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.
Welcome back to the book of Joshua, Joshua chapter five, it’s in the Old Testament. If you find the book of Genesis, just keep going four more books and you’ll, five more books and you’ll find her. Joshua chapter five, we’re going to look at verses one through 12 this morning.
I’d like to read it out loud, and here’s what we find. As soon as all the kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan to the west and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea heard that the Lord had dried up the waters of the Jordan for the people of Israel until they had crossed over, their hearts melted and there was no longer any spirit in them because of the people of Israel.
At that time, the Lord said to Joshua, make flint knives and circumcise the sons of Israel a second time. So, Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the sons of Israel at Gibeal Harloth. And this is the reason why Joshua circumcised them, all the males of the people who came out of Egypt, all the men of war, had died in the wilderness on the way after they had come out of Egypt.
Though all the people who had come out had been circumcised, yet all the people who were born on the way in the wilderness after they had come out of Egypt had not yet been circumcised. For the people of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, until all the nation, the men of war who had come out of Egypt, perished, because they did not obey the voice of the Lord.
The Lord swore to them that he would not let them see the land that the Lord had sworn to their fathers to give them, a land flowing with milk and honey. So was their children, whom he raised up in their place, that Joshua circumcised. For they were uncircumcised because they had not been circumcised on the way.
When the circumcising of the whole nation was finished, they remained in their places in the camp until they were healed. And the Lord said to Joshua, Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you. And so the name of that place is called Gilgal to this day. While the people of Israel were camped at Gilgal, they kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month in the evening on the plains of Jericho.
And the day after the Passover on that very day, they ate of the produce of the land on leavened cakes and parched grain.
Now I realize that some of you are wondering, Mark, why the heck are you preaching about circumcision on a day when we’re celebrating a renovated building? Reasonable question. But this passage represents to the people of Israel something that speaks directly to our situation today. A similar moment happened in American history in 1836.
About a hundred and eighty volunteers were gathered in a mission in San Antonio, Texas and San Antonio, Austin. San Antonio, okay. At the Alamo, a mission. And these 180 men were preparing for an onslaught of the Mexican army of a little over 4, 000 to come under the General Santa Anna. And as they were gathered, the army was coming and they were gathered there, these 180 volunteers.
And as they gathered, Colonel William Travis, who was the commander of the fort, gathered them together. And in his gathering, the, the Mexican soldiers were coming and he told them about the situation. He told them the numbers, 4, 180. They were able to do the math. These are volunteers, right? I mean, these guys can leave at any time.
They’re only there because they want to be. He has no company. He has no authority over them. But he presents to them the situation and he says, look, if we can hold out. for a while and they actually did hold out for 13 days. We will buy time for all the rest of the Texans to gather together and to then bring a much larger army against the invading force.
So, our defense has value. But it likely has the ultimate cost. And so, he actually took out his sword and famously He drew a long line in the sand and he said, look, this is utterly volunteer. It is up to you. But if you want to stay and fight, I’m going to ask you to cross the line. And if you want to leave, you are free to go.
Probably after tomorrow, you won’t have the chance to go. And every soldier crossed the line except for one who was the one that lived to tell the story of those that perished and they all perished in the Alamo. was Jim Bowie, whom the Bowie knife is named after, and one of many of our all time favorite American pioneers, Davy Crockett.
They crossed the line. That particular phrase, the line in the sand, has entered American language from the big, potentially costly choice. The Israelites are at a similar place in their lives here in Joshua chapter 5. To this point in the book of Joshua, they have come now, they are about to enter the land and And God has been at work among them because now, after 40 years in the wilderness, this new generation of Israelites are preparing to go in to try to conquer the land of promise that God has given to them.
And as they gather there… God has done a couple of things already in chapter one of Joshua, God has promised to be with them and fight for them in Joshua chapter two. He has told them the story through some of their spies that have gone out and have interviewed a woman in a city called Jericho. She’s actually a prostitute there, and she has told them that everybody in the land is scared to death of you guys.
And he has encouraged the people. And in Joshua chapter 3 and 4, we have the record of God actually taking them over the surging waters of the Jordan River, five times at normal, depth at this point. It was floodwaters. And God has opened that and they have gone in and now we come to chapter 5 and now God addresses them for their role.
