“And it came to pass, when all the kings of the Amorites, which were by the sea, heard that the Lord had dried up the waters of Jordan from before the children of Israel, until we were passed over, that their heart melted, neither was there spirit in them any more, because of the children of Israel. At that time the Lord said unto Joshua, Make thee sharp knives, and circumcise… the children of Israel…. And Joshua made him sharp knives, and circumcised the children of Israel at the hill of the foreskins…. And it came to pass, when they had done circumcising all the people, that they abode in their places in the camp, till they were whole. And the Lord said unto Joshua, this day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you. Wherefore the name of the place is called Gilgal unto this day” (Joshua 5:1-3,8-9).
Believe it or not, what happened to Israel at Gilgal — that great day of circumcision — has everything to do with the Church of Jesus Christ today! “For whatsoever things were I written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4). “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition [instruction], upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1 Corinthians 10:11).
The event at Gilgal serves as a vividly illustrated sermon for last-day Christians. It illustrates for us how to break the power of sin so we might enter into the glorious liberty of Christ Jesus!
First, let’s look at three great events of deliverance prior to this great day of circumcision — events God performed for Israel to bring them out of the bondage of Egypt and into the blessings of Canaan.
The Blood on the Doorpost
“And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses… And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the Lord’s passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:7,11-13).
The children of Israel were required to offer a blood sacrifice — and the little, unblemished lamb they slew was a type of Christ dying on the cross. Its blood on the doorpost secured them from God’s judgment: “When I see the blood, I will pass over you” (verse 13).
Today, “saved by the blood” is the testimony of God’s people worldwide, as Christ’s blood is applied to our hearts. But others also claim the blood. Adulterers, addicts and criminals who sit in jail right now — all living in gross sin — will tell you, “God won’t judge me. I’m under the blood of Jesus! Years ago I believed in Him.” Others say, “Obedience won’t save you. What you think of the blood won’t save you. Only what God thinks of the blood is important. Get under the blood covering and you will be forever
safe and secure.”
It is absolutely true that the blood of Jesus provides security from God’s judgment, but only when accompanied by a heart of obedience! This was true for the children of Israel. In order to be secured by the sacrificial blood, the Israelites had to meet certain conditions of obedience. First, they had to “every man borrow of his neighbor… jewels of silver, and jewels of gold…. and raiment…so that they [the
Egyptians] lent unto them such things as they required” (Exodus 11:2, 12:35-36). Doing this not only would provide for their future but also would prove that the people believed God was going to set them free. They were to prove their faith by their works.
Next, they had to “take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood” (Exodus 12:22). No angel performed this task for them, nor did God do it for them; and had they refused to do it themselves, they would have died. Yet there was even more required of them!
That same night, their houses were to become houses of obedience. “None of you shall go out at the door of his house until morning” (Exodus 12:22). Inside the house, they were to eat of the passover lamb, which had to be roasted by fire. It was not to be raw or sodden with water, and the Israelites were to eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. God told them to do so with their loins girded, feet shod and staff in hand — and they were to eat in haste.
This was not easy believism! These Israelites were an obedient people upon whom the fear of God had fallen, and they wanted to be free. They wanted more than security — they wanted freedom from the powers of Egypt. They were hungry, eager to obey! Contrast that with a doctrine today that
declares, “It is not obedience that counts. We don’t live under the Law. Our hope is in the blood alone!” This teaching states that if we say obedience is necessary, we are trying to take something away from the power of the blood. But it was the Israelites’ explicit obedience that proved they valued the blood!
The fact is, you can be secure under the blood and yet still be in Egypt — still under bondage, still in the midst of the iron furnace and still in range of the enemy’s whip! The Lord’s desire for us is to have more than just safety from judgment: He longs to bring us out of the prison of our bondage to sin — and into a place of full victory over the flesh.
The Red Sea Crossing
“And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left. And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen…. And Moses stretched forth his hand over the
sea, and the sea returned to his strength… and the Egyptians fled against it; and the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea… And Israel saw that great work which the Lord did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord, and his servant Moses” (Exodus 14:21-23,27,31).
