Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: God uses physical things in this world to convey deep meaning. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

 

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We have these powerful symbols in baptism and in the Lord’s Supper that God has given us of our covenant relationship with Him—symbols that cause us to remember the cross, that take us back to Christ.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, April 28.

Water, bread, grapes—these are simple ingredients that take on extraordinary meaning in the right context. Find out why these simple ingredients can become such a rich part of your life as Nancy continues the series, Lessons from the Life of Joshua (Part 8): Before We Conquer.

Nancy: After years of waiting, years of wandering, years of perhaps wondering if God’s purposes were ever going to be fulfilled, if they would ever actually see the Promised Land and stand there themselves, the Children of Israel are now there.

They’re in the Promised Land. They’ve crossed over the Jordan, and you would think the next step would have been for them to have moved forward into battle. Human reason would have suggested that now was the time to strike while the iron was hot. We know that the Canaanites, by this point, are terrified because they have just heard what Jehovah has done in taking His people through the Jordan River.

You read in Joshua chapter 5, beginning at verse 1,

As soon as all the kings of the Ammorites 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 rivers 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.

So you say, “Israelites, now is the time to move forward while the Canaanites are terrified.”

The Children of Israel, as we heard in the last session, are camped at a place called Gilgal, which is just west of the Jordan several miles. It’s a mile or two from Jericho, so they can presumably see the very high, strong, imposing city walls of Jericho. You wouldn’t think they’d want to sit around while they’re under the shadow of this very powerful city of Jericho, but in His sovereignty, in His wisdom, God calls for yet a further delay.

The events in chapter 5 that we’re going to look at next took at least five days, and then the Children of Israel walked around Jericho for six days—it wasn’t until the seventh day that the walls fell—so it was at least two weeks after they cross the Jordan before they experienced their first victory.

We need to remember that though God does sometimes delay us, His delays are always purposeful, and God’s delays are a necessary part of the process for us to take possession of our spiritual inheritance, which is what we’re talking about in the application of our lives of going into Canaan, taking over the spiritual inheritance and possession that God has for us.

They had to make the memorials—we saw that in the last session—and now they’re going to be prepared in another important way.

The story in Joshua 5 is the account of the Israelites renewing their covenant with the Lord. This was very important. They were a covenant people. They had a covenant-keeping God, but they had broken their covenant with God through their years of unbelief in the wilderness. 

That covenant, for a period of time, in some ways had been suspended. So they needed some markers to renew their covenant, to remind themselves who they were, and to renew their commitment to a covenant-keeping God. The means of doing that, in Joshua chapter 5, was by way of two sacraments that the Children of Israel took time to observe.

In observing these two sacraments, they were reinstituting two practices that God had given to them but had been neglected for the past generation. These practices had been abandoned in the previous generation, and now the new generation had come into the Promised Land, and they had to reinstitute these two practices, namely circumcision and the celebration of the Passover.

Let’s look at them one at a time.

The first nine verses deal with the sacrament of circumcision. Let me read beginning in verse 2 of Joshua chapter 5: "At that time the LORD said to Joshua [now what time is this?—they’ve just crossed Jordan; the Canaanites are terrified; and at that moment when you’d think the next thing to do would be to, as I said, strike while the iron’s hot—what is it God tells Joshua to do?] ‘Make flint knives and circumcise the sons of Israel a second time.’ So Joshua made flint knives . . . .”

One of the things I love about Joshua is his quickness to obey God even when it doesn’t make human sense. God says, “Do this,” and the next verse you read, Joshua did this, and that’s the kind of heart God wants us to have—not delaying, not debating, not discussing, not dialoguing, not going to somebody else saying, “I think God told me this, but what do you think?” God made it clear; God makes it clear to us in His Word some things we’re supposed to do, and the question is: Are we doing them? Are we quick to obey?

Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the sons of Israel at Gibeath-haaraloth.