And he tells them what they must do before they enter the land. They must offer themselves to Jehovah. In our passage, God calls for commitment at a little spot called Gilgal. And this map portrays that place. That is actually the Jordan River Valley. If you are familiar at all with the land of, of, of Israel.
And I forgot my pointer. Um. To the left of Gilgal and the Jordan River Valley is really all of Israel. And that’s where they’re going to go. But they come through, they cross the Jordan River, they hit Gilgal, and the next thing they’re going to face is the fortress city of Jericho. Gilgal is, it actually means the rolling.
God gave it this name. There was no town there before. It was a, it was a town of tents that the Israels made. It will become very prominent in the history of Israel. After every day, while circling the walls of Jericho, they will return to Gilgal. After every military campaign, which will occur over the next 20 years, When they go out, they will constantly come back to this tent city that is put in the Jordan River called Gilgal, the place of rolling.
Later, 400 years later, when the people of Israel insist on a king, he will be enthroned at Gilgal. It is a place of significance to the people of Israel. It is a place where a unique and wholehearted commitment of the people to the Lord of heaven is first pronounced and continually in their history. It is a place where they return to reaffirm their covenant to God.
And this is a cool day for us here at FCC. God’s enabled us to upgrade our facilities, to expand our seating capacity. To have a worship space whose technology and acoustics help us to do ministries and serve our community for years to come. He gave us the money to do it all in cash through the generous giving of our people.
And that is all awesome. But it’s just a space. It’s what God’s people do that matters. The Holy Spirit of God works through. The people of God when their hearts are committed to him. So this morning we stand at our own Gilgal where God draws a line in the sand. He calls us to offer ourselves to him for his purposes and pleasure.
For His glory as we seek to be His people to our generation and in generations to come in this little small corner of His work that He’s doing all over the world. Join me as we take a few minutes to reflect on what commitment looks like to the people of God when they are brought to a Gilgal moment.
We’re going to see six things. Number one, we see commitment as a response to what God has done. In verse one, we have the account of the, people of the land, actually, who have heard about God parting the Jordan River and that they have traveled across at the Jordan at flood stage. Was a seemingly impregnable barrier for the Israelites, but God did a mini Red Sea deal all over again for this new generation of Israelites.
And as He does so, the people of the land are filled with awe and fear of this God who they have brought with them. For thirty eight years, the Israelites have been wandering in the wilderness. They’ve come to the Promised Land thirty eight years. They had come 38 years back, and at that point had come in a different entrance to the land of promise, but they had scouted it out, and of course the story of the 10 of the 12 spies was, we are grasshoppers in their sight and in ours.
We have no chance of taking this place. And they refused to follow God, they refused to trust Him, and for 38 years God has had them wandering in the wilderness. Now God is giving the next generation their chance at the plate. Their opportunity to believe God and see His mighty hand at work through them.
And He starts it off by reminding them of who He is and that He is for them. He has worked in giving them their own Red Sea moment. It’s just at a river this time. He chose them, He rescued them, He taught them, He guided them, He reminded them they belong to Him. All things that He says to you if you have embraced Christ as your Savior and been embraced in His saving grace.
I want to speak just for a moment to young adults. Young adults, to me, this is arbitrary. But under 35 years old, the 1. 5 million dollars that was given was probably not primarily given by your demographic. Certainly there are exceptions. Many of you gave. But a lot of it was older money. But it was given to this church body to minister for years to come.
It was given so this facility Can still be serving your time. When you are the leaders, when you are the influences of this church family, God did it, and you now stand at Gilgal. You stand as the new generation to embrace God’s work and serve Christ passionately. Not only in this building. But in your lives, this is a Gilgal moment.
This was a whole new generation of God’s people. And I challenge you guys, that stand in the next generations to come. God did not primarily renovate this building for guys who look like me. For my generation of people. This is for you. This calling to come to Gilgal is particularly to you. As a new generation, to be used by God because your lives are sold out for Him.
Commitment is a response to what God has done. The second thing we find, commitment involves risk. In verse 2 and 3, we’re told that Joshua says, Get the flint knives, basically. Now, if I were there and I heard Joshua say something like that, I’d say, Yes! Get the flint knives! Get the swords! Get the spearheads!