The Red Sea crossing is a type of the victory of the cross over all our enemies. All of our spiritual enemies — sin, the world and Satan — lost their controlling power over us at the cross. This, too, was what the
Israelites experienced! “Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore” (Exodus 14:30). After this event, God’s people were delivered — set free from slavery. The whips that once lashed their weary backs now floated aimlessly upon the water.
The people had been physically removed from Egypt, and now they rejoiced: “Thank God, we’re free! No more bondage — no more being forced to do what we hate — we’re out for good!” But it didn’t take long for them to discover something: even though they were out of Egypt, Egypt was still in them!
As it grew harder and harder to face all the trials in the wilderness, the people began to reminisce with longing, dreaming of the pleasures of their old life. Yes, they had been secured by the blood and were safe from God’s judgment; they had been set free from the power of this sinful world. But their hearts were not set fully on the Lord. They were out — but not yet in!
This same thing is one of the greatest problems in the Church today: Christians whose bodies remain in the Lord’s house, but whose hearts and minds continually drift back to the old life. They can testify, “Thank God, I’ve been delivered out of Satan’s prison! I’ve been given a new lease on life. It’s a miracle — I’m no longer a slave to sin. The cross has set me free!” But they miss the parties and old pleasures and past highs (“Maybe just one night for old times’ sake!”).
Some of you reading this have realized that even though you’ve been delivered from sin, life in Christ is not as easy; as you thought it would be. Trials are buffeting you and Satan pours out his lies in your ear:
Remember how good it was? The fun? The laughter? All your old friends?” But the truth is that it wasn’t fun — it was hell on earth.
Some would go back to Egypt if they weren’t concerned that they might lose the respect they’ve gained or hurt loved ones. In either case, they do not remain out of Egypt because of their love for Jesus, but because of fear. They remain only because it would be much worse to go back, not because of their devotion to the One who led them out of slavery.
The Final Crossing: The Jordan River
“And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of Jordan, that the waters of Jordan shall be cut off from the
waters that come down from above; and they shall stand upon an heap. And it came to pass, when the people removed from their tents, to pass over Jordan, and the priests bearing the ark of the covenant… of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan, and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan” (Joshua 3:13-14,17).
Crossing the Jordan is a type of entering into freedom in Christ. God always brings us out of something in order to bring us in to Himself! It is not enough merely to escape from Satan’s power, out of the prison house of bondage; we must also enter into the resurrection life of Christ. Here, Canaan does not represent heaven, because this land is a place of spiritual warfare. But it is a place where Jesus wants us to enjoy the goodness of His victory — a place of enjoyment, gladness and fullness.
When Israel came to the Jordan, they no longer were led by the cloud during the day and the fire by night (see Exodus 13:21) but by the ark of the covenant. We see the ark — a type of Jesus — going down into the Jordan, immersing itself in death, saying, “Follow me!” It is Jesus inviting us to be baptized into Himself.
Coming out of the Jordan, the children of Israel entered into the Promised Land, which is a type of abiding in Christ. “And the people came up out of the Jordan… and encamped in Gilgal” (Joshua 4:19). At this point, they were blood-secured, delivered from the enemy’s power and raised up into newness of life in God’s land of milk and honey. Surely they were ready to do battle at Jericho, their first test in Canaan! What more could they possibly need? It must have seemed to them that it was time to march, shout
and bring down enemy strongholds.
But, in truth, they still were not ready. The Spirit had to perform yet one more work: “Make thee sharp knives, and circumcise… the children of Israel…. And Joshua made him sharp knives, and circumcised the children of Israel at the hill of the foreskins” (Joshua 5:2-3).
Circumcision: The Cutting Away of Flesh
I am not going to raise a theological discussion of circumcision — but this ancient process is most significant for the church today. What a painful experience it must have been for the Israelites to remove the foreskin with a sharp knife as a sign to the world that they were joined in a faithful covenant with God! These people all had been born in the wilderness and had never been circumcised — and after the event took place, they were helpless and weak for days.
