Joshua 5:6
For the Israelites had wandered in the wilderness forty years, until all the nation's men of war who had come out of Egypt had died, since they did not obey the LORD. So the LORD vowed never to let them see the land He had sworn to their fathers to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey.
Sermons
Christian CharacterThe Gospel in the Book of Joshua.Joshua 5:2-9
GilgalC. D. Marston, M. A.Joshua 5:2-9
The Circumcising At GilgalF. B Meyer, B. A.Joshua 5:2-9
The Consecration of the Lord's Host At GilgalG. W. Butler, M. A.Joshua 5:2-9
The Reproach of EgyptA. B. Mackay.Joshua 5:2-9
Time Taken for Religious Duties is not LostJoshua 5:2-9
Why was Circumcision Suspended in the Wilderness?G. W. Blaikie, D. D.Joshua 5:2-9
The Two Sacraments of the Old CovenantE. De Pressense Joshua 5:6-11
Circumcision and the passover were the two sacraments of the old covenant. The first set forth the truth that enrolment among the people of God must be accompanied with the putting away of evil. The second represented the past deliverance from the bondage of Egypt, and the future deliverance from all the perils of the wilderness by entrance into Canaan, and the final possession of the land of promise. On the eve of the decisive conflict, God commands His people to make a solemn renewal of these two covenants. Israel must be afresh consecrated to Him by that covenant of circumcision which symbolises holiness by the crucifixion of the flesh, and by that passover feast, which is at once the symbol of past and future deliverances. Thus also should the Christian gird himself for the conflict of the spiritual life. When he enlists under the banner of his God, he ought, as it were, to renew his baptismal vows, by what St. Peter calls "the answer of a good conscience," thus dedicating himself to God in the renunciation of all the defilements of sin, by that circumcision of the heart which was the deep truth signified by the old fleshly rite. And further, by partaking of the Christian passover feast, he should testify his entire trust in redeeming love by receiving this most sacred pledge of love, and deriving from it the needed renewal of spiritual strength. That which is true of the individual Christian is true also of the Church. It requires to be constantly baptized a fresh with the Spirit of God, and to receive the pledges and seals of the grace of redemption, as a preparation for its spiritual conflicts. There is one remarkable feature in the sacred narrative. It is said that on the occasion of this first passover celebrated beyond the Jordan, the Israelites "did eat of the old corn of the land" (Joshua 5:10, 11). Thus they not only had in this feast a pledge of the promised deliverance, BUT AN EARNEST OF THE GOOD THINGS TO COME. They not only had a fresh guarantee of the promise, but a beginning of its fulfilment. The same thing is true of the Christian sacrament. While it is an essentially spiritual feast, it still gives in part that which it sets forth and symbolises. Faith receives the Holy Spirit in baptism, and feeds upon the invisible Christ in the Lord's Supper. Christ is to the soul "the living bread which came down from heaven" (John 6:31). Thus even before the Jordan is crossed, the Christian soul eats of the corn of the land of promise. - E. DE P.







Make thee sharp knives and circumcise.
Even those comparatively unenlightened people must have realised that there was deep spiritual significance in the administration of that rite at that juncture. On more than one occasion they had heard Moses speak of circumcising the heart, and they must have felt that God meant to teach them the vanity of trusting to their numbers, or prowess, or martial array. Their strength was nothing to Him. The land was not to be won by their might, but to be taken from His hand as a gift. Self and the energy of the flesh must be set aside, that the glory of coming victory might be of God and not of man. We must be content to be reckoned among the things that are not, if we are to be used to bring to nought the things that are, "that no flesh should glory in His presence." We, too, must have our Gilgal. It is not enough to acknowledge as a general principle that we are dead and risen with Christ, we must apply it to our inner and outer life. We have no warrant to say that sin is dead, or that the principle of sin is eradicated, but that we are dead to it in our standing, and are dead to it also in the reckoning of faith. But for this we need the gift of the Blessed Spirit, in His Pentecostal fulness. It was by the Eternal Spirit that our Lord offered Himself in death upon the Cross, and it is by Him alone that we can mortify the deeds of the body. For, first, the spirit of self is so subtle. It is like a taint in the blood, which, stayed in one place, breaks out in another. Protean in its shapes and ubiquitous in its hiding-places, it requires omniscience to discover, and omnipresence to expel. And, secondly, only the Spirit of God has cords strong enough to bind us to the altar of death; to remind us in the hour of temptation; to enable us to look to Jesus for His grace; to inspire us with the passion of self-immolation; to keep us true and steady to the resolves of our holiest moments; to apply the withering fire of the Cross of Jesus to the growth of our self-conceit and self-energy — for all these the grace of the Spirit is indispensable. He is the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, therefore He must be the Spirit of death to all that pertains to the old Adam. There is a sense in which all believers have been circumcised in Christ; but there is another sense in which it is needful for them to pass one after another through the circumcision of Christ which is not made with hands, and which consists in the putting off of the body of the flesh. To that all who would lead a life of victory and inherit the land of promise must submit. The process may be sharp, for the knife does not spare pain. But it is in the hands of Jesus, the lover of souls. Oh, shrink not from it!

