Read Joshua 5
1 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.
Circumcision and Passover at Gilgal
2 At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites again.” 3 So Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the Israelites at Gibeath Haaraloth.
4 Now this is why he did so: All those who came out of Egypt—all the men of military age—died in the wilderness on the way after leaving Egypt. 5 All the people that came out had been circumcised, but all the people born in the wilderness during the journey from Egypt had not. 6 The Israelites had moved about in the wilderness forty years until all the men who were of military age when they left Egypt had died, since they had not obeyed the Lord. For the Lord had sworn to them that they would not see the land he had solemnly promised their ancestors to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey. 7 So he raised up their sons in their place, and these were the ones Joshua circumcised. They were still uncircumcised because they had not been circumcised on the way. 8 And after the whole nation had been circumcised, they remained where they were in camp until they were healed.
9 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” So the place has been called Gilgal to this day.
10 On the evening of the fourteenth day of the month, while camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, the Israelites celebrated the Passover. 11 The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain. 12 The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate the produce of Canaan.
The Fall of Jericho
13 Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”
14 “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”
15 The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.
Over the last few days, we have traveled through the events that followed the death of Moses as the Israelites approach the Promised Land. With Joshua at the helm, in Joshua 5 we see that Israel has arrived in the Promised Land and they are ready to begin their conquest. This chapter underscores things of greater importance: the reinstitution of circumcision and Passover. Circumcision was a reminder of Israel’s covenant relationship with God, and Passover was a reminder of Israel’s redemption out of bondage from the Egyptians. This is paralleled by Baptism and the Lord’s Supper in the New Testament. Baptism is a sign of our covenant relationship with God (see Col. 2:11-12), and the Lord’s Supper is a sign of our redemption (see Matt. 26:18-19).
This chapter culminates with an unusual encounter between Joshua and the commander of the army of the Lord. Joshua is reminded that he is reliant upon the Lord in all things. This encounter parallels Moses’s experience with God at the burning bush in Exodus 3. They are both commanded to take off their shoes, and they bow in reverence because they are on holy ground in the presence of Yahweh. Joshua recognizes his own insufficiency in light of God’s very presence.
We too must approach God in reverence, not flippantly, for He is far greater than we can possibly fathom. We see that Joshua postures himself in worshipful surrender in God’s presence before he goes out to battle. Joshua rightly understands that he must be submitted to God’s authority. Great leaders are led by someone greater than them (and they know that). This is true of Joshua as he encounters the “commander of the army of the LORD.” Is this true for us? Just as Joshua and the Israelites will go into Jericho (in the next chapter), we too will go into situations in life that will require God’s guidance. In these moments our true relationship with God will be exposed and we will see if we have been doing things in our own power or by God’s power.
- How have you postured yourself in reverent worship today?
- Why is it important to recognize God’s holiness in light of our own insufficiency?
- In the same way that circumcision and Passover were signs of God’s faithfulness to the Israelites, how are the New Testament ordinances a sign of God’s faithfulness to you now?
Did You Know?
God stopped providing manna for the Israelites to eat in verse 12, but they didn’t go hungry. There was an abundance of produce for them to eat now. This is just another reminder of how God provides for His people based on their needs.