JOSHUA 5:1-12

AUGUST 16, 2009

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            This morning we turn our attention to a “time out” weekend in the history of Israel and it marks a major transition in the status of the Israelites.  Just as the Red Sea miracle changed the status of the Israelites from slave to free, so the Jordan River miracle changed their status from a wandering people to a landed people, a nation, if you will, and God marks the moment at a place called Gilgal.

              I’ve never been to Gilgal.  I’ve been close to Gilgal, within a couple of miles, but I’ve never actually stepped foot in Gilgal.  That’s because it’s just a mound of dirt these days, and even in Joshua’s day it wasn’t much more.  In later years Gilgal would became an important religious center in the history of Israel, so important that Saul’s kingship would be confirmed there, but right now Gilgal is merely a newly formed religious shrine, constructed of the twelve stones taken from the middle of the Jordan River.

            And as we investigate this “time out” weekend in the history of Israel, I want us to note three things about God.  First. let’s note the pace of God.  Look with me at verse two.  Instead of immediately attacking Jericho, God calls a “time out” and takes the Israelites on a spiritual renewal weekend.


            At that time (that is, after successfully crossing the Jordan River) the Lord said to Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites a second time.”  So Joshua made flint knives, and circumcised the Israelites at Gibeath-haaraloth.


            As a quick aside, Gibeath-haaraloth literally means “hill of foreskins.”  In other words, a number of good Jewish boys were circumcised that day.


            This is the reason why Joshua circumcised them:  all the males of the people who had come out of Egypt all the warriors, had died during the journey through the wilderness after they had come out of Egypt.  Although all the people who came out had been circumcised, yet all the people born on the journey through the wilderness after they had come out of Egypt had not been circumcised.


            Now, I imagine the reinstatement of circumcision was about as popular at that practice in India from a few years ago.  I don’t know if they are still doing this, but at one time in India in order to control population, trains in India were stopped in route and all the men were escorted off the train and doctors performed vasectomies on the spot.  My guess is when that word got out men stopped riding the train.  Anyway, God begins the renewal weekend by reinstating circumcision, which seemed like an odd thing to do on the eve of their first major battle, injure the fighting men, but God insisted upon it.  God wanted the Israelites to be clearly identified with him.

            And look with me, also, at verse ten.  God not only reinstates circumcision, but also God reinstates the passover.


            While the Israelites camped in Gilgal they kept the passover in the evening of the fourteenth day of the month in the plains of Jericho.


            God’s actions here are somewhat peculiar from a military standpoint.  After crossing the Jordan, the Israelites were pumped up, ready for action.  Taking a break could lead to a loss of momentum.  Not only that, but also after hearing about what God had done to enable the Israelites to cross the Jordan, the people of Jericho were scared spitless.  If the Israelites attacked now, before the citizens of Jericho could regroup, the Israelites could move through the city like a hot knife through butter.  Instead God says, “Jericho can wait.  Let’s take some time out.”

            A number of years ago I was in a bible study with David Singh, a pastor from India.  He was in the States completing his PhD.  We happened to be studying this very passage and the leader of the study asked us, “What does this passage tell us?  Why do you suppose this particular account made it into the bible?”

            Different people from the study offered their thoughts, and then David spoke.  He said, “Coming from India this passage may mean something different to me than it does to you.”  He said, “Since I’ve been in America I’ve noticed that everyone seems to be in a hurry.  But God is not that way.  If God has to wait a generation to move people into the Promised Land, fine, God will wait.  If God has to wait a few days to take Jericho, fine.  God will wait.  God is not in a hurry.”

            Well, God may not be in a hurry, but we often are.  Many of us run at a furious pace.  You may have seen the license plate holder, at least if you caught up to the car.  It reads, “I’m not driving fast.  I’m driving low.”  A number of us are flying low.  How come?  Three possible reasons come to mind.  One, it’s a national status symbol.  If we are busy, checking one task off after another, we are important.  If we are not busy we are embarrassed to admit it.  Someone calls us early on a Saturday morning and asks, “Did I wake you?” and we say, “Of course not,” even if they had woken us up.  I mean, we need to appear busy.  It’s the status symbol of modern day life. 

            Two, some of us live life at a furious pace because we want to be liked.  We add things to our schedules because if we said, “No,” someone might stop liking us. 

            And three, and this is the worst reason of all for running at a furious pace, we think that’s what God wants.  We assume God is impressed by our activity.  If we just work harder, God will love us more.

            I don’t want to meddle, and I certainly don’t want to preach, but let me ask a couple pointed questions:


            Is God being glorified by the schedule we keep, or is God getting the leftovers of our energy?

            Do we regularly give ourselves permission to call a time out, to relax, to have leisure, to be quiet?


            What would happen if God’s pace became our pace?  What if we worked “Gilgal” moments into our lives?  What if we set aside time regularly for a little spiritual, mental, emotional and physical renewal?  My guess is, if we did that, if God’s pace became our pace, we would be more efficient and energetic about what we do.