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 [this is everyone over age 20, remember, had died in the wilderness] on the way after they had come out of Egypt. Though all the people who came out [of Egypt] 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 been circumcised (verses 3-5).

So the Scripture goes on to tell us in verse 6 and following that Joshua actually circumcised, or the Children of Israel circumcised all the males who had not been circumcised.

Verse 8: “When the circumcising of the whole nation was finished, they remained in their places in the camp until they were healed.”

To undergo the rite of circumcision of adult men at this very time was, humanly speaking, ludicrous. It took faith, and we’ve said this was a journey of faith all the way. This was a crisis of faith for the Children of Israel. It took faith to walk across the Jordan, for those priests to set their feet in the water and to believe that God would take them across.

Now this is another crisis of faith. Are you going to circumcise all of the men in your army and take the time it takes them to heal while you’re sitting under the shadow of your enemy, this people of Jericho?

The effect of this surgery was that it incapacitated and disabled the entire Israelite army while they’re sitting approximately one mile from Jericho. I’d say that took faith, but God said to do it, and when God says to do it, He knows what He’s talking about. God will be our defender.

We know that in Genesis chapter 35 there was a group of adult men, the Shechemites, who were circumcised and three days later, they were still in pain and unable to defend themselves. We know that it took approximately three days, at the least, for the Israelite men to be healed after this rite of circumcision, and, again, humanly speaking, this was a foolish thing to do. It made them vulnerable. What if the Canaanites found out all the Israelite men are sitting down there disabled? What if they decided to attack?

There are a lot of “what if’s” in life, and, humanly speaking, that might have happened, but the Israelites had to learn that being right with God was more important than any military advantage, that God would protect them if they were in the place of obedience.

Verse 9:

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.

That verse—you can’t tell it in the English language—but it’s actually a play on words. The name Gilgal, the word in the Hebrew sounds like the Hebrew word that means “to roll.” “I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you,” and so this is the place—Gilgal is what it was named and called thereafter—this was the place where God rolled away the reproach of Egypt. This point, the circumcision, marks the end of Israel’s long captivity. Now Canaan, the Promised Land, lies ahead for the Children of Israel.

The word Gilgal is related to a place that we find in the New Testament. Can you think of a place that has a little bit of a familiar sound—sounds a bit like Gilgal? Golgotha. What is Golgotha but the place where God rolled away our sins. He rolled away the reproach of our bondage to Satan. Calvary, the place where Jesus was crucified. Golgotha, the place of the skull. It marks the end of our captivity to sin. Calvary— Golgotha—that’s the place where our sins were rolled onto Christ so that we could enter God’s spiritual inheritance.

What took place for the Jews who were circumcised at Gilgal was a picture of what Christ would do in circumcising our hearts at Golgotha. It makes that place an important memorial in our minds and in our hearts.

In the Old Testament, circumcision was the mark of a covenant. God gave this first to Abraham and said, “This is an evidence that you belong to Me,” and all subsequent Jewish generations, the males, normally at eight days of age, were to be circumcised. It said that these were a marked people; that they belonged to Jehovah.

The Israelites were not to trust in the external mark. It wasn’t the external mark of the circumcision that made them God’s people. It was just an evidence that they were trusting in the God of the covenant, and the evidence of their faith was the mark of circumcision.

Deuteronomy chapter 10 tells us that the Old Testament rite of circumcision for the Jews was a symbol of a spiritual operation on the heart. Then we come to Colossians chapter 2, and we read that there’s a connection for us as New Testament believers—not just Jewish males, having the physical rite of circumcision, but that there is a spiritual circumcision for all those who are children of God through faith in Jesus Christ.

Let me read to you that passage from Colossians chapter 2:11-13,

In him [Christ] also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands [this is not a physical circumcision] by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him [Christ] from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh.

When you talked in the Old Testament about those who were uncircumcised, you were talking about pagans, unbelievers, Gentiles. Paul is saying to the Colossians, "You were unbelievers; you were uncircumcised in your flesh, but you were dead. You were dead in your sins, but God made you alive together with Christ, having forgiven us all our trespasses by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross."