(F. B Meyer, B. A.)

The more a man learns of God, the more he knows of grace. If we would apply to ourselves spiritually the lessons of the circumcision in the land, we must give the grace of God, which led to the circumcision, full place, and remember that God asks for the devotion of His people, because He has, in Christ, brought them into perfect favour. Was it by observing God's ordinances, or was it through God's almighty grace that Israel entered the land of promise? They entered it as a nation in uncircumcision, and therefore exclusively by God's sovereign grace. And why did God not seek for circumcision from the people of Israel, so long as they walk in the wilderness? The wilderness was the scene of their distrust of God. A distrusting spirit is ignorant of God's real character, and consequently is not morally fitted for separation to Himself; but God, having brought us by His grace to know ourselves to be in the heavenly places in Christ, seeks separation to Himself, corresponding with the liberty into which He has brought us. Grace known and realised is the only true power for heart separation to God. Circumcision with Israel was merely a carnal ordinance, and, in common with all ordinances, gave neither power for communion with God, nor for conflict with His enemies. It was a sign that the children of Israel were God's earthly family, and a people separated from all the rest of mankind. The circumcision made without hands, with which the Christian is circumcised, in Christ, is a separation to God from the whole world. As the people of Israel, because brought through the Jordan, were enjoined by God to be circumcised, and their careless wilderness ways were allowed no longer, so the Christian, because he has died with Christ to the world, and to his old self, is exhorted to mortify his members, and his worldly ways are no longer permitted. This mortification is simply self-denial, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Man naturally loves sin; he loves his own way which is the essence of sin; but he who lives in Christ is called to die to himself in daily walk and conduct. There is no way of living to Christ but by dying to self. It was by no means sufficient to Israel to know that they went across the Jordan, in order to enjoy the riches of the inheritance; for until circumcision was effected none of Canaan's food was spread before them, nor were they called to conflict. And we may be sure that so long as we walk in the flesh and please ourselves, there can be no communion — no feeding upon Christ. Neither can there be any victories for the Lord, unless self is subdued. Satan would beguile the youthful believer into the misty atmosphere of a Canaan of the imagination, where the flesh is allowed to work. In this aerial Christianity, circumcision — self-mortification — is not permitted; the practical result of being dead. with Christ is not allowed to wound the will. But there is no stability of soul, no solid devotedness. Such a believer is like the insect, which, well-nigh composed of wings, and possessing scarcely any weight, is driven from the flower garden by the first storm. Sorrowful as is the result of letting the imagination carry away the soul, perhaps the effect of accepting Divine truth in intellectualism is more so. A Christian holding the doctrine of death with Christ, and resurrection with Christ, in the understanding only, goes out from the sunlight of God's presence into a land of deathlike coldness. If circumcision in its spiritual signification were rightly valued, such abuses of the truth of God would certainly find no place in the believer's heart. To mortify our members is not a painless exercise. Saying, "We are dead," is not mortifying; but it is to deny the wishes of our old nature because "we are dead" (Romans 8:13). The mere fact of the people of Israel's entrance into Canaan did not constitute them at liberty before God. They were brought into the land of promise by the passage of the Jordan, but were not pronounced free by Jehovah until circumcised. God's liberty for His people is that of His own making, and therefore perfect. It is what He thoroughly approves and delights in. And the means by which, step by step, He brings His people into the enjoyment of this liberty, is grace. If we are God's free men, it is evidently in the land of promise that we have liberty, for only in the fulness of God's favour can we experience His rolling away the reproach of our bondage.

