1. In this passage the Lord God commanded Joshua to circumcise the Lord's army. What does this "circumcision" symbolize (cf. Hebrews 10:1; Gen 17:11; Rm 2:29; Col 2:11; Deu 30:6; Gal 5:6)?
2. Read vs. 1-3. In what respect was the Lord's command not easy for Joshua to obey? Yet, how did Joshua obey? How do you think Joshua was able to obey such an onerous command (cf. 1; Psa 23:5)?
3. Read vs. 4-6. This passage says that even after they had received circumcision [upon their physical body], and even after getting out of Egypt through such a great miracle, they failed to enter the Promised Land for they did not believe in the Lord's promise. What can we learn from their failures (Romans 1:17; Eph 3:16,17; 1Pe 2:2; 3:18)?
4. Read vs. 7-8. The Lord God could have given up on the idea of leading his flock to the Promised Land. Yet, he "raised up" a new batch of people to lead to the Promised Land. What does this show us about the Lord?
5. Read v. 9. The "reproach of Egypt" refers to the evil influence of the world and its rulers. Why then was it necessary for the Lord's army to be set free from the "reproach of Egypt" before themselves getting involved in the battle (cf. Deu 23:14; Col 3:5,6; Heb 12:1)?
6. Read v. 10 along with Exodus 12. What does the "Passover" symbolize (cf. 1Co 15:3; Rom 8:1)? Before God's children engaged in the battle for the Promised Land, they first "celebrated" the Passover. What lesson is there for us to learn in participating in the Lord's battle?
7. Read vs. 11-12. This passage says that the Israelites started out feeding themselves instead of the Lord feeding them. What does this passage tell us about the way the Lord helps his children (cf. Mark 9:27; John 11:44; Rom 1:5)?
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.
Today we would like to think about two conditions of man's happiness - the conditions which must be satisfied in order for us to be able to say from the bottom of our hearts, "Oh, yes! I am a truly blessed person."
When we study the Bible especially Genesis we cannot deny that God's ultimate purpose in calling each of his children to himself is to bless them. In fact his purpose is so noble and glorious that by blessing each of his children He wants to bless all peoples on earth through each of them. We can find this purpose in Genesis 12:2-3, especially the phrase, "You will be a blessing."
In blessing his children however there is an order: he blesses his children’s inside first and then outside. When Jesus came, he also expressed this concept by saying, "Clean the inside of the cup…then the outside will be clean" (Matthew 23:25). One of the reasons why the Lord God blesses man's inside first and then outside is because no matter how much one is blessed on his external person, when one's internal person is not blessed, one is always unhappy. This is like a man with leprosy who can never be happy even if he is dressed with nice clothes like a tuxedo.
But making the inside clean is not easy. In fact, to our great surprise, it is impossible for us to make the inside entirely clean. For example, Jeremiah 13:23 says, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil." Nowadays they can change the color of skin through cosmetic surgery. Do you remember how Michael Jackson did it? But what the Lord God talks about is not the color of physical skin but the condition of man's inner person. Speaking of the same truth Jeremiah 2:22 says, "Although you wash yourself with soda and use an abundance of soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me…"
In the passage however we see the Lord God blessing the Israelites first in their inner persons. Then he wants to help the Israelites jump right into the Promised Land and enjoy all the blessings from the Lord as much as they could handle.
Part I.Their hearts melted (1)
Before we see how the Lord blessed the inner condition of the Israelites, let us first see the cursed condition of the people living in the land of Canaan. What is the condition of the people in the land of Canaan? In what respect are they cursed? If they are cursed how cursed are they? And if they are cursed to any degree why do we say they are cursed in the first place? We can find answers to these questions all in verse 1. Look at v. 1. "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 we had crossed over, their hearts melted and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites." Here we find the word "all" repeated twice. "[A]ll the Amorite kings…, and all the Canaanite kings.” The Amorite kings and the Canaanite kings are representatives of all who look blessed but in fact are cursed, and cursed to the core. From a human point of view they are sort of "lucky" people. After all, they are "kings." As a king, each of them might have had a lot of what others do not have - tons of sheep, cattle, horses, servants (both men servants and women servants), tons of money in their bank accounts, lots of concubines, large mansions, limos, a private tennis court, a private swimming pool, private boats, private airplanes, a private movie theatre, private everything, and much more.