So we look back to the cross even as the Old Testament Jews looked forward to the cross of Jesus Christ to our Gilgal, our Golgotha, where there was a spiritual operation that took place in our hearts, the cutting away of that old unbelieving, pagan, unregenerate flesh and causing us to be dead with Christ, buried with Christ, and raised with Christ to newness of life.

What is the New Testament symbol of that inner work of the Spirit in circumcising our hearts? In the Old Testament, the external symbol was circumcision for the Jewish males. In the New Testament, the symbol of that circumcision working of the Spirit in our hearts is believers’ baptism—baptism by water—that marks us as belonging to Christ.

We are not saved by baptism—whether you believe in sprinkling or in immersion, dunking, three times forward, three times backward—there are so many. I’ve seen different means and modes of baptism—that’s not the point here. Regardless of what mode you believe in or use, it cannot save you any more than the physical rite of circumcision could save Old Testament Jews.

Baptism by water does not save you. It’s merely an outward, external symbol, an expression of an internal reality. It’s an expression of a transformation that has taken place in our hearts.

I was baptized by immersion as a five-year-old child about a year after I trusted Christ as my Savior. I remember having to stand on an egg crate in the bottom of the baptismal font because I was too short, and Pastor Conners baptizing me by means of immersion.

There’s this concept, as you go into the water, being buried with Christ, and then, as you come out of the water, being raised with Christ to live in newness of life. It’s an external symbol. It was an important, meaningful moment to me, but it wasn’t when I was saved. That’s not what saved me.

It’s Christ who saved me a year earlier, May 14, 1963, gave me new life, put faith in my heart, granted the gift of repentance, and then when I was baptized a year later in our church (if you were a child, they made you wait a year because they wanted confirmation that your profession of faith was genuine). I had to walk through being questioned by the leadership of the church, giving a personal testimony, and then came that point when I went through the waters of baptism as a symbol, a sign, a testimony of what God had already done in my heart internally the previous year.

That leads me to ask, by the way, if you have ever been baptized as a believer. According to the Scripture, this is one of the important, initial acts of obedience for every child of God in the New Testament. You may have been a child of God for a brief period of time or a long period of time. Have you been baptized? It will not save you, but it’s an expression of obedience, an expression of identifying to the world, to anyone who watches, and a reminder to yourself, of what Christ has done in your heart.

Back to Joshua chapter 5, the men being circumcised is what qualified them to partake of the next sacrament, which was the Passover. The celebration of the Passover was reinstituted, and we read about that beginning in verse 10:

Now the children of Israel camped in Gilgal, and kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight on the plains of Jericho (NKJV).

They’d come across the Jordan River on what day of the month? We talked about this in the last session—the tenth day. In the book of Exodus, at the first Passover, the tenth day was when they selected the lamb—the Passover lamb—the fourteenth day of the month was when they sacrificed the Passover lamb.

So the Children of Israel, once again, partook of this meal of remembrance, a reminder that they were a redeemed people. This is only the third recorded Passover celebration. They had celebrated it once right after they came out of Egypt, and then a year later when they were camped at Mount Sinai, you read in Numbers chapter 9 that they had celebrated the Passover, and then apparently they had not celebrated the Passover since.

So it had been a whole generation that had not been circumcised and had not partaken of the Passover which God had instructed them to do every year, but while they were wandering in the wilderness, God’s covenant with them had been suspended because of their unbelief, but now they were coming back to renew their covenant. All of this before they went into their first battle, as means of preparation.

Many of the adult generation who would now be celebrating the Passover in the Promised Land had been children when the Israelites had observed the very first Passover in Egypt forty years earlier. Some of those would have been little boys and girls, and they would have watched as their fathers chose a lamb, and then killed the Passover lamb, and then placed that blood on the doorposts and the lintels of their homes.

