3 So Joshua made flint knives for himself, and circumcised the sons of Israel at the hill of the foreskins.
4 And this is the reason why Joshua circumcised them: All the people who came out of Egypt who were males, all the men of war, had died in the wilderness on the way, after they had come out of Egypt.
5 For all the people who came out had been circumcised, but all the people born in the wilderness, on the way as they came out of Egypt, had not been circumcised.
6 For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the people who were men of war, who came out of Egypt, were consumed, because they did not obey the voice of the Lord--to whom the Lord swore that He would not show them the land which the Lord had sworn to their fathers that He would give us, "a land flowing with milk and honey."
7 Then Joshua circumcised their sons whom He raised up in their place; for they were uncircumcised, because they had not been circumcised on the way.
8 So it was, when they had finished circumcising all the people, that they stayed in their places in the camp till they were healed.
9 Then the Lord said to Joshua, "This day I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you." Therefore the name of the place is called Gilgal to this day.
To understand the significance of this place, we have to look at the context and the background of this account when the Israelites were led to Gilgal. Just before this stop, this new generation of Israelites have witnessed a marvellous miracle of the parting of the Jordan river and they have crossed the river onto dry ground. They have witnessed a powerful manifestation of God's power which was at the same time, a terrifying news to their enemies who were occupying the Promised Land. In verse 1 of Joshua 5, we read that "Now when all the Amorite kings west of the Jordan and all the Canaanite kings along the coast heard how the LORD had dried up the Jordan before the Israelites until they had crossed over, their hearts melted in fear and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites." Aha! To the logical minds of the Israelites, this must be an opportune time for them to take advantage of their enemies who were resigned to their fears and discouragement. It would be perfect plan to execute a battleplan to conquer the Promised Land, after all God had seemed to help us by opening up the Jordan river.
However, on this last stop before the Israelites stepped into the Promised Land and conquer that which was promised to them and their forefathers, God had other plans. The Lord's instruction to Joshua: CIRCUMCISION first. Period.
"Shouldn't we just proceed to conquer Jericho?"
"Lord, did I hear you correctly - circumcision now?"
"Are you sure, Lord?"
"Oh, we're all ready to conquer the land and march onto victory for your glory!"
Joshua had been with Moses in his ups and downs and he knew better to obey God than anyone else in the Israelites' camp. How much we have to learn and re-learn time and again that His ways are not our ways. What may appear to be foolishness to us is the wisdom of God. And our part is just to obey Him. On this auspicious occasion, the Israelites obeyed Joshua.
Yes, these are the times when we feel we are so ready to move on and progress with the Lord. We are brimming with confidence and enthusiasm. After undergoing a long arduous waiting period for His promises to come to pass in our lives - we relish the opportunity to conquer the world which is just right before our eyes! We may be thinking to ourselves that we have undergone many of the tests that the Lord has sent our way and we are keen to now see the fulfillment of His promises. We somehow feel that we have now 'qualified'..., but then, here comes the Lord saying, "Wait a minute, My child..."
The Lord desires to birth forth something so precious and beautiful in our lives, i.e. it is His desire to raise sons of God (with the likeness of His precious son, Christ Jesus) in this hour that He will work in us and through us and arrange circumstances in our lives so that we will understand the meaning of circumcision at Gilgal. We know today that in the New Testament, when we speak of circumcision, it is one of the heart and not a physical circumcision in which the Old Testament account was only a shadow of that which was to come. God has a goal in mind, He desires to roll away the reproach of Egypt away from us. We may be in the world but we are not of the world. To progress in our journey with the Lord and to fulfill the destinies that He has ordained for us, God wants to be sure that every element of the world is removed from our lives for indeed our citizenship is not of this world.
