“Now when all the Amorite kings west of the Jordan and all the Canaanite kings along the coast heard how the Lord had dried up the Jordan before the Israelites until they had crossed over, their hearts melted in fear and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites.
Again we see how God is paving the way for Israel to take the land of their inheritance. The people living in the land are afraid of what is coming, which will make it easier for Israel in battle.
Circumcision and Passover at Gilgal
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.
The word circumcision may bring negative thoughts to our minds, and we may think of this as a barbaric tradition. However, this practice was used as a sign of the covenant between God and Abraham, meaning that all who were circumcised belonged to God, and that the living God was their God (read more in Genesis 17). We can look at baptism in the same way. Both are outward signs that we belong to God, and have entered into a covenant with Him to follow Him and none other.
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 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 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.
A significant moment with the wilderness behind them and the new life in the Land of Promise before them is marked by two symbolic actions: circumcision and the Passover. Circumcision was the sign of the covenant with Abraham (Gen. 17: 9-14), and was required for participation in the Passover (Ex. 12:48). Circumcision marked the people of the promise; the Passover celebrated their redemption from Egypt. Both the promise to Abraham and the redemption from Egypt looked forward to this day (Gen. 17:8; Ex. 3:8).
Symbolically speaking, we too, as Christians, have been circumcised and set apart to Christ. “9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 When you were dead in your sins and in the un-circumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” Colossians 2
The Passover, too, is symbolically looking forward (read more in Joshua 4) to our Savior, Christ, who is our Passover lamb. Throughout our sanctification process the wilderness can represent our initial coming out of sin’s slavery into freedom with Christ. It can also represent the great lulls we may go through when we feel like there is no communion with God, or that we have reached a stale-mate and something needs to change.
God graciously gave the Israelites manna (aka ‘what is it’, see Ex. 16) to sustain them while they roamed through the desert. There was never too much, and never too little. What God provided was always just right, and just what they needed. They literally had to trust that God would provide for them each and every day. When it was time to move on from the wilderness God provided a place that would sustain indefinitely, as long as the Israelites kept their eyes on God.
Application: By studying God’s word we will be provided with the manna we need during our sanctification. We must keep our eyes on Him through prayer and reading if we expect to grow in our walk.
Principle: Both the saving and sustaining is accomplished through God’s mercy to us through Christ.
Commander of the Lord’s Army
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. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”
14 “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell face down to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”
15 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.”
These few passages, 13-15 are a nice intro for the second phase of Joshua’s leadership over Israel. Joshua approaches a man ready for war, and we know who this man is by the words he speaks. In Exodus 3 Moses approaches a burning bush to see how it was possible for the bush not to burn among all the fire. God (written as ‘the angel of the Lord’) is in the midst of the bush and tells Moses to take off his sandals because he is on holy ground, the same as this commander. He then proceeds to tell Moses that He is the God of his fathers. This moment is pivotal for us to know that God is with Joshua just as He was with Moses.
His response as belonging to neither side is important to note, as God is not bound to destroy or deliver (as we will see in later chapters). He is not required to be for or against anyone. We are not guaranteed to be spared from strife, nor are we condemned to misery. Most importantly: God is the same today as He was in those days. “I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.” Ecclesiastes 3:14
Joshua relied on the Lord to bring them to the Promised Land, and now what we see is that Joshua must rely on and trust the Lord for all that is to come, because the commander of the Lord’s army is serving God, not man. In the same way, we as Christians must trust and rely on God to do the work in us while we are being saved, and afterwards in sanctification as well. The only lasting changes do not come from our trying to accomplish them, but instead letting Christ accomplish them in His time.
“20 Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” Colossians 2
“1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3
Application: By studying God’s word, and setting our minds on Him, we will be set free from the presence of sin as God allows.
Principle: God is sovereign. All that was, is, and will be, is for Him and will be used for His glory, even our sanctification.