But in God's eyes they are cursed. As Genesis 15:16 says, their sin reached its full measure. They were ripe for God's judgment. Figuratively speaking they are like a bunch of apples which have gone so rotten to the core that they gather nothing but flies and maggots. They've rotted so much that they rendered themselves good for nothing. The only thing one should do with them is tossing them away in a garbage can. And one must do it as quickly as possible.
In v. 1, we see one point which is really interesting and yet illustrates why they needed to be tossed away. "Their hearts melted and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites." This is very strange, for one might easily surmise that like a rat driven to a corner they might turn around and fight to the last minute. But this was not the case. Their hearts "melted" like a scoop of ice cream melting under the hot sun! Or they were like a slice of cheese put on a hot plate. How much strength will that cheese have? Would it have the strength to get up, and jump right out of the hot plate? No. It has zero strength to resist the environment; it has no power to choose not to melt.
The word "melted" however makes us stop and think for it reminds us of what idolatry does to a man, that is, its melting effect. Idol worship makes man's heart to become mellow, as mellow as the inside of a ripened mango. By the same token worship of the Lord makes man to be as solid, sound, stable, strong, and shining as a gemstone.
One of the imageries we have in the Bible about God's design and plan for his children is gemstone. We find these imageries in the breast piece of the priests of the Israel. Mounted on this piece are twelve gemstones. Another place we can go to for imageries of what God wants to achieve in his children is Exodus 24:10 where we see the representatives of the Israelites seeing the Lord God plus something else, that is, under the feet of the Lord was something like a pavement made of sapphire. The color of the gem stone was as clear as the sky itself. The hardness of sapphire is 9 in the scale of 1 to 10. Gold and silver is 2.5. The most valuable of all sapphire is the one coming in a clear deep blue color. And the elders of Israel saw the sapphire of this sort. Some sapphires come in red due to such impurities as iron. Gemstones like this are formed at temperatures between 800-1000 degrees centigrade, plus with pressures. Gemstones are rare. They are small and yet hard and heavy. They are symbols of wealth, luxury, and power. Why is it that it was under the feet of the Lord that they found something like a pavement of this precious gemstone? Why is it that in Egypt they lived a life that makes bricks made of clay and straws? Why is it that after coming out of Egypt that they saw a pavement made not of bricks but of the most precious kind of sapphire? The answer is clear. It is the holiness of the Lord that makes man to be as precious as a gemstone. We find the same imagery in the book of Revelation as well. The Bible is the book of both the introduction and conclusion of "the matter". The Bible is still the best seller of all the bestsellers. The Bible is the book of books. What then is the conclusion of the book of books? A holy city made of gemstones. And these gemstones are associated with God's holiness. These gemstones represent the children of God made holy. Their characters are as solid and unbreakably perfect as the gemstones described in Revelation 21.
But what does idol worship produce? What kind of person does it cast? The word "melted" suggests that idol worship produces people as weak and mellow as a scoop of ice cream, as brittle and unstable as a brick made of clay and straw.
No wonder that the land of Canaan is often times described as a melting pot. In this melting pot, man melts down. With what does one melt down the melted down? The idol worship, the kind of lifestyle adopted by the people in Sodom and Gomorrah. But the Lord God does not want his children to be melted down in a melting pot.
God's ideal in producing godly characters in his children is found in the life of a young man named Daniel. In Daniel 3:19-23 we see Daniel being forged in a furnace made seven times hotter than usual. The furnace was so hot that the soldiers working on the fiery furnace became a bunch of French fries. Yet, Daniel did not get hurt. He came out of the blazing furnace intact. How? It was because the holiness of the Lord shielded him inside out.