            Second, in addition to the pace of God, let’s note the provision of God.  Verse 11.


            On the day after the passover, on that very day, they ate the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain.  The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land, and the Israelites no longer had manna; they ate the crops of the land of Canaan that year.


            Now manna was sort of spiritual k-rations that God had given the Israelites to eat while they wandered in the wilderness, and don’t think for a moment that the Israelites were sad to see the manna go.  Can you imagine eating manna for forty straight years?  And I’m sure Mrs. Joshua was especially glad to see it go because how many ways can you fix manna?  Of course, there’s “manna a la king,” and “manna on a shingle” and “manna kabobs” and “boiled manna” and “grilled manna” and “barbecued manna,” and the best of all “manna-coti!”  Then there was the wine they made from it ... wait for it .... wait for it ... Manna-shevitz.  But after awhile manna is manna no matter who you disguise it, and with the eating of the passover meal in the Promised Land, the manna ceased and they returned to a normal diet.  They ate the crops of the land of Canaan.

            And note how God’s provision changes.  What was suitable in the desert is no longer suitable for people in the Promised Land.  I think back to when our children graduated from college.  When our kids were in college, Trudy and I had a term for those years.  Those were our “maltuition years.”  And while they were in college we covered their tuition, their books, their lodging, their health insurance, their automobile insurance, but when they graduated from college our provision for them changed.  We continued to offer love and support.  We are still there in times of emergencies, but when the graduated from college, our provision for them changed.  And here’s the lesson we need to learn:  God does not always provide the same good in the same way.  As we change, God’s delivery system changes.

            That’s so difficult for many of us to learn.  We think that God is going to continue to do the same thing in the same way.  Churches are the worst when it comes to this.  Have you noticed that churches tend to be the most conservative of all human institutions?  The church often says, “But we’ve always done it that way,” and God says, “Behold, I am going to do a new thing.”  God does not always provide the same good in the same way.  Because of that, because the provision comes in a new way, we sometimes miss it.

            Then thirdly, and finally, in addition to the pace of God and the provision of God, please note the discipline of God.  Verse five.


            Although all the people who came out had been circumcised, yet all the people born on the journey through the wilderness after they had come out of Egypt had not been circumcised.  For the Israelites traveled forty years in the wilderness, until all the nations, the warriors who came out of Egypt, perished, not having listened to the voice of the Lord.  To them them the Lord swore that he would not let them see the land that he had sworn to their ancestors to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey.


            Last Sunday, if you were here, I talked about getting coffee mugs with our names on them and with a very important fact about God, written on the cup.  Does anyone remember what I suggested ought to go on our coffee mugs?  What God wants done, God gets done.

            Well, based on the verses we just read, let me add a corollary to that.  What God wants done, God gets done, hopefully with us and not without us!!! 

            Moses generation did not want to enter the Promised Land.  They thought the Canaanites were big, and mean, and ugly, and did not practice regular dental hygiene, and even after all God had done for them, like getting them out of Egypt and parting the Red Sea, and providing them daily rations, they thought that the Canaanites would crush them, so they complained about going into the Promised Land.  So God said, “Fine.  I’ll wait until you all die out, and then we’ll enter the Promised Land.  I’ll get done what I want done without you.”

            God’s discipline.  Twenty years ago our daughter wanted her ears pierced.  She was twelve or thirteen at the time, and she hounded us about getting her ears pierced and we finally relented and Trudy and Jenn went to the Westroads to get them pierced.  And she was about the third or fourth one in line, and she watched the girls in front of her, all of whom cringed when their ears were pierced, and some said “Ouch,” and then it was her turn and she had second thoughts.  She said to Trudy, “Mom, I don’t want to do it.  I’ve changed my mind.  It will hurt too much.”

            Trudy, after months of being badgered about pierced ears, and after taking a Saturday morning to drive to the Westroads said, “Jenny, either you get your years pierced now, or wait until you are eighteen.”  Jenny, got her ears pierced.

            Now, did Trudy’s response to Jenny seem harsh?  Did it seem insensitive?  Not at all.  She only wanted what Jenny ultimately wanted and knew the short moment of pain would be well worth the price.

            God only wants what’s best for us.  But, if we choose not to pursue what’s best for us, God is not above telling us, “What I want done, I get done, and I’d rather get it done with you rather than without you!   Either way, I will get it done.”

            Tomorrow when you get up in the morning and have that cup of coffee or tea or juice, imagine your mug or cup has the words “What God wants done, God gets done on it.”  And imagine on this morning and every morning after that you drink from that cup and say, “God whatever you want to get done today, I want to be a part of it.”  But whether or not we choose to be a part of it, God’s going to get it done.  The Kingdom of God does not rest on whether we got up on the right side of the bed.  If we aren’t in the mood to be a part of what God wants done, God will bypass us and find some people who want to get it done.  That’s both a warning and a great comfort.  Amen.