Get the arrowheads! Get them together! Get the grappling hooks! Put them all in a pile! Load them up! And let’s go take the land! And Joshua would say, It’s not what the flint knives is about.
And then I’d find out this dicey description of what he is planning with those flint knives. Nobody under 40 is circumcised, and circumcised was the symbol that identified you as a follower of Jehovah. And beyond the weirdness of this moment is a very nerve wracking reality. When God, through Moses, through Joshua, Joshua says, Gather all these guys.
I want everybody. Now these were, these were the warrior age, right? 20 years old, you could be a warrior in Israel. You were conscripted into the, the military service. And the 20 to 40 year olds were the ones that had the most prowess in military service. And he says, I want all these guys and everyone below them to be circumcised.
Now that may say, okay, well, you know, whatever, and I’m not going to get, get into a visual presentation. But, but in Genesis 34, 25, we’re told about an event in the Old Testament where the son, where the brothers, Joseph and his brothers, the sons of Isaac, Sons of Jacob actually got together and they convinced the people of the land, the city, the guys, to say well, our daughter, you know, our sister can’t marry in if you guys aren’t circumcised.
So the whole city was circumcised. Well, here’s what happened. Three days later, while the men were still in pain, still recovering from a serious… medical procedure. They were unable to fight back, and actually the whole city was destroyed. It was actually a horrible moment. But the picture is, it knocks you out as a fighter.
And he says, okay, right here under the shadow of Jericho, and right on the border, beyond those cliffs of this Jordan Valley, where all of our enemies are waiting for us. By the way, we’re going to stay here right down in the valley and we’re going to incapacitate all of our soldiers. You say, well, could we do this in shifts?
You know, like maybe the 15 to 20, the 20 to 25. And I said, no, this is a moment. God required them to do something that made themselves totally vulnerable. They had no reserves.
That’s what commitment looks like in the hands of God. God calls to commitment, nothing in reserve. He says, I own your finances. I want you to give your first fruits to God, though it seems to leave you financially strapped. Your career, Gilgal, is a place where you lay your career plans before God. Your relationships, you can’t hold on to a God dishonoring relationship and move forward from Gilgal.
And commitments always involve risks. I love the statement, I’ve never forgotten it. Dawson Trotman, a number of years ago, wrote it. He was the founder of the Navigators. And he asked this question, and I remember hearing a tape. Where he is presenting this message and how it impacted me as a young man that wanted to live for God.
And he said this, What are you trusting God for? Where if God doesn’t come through you will fall flat on your face. Commitment involves risk. Second, third, commitment is encouraged by the example of others. Verses 4 through 6, we have negative examples. The fact that they had been uncircumcised for all those 40 years.
Not one baby born in those years was circumcised on the eighth day after birth, which they had been done and doing for centuries. Apparently, most believe that the rejection of God’s will In taking the land, had replaced the entire generation under the discipline of God. So he stopped the practice of circumcision until a new generation came forth to identify as his people here at Gilgal.
They were fully aware of that. They would be reminded of that, that, hey, we’re reinstituting this circumcision thing after. Almost 40 years. It would remind them of the reason that it had been put on hold. It would remind them of the disobedience and the… And the fear that had dominated the unreadiness to do the will of God when they came to the land the first time.
Learning of others failures always has the potential of serving as a warning. It can be abused, of course. It can be a source of pride for us. It can be a source of thinking, I’m, I’m different and better somehow. It can be a way of, of demeaning others, but failure of others in its best use. Is to warn us number of years ago as many years ago, we were still meeting in the gym, not this time, the real time, we only had two of us on staff.
It was Pastor Ralph and myself. We had Dr. Paul Dixon come and speak with us. Dr. Dixon was the president of Cityville College. He had been a very God anointed evangelist, great speaker, great leader, And we had him come and he preached to our little fledgling community. And he asked Ralph and I, after the service, he said, Can I get with you guys for lunch?
