While the sons of Israel camped at Gilgal they observed the Passover on the evening of the fourteenth day of the month on the desert plains of Jericho. On the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. The manna ceased on the day after they had eaten some of the produce of the land, so that the sons of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate some of the yield of the land of Canaan during that year. Joshua 5:10-12
We are coming to a close of the first section of the book of Joshua. The first five chapters were all about the preparation to enter the land, and as we get into chapter 6, the battles begin. After they crossed the Jordan but before they went into battle, Israel took a pause in Gilgal. After 40 years of manna, they started eating off the land – Israel was beginning to enter into the promises of God.
They crossed the Jordan by faith, entered the Promised Land, celebrated Passover, circumcised all the males, and then they were ready for the battles ahead. Today we are also going to take a pause, and make sure we are ready for the battles ahead. As Israel sat in Gilgal, they began to experience the promises of God. The promises of God are found in the presence of God. As we talked about last week, the purpose of the battles was to push Israel into the presence of God; the promises of God are found when we’re in His presence.
This idea of God pushing them into His presence started in Egypt. The Hebrews (the children of Israel) were in captivity in Egypt for 400 years. During that time, they became more and more oppressed. At the end of that time, they cried out to God for a deliverer. God uses the circumstances in our lives to push us into His presence. It is not a lack of love, but God’s great love and grace that uses circumstances to push us into His presence. We’re the same as Israel. When do we cry out to God? Not when everything is perfect and going our way – we tend to forget God when we have an amazing day.
As we grow in grace and understanding of God, we find out that in times of relative ease, we still need Him and we still depend on Him. And someday when we’re in His presence, we’ll have full understanding. But now we see dimly through this veil, and so we struggle with the eternal and the temporal, and God uses these circumstances to drive us back into His presence.
And so the Hebrews in captivity cried out to God to be set free. In the same way, our bondage and sin caused us to cry out to God. For many of us, there came a point where we said, “I can’t do this anymore more.” There’s an emptiness or a void in our hearts and very souls that say, “I can’t do this anymore. I’m lacking.” Nothing satisfies us, and the things of this world don’t satisfy. Sin does not satisfy, it only creates a greater hunger and thirst. And so we strive, and we strive, and we strive. We’re in bondage to sin before Christ:
knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin. Romans 6:6
Christ sets us free from the bondage of sin. The Hebrews in Egypt are a picture of what Christ would do for us. The people cry out and God raises up a deliverer, Moses (learn more about Moses here). God raised up a deliverer for us, Jesus Christ Himself, the perfect Lamb of God. When God raised up Moses to be their deliverer in Egypt, he obeyed and went to Pharaoh and asked him to let God’s people go. Pharaoh refused to let the people go, and so in order to convince Pharaoh, there was a series of plagues. The plagues included locusts and darkness and blood.. they were seemingly random, but the plagues were God’s way of displaying His power and authority over the gods of Egypt. With the plagues, God was declaring Himself as the one true God. Pharaoh would not relent, until the tenth and final plague. God would send a death angel over Egypt to take the life of every firstborn male, man and beast, to break the heart of Pharaoh. God protected His people with specific instructions:
“This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you. “Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, ‘On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers’ households, a lamb for each household…. Exodus 12:2-3
God started a new calendar year, and said that on the tenth day of the month, they were to pick a lamb. That was also the day they crossed over the Jordan and picked their lamb. God’s timing is perfect: they wandered around for years in the desert, and they arrived and crossed the Jordan in the right place, at the right time, for God to do the right work in their lives, in their families, and in their nation.
‘Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. ‘You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight. ‘Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. … ‘For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments–I am the LORD. ‘The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. ‘Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance. Exodus 12:5-7, 12-14
This is what Israel observed in Gilgal – the sacrifice of the lamb, and the meal celebrating what God did for them. God gave them details about how to commemorate Passover. This was the first passover in the land of promise, a picture of a greater lamb to come. Passover is a picture of Jesus, the Lamb of God, who was slain for us and conquered sin and death. He sprinkled us with His blood so that the wrath of God may pass over us. Passover is not just a story, but a picture of hope, a prediction, a foreshadowing. God was saying that He would send the Messiah, the perfect Lamb of God, at the right time, in the right way, and at the right place. God started His plan before the foundation of the earth, but we begin to see it unfolding from Genesis, all the way through to Revelation.
Because we’re covered in the blood of Jesus, death itself will pass over us as we have life in Christ. Through the blood of Jesus we enter into the promises of God for His people. But as you may recall, not everyone set free from Egypt made it to Gilgal and into the Promised Land. There was disbelief and a refusal to walk by faith, to obey, to enter into the land. There was rebellion against Moses, God’s appointed, and those of the rebellion did not enter into the promises of God. There was a generation of people who refused to believe God, and many wandered around until they died without ever entering into the promises of God.
Gilgal means to roll away. At Gilgal, Israel obeyed God in circumcision. Circumcision is a physical sign of obedience, of being set apart or sanctified to God as God’s people. At Gilgal, God said their reproach had been rolled away. Before we move on to the battles, I want to make sure that we are all at Gilgal and that our reproach has been rolled away; that we are ready for the battles and that we have circumcised our hearts and set ourselves aside to God.
