Sunday, February 01, 2009

Matt's Messages "Just Before Jericho"

“Just Before Jericho”

Possessing the Promises: The Book of Joshua
February 1, 2009
Joshua 5:1-15

This is our fourth message in this study of the book of Joshua.

In chapter 1, the LORD told Joshua to be strong and courageous. The 40 years of discipline for the nation of Israel were over and it is now time to take possession of the Promised Land. And while that might sound daunting, Joshua was not be daunted. He was to be strong and courageous.

In chapter 2, General Joshua sent out two spies to reconnoiter the land and get a read on their enemies. In the process, they were rescued by Rahab and promised to rescue her and her family. They bring word back that Canaan is scared to death of Israel and Israel’s God.

In chapter 3 and 4, Israel crosses the Jordan River–on dry ground! They follow the Ark of the Covenant, symbolizing the holy presence of the LORD Himself going ahead of them–they follow the Ark into the Jordan River. The River runs away from the presence of the LORD! It runs 18 miles back upstream and stops there in a heap–waiting for the people to cross.

They all cross and they pull up 12 stones from the middle of river to stack up in their camp at Gilgal as a reminder, a symbol, a sign of God’s holiness, faithfulness, and power.

The people of Israel are now on the Canaan side of the Jordan River!
The people of Israel are now in the Promised Land!
The people of Israel are now taking possession of the promises.

What would you do next?

You’re the commander of the army. What would you do next? Look at verse 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 we had crossed over, their hearts melted and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites.”

God’s battle-plan is working. Step number one: psychological warfare! The enemy is very afraid. They have heard about the Jordan River, and “their hearts melted and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites.”

So, what’s next? What would you do? We’re not far from Jericho, probably the strongest city in all of Canaan right now. We’re “Just Before Jericho.”

What would you do?

Attack, right?!

Nope. Disable the troops!

Not set up fortifications. Not send out a raiding party. Not attack them while they’re scared–but, instead, do some painful surgery on your army. V.2

“At that time the LORD said to Joshua, ‘Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites again.’ [What? On this side of the Jordan? Couldn’t that have been done on the safe side of the Jordan? No. V.3] So Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the Israelites at Gibeath Haaraloth [Literally: The Hill of Foreskins]. Now this is why he did so: All those who came out of Egypt–all the men of military age–died in the desert on the way after leaving Egypt. All the people that came out had been circumcised, but all the people born in the desert during the journey from Egypt had not. The Israelites had moved about in the desert 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 that he had solemnly promised their fathers to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey. 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.”

Does that make sense?

How long had it been since the people of Israel had obediently circumcised their males?

40 years!

The original generation was circumcised–they had the mark of the covenant in their flesh–but they were disobedient–and for 40 years they wandered and died.

And the LORD didn’t let them circumcise their children until today!

Do you see why it had to be on this side of the Jordan River?

It’s a renewal of the covenant with the people of Israel!

I don’t know about you, but I almost always fly over these verses on my way to Jericho. I’m mean, we’re just before Jericho! Why do we have all this circumcision stuff? I mean, it’s not even something that you want to talk about–much less think about. It seems gross, right?

But to the original readers, this is one of the most important things in the whole book of Joshua.

These men are now in the Land and they are now bearing the mark of the LORD in their bodies.

It’s kind of like a brand. Have any of you ever branded livestock? Cattle or whatever?

A mark, in the flesh, to denote possession. That’s what a brand is.

And it’s what circumcision was. It said, “You belong to me. I have made a covenant with you–and you belong to me. This says it in your body. In your flesh.”

You are now “marked men.”

“You are mine. And by taking this mark on your body, you are saying that you belong to me.”

It’s a very meaningful sign. “You are mine.”

And even if it meant putting them at jeopardy by disabling the entire army on the plains of Jericho, it had to happen. V.8

“And after the whole nation had been circumcised, they remained where they were in camp until they were healed. 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.”

Do you see how significant this was?

They had lived in reproach. They had lived in shame.

Their parents had not believed, not trusted, not obeyed, not entered the Land.

And Egypt, from which they had been rescued, could have taunted them that they left Egypt, but they never got where they were going!

Israel could have been ashamed that they belonged to the LORD and had to live under His discipline.

But that shame is now gone. It’s forgiven, forgotten, left on the other side of the river.

Now, the LORD has given them all His mark and said in a forceful way: “These people are MINE! And I will give them what I promised.”

And the word “Gilgal” means a circle. They named the place after the circling, rolling away of the reproach that had been on their heads.

Ashamed no more.

Here’s an application for us to consider today (#1 of 4):


Don’t be ashamed to be KNOWN for belonging to the LORD.

Do people know that you are the LORD’s?

That you belong to Him?

I think we, as Americans, value our independence. We aren’t owned by anyone. We are our own people. We aren’t colonies any more!

