Hi, My name is Josh Pollard and I’m the Adult Ministries Pastor here at Renovation Church
This Summer we’ve been studying the book of Me! The book of Joshua in the Old Testament.
Today in our study of Joshua we get to one of the highest points of the entire book which we will find spread out over two different chapters.
It’s when the people of Israel finally get to the promised land that God promised to give them.
We see it partly in Joshua 5 and partly in Joshua 8.
All of the battles in Joshua often take the spotlight away from the details of these two chapters, but these are extremely important events in the history of God’s people.
We give lots of attention to the promises made to Abraham and Moses, and the Exodus and the journey through the wilderness, but very little time to looking at the actual culmination of that whole story, when they finally seem to get that promise fulfilled for the first time.
We’re going to take a closer look at that today and as we go we will look back at some of the key points along the way and see what significance they hold for our understanding of today’s passages and for our lives today.
So go ahead and open up your Bibles to Joshua 5 (Page 148) and we’re going to start reading in verse 2
By the way if you don’t own a bible, please feel welcomed to take the bibles under the chairs home with you today.
Or if you’re currently sharing your faith with someone in your life that might need a bible, take that and give it to them.
We’ll start with verses 2-12. And remember that they just crossed over the Jordan river on dry ground and are now in the Promised land for the first time.
And three major things happen right away.
2 At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites again.” 3 So Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the Israelites at Gibeath Haaraloth.[b]
4 Now this is why he did so: All those who came out of Egypt—all the men of military age—died in the wilderness on the way after leaving Egypt. 5 All the people that came out had been circumcised, but all the people born in the wilderness during the journey from Egypt had not. 6 The Israelites had moved about in the wilderness forty years until all the men who were of military age when they left Egypt had died, since they had not obeyed the Lord. For the Lord had sworn to them that they would not see the land he had solemnly promised their ancestors to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey. 7 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. 8 And after the whole nation had been circumcised, they remained where they were in camp until they were healed.
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[c] to this day.
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. 11 The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain. 12 The manna stopped the day after[d] they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate the produce of Canaan.
So we see the three major things that come up in this passage are circumcision, Passover, and Manna.
Let’s take a look at each one.
Circumcision is a deeply meaningful symbol for the Israelites because it was the symbol that sealed the covenant between God and Abraham.
it all starts back at Genesis 12
God told Abraham (then known as Abram still) to start walking from him home over in the east to a land that He would give him. He set out from his original home and the next place we see him in in a place called Shechem.
It is here in Shechem that God tells Abram “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord.
And the Sign that sealed God’s promise with Abram was circumcision. And circumcision was to be an identifying mark for God people down through the ages.
But the generation that left Egypt was a rebellious generation and was constantly mistrusting God.
They saw miracles after miracle of God’s power and presence but continually failed to trust and obey him.
And even though they had the identifying mark of circumcision on their bodies to remind them that their future was already accounted for by God, They neglected to believe it deeply enough to pass it on to their kids.
Now for Christians today, Circumcision has no spiritual significance, people might do it for other reasons if they want but it should have nothing to do with your faith. But for the Israelites it was extremely important to their relationship with God.
When it comes to the Passover, we must remember that the Passover is a memorial celebration of God delivering the Israelites out of centuries of violent and oppressive slavery while judging the Egyptians.
Eating the Passover meal is the very last thing they do before they leave Egypt and it’s one of the very first things they do when they finally reach where they are going.
Their journey in the wilderness is capped on both ends with celebrations of God’s deliverance.
And while they were in the wilderness, continually grumbling against God, God continually provided for them. He sent manna, which is like this miraculous bread, down from the sky every morning. They were to collect whatever they needed each morning and double it on Friday and so they don’t have to go collecting on the Sabbath but could rest.
It was exactly what they needed to sustain them in the wilderness and it lasted for forty years.
But when they finally ate the food of the promised land, the manna suddenly stopped.
So the Question I have is why are these three things so important right here at this point in the story?
And I think the key to understanding that is right in verse 9 where God says to Joshua “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” So the place has been called Gilgal[c] to this day. (Because Gilgal sounds like the work for rolled in Hebrew.)