Coming under the knife today means submitting to the sharp, cutting Word of God! “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:l2). The Word truly cuts: “When they heard that, they were cut to the heart’ (Acts 5:33). When Stephen preached, “they were
cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth” (Acts 7:54). The Bible says the Word of God circumcised our hearts. “Circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God” (Romans 2:29). There is a “circumcision made without hands, in putting off… the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ” (Colossians 2:11).
Each of us has within us the “reproach of Egypt” that must be rolled away– all that is of our flesh. And there is an operation in which God’s Spirit cuts away all those lusts and dominions of evil: When the Word of God is preached by God’s anointed in the power and demonstration of the Holy Ghost, it becomes that sharp knife! God has His Joshuas today — and He has commanded them to take this blood-secured, delivered, redeemed and resurrected people and place them under the knife of His Word to remove all traces of idolatry and compromise.
Regrettably, many pastors refuse to bring their people under the sharp knife of reproof and correction. It is possible for a pastor to “love his people right into hell” by protecting them from the call to repentance and the weeping of the prophets.
I have preached my heart out in some churches, warning of judgment, crying out against idolatry, begging the saints to wake up and call on God for cleansing. Yet the pastors sat motionless with not one “Amen.” The congregation appeared bored. They heard my heartbroken cry against television and smiled condescendingly, as if to say, “Very amusing.” They were blood-secured, redeemed, baptized in Christ. Yes, chosen — but frozen!
After preaching, I was left feeling defeated, as though I’d wasted my time. I believed I had God’s Word for them, and yet they hadn’t responded. On occasion, after I had delivered such a message, a pastor would take me out to eat. He would tell me how wonderful his congregation was — how they gave so sacrificially, how they did everything he asked of them. He’d say his people were the sweetest, most loving, caring considerate people in America — enthusiastically supporting the building program, faithfully participating in the choir and orchestra — all hard workers! “In this church we just let the Holy Ghost deal with those issues.” He’d say, “Our people are mature!”
Then I’d think to myself, “So that’s it! They were too good for such a strong message. Boy, did I ever miss it!”
That is, until later when I would pray in my hotel room and God would say, “You didn’t miss it! Of all people, they needed the message most! They have a mutual admiration society in that church — and it could destroy them, blind them, cost them everything!”
I’ve realized those people may indeed be mature — but they’re backslidden! They’re growing cold, caught in a trap of false love!
Joshua did not flatter his congregation. God revealed to him that the people still had the reproach of Egypt clinging to them — and he obeyed God’s command to sharpen the knives and cut away the things of the flesh.
A reproach is anything that replaces the Lord in our hearts, any kind of sin or idolatry that draws our hearts away from Him. Like some modem shepherds, Joshua could have said, “God, these people have suffered so much, they have endured incredible hardships — they’re now at their weakest. I can’t let them go through such a painful process now.” But in truth, the most dangerous place Christians can be is under the teaching of a shepherd who shields them from the reproof and flatters them into thinking all is well. “A man that flattereth his neighbor spreadeth a net for his feet” (Proverbs 29:5).
Paul also refused to flatter God’s people: “Neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloak of covetousness; God is witness” (1 Thessalonians 2:5). “But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the Gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God” (verse 4). The result of Paul’s teaching was obedience in the lives of the Thessalonians: “Ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1:9).
John was shepherd over the seven churches in Asia, and by revelation Jesus appeared to him and showed him the hidden sins in the people. John addressed these beloved ones as children of God, “loved…and washed… from… sins in his own blood” (Revelation 1:5). They were “kings and priests unto God” (verse 6). But on a particular Lord’s day, the Spirit of God came upon John and he heard God’s Word sounding as a trumpet: “I was in the spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet” (verse 10). Jesus appeared to him and “out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword” (verse 16).
To a beloved, blood-washed church, a sharp knife appeared! And in spite of their goodness, hard work or love, God found them wanting.
In Revelation 2, John described a wonderful congregation at Ephesus. They were patient and hard-working, they hated evil works — but they were growing cold. They had lost their white-hot love for Jesus and had fallen into lethargy. Jesus – cried, “Repent! Come back quickly or I will remove your candlestick [You will not be anointed].” At Pergamos, a congregation was “holding fast to His name, not denying the faith, some willing to die.” But one thing was terribly wrong: false teaching was creeping in; doctrines
of devils were taking hold. Jesus said, “Repent or I will fight against you with the sword of my mouth.”