Associated with this imagery is the dreadfulness of the life that hits a man after a man trying the ways of life adopted by the people living in the land of idolatry - the inability to jump out of the pot. Look at v. 1 again. "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 we had crossed over, their hearts melted and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites." As history proves these kings could not do a thing to save them out of the impending judgment. It was simply too late. Figuratively speaking they were like a frog in warm water in a kettle. They were so to speak cooked ever so slowly to perfection. As they were seated in warm water of idolatry they felt good. Then the devil, the real cook who lured them to jump into the kettle and slowly increased the heat, robbed them ever so slowly and deceptively of their will power to resist the temptations and then get out of the boiling pot. And when the right time came they were unable to jump right out of the kettle. But Rahab was different. She did not neglect her bible studies. Of course in the city of Jericho there were no UBF chapters. No one invited her to Bible studies. But as an innkeeper she made use of every bit of information concerning the chosen people Israel and their God. Then as she kept following up what the God of Israel was doing, faith arose in her. This faith gave her the strength to resist the devil. It gave her the courage to shake off her idolatrous lifestyle. It gave her the courage to even welcome the Israelites. And it gave her the courage to jump out of the melting pot.
When you think about the present condition of this world, and compare the people of this world living in this generation with all the Amorite kings and the Canaanite kings, it is not difficult to see that a lot are on their way to facing the stern chilling reality these kings faced in v. 1. When I first came to the U.S. I was surprised to hear one of the servants of God who kept saying, "America is a melting pot" or "American Satan is a strong Satan." I did not like a man of God continually talking about Satan. But whether I liked it or not he kept talking about strong Satan working strongly in America. At first I could not understand. But now I understand him better. And I recognize with increasing clarity that it is not just this American soil but in all countries of the world that the enemy called Strong Satan is working ever so diligently and deceptively. And this is especially true in this age called the Age of Internet where almost everyone is hooked up with almost everyone. By the word "hooked" up, I mean not in a physical sense but in a spiritual sense, for a lot of people are addicted to materialism and fleshly oriented lifestyles.
Look at v. 1 again. "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 we had crossed over, their hearts melted and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites." The Lord God knows that the Israelites had the strong potential to live like a frog in warm water of a kettle put on a stove. Let us not forget that the Promised Land lying in front of the Israelites will be the land of promise if they hold onto God's promises. If not the land will be just as before: the land of Canaan, the melting pot. The real question for them is not whether or not they can get in, but whether or not they can maintain their integrity as a holy nation. What will happen to them? Will they melt down in a melting pot? Or will they come out of this blazing furnace intact just as Daniel walked out his? This is the question they needed to ask. And they needed to ask the question right now.
Part II. Reproach of Egypt (2-12)
Thankfully enough for the Israelites, the Lord God addressed this question. How did the Lord address it? In vs. 2-12, we can find an answer to this question. To say the conclusion first the Lord God helped them at least to have a sense of problem and a solution to the problem by commanding them to go through the two important rituals: circumcision and Passover. These two are not just rituals: they have deep spiritual meanings. And as we saw earlier they hold the golden keys to living a blessed life in a blessed land, being able to claim God's blessings without a limit, [I mean as much as they can handle] and much more, even to the point of becoming a source of blessings to all peoples on earth, so that in and through them God's blessings might overflow to all peoples on earth! Let us think about the keys in order.
First, circumcision (2-9)
Let us read vs. 2-9 responsively. "At that time the LORD said to Joshua, "Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites again." So Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the Israelites at Gibeath Haaraloth. Now this is why he did so: All those who came out of Egypt-all the men of military age-died in the desert on the way after leaving Egypt. All the people that came out had been circumcised, but all the people born in the desert during the journey from Egypt had not. The Israelites had moved about in the desert 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 that he had solemnly promised their fathers to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey. 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. And after the whole nation had been circumcised, they remained where they were in camp until they were healed. 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."
Here the Lord said to Joshua, "Make flint knives." Flint is stone which is allied to chalcedony. Flint is not as hard as other gemstones like sapphire but is harder than steel. And because of its hardness it can be used as an abrasive. The Jordan area abounds with flint stones. Due to the thermal action (either heat or frost) flint fractures into shells, so you can make flint knives out of these shells which come with cutting edges.
"Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites again." Before getting out of Egypt the Israelites did a circumcision. Then they came out of Egypt. But all those who came out of Egypt - all the men of military age - died in the desert on the way after leaving Egypt. They had all been circumcised, but they all died in the desert because they had not obeyed the Lord's command to take possession of the Land the Lord God had promised to give. But thank God. They kept producing children. But the children born in the desert did not receive circumcision. So the Lord God commanded Joshua to circumcise them.
It was a dangerous operation to perform because the Israelites were in the enemy's territory. Plus it took a lot of time for the Israelites to be healed of the cut. Yet Joshua obeyed the Lord's command because he had firm faith that the Lord was with them and would protect them. When the circumcision was done the Lord God said, "Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you." Here the reproach of Egypt refers to the influence of the world such as materialism or flesh-oriented lifestyles. The Lord God calls this evil influence as reproach meaning disgrace.
Here Joshua is symbolic of Jesus. The flint knives refer to the message of repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus, the Savior of the world. The foreskin to be cut and thrown away is symbolic of our sinful nature which we pick up from this world. On our own it is impossible for us to shake off this sinful nature. But when we put trust in the Lord, and repent of our sinful ways of life and turn to Jesus, He blesses our faith in Him. He sends His Spirit who performs spiritual surgery on our sinful nature. He then gives us a new spirit. Then by the power of God we can overcome the power of sin and death. We can put to death the misdeeds of our body. Speaking of this blessed transaction Peter said, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38)." He also said to his audience, "Repent and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord (Acts 3:9)."
"Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites again." Here it is interesting to note that the Lord God commanded Joshua to make flint "knives." In the Bible, “knife” also has a special meaning, that is, the word of God which is as sharp as a double edged sword. This word of God which is compared to a sword is associated with the Holy Spirit, for the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:13, "This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words" and then in Hebrew 4:12, it reads, "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." From this we learn that it is only through the power of God, especially His word working through His Spirit that we can cut off our sinful nature, and be born as a blessed child worthy of all the blessings the Lord God has in mind.
Second, the Passover (10-12)
Look at vs. 10-12. "On the evening of the fourteenth day of the month, while camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, the Israelites celebrated the Passover. The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain. 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 of the produce of Canaan."While the circumcision is symbolic of repentance and faith in the Lord, the Passover celebration is symbolic of the fruit that comes out of our repentance and faith, that is, the freedom to serve the Lord without fear and with great joy.
We can see this link between faith and joyful obedience from the very fact that as soon as the circumcision was completed, the Lord God granted them to celebrate the Passover. The Passover means [the angel of death executing God's judgment on sinners] passing over [or overlooking] sinners and thereby not destroying them but rather saving them out of the bondage to the power of sin and Satan, into the blessed life of serving the Lord freely, and the Lord blessed them like this because of their repentance and faith in the blood of the lamb which is a symbol of the blood of Jesus the Passover Lamb.
The Israelites were traveling from Egypt to the Promised Land. For the first 430 years they lived in Egypt as a slave nation. For the next 40 years they lived in the desert as a chosen people receiving God's training to pick up godly character as a holy nation. Now they are about to enter the Promised Land, the land flowing with milk and honey. In Egypt they lived a life filled with one disgrace after another. There they did not have their own industry. There they owned nothing. They could not fulfill anything. But in the Promised Land, they are going to be given their own pieces of land. There they can build up their own businesses. Now here is the question: will they be able to prove themselves worthy of the blessings that are waiting for them? The immediate answer was No. But the Lord God now prepared them for the blessings to come. Will they then be able to maintain the blessings the Lord God had in mind? Or will they melt down in the new melting pot, and face the same dreadful reality the kings of the enemy nations faced? The answer is yes or no, all depending on what they do with the messages that come with the circumcision and the Passover. One word: circumcision at Gilgal
¬¬¡Ä¡¡¡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.
¬¬¡Ä¡¡¡This passage describes the members of the Lord's army practicing two symbolic activities, namely performing circumcision and celebrating the Passover, before engaging themselves in the Lord's battle.