And so we went out with him. It was, and didn’t even invite our wives, even though his wife was there. He took the two of us out. And I have never forgotten that event. Because he said, Guys, you are two young guys. that God wants to use. And I want to tell you a story. He said, in the last handful of weeks, my college roommate, my best friend, who God has used to build, and I knew the church, a influential church in the Midwest, was caught in a relationship with a woman that was not his wife.
It completely decimated his ministry. It has the potential of destroying his family. And he, he spoke directly into us, looking us right in the eyes. He said, I challenge you guys to build the guardrails in your life. To learn from my, and he was emotional, my friend. It, it, it had great impact on us. We did build some guardrails into the way we met with women in counseling, the way that we carried ourselves, the accountability we had with each other, and then pulled in others.
Commitment is encouraged by the warning of others. One of the reasons we do these things, we say, God, I’m committed to living a life of holiness, because I realize others have not, and their story could be mine. You know, there are also positive examples here in verse seven and eight. The people are seemingly As a mass agreeing to what God is asking them to do in this line of the sand moment at this moment, this tremendous corporate encouragement to seek God and to be sold out to him and to cross over that line in the sand.
Who you spend time with is shaping you. It is. Who you are doing life with is shaping you. It’s shaping your thinking. Commitment to follow God and his lead into battle was directly tied to having the right voices in their lives, supporting them. Commitment is encouraged by the example of others. Fourth, commitment is essential to seeing God at work in our lives.
In verse nine, God says, now I’m removing the reproach of Egypt. The word here, removing is actually the word rolling it off. It’s why he called the place Gilgal. Again, this was, this, this wasn’t even a truck stop. This was nothing. This is just an open plain. And he made their tent city here. And he called it Gilgal because he said at this moment.
In this day, I’m rolling off the reproach of Egypt. So what’s he talking about? Well, remember the story. Here’s the story, of course. Over a generation ago, God had raised up a guy named Moses, and Moses had been led to come to Pharaoh, and he said, I want you to let the people of Israel go, even though they’ve been here for 400 years, even though they are your entire blue collar workforce.
They’re basically all slaves. You’re paying them nothing. I want you to let them all go. I want you to emancipate the entire workforce of slaves. Well, Pharaoh wasn’t fired up about the idea, and so God had to use plagues. It came upon, and finally, Pharaoh said, Just go go wasn’t long after that that Pharaoh realized this wasn’t such a good idea It didn’t take long for things to dawn on how this is going to affect their economy So he took off after them and as he chased them down with a large portion of his army 600 chariots Which would be the Sherman tanks of the day?
They follow them and and has them cornered at the Red Sea and then God opens the sea they go through The tanks come in and and they’re buried under the sea and God utterly The power of Egypt, the most powerful nation on earth at the time.
The name of God was exalted and lifted up, but over the last 40 years, a whole different story has played. Over the last 40 years, the people of Egypt have watched as the hundreds of thousands, and I say that advisedly. of Israelites wandered in a land mass that is smaller than one half of the state of Pennsylvania.
I mean, can you imagine following the story for 40 years of hundreds of thousands of people with their tents and everything else traveling? Oh, They’re up to Allentown now. I hear they’re at Scranton. Now they’re down to Harrisburg. They made it all the way to State College. Where are they going? They’re just wandering around.
Hundreds of thousands of people. What do you think their response was? Mockery. Disdain. Slander. These people. Who do they think they are? They’re going to tell us. I don’t know what their Red Sea actually was. Probably that was all made up anyway. But look at them! Moses, remember Moses? He thought he was so cool, got out of the land.
He, he thought he could face down Pharaoh. Now look at them! For 40 years there’s been reproach. And God says this. Here at Gilgal, the reproach stops here. This day is the day in which I am going to change the story of my people.
But, there’s a line in the sand. My people have to be willing. To commit, to see my work in their lives in the way that I want to work through them and in them.
They also saw God fight for them. In verse 11 and 12, it talks about how they’re going to go into the land. And what he’s going to do, up until now, for 40 years, they’ve been fed how? The manna. This bread like stuff that comes six days a week. It doesn’t come on Saturday because it’s a Sabbath. But for 40 years, that’s what they’re eating.
Making breads and so forth. At certain times, God gives meat, miraculously to them. But this is their food. And all of a sudden, this stops today. Why? Because He says, We’re now going into the land. You’re gonna take the spoils. You’re gonna eat the crops. You’re going to get the, the foodstuffs. Everything is going to be there.