A Jezebel spirit had infiltrated the congregation at Thyatira, even though the people there were charitable servants, full of faith, patience and good works. To that church, Jesus said, “I will cast… them… into great
tribulation, except they repent of their deeds” (Revelation 2:22).
The congregation at Sardis had a reputation for being a church alive. But Jesus said, “Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead” (Revelation 3:1). They didn’t have much spirituality left because their hearts were not perfect toward the Lord. Yet, like so many churches today, they saw themselves as being full of life. Only those who walked in the Spirit knew that, in reality, they were dead.
Jesus came forth with a sharp knife and placed all those churches under His cutting Word. This is true love!
Removing the Reproach of Egypt
What does it really mean to “come under the knife?” In Joshua 5, Israel was at her height of glory and power, experiencing incredible miracles. Her people were loved and secure, and their enemies’ hearts were melted, “neither was there spirit in them any more, because of the children of Israel” (Joshua 5:1). It was at that time, verse 2 says — that is, the time of victory, blessing, guidance and favor, the time they were about to go in and possess the land — that God said, in effect, “Hold everything! This is the end of the line. We’ve got a problem. All looks good — greater victories are to be won — but one matter hasn’t been dealt with. The reproach of Egypt is still in your hearts and it must be cut out and rolled away.”
It is as if God says to His people: “I have patiently endured your backsliding, your complaining, your endless, constant lusting. Ten times your fathers provoked me in the wilderness and I forgave it all. I found you wasting away in Egypt’s iron furnace. I washed you, secured you with blood, delivered you from your enemies. But all along you have carried a secret sin in your heart. You have refused to lay down an idol that has a stronghold in your heart.”
The prophet Amos confirmed that Israel had this heart-idolatry in them: “Have ye offered unto me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel? But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch… the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves” (Amos 5:25-26). Here was the reproach: All along, in spite of God’s love, protection, blessings and guidance, the Israelites had been carrying something secret in their hearts. Even as they sang the Lord’s praises, another god ruled
their inner motives.
They had hidden their fathers’ idols in their baggage! Not even the awesome voice of a holy, dreadful God could get them to give up their little shrines, their golden images from Egypt. They wanted to move on and serve God while still clinging to idols. The Lord had been patient up to that point, but now He gave them an ultimatum: “I’m moving on only with a holy people. There is a world of joy and peace, victory upon victory that lies ahead — but you cannot bring your reproach with you. Cut it off! Sharpen
the knives! No flesh is allowed from here on in! No idolatry! No clinging lusts! No secret reproach!”
“Sin Is a Reproach to Any People” (Proverbs 14:34)
These “good” people had sin-stained hearts. And because they were so blind and stiff-necked, God called for a cutting of their foreskin, to try to show them what He expected inwardly — the cutting off of all sin. I doubt they understood this as they lined up to be circumcised and to submit to the knife. God was saying, “Give Me your heart. Lay down those idols.” But this was written mostly for us — for our instruction. Today God is giving us His final ultimatum: “If you will submit to My Word and let me cut off all sin and idolatry, I’ll take you into a good land — I’ll bring down all strongholds and fill you with milk and honey from heaven. But if not, if you won’t submit and cry out to Me to take away all your sin, then you are on you own and My presence will not go with you. Go under My knife or go your own way!”
How serious is this matter of coming under the knife? We see it clearly illustrated in the life of Moses, when “it came to pass… that the Lord… sought to kill him [Moses]. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son… So he [the Lord] let him go…” (Exodus 4:24-26). Moses probably had allowed his wife Zipporah to dissuade him from doing what was right. And God was saying to him, Choose, Moses: Either listen to you wife or obey Me.”
This was a matter of life and death! And the Lord comes to you this day in the same way, crying, “Now, submit to My circumcision — cut off the flesh — give your secret sin over to the knife!” “Then, only then, can you enter into the abundance of riches in Jesus Christ!
(The above material was published by World Challenge, Lindale TX). Christian Information Network