¬¬¡Ä¡¡¡The circumcision refers to faith in the Lord, and the Passover celebration refers to the freedom to serve the Lord with joy and without fear.
¬¬¡Ä¡¡¡This is also necessary for us to remember, for we Christians are to fight the Lord's battle by fighting the good fight of "faith", asking for His help. In order for us to do this, we need protect and renew our faith in the Lord, so the Lord would not only justify us from our sins but also set us free from the grip and all the ill effects of sins, so we would fight the Lord's battle bravely and manfully.
¬¬¡Ä¡¡¡Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
¬¬¡Ä¡1. ¡¡In this passage the Lord God commanded Joshua to circumcise the Lord's army. What does this "circumcision" symbolize (cf. Hebrews 10:1; Gen 17:11; Rm 2:29; Col 2:11; Deu 30:6; Gal 5:6)?
¬¬¡Ä¡** ¡¡It is like us signing a contract to bind ourselves to the terms and conditions set forth in the contract. Or it is like a bride and bridegroom saying, "Yes, I do" before getting formally married.
¬¬¡Ä¡¡¡In Christ, we are to believe in the Lord Jesus who forgives us of our sins as we put trust in Him. Then we commit ourselves to loving him and obeying Him. Then as we trust in His love and follow His guidance he leads us to one victory after another.
¬¬¡Ä¡**¡¡ It was a very dangerous thing to do, for it is not a small operation. It takes three days forone¿¿s incision to be healed. You render yourself immobile for three days. The enemies can rush down to kill you, for you are a virtual sitting duck for the three days after the operation.
¬¬¡Ä¡** ¡¡He made flint knives, thousands of them, and performedthe operation on every male of age.
¬¬¡Ä¡** ¡¡1) He believed that the Lord had already robbed the enemies of the courage to counter attack.
¬¬¡Ä¡2) ¡¡He also believed that the Lord God would continue to safely protect them.
¬¬¡Ä¡¡¡We need this kind of faith, so each time we get into the enemy's territory we should be set free from any hints of anxiety, because the Lord is going to be with us, leading us from one victory to another.
¬¬¡Ä¡**¡¡ We must live by faith in the Lord continually, deeply rooted in His love.
¬¬¡Ä¡¡¡Most importantly we need to study God's words prayerfully asking for Him to inspire us with His spirit, so our hearts would not go dim and then rebellious.
¬¬¡Ä¡¡¡Isaiah says that God's people are called to operate as a light for the Gentiles, bringing God's salvation to the ends of the earth. This indicates that salvation consists of light, and with light comes enlightenment, which again comes when one repents, and humbly believes in the Lord, whereupon the Lord pours out his Spirit who helps us to know the Lord and his plan and direction better. Then we are not in danger of repeating the kind of failures the Israelites did.
¬¬¡Ä¡** ¡¡This shows the Lord God is always the God of second chances. He is the God who is long patient, and he is so patient for he does not want anyone to be lost.
¬¬¡Ä¡5. ¡¡Read v. 9. The "reproach of Egypt" refers to the evil influence of the world. Why then was it necessary for the Lord's army to be set free from the "reproach of Egypt" before themselves getting involved in the battle (cf. Deu 23:14; Col 3:5,6; Heb 12:1)?
¬¬¡Ä¡**¡¡ Sin so easily "entangles" us meaning it makes us less effective than we are supposed to be. The greatest sin we need to avoid is doubt and unbelief.
¬¬¡Ä¡6. ¡¡Read v. 10 along with Exodus 12. What does the "Passover" symbolize (cf. 1Co 15:3; Rom 8:1)? Before God's children engaged in the battle for the truth, they first "celebrated" the Passover. What lesson is there for us to learn in participating in the Lord's battle?
¬¬¡Ä¡**¡¡ It symbolizes the freedom we gain in Jesus, the freedom from the power of sin, shame, and guilt.
¬¬¡Ä¡**¡¡ We celebrate the freedom first. Then we get into the battlefield to claim the victory which the Lord had already given us.