(The Gospel in the Book of Joshua.)

Some have said that, owing to the circumstances in which the people were, it would not have been convenient, perhaps hardly possible, to administer the rite on the eighth day. Moving as they were from place to place, the administration of circumcision would often have caused so much pain and peril to the child, that it is no wonder it was delayed. And once delayed, it was delayed indefinitely. But this explanation is not sufficient. There were long, very long periods of rest, during which there could have been no difficulty. A better explanation, brought forward by Calvin, leads us to connect the suspension of circumcision with the punishment of the Israelites, and with the sentence that doomed them to wander forty years in the wilderness. When the worship of the golden calf took place, the nation was rejected, and the breaking by Moses of the two tables of stone seemed an appropriate sequel to the rupture of the covenant which their idolatry had caused. And though they were soon restored, they were not restored without certain drawbacks — tokens of the Divine displeasure. Probably the suspension of circumcision was included in the punishment of their sins. They were not to be allowed to place on their children the sign and seal of a covenant which in spirit and in reality they had broken. But it was not an abolition, only a suspension. The time might come when it would be restored. The natural time for this would be the end of the forty years of chastisement. These forty years have now come to an end. Doubtless it would have been a great joy to Moses if it had been given him to see the restoration of circumcision, but that was not to take place until the people had set foot on Abraham's land. We may well think of it as an occasion of great rejoicing. The visible token of his being one of God's children was now borne by every man and boy in the camp. In a sense they now proved themselves heirs to the covenant made with their fathers, and might thus rest with firmer trust on the promise — "I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee." Two other points demand a word of explanation. The first is the statement that "all the people that were born in the wilderness... they had not circumcised" (ver. 5). If the view be correct that the suspension of circumcision was part of the punishment for their sins, the prohibition would not come into operation for some months, at all events, after the exodus from Egypt. We think, with Calvin, that for the sake of brevity the sacred historian makes a general statement without waiting to explain the exceptions to which it was subject. The other point needing explanation is the Lord's statement after the circumcision (ver. 9). The words imply that, owing to the want of this sacrament, they had lain exposed to a reproach from the Egyptians, which was now rolled away. What seems the most likely explanation is, that when the Egyptians heard how God had all but repudiated them in the wilderness, and had withdrawn from them the sign of His covenant, they malignantly crowed over them, and denounced them as a worthless race, who had first rejected their lawful rulers in Egypt under pretext of religion, and, having shown their hypocrisy, were now scorned and cast off by the very God whom they had professed themselves so eager to serve. But now the tables are turned on the Egyptians. The restoration of circumcision stamps this people once more as the people of God.

(G. W. Blaikie, D. D.)

