December 2, 2016
Joshua 5:2, 4, 5, 7, 9
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
When God called Abram unto Himself (see Genesis 12:1), He promised to bless him (see Genesis 12:2), and all the earth through him! (See Genesis 12:3). God would give Abram the land of Canaan (see Genesis 13:14, 15; 17:7, 8); and so many descendants, they could not be counted! (See Genesis 13:16; 15:5; 22:17). In Genesis 17:5 The LORD changed the patriarch’s name from Abram (exalted father) to Abraham (father of a multitude). And then God sealed this covenant with a physical sign that every Israelite male would carry from then on – circumcision!
When we come to the story of the Exodus, and Israel’s wanderings of forty years in the desert because of disobedience, this sign of God’s covenant was ignored! But now they were entering the Promised Land. And if they were to continue to be the LORD’s people, that sign of the covenant had to be renewed! Here is the record (from Joshua 5:2, 4, 5, 7, 9 – condensed to save space) of what happened just after they miraculously crossed the Jordan River into Canaan:
…the LORD said to Joshua, “Make sharp knives…and circumcise the
sons of Israel” ….And this is the reason why Joshua circumcised them.
All the people who came out of Egypt…died in the wilderness….All the
…males had been circumcised, but…[those] born in the wilderness…
were not circumcised….Then the LORD said to Joshua, “This day I
have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” Therefore, the
name of the place is called Gilgal….
Gilgal…a town in southwestern Israel located just west of Jericho. The name means “a wheel, rolling” according to Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Definitions. And “…the LORD said to Joshua, ‘This day I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.’ ” The Israelites were once again physically identified as the covenant people of Jehovah God!
The Apostle Paul discusses the issue of circumcision as it applies to New Testament Christians in Galatians, chapter 5. There were Jews who came in after Paul’s evangelistic work, and told new believers in the Lord Jesus that to be a true Christian you had to be circumcised and then adhere to the full law of Moses! They were called Judaizers – and Paul argued vehemently against their legalistic teachings! Here is Galatians 5:2 through 4 and 6 (God’s Word to the Nations – see also Acts 15:1, 24; I Corinthians 7:17-20; Galatians 6:12, 13):
I, Paul, can guarantee that if you allow yourselves to be circumcised,
Christ will be of no benefit to you. Again, I insist that everyone who
allows himself to be circumcised must realize that he obligates himself
to do everything Moses’ Teachings demand. Those of you who try to
earn God’s approval by obeying His laws have been cut off from Christ.
You have fallen out of God’s favor….As far as our relationship to Christ
Jesus is concerned, it doesn’t matter whether we are circumcised or not.
But what matters is a faith that expresses itself through love.
So what is the mark of being a child of God today? It is the indwelling Holy Spirit, sent by the Lord as the empowering seal of God’s work in and through us! As Paul said in Romans 8:1 and 9: We “…are in Christ Jesus…if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” Of such a miraculous indwelling and transformation, Jeremiah speaks in Jeremiah 4:4: “Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskin of your hearts.” (see also Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6; Romans 2:28, 29). Ezekiel prophesied of it this way in Ezekiel 11:19 and 20:
Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them,
and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh,
that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them;
and they shall be My people, and I will be their God. (See also Ezekiel 36:
Paul reminds the Jews, especially the ones who follow Christ yet are steeped in legalistic Judaism, that it is not the outward sign of circumcision that counts, but that which is within! (See Romans 2:25-29).
What do we learn, then, from all this? Do you depend of the externals of Christianity to give you an ‘in’ with the Lord Jesus Christ? – externals such as baptism, church membership, godly parents and/or grandparents, serving on church boards, or doing works of charity? Remember – and remember well! – “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8 and 9 – see also Romans 4:5; I Corinthians 3:11; II Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5). As Jesus said in Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” And what is the Father’s will (His commandment) that we are to do? We are told in I John 3:23, “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us command-ment.” The works come after putting faith in the Son, not to achieve His saving favor! (See Ephesians 2:10).
Learn from Gilgal ! If your sin is not “rolled away” by faith (by circumcision of the heart), you will be a reproach unto the LORD! And who would want to experience His judgment for being reproachful?