirdTake off your sandals (13-15). Look at verse 13. Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. A drawn sword in his hand showed that he was ready to fight. The whole area was in great tension because of the warso no one was outside. But behold! A man was standing in front of the entire army of Israel, with a drawn sword in his hand, ready to fight! Who is he? Probably, the entire army of Israel halted in wonder. Joshua too wondered. He went up to him and asked, Are you for us or for our enemies? Then, the man said, Neither, but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come. He was the commander of the Lord’s army – an angel in human form, possibly, the angel Michael. Joshua thought that he was the commander of the Lord’s army in this conquest. But there was another commander of the Lord’s army, showing that this conquest was not only about the physical battle between the Israel people and the Canaanites, but also it was directly related to the spiritual battle between God’s army and Satan’s army. Not only Joshua, a human was involved in this battle, but also, the angel of God was fighting together with him. The physical army of God and the spiritual army of God were fighting together for God’s kingdom purpose. 

 

We work hard to serve God’s kingdom work. Sometimes, we experience great victories and rejoice; sometimes, we experience painful failures and shed tears. But we are not fighting alone, but together with our true commander in chief, Jesus Christ, and God’s angels are fighting together with us in the spiritual realm. We are not alone in this battle.

 

Originally, Joshua asked, Are you for us or for our enemies? Since the angel was the commander of the Lord’s army, it seemed that he should have said, Of course, for you. But his answer was, Neither! What a shocking answer it was! The commander of the Lord’s army was neither for Israel nor for the Canaanites; he was simply neutral! The angel was there to fight, not for the Israel people, but for God. And the Lord’s army was not for Israel, but for God! That’s the message Joshua had to learn as he served God as the commander of the Lord’s army. Probably, Joshua thought that he was going to fight for his nation Israel. To him, the battle was to establish the kingdom of Israel where his people would enjoy success and prosperity generation after generation. For this, he was willing to do anything, determined to fight. Because of his nationalism, he forgot that he was the commander of the Lord’s army, and that the battle was for God, not for Israel. 

 

Neither, but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come. This reply must have been very shocking to Joshua. When we think about this prayerfully, we can see that all kinds of humanistic ideas such as racism or nationalism have no place in God. We are here neither for America nor for China; we are here neither for the Republican party nor the Democratic party; we are here neither for English-speaking people nor Spanish-speaking people. As God’s people, as Christians soldiers for Jesus, simply, we are neutral. No need to be concerned about political issues or national issues – let them fight for such things doggedly, but you go and preach the good news of Jesus Christ. When you are asked, Are you for the Caravans or for Trump? You say, Neither! When you are asked, Are you for the Republican party or for the Democratic party? you say, Neither! I am in the Lord’s army! We entrust all such matters in God’s hands; then when election comes, we vote for what we think right, forget about all those things and dedicate ourselves to God’s mission – we live for and die for God’s work. Let’s shout, Neither!

 

At this, Joshua fell face down to the ground in reverence, and asked him, What message does my Lord have for his servant? What was the angel’s message for him? Look at verse 15. Let’s read this verse together:

 

The commander of the Lord’s army replied, Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy. And Joshua did so.

 

Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy. When God appeared to Moses from the bush that was on fire in the desert, He told him the same thing, Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. Taking off one’s sandals is the expression of showing respect and honor. When you visit someone’s house, especially, someone honorable and respectable, you are very careful not to make any mistakes; you don’t want to behave at random at the house; when our brothers or sisters visit my house, they always take off their shoes. Take off your sandals! This instruction showed Joshua that he must serve the conquest as the leader with reverence and fear before God, not at random. He was the top leader, but it didn’t mean that he would do whatever he wanted; killing those whom he didn’t like, or letting some people whom he had mercy on live; going to the left or to the right when he felt like doing so. He was the top leader, but it didn’t mean that all things including people and materials, were at his disposal. Instead, he must serve the conquest as the top leader with a fearful and trembling heart before God

 

The commander of the Lord’s army showed him the reason, saying, for the place where you are standing is holy.The place where Joshua was standing was the land of Canaan. In the eyes of Joshua, the land was evil where all kinds of wicked and sinful people were living, doing all kinds of wicked things, deserving God’s judgment. But in God’s eyes, it was holy ground where Joshua must show respect and honor in reverence. It was the holy ground where Joshua must serve God’s work with a fearful and trembling heart, taking off his sandals. In what sense was it holy ground? It was the holy ground because it was the place where God had prepared for his people Israel, where God had been working for His kingdom purpose so long. It was the holy ground where God’s purpose was being fulfilled, and where God’s purpose would go on continually. 

 

Some people may serve God’s work because it is fun - Having a sword fight in which your victory is guaranteed is really fun. Some people may serve God’s work so that they can become rich – plundering enemies’ property and occupying someone else’s vineyard brings great delight. Some others may do the work of God because it is fulfilling – you feel good when you teach others saying do this or do that.But now, God asks us to take off our sandals and have reverence in our hearts. God commands us to serve his work with holy fear in our hearts, because the place where we are standing, the place where we are serving his work, our campuses, are holy ground, set apart for God’s purpose. ECC is holy ground where many powerful disciples have been established, and where such glorious work of God will continue. CSULB is holy ground where many great spiritual leaders who will change the world will be established. God has given us his mission to pioneer all the campuses in California. We must serve this will of God not at random or casually, but with reverence in our hearts. Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.

 

God was with them; God was going to help them win the conquest. Yet, God had them do all these things – circumcision, Passover, war for the Lord, not for their own agenda such as for their own nation, and then, reverence in the conquest. We see how serious and sincere God was in this conquest – he was carefully proceeding things. This was how God dealt with the conquest and this was how He prepared the Israelites for the conquest. Today, God asks us to do the same things. When we are done with these preparations thoroughly, then, we can withstand all kinds of challenges in serving God’s work, and our mission will go very effectively.Circumcise your heart by getting rid of all human desires from your heart so that you can seek and serve God’s work powerfully. Remember God’s amazing grace upon your life – remember how He sacrificed his only Son Jesus to give you this new life. Fight the Lord’s battle for the Lord alone. And take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.

 

One Word:Today I Have Rolled Away The Reproach Of Egypt

 

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