You see, they had been carrying this reproach around with them.
The word “reproach” means the disapproval, or accusation, or disappointment, shame. –
So, until this time they were carrying this identity of being shamed by Egypt.
There are several ways that people generally get a sense of shame.
Sometimes it is rightful shame of our sin. We have done something that is rightfully worthy of disapproval or accusation or disappointment.
And when we are not completely numb to the Holy Spirit, we can feel him convicting us, helping us to not love our sin, to not love what God does not love.
For the Israelites, they had done many shameful acts while in the wilderness. They built idols and accused God of being worse than the Egyptians and in many ways took on an Egyptian identity. So they carried this reproach of Egypt with them because they were willfully rebellious like the Egyptians.
The other way that people develop a sense of reproach is by what others have done to them.
Think about it, they have been enslaved by the Egyptians for hundreds of years. Brutality is all they’ve ever faced. During the time Moses was born the Pharaoh even made a decree to try to kill all the new born baby boys, and it was a decree that they had to try to sneak their way through for years, Moses only barely escaped the same fate himself.
When people face perpetual abuse, they can develop a mindset that is covered in a feeling of guiltiness and shame thanks to nothing that they did at all, just because of something that someone else had done, and in many ways, the Israelites had that weight on them. They constantly had a defeatist attitude, that they were a defeated people and that’s all they ever will be so why dare to hope for the promised land.
What is important here is that all of the guilt and shame and reproach that was Upon the people of Israel was rolled away by God. It was nothing that they did to roll it away, or git rid of their reproach, God did it, and they responded.
You see in having them circumcise themselves he was giving them their true identity back as God’s people, people of the promise, people whose future and heritage could never be forgotten, as every generation came to be they would be reminded in the most intimate way that their heritage, their family came from God Himself. It was a testament to God’s faithfulness to his promise. And his promise was not just a gift of land, but a gift of identity. They are his people.
He has them celebrate the Passover to remember that they are God’s people, He transitions his provision from the placeholder of Manna, to the produce of the promised land. You are no longer slaves, You are no longer wanderers, you are no longer children of the wilderness, you are my people. Shed off your old identity and take on your true identity as my people.
When we become God’s child, He rolls away the reproach of our past. He does not want us to be identified by our past. Whether our past sin is that we should rightfully be ashamed of, or past trauma that we carried around like a weight, that is not our identity any more.
The book of John says “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
We are set free from that and given a whole new identity.
So often I hear about people that struggle with sin and struggle with their past and struggle with trauma.
But as Christians, we are free from that. at some point we need to realize the power of the God we serve and move from struggling to freedom, to victory over these things.
Our Christ has crushed the head of Satan under his foot and we are no longer slaves to his temptations, he can no longer accuse us or shame us. but we forget that so often and just settle for getting by. Identify ourselves by worldly things, with worldly struggles. But there is no just getting by in God’s kingdoms.
God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
Of course that doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be battels to fight. But they are battles that are already won!
Even in hard times, God’s people keep this identity of being someone that struggles but realize that God has given you the identity of someone that is going to fight battles that they know they are going to be victorious in in the end.
You see, Moses had given the Israelites some instructions from God about what they were to do once they go into the promised land.
Back in Deuteronomy 27 Moses tells them that when they get into to promised land, they were to go to Mt. Ebal and to build an alter on it and burn offerings. And then they are supposed to have half of the tribes stand in front of Mt. Ebal and have in front of Mt. Gerizim and to put the ark of God in the middle and to read the law of Moses.
Well there was a problem with that. and you can see the problem if you look at this map
[Put up Map]
You can see that they crossed the Jordan near Jericho, and camped at Gilgal, but the path that they’ll need to take to get to Mt. Ebal is about 30 miles and there were some enemy cities along the way, Jericho and Ai. Both of these cities would turn into major battles that they’d have to face as they live into their new identity and attempt to be obedient to what God has told them to do.
We preached on both of those battles in the past few weeks of our study so I won’t go into much detail but I will say that both of these battles were won by trusting God and putting him first in all ways.
