Or, for all you English guys out there:
“From the hill of foreskins to the falling walls of Jericho”
Today we had David Beakley fill in for our usual Preaching Lab lecturer, who is struck down but not destroyed (sick). There is always great expectation in the air when Dave comes because he has the neck to turn a 1 hour class into a 2 hour sermon. He did not disappoint us ….
His aim was to show us how to principle-ize a passage. The passage we looked at was Joshua 5, the time when Israel had just miraculously crossed the Jordan and now every man needed to circumcised.
What came out in the observation section where questions like: “Why were the Canaanites so scared that they looked themselves up in Jericho?”, “why did God command all 605 000 men to be circumcised when they were supposed to fight the ‘giants’ in the land of promise?” and “why did the Canaanites not take this opportunity to slay Israel when they were at their weakest?”.
We looked at Genesis 17 (the Covenant of Circumcision) and observed how Abraham had to exercise faith by circumcising himself, at the age of 99, before he could receive the promise of an offspring (which happened a year later – i.e. Sarah had to be pregnant within the next 3 months).
We then went back to Joshua and noted that something similar was going on there. Israel stood at the entrance of God’s promise of land and nationhood. The new generation was not yet circumcised, as the previous 605 000 families had all died in the wilderness.
We drew the principle of “faith before possession of promise” out of this. But there is more to this.
Why did God literally cripple Israel’s army before they needed to fight? Don’t you want to have your men go into the battle when they are the strongest, fittest and most rested? Not with God. God wants us to be dependent and trusting in Him alone before we can make walls tumble.
This is , by the way, not the only time that God had done this. Just a book onwards (Judges 7), God told Gideon that his 32.000 strong army was too much to fight the Midianite Alliance (who were “like locusts in abundance, and their camels without number” – for illustration’s sake, let’s call it 1 million people). Eventually God sent 300 (!) men, armed with trumpets and pots (? – you just have to appreciate the humour in this!) to destroy the great army of the Medianites; well actually, God destroyed them in the end “lest they [Israel] should boast over me [God]”.
God needs us to be pure first before we get peace. He needs us to be like Him first before can receive His promises. That is now applicable to anything in life. This principle relates to my job, my marriage, my friendships, my ministry, my choices I make, my possessions, my health and sickness … fill in the blanks.
But what is that faith of both Abraham and Joshua (together with Israel)? It is expressed through obedience! Obedience keeps on walking and doing what God wants you to do. What does he want you to do? First, to trust Him alone (which is faith) and then to walk as he has walked (obedience). It’s all so closely connected.
Yes, obedience is hard. Yes it is painful. Yes it seems at times not to make sense. It is trusting in and looking to God at all times. You do not have any idea what is around the corner. Just as the circumcised Israelites did not know that the Canaanite’s hearts had melted and they had locked themselves up. I am sure that they, after being circumcised, must have battled with doubts over this action. They knew that they were prey ready for picking.
But, with God, we are always the strongest when we are the weakest, because then we absolutely have to trust in Him alone. All our strength is gone.
So, the principle we learned today is that if you want to stand on the gravel of Jericho you first have to stop at the hill of foreskins. Put simpler: the road to Jericho goes past Gilgal. Still simpler: before you will receive His many promises you have to be pure and obedient (note how that does not require any intellectualism or academic bling-bling).
Praise the Lord! I am so glad right now that this is His way of doing things, because currently I don’t know any more what to do next. But He says “stop here at Gilgal first before you receive my promises”.
Let us put our trust in Him alone and be obedient to His Word!
God is truly amazing and far greater than what we can fathom!