They would have remembered, thinking back forty years, the wailing of the Egyptians whose homes had been struck by the angel of death that night, and they would have remembered how the angel passed over their homes when he saw the blood on the doorposts.

So they knew this was an important, significant picture that "we are a people who belong to a covenant God, and with this sacrifice, again, we remember that God has passed over our sins. We deserve to die for our sins, but God has passed over and delivered us because of the blood of the Lamb."

So in the Old Testament, we have the picture of circumcision; in the New Testament, the picture of believers’ baptism. In the Old Testament, the symbol of the Passover; in the New Testament—what has the Passover symbol become for us? The Lord’s Supper. What a precious picture that is for us each time we partake of it, and we remember, because of the blood of the Lamb that was shed for me, God has passed over my sins. He has judged Christ for my sins, and now I can be free, free to belong to God.

So we have these powerful symbols in baptism and in the Lord’s Supper that God has given us of our covenant relationship with Him, symbols that cause us to remember the cross, that take us back to Christ.

As I think of that whole generation of Jews in the wilderness that, for years and years, for a whole generation, did not observe those sacraments of circumcision and the Passover, I’m prompted to ask us—is it possible that we have forgotten Christ, what He did for us?

Have we neglected the symbols, the sacraments that He has given us whereby we remember Him? Things like salvation, the blood of Christ. These are old terms some of us have heard since we were little, but they’re precious terms. They’re terms that we need to recover, that we need to talk about. We never get past our need for these precious reminders of what God has done for us, and we celebrate that each time we watch a baptism, each time we partake of the Lord’s Supper.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been calling us to experience the richness of God’s sacraments. I hope you’ll contact your church if you haven’t been baptized, or want to learn more about the way the Lord’s Supper is celebrated, I hope you’ll get a copy of that teaching on CD. It’s part of the series, Lessons from the Life of Joshua (Part 8): Before We Conquer.

God prepared Joshua’s heart for some tasks that went down in history. He can prepare your heart for anything in your future as well.

When you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts, we’ll send you Lessons from the Life of Joshua (Part 8): Before We Conquer and we’ll include a helpful tool that will take your spiritual temperature and identify potential areas of growth and increase your appetite for spiritual things. It’s a booklet called Preparing for Revival.

Ask for your Lessons from the Life of Joshua (Part 8): Before We Conquer and Preparing for Revival when you call 1-800-569-5959 with your donation of any size, or visit us online at ReviveOurHeartsRadio.com.

Tomorrow we’ll hear about many great ideas for creating symbols and spiritual markers so the next generation can see and learn from our stories. Now Nancy will wrap things up.

Nancy: There’s a meaningful P.S. to this account of the Israelites’ celebration of the Passover that we find in Joshua chapter 5, verses 11 and 12. Verse 11 tells us: “And they ate of the produce of the land on the day after the Passover, unleavened bread and parched grain, on the very same day.”

You remember it was harvest time when they crossed over Jordan, that’s why the river was flooding, and so there was barley available, there was other produce available in the land, dates and olives, etc., there was plentiful food, and now they were able to enjoy the first fruits of the abundance that God had promised them.

Then verse 12 tells us: “Then the manna ceased on the day after they had eaten the produce of the land; and the children of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate the food of the land of Canaan that year” (NKJV).

What a picture that is of God’s tender, faithful care and provision for His people. How long had God provided manna every morning, six mornings a week? For forty years, even when the children of Israel were unbelieving, when they were griping, when they were murmuring, when they said, “We’re sick of this manna,” God kept, in His mercy, providing for them. He was faithful even when they weren’t. He supplied exactly what they needed as long as it was needed, and then when it wasn’t needed any more, it went away.

What an incredible God we have who, in His providence, in His kindness and mercy, His tenderness, He knows what our need is, and He provides exactly what we need, as long as it is needed, and then comes the day when He takes us into that Promised Land, and we’re able to enjoy the bountiful abundance of His promises in that new land.

Leslie: Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

 

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