By this reproach we are to understand all that stigma which clung to Israel through its relation to Egypt. This stigma had two aspects, an inner and an outer; an active and a passive. It consisted in that feeling of humiliation and self-reproach, which must have rested on the heart of every intelligent and pious Israelite during the wilderness wanderings. And it also consisted in the feeling of scorn and contempt with which their great oppressors the Egyptians must have looked upon them during all that period. In its inward aspect, the reproach of Egypt was caused by spiritual assimilation to Egypt. Moses had said, "The Lord will put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel." This difference was manifested in many striking ways, during the progress of Israel's gradual emancipation. But when this rite was in abeyance, this difference was lost in a measure. Physically, there was no difference between the children born in Egypt after the Exodus and those born in the wilderness. Circumcision was, as it were, God's brand on His people marking them for His own. Its lack proclaimed that they were "Lo Ammi," not God's people. But there could be no greater outward stigma than this. It was Israel's glory to be Jehovah's peculiar people and to bear in their bodies the seal of His covenant. From this height of privilege they looked down on all men. For an Israelite, therefore, to consider his position during the forty years, would be to acknowledge that there was no difference, so far, between him and an Egyptian. Jehovah was no longer, in this mode of outward recognition, his God. But there was a deeper and more potent assimilation, of which the outward and physical was only the sign. There was on the part of Israel assimilation to Egypt in spirit. They reproached God for their redemption, saying that He had brought them from Egypt to destroy them; they actually went the length of appointing a leader to guide them back to the house of bondage. What could be more grievous than such sin? what could more plainly show their assimilation in heart to Egypt? Therefore to a pious and penitent Israelite there was here cause for the deepest abasement. His cry in self-reproach would be, "My sin is ever before me." This also would be implied in the inner aspect of the reproach of Egypt. But in addition to this inner aspect of the reproach, there is also the outer to be considered. The reproach of Egypt not only consisted in those feelings which must have taken possession of a pious Israelite, but also in those taunts which must have been hurled at them by Egypt. Their haughty taskmasters would no doubt make their former bondmen a subject of reproach and mocking scorn. They would look down upon them, and speak of them with unutterable contempt. They would describe them as a despicable race of worthless runaways. And they would also find good cause for merriment in the prolonged wanderings in the wilderness. "Where are all their high hopes?" they might have said. "They have ended in smoke. A great deal better off they are now than they were with us, hungering and thirsting in that desert, instead of living on the fat of the land! A nice wild-goose chase that famous Moses has led them." Such was the reproach of Egypt; but here and now it is rolled away. By this act at Gilgal Israel is no longer assimilated to Egypt in body. The knives of flint have again put a difference between Israel and Egypt. Each man bears in his body the mark of Jehovah's covenant. And seeing the land of Canaan was God's gift to them as Abraham's seed, and to Abraham's seed as faithful to Jehovah, i.e., as circumcised, this act was a Divine and formal conveyance of the land to these men of Israel. Thus at Gilgal the title-deeds of Canaan were signed, sealed, and delivered; and thus again, the reproach of Egypt was rolled away. Israel is no longer a homeless wanderer but an heir of God. Also the assimilation to Egypt in spirit has come to an end. No longer are they uncircumcised in heart. Never again do they cast a longing, lingering look behind. Surely this transaction is also recorded for our instruction and reproof. Gilgal says, "Put off the old man with his affections and lusts; put off all moral and spiritual assimilation to the world. Crucify the flesh and its deceitful lusts. Mortify the deeds of the body." The great need of the present age is to be brought in spirit to Gilgal, i.e., to learn to the very centre of our souls the spirit of self-sacrifice. The process may be painful, like cutting off a right arm or plucking out a right eye; yet it is the necessary sequel of entrance into God's inheritance. And as it is the necessary sequel of entrance, so is it the necessary prelude to worship and to victory. There can be no true worship of God except our hearts are cleansed from the filthiness of the flesh. There can be no true victory for God, either within or without, except our souls are purged from the power of sin.

(A. B. Mackay.)

The need, the tokens, and the blessedness of this revival are set before us.

(1)Its need appears in the reproach of Egypt.

(2)Its tokens are the restoration of ordinances.

(3)Its blessedness consists in the return of favour.

I. Let us first dwell upon the need of Israel's revival, as seen in THE REPROACH OF EGYPT. There are many among us who have indeed left Egypt. To the questions, "Is the Lord among us, or not? — Are we His people?" they can humbly answer "Yes"; for He has given them sure pledges of their interest in the everlasting covenant. And yet, if asked to give a reason of the hope that is in them, they would not be ready. The answer of faith can scarce find utterance amid the sins and shortcomings that compass them round, and testify against them. Their words, their tempers, their works, their experiences, all seem to give the lie to their Christian profession and to their hope. The world of unbelievers, too, joins issue against them, and, discerning their failures and inconsistencies, derides their religion, calls them hypocrites, and prophesies their doom. This "reproach of Egypt," lies heavy upon God's saints who thus walk in darkness.

II. The narrative goes on to tell of the tokens of Israel's revival, as seen in THE RESTORATION OF ORDINANCES. As the sacrament of baptism perpetuates and expands the teaching of the rite of circumcision, so that of the Lord's Supper repeats the lessons of the Passover. The Christian ordinance looks back, as the Jewish sacrifice looked forward, to the death of Jesus as our substitute. Since the fall of Adam, there has been but this one way of salvation. May we, amid our fuller privileges, and clearer light, approach the same God whom Israel worshipped, confiding in the same atonement, and renew our covenant with Him in the breaking of bread, and the drinking of the cup of blessing. Our feast similarly commemorates the past, the present, and the future: for we herein shew forth an accomplished redemption, our own reconciliation thereby, and our participation in our Saviour's love at the marriage feast above.