It’s easy to go to church your whole life, but not have a relationship with Jesus. The Bible talks about the circumcision of the heart:
“So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer. Deuteronomy 10:16
“Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live. Deuteronomy 30:6
“Circumcise yourselves to the LORD And remove the foreskins of your heart, Men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, Or else My wrath will go forth like fire And burn with none to quench it, Because of the evil of your deeds.” Jeremiah 4:4
In Matthew, Jesus warns us about our hearts:
“So then, you will know them by their fruits. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’ “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. Matthew 7:20-24
Spiritual activity does not guarantee a relationship with Jesus:
As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. “You know the commandments, ‘DO NOT MURDER, DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, DO NOT STEAL, DO NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS, Do not defraud, HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER.'” And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property. Mark 10:17-22
The rich young man had kept the entire law his whole life, but he still realized something was lacking. Jesus loved him, and told him to go sell everything and follow Him. Rule keeping and morality do not guarantee a relationship with Jesus. It’s about the affection and obedience of the heart. The rich man went away grieving because his security was in his possessions. What owns your heart? If it’s not Jesus, whatever it is will come between you and Jesus.
In Luke 7, there is an account of Jesus dining at the home of a Pharisee, a religious leader. While He was there, a woman from the city came to Him. She was described as a sinner, and she fell at His feet and poured out expensive perfume over His feet and wiped them with her hair. The religious leaders criticized Jesus for allowing her to touch Him. “If he was a prophet, He would know what type of woman this was” (Luke 7:39). Jesus replied, “The one who is forgiven much loves much.” In other words, those who understand the depth of their depravity and sin, and the greatness of God’s love, will be compelled to worship Him and will desire to be in His presence.
The first step for us is understanding we are sinful beings:
When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, “Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?” And hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:16-17
Our Gilgal begins with a confession of need as we recognize that we are sick and there is nothing we can do. There is no cure within ourselves. We are sinners and have fallen short and offended a mighty God. There is one cure only, Jesus Christ and His blood! It is not about a prayer, church attendance, reading the Bible, or living up to a standard. It is the knowledge that we have sinned against a holy God and there is no way we can reconcile ourselves. We deserve the wrath of God, but because of His great love and desire to be in relationship with us, He made a way through His son Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God.
The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace Ephesians 1:7
Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted…Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors. Isaiah 53:4, 12
and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 1 Peter 2:24
God has come for the sick, not the healthy, but He’s also coming for those who recognize their need and are desperate for Him. At Gilgal, it was circumcision that reminded them of the covenant relationship with their creator, and Passover reminded them that He had set them free.
Have you been called and set apart? Have you been freed from the bondage of sin by the blood of the Passover Lamb Jesus, or are you still trying to do it on your own? This is important today because you will not succeed in battle or experience the promises of God unless you are in the presence of God.
Confession and repentance are two amazing words that should fill our hearts with joy, not shame or condemnation. Confession means we agree with God, and repentance is a turning away from our sin. Confession is good, but we also need repentance. The Bible says that if you confess Jesus as Lord and believe on Him, you will be saved:
that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.” Romans 10:9-13
He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:11-13
This is difficult for us, because most of us here in Lodi go to church. The culture here is that everyone goes to church, and associates themselves with a church. We love the status quo in Lodi. Sometimes we avoid calling sin sin, and let people float through life with a lifestyle and understanding of Jesus that is not accurate. That’s unloving, and it’s not what Jesus wants. Jesus looked at the rich young ruler, and He felt love and compassion for him. What did Jesus say? He loved the guy, so He told him to go and sell what he had, and then come and follow Him.
“You have to be willing to give your heart to me. I have to be your greatest affection. I have to be the one that you follow. I have to be the one that’s going to set your values and direction and purpose and mission in life. Let the dead bury the dead. Drop what you’re doing, pick up your cross, and follow me.”
There should be a significant difference in our values, in our behavior, how we spend our money, the things that we do, the way we think. Matthew 5, 6, and 7 tells us what is indicative of a person following Jesus. This is Gilgal for us, and many of us have prayed a prayer. That prayer is not an incantation or a guarantee; that prayer is meaningless unless it expresses the desire of your heart.
This morning, there are people here who know Jesus. Some are walking with Jesus, and some of us believe in Jesus, but we’ve drifted. We need to circumcise the flesh of our hearts and ask ourselves what we’ve been investing in and trusting in besides Jesus. It’s time to cut that flesh away, and get ready for the battles and the promises of God.
There are also people here who have never trusted in Jesus. You can know a lot of things about God, without knowing God. Knowing God is a relationship. We can have a relationship with God the Father through Christ, who sacrificed His life for us. He is the only way, and the Holy Spirit fills us and gives us knowledge and understanding to grow in the relationship. This morning, if you don’t have a relationship with Christ, then this would be the morning to admit your need for Him and ask Him to save you. The beautiful thing is that He will: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).