In 1 John, we are told that if the love of the world is in us, the love of the Father is not in our hearts. What then, is the love of the world but the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and pride of life. These are to be removed and cut-off from our lives. Just as Christ had undergone the three-fold temptations in the wilderness before stepping into his public ministry, what more, as His children are we to be led by His Spirit to be on such similar footsteps. God has to get rid of every influence, every taint and every trace of the world's system from our lives. Only then, can He say He has rolled away the reproach of the world from us. The circumcision of the heart is painful as it may also include a time of separation in order for the Egypt in us to be completely erased. In other words, it is a time of being set apart to be ready for His purposes to be birthed in our lives. Jesus was alone when He went through the wilderness. Today, many of His saints are also trodding along the path of loneliness. It is a season when the flint knive is used upon our hearts. And in such times, we are driven to our knees to spend much time with the Lord. When we have no one to talk to and no-one (including ourselves) could not understand what is going on in our lives, we have the Lord waiting to commune with us in sweet fellowship in the garden of prayer. Together with the painful process of separation, it is also a time of cleansing and purification where our vision and purpose is revived and clarified. As we travel through the wilderness, perhaps the vision that God has first birthed in our lives may have been contaminated by the dusts and dirt. And now is a good time for God to work in us to re-focus our vision, to cleanse us and to remove every bit of Egypt from our lives.
Secondly, this process of circumcision of the heart at Gilgal also marks the beginning of a process of healing within us. When the Lord literally removes the shame from our lives, He is also performing a healing work within us. With the shame, there is also the pain, the bitterness and the discouragement of yester-years. It is a time of confronting our past as we reflect on our journey to the day we reach Gilgal. God is assuring us that the past is gone and He is releasing the announcement of the dawn of a new season. In fact, in Joshua 4, the Israelites were commanded to take 12 stones and to erect a memorial at Gilgal after crossing Jordan. It is a reflection and remembrance of God's faithfulness and the sign of the end of a long, tiring season for the desert travellers. If we do not experience healing from the past, we are not able to enter into a new chapter with the Lord, just as Jesus said in the Gospels that we cannot put new wine into old wineskins. Take time to rest in His love and receive His healing as we pause at Gilgal.
And finally, it also means a time of vulnerability and death. The Israelites had to remain in their camps for the time being while the healing process takes place. If the enemies were to know the state of the these Israelites at that time and chose to war against the Israelites whilst they were recuperating in their camps, we would not have the opportunity to witness the fulfillment of God's promise to His people. Instead, the Lord God of Israel wanted His people to know that the God who watched over them neither sleeps nor slumber. It is the Lord's desire to bring them to a place of such dependence upon Him and knowing that it's all about Him and not their strengths or abilities. It is God who works in us to will and to do His perfect will and purposes in our lives. What a terrible to thing to fall into pride and the trap of robbing God's glory for we are told clearly in the Scriptures that pride comes before destruction. Therefore, God in His divine love and wisdom allow us to pause at Gilgal and know our true frames. We are but earthen vessels containing the precious eternal treasure of light within us. It speaks of crucifixion of self and our flesh so that His life may flow through us. God has to reveal to us our weaknesses first before He could show us His ability and discover the secret of doing all things through Him who strengthens us. The Apostle Paul discovered the secret when he spoke of not Paul who lived but Christ who lived in him. These are precious truths and yet painful at times as it is not a nice process to be left vulnerable, recuperating at our camps whilst waiting for God to complete His work. Our flesh does not revel in the revelation of its true state.
When we have submitted ourselves to God's circumcision at Gilgal, then we are ready to have our encounter with Him that will define the purpose and destiny of our lives. Moses encountered the God of fire which would be the distinguishing mark in his life as he led the Israelites out of Egypt. And now, after fulfilling God's instruction, the Lord met Joshua as the Commander of the army of the Lord. Joshua will be the one who will lead Israel into the land flowing with milk and honey. Fret not, for when we have co-operated with the Lord as He leads us to a season of circumcision of the heart at Gilgal, we will also be candidates for an encounter with the God of our destiny.
Are you in Gilgal today? Do not be discouraged nor dismayed. Reflect upon the goodness of God. Remember all His faithful deeds that He has performed in your life. Know that the Lord our God is such a Faithful Friend. Immerse yourself in His rivers of love and continue to wait upon Him for a new day has come.