Every one of us brings in our lives, habits, holes in our lives, missing pieces or pieces that we wish weren’t there. Some of you have giant debts, you have things to make right, you’ve got battles. And God says this, I’m drawing a line in the sand, asking you by faith to cross over, to trust me, to allow me to be the Lord of my life.
But, I will fight for you. There are some of you that say, I, I don’t know. I have messed up so bad. There is so much in my life. I look at the past and, yeah, wilderness, that’s me.
Honestly, that’s me. And God says, This is what I do at Gilgal’s. I won’t take away all your problems. But I will bring to you the ultimate problem solver that will sustain you and carry you and care for you and enable you to survive in circumstances you would say it’s not possible. Commitment is essential to seeing God at work in our lives.
God wants to make himself known in your life. God wants to be the strength of your life. God wants to carry you. But there are voices in your head that are saying, I, I, I, wow, I can’t do it. My life is one of… Shame. Reproach. My life is full of stuff that I can’t handle. God says, cross the line. Give yourself to me and watch what I will do.
The fourth, fifth thing. Commitment is on, off, repeated experience. Throughout the next twenty years, the people kept returning to Gilgal. It’s interesting, God didn’t have them move around. All that time, they’re fighting for the land. It actually was a bad place to be, humanly speaking. From a defensive standpoint, you don’t want to be on the low ground.
In a, in a valley surrounded by the enemy up on the hilltops. It also is not a centrally located, basically all of their battles are going to be out. There was actually three different campaign campaigns, a Southern campaign, a central campaign and a Northern campaign. But they weren’t centralized in any of that.
But it was a place which God constantly called them to renew their commitment to them, to him. Later, every seventh year, they went through a whole commitment ceremony. And read aloud the book of Deuteronomy. It’s recorded in the book, I think it’s Numbers. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve recommitted my life to the Lord.
I hope you are. I hope, maybe today, the Lord’s just gonna stir and say, Hey, it’s Gilgal. Again, it’s a place to just say, Lord, ultimately this isn’t about a cool new change in our building. It’s about me. It’s how I want you to work through my life. I want you to move through me by your grace. The last thing is commitment is life shaping.
What they make their priorities will change. Circumcision’s restored. There’s a new vision to identify as God’s people. Some of our lives today are out of control. Some of us would honestly have to say. As I look back at my Christian journey, could I say this is the time when, when my heart belongs to Christ in the way I’m living my life as it was in other days?
No, I couldn’t say that. Well, Gilgal is here. Maybe you hear and you say, you know, I’ve heard about this Jesus thing and and I know Jesus, I’ve read about Him, I’ve heard but people talk about having a personal relationship with Him. No, maybe Gilgal for you is saying I, I’m asking someone, I’m going to talk to a pastor, I’m going to find someone that will joyfully explain to me, as we would joyfully do, how I can personally make Jesus Christ the Savior and center of my life.
Their time will change. Verse 13 and 14 says they’re reinstituting the annual calendar. They’re going to, they’re going to start re celebrating the feast days. Their rhythm of life now is going to be built around the things that support godliness. We stand at Gilgal today. It’s a place of commitment, and I challenge you to just take these moments together to ask, is there a line in the sand that God has for you this morning?
It’s just something he’s saying, yeah, I brought you here today. You came because you’re excited to see the building, which is awesome. But I had something bigger in mind for you. I wanted to use this as a Gilgal moment in your life. Let’s pray together.
Lord, we come to you who are the God who offers to us life and hope and change. Lord, I believe that there is no one here. That is too old or too young to be on your I can do it through you list. So Lord, let us be a people that come with all our stuff. Our brokenness, our neediness. Thank you for all the things in the life of every person that is under my voice right now.
Online and in this room. Who has things in their lives that make them feel it’s too much for me. It’s beyond me. Lord, is in those moments that you say, I’m here. In your brokenness, in your struggles, in your sorrow, in your confusion. These are moments that I use. You tell us to draw us to you in desperation.
So Lord, do that as we stand at Gilgal today. May we be a people renewed in a commitment to yield to you. In whose name I pray.