At Jericho they marched around the city for 7 days until God made the wall just crumble and they easily won the battle.
So many of our battles in the Christian life are won just by doing what God says. God said just walk, they just walked, And the walls came down.
So often in scripture we see instructions on how to win the battels we face and if would just approach those battles as things we know we will win if we just do it God’s way, then we’d fight much differently, with humility and confidence, not fear and despair and perpetual shame.
But back in the book of Joshua one of the soldiers stole some of the plunder from Jericho that God had told them not to take and it caused them to suffer a defeat when they came to the city of Ai. He gave into temptation, didn’t trust God, and it had serious consequences.
They had to get that all sorted out and got rid of the stolen items, and work at being seriously obedient to God. Having a new identity alone is not enough to win the battles. God will fight for you but you have to do it his way. It doesn’t work to say I’m a child of God now, so I’m going to go do it my way and expect Him to help me. It did not work for the Israelites, It won’t work for you. [Take down Map]
Just because we know that the battle is already won, that God is true to complete his promises, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t still a fight to follow God.
So whatever you are facing, don’t struggle with it, fight. Don’t say, “my marriage is struggling, say I am fighting for my marriage and I know that we will win that fight if we do it God’s way. Don’t say I struggle with temptation, say you are fighting against temptation and you know that you will be victorious over it. Don’t struggle with anxiety and depression, say you fighting it and you know that your deliverance is already promised and you know that you will win in the end. So that you fight with real confidence, and with real humble dependance on God who is the provider of that deliverance, that victory, that freedom.
Our old identity was one of struggling under bondage, our new identity is one of fighters who have a guaranteed ultimate victory.
So finally we get to Chapter 8 where they reach Mt. Ebal and they do everything just as Moses had instructed them to complete their inheritance of the promised land. We’ll pick up our reading in Chapter 8:30-35 (pg151).
30 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.
Now it may seem hard to see how people spread out across mountain ranges could have hear the reading of the law, but I want to show you a picture that will help you get this image in your mind because it is one of the highest point in all of the Old Testament. It is the culmination of the Abrahamic Covenant! It’s is them getting to the promised land!
So look at this picture. [Put up Picture of mountains]
You’ll see that Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim are actual kind of just little hills and that they are close together and they create this natural amphitheater. So it’s actually quite possible for someone to stand right there at the middle of those hills and for everyone to hear when the conditions are right.
So that little town right there in the picture is where the ark of the covenant was and where Joshua read the blessings and the curses of the Law to fulfill the giving of the promised land
And what’s amazing is that that little town was called Shechem.
Do you remember Shechem?! That’s the place where it all began back in Genesis 12!
Remember, God told Abrah to go to a land that he would give him, he leaves his homeland and the very next place we see him is in Shechem and God promised “To your offspring I will give this land.” And Abram makes an alter to the Lord.
It’s at the same exact spot, some 500 years later that Abram’s offspring, now 12 tribes, official inherit that land, and build an alter to the Lord.
And not only did they have the land, and a New Identity as God’s chosen people, but they also had clear expectation on how to live as God’s people. What a great day in the history of the world. [Take down picture of Mountains]
For us now, as Christians, we can continue to study the scriptures and we see that Joshua leading God’s people into the promised land was only a shadow of the ultimate plan of Jesus leading God’s people into his promised kingdom. We are once children of the wilderness, lost and rebellious against God, but he provided a way for us anyway. And for the Christians in the room, we have a very special way of remembering that.
Instead of celebrating the Passover like the Israelites did to remember that God made a way for them to be free, out of slavery and bondage and into God’s promise, we celebrate communion to remember that God made a way for all people to be free from the ultimate slavery of sin and to be free from bondage - free to live life to fullest with God! We Christians are no longer defined by our past sin or trauma, but by our deliverance from that!
And that battle is already won for us! we will fight along the way but we already know the outcome and so we celebrate the day of victory as we anticipate Christ’s return
As so, if you are a Christian in here, and can examine yourself and are not living in unrepentant sin or are harboring resentment for another Christian then take communion together! As an act of united celebration of Christ’s promise.
Copyright: Josh Pollard
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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