III. It remains for us now to speak of the blessedness of Israel's revival, as seen in THE RETURN OF FAVOUR.

1. First, the Lord expressly declares to Joshua, as the head and representative of the nation, "This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you." Blessed assurance!

2. Beside the answer of God to Joshua, a second gracious token was granted. The enemy was still as a stone. With blanched cheeks and palpitating hearts, the Canaanites looked on and saw the people all en-camped at Gilgal. Now, shall not Israel, with soldierly decision, seize on the opportunity, and ere they have recovered from their panic, strike a decisive blow, and so possess the land? Such is not the Lord's order: but until the fourteenth day of the month the men of war are shut up in their tents; and then, as though in a land of peace, during a full week the Passover is kept throughout their families.

3. Was it not providentially ordered by a loving Father that Israel should be brought into the land at the time of harvest? Thus temporal supplies shall not fail those whom God accepts and approves: thus, also, spiritual provision shall never fail God's people.

4. The close of the chapter presents us with a fourth token of the return of favour to Israel, in the manifestation to Joshua of the great Angel of the Covenant, with His drawn sword lifted, not in vengeance against Israel, but against their foes. This was the promised angel who should go before them, and lead them to victory.

(G. W. Butler, M. A.

I. ATTENTION TO THE SPECIAL SERVICES WHICH WE OWE TO GOD OUGHT TO STAND BEFORE ALL OTHER CONSIDERATIONS. What is religion? The question seems a simple one; but, indeed, it is one the true answer to which involves a great deal. The term is a most comprehensive one, including all that men should believe and all that men should do. A religious person is one whose heart has been imbued with Christian truth, and whose affection has laid hold on God as revealed in the Scriptures with a firm grasp; a person whose life, regulated increasingly by such principles, manifests more and more of the beauty of holiness. In religion, then, we come to deal with the doctrine and the practice of the Bible. It tells of what may alarm, and what may soothe. It shows a reality of wretchedness, want, guilt and death in which men are by nature; and a reality of joy, perfection, righteousness and life in which they may be by grace. It appeals to men as immortal beings, urges on them the consideration of their immortal interests, and in the words of Him, around whom all true religion circles and to whom it is intended to lead, charges all thus: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness." I would ask you, seriously, should not this matter have our first and most solemn consideration? Is there any matter which ought to engage us before this?

II. WE MAY REPOSE IMPLICIT CONFIDENCE IN GOD WHILE WALKING IN HIS WAYS AND AIMING AT HIS GLORY. Men are never losers by religion. The man who can style himself servant of Christ has a Master whose service is the guarantee for every possible good. Affairs and matters come to be so differently weighed and estimated, when heavenly wisdom is granted for the test, that it is no wonder to find men reckoning gains and losses, probabilities and duties, by a standard the reverse of that which they formerly used. What if we had accosted the leader of the hosts of Israel when he promulgated the order for observing circumcision and the Passover at Gilgal? Suppose that we had said, Strike your decisive blow; push on at once; select your picked men, and leave the rest to fortify your position, and to take care of the women and children; go straight up to Jericho. Your rite of circumcision Will render you defenceless, your paschal feast is hardly fitted to such a critical position and such unusual circumstances as yours. Suppose that we had argued with Joshua thus. Would not his reply have been, "We can trust God: we know Him. He has said, 'I will not fail you, nor forsake you'"?

(C. D. Marston, M. A.)

Dr. James Hamilton once related an anecdote which illustrates a vital question in the Christian life. A writer recounts it as follows: "A gallant officer was pursued by an overwhelming force, and his followers were urging him to greater speed, when he discovered that his saddle-girth was becoming loose. He coolly dismounted, repaired the girth by tightening the buckle, and then dashed away. The broken buckle would have left him on the field a prisoner; the wise delay to repair damages sent him on in safety amid the huzzas of his comrades." The Christian who is in such haste to get about his business in the morning that he neglects his Bible and his season of prayer rides all day with a broken buckle.

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