I’m nobody’s slave!

But that’s not what we, as Christians, should value. We should value our dependence. We should value our being possessions. We are treasured possession.

In Jesus, God says, “You belong to me.” “You are marked men and women.”

That’s what water baptism signifies today.

Tonya and Alea took that step of water baptism last Sunday.

And one of the things that they were saying as they went under and came up was that they belong to the LORD–and they are not ashamed to say it!

Did you notice that theme in both of their testimonies? Both of them talked about, “I don’t care what others think of me for getting baptized. I’m doing it out of obedience. I belong to Jesus Christ!”

Maybe you belong to Jesus Christ, but you haven’t told the world yet. Maybe you haven’t told the world yet in the way that the Lord commands–water baptism.

I encourage every believer to follow the Lord is obedience to His command to be baptized.

But more than that, we need to live our whole lives in such a way that we aren’t embarrassed or ashamed to be known as belonging to the Lord.

The way we work, the way we do our school work, the way we interact with neighbors and friends and family.

What we do with our lives needs to show that we are not ashamed of the Lord. Amen?

Israel didn’t need to be, just before Jericho. The reproach of Egypt had been rolled away because they took on the LORD’s mark.

Okay. So, now do we attack? No, now we eat. V.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.”

They celebrate the Passover.

Still no military action. Instead, another ritual. Another covenant ritual.

If circumcision was the sign of entrance into the covenant, the Passover meal was the sign of continuing fellowship within the covenant.

And it directly reminded them of the Red Sea Rescue from Egypt.

Now, I never realized this until this week as I studied Joshua chapter 5, but when do you think was the last time they officially kept the Passover?

It had been 40 years! Numbers chapter 9 was the last time.

It appears that these men and women had grown up without eating the Passover Lamb and putting the blood on the doorposts for the last 40 years!

Anyone 40 years or younger had only heard about it, never seen it with their own eyes.

But now, they eat it with their own mouths!


And what did that Passover Lamb symbolize?

The Death of the Firstborn of all Egypt–but not them. Death passed them over because of the blood of Lamb!

Can you imagine what this feast must have been like on the Canaan side of the Jordan, just before Jericho?

Can you imagine the thanksgiving? The remembering? The celebration of their rescue–of the salvation of their God?

That’s why Jesus used the Passover meal to institute His salvation meal–what we call “the Lord’s Supper.” Because He is the true Passover Lamb. He is the reason why eternal death (which we justly deserve) passes us over–because of His blood, because of His sacrifice.

In a minute, we’re going to eat that covenant meal. The sign of ongoing fellowship with Him in the New Covenant.

And as we do, let this be our application:


Last week, we heard the story of how the LORD rescued Tonya and Alea.

What’s your story?

How did the LORD of Heaven and Earth reach down and rescue you from your sin?

How did you hear the gospel, the good news of grace in Jesus Christ and be saved?

Use this time today as we celebrate the Lord’s Supper to remember how the Lord rescued you.

Unless you are not yet rescued! If you are not rescued, or not sure that you are, I invite you to trust in Jesus Christ as your own King and your Rescuer, trusting in what He did on the Cross for you.

What we’re going to eat is a Salvation Meal. It doesn’t save, but it stands for salvation–and how that salvation comes to us–through a bloody cross.

I invite you turn from your sin and trust in the Savior and be reconciled to God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

And then, Remember Your Rescue. Give thanks for it. Revel in it. Rejoice!

Celebrate. Remember how the LORD rescued you.

Now, see what happens next just before Jericho. Their meal plan changes. V.11

“The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain. 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 of the produce of Canaan.”

No circumcision for 40 years.
No Passover for 40 years.
Manna for 40 years. Now, it stops. Why?

Because they are in the Land!

They are possessing the promises. It’s not that God is no longer providing. It’s now that they get to experience God’s provision inside of the Promised Land!

Everything is changing, isn’t it?

What must it have been like to be a part of that group of people that week–when they renewed their covenant, took on the mark in their bodies, ate the covenant meal again, and then got to eat Canaan food–milk and honey?

And no more manna.

How thankful they must have been–for both 40 years of manna and for fresh home-grown produce.

Here’s an application. Pretty simple:


The manna was a miracle, but it was also a sign–a sign that God loves and feeds His people.

If you have food on your table today, you know the LORD’s gracious provision, too.

Be thankful.

I think it’s easy to be Thankful in November. I find it more difficult to be thankful in cold, dark, illness-infested February.

But God is good all the time. And we need to be thankful.

He cares for our needs, our need for daily bread.

The manna was a miracle, but it was also a sign–a sign that God loves and feeds His people.

And more than that, it was a sign of the Manna from Heaven. The Bread of Life. The Manna who became a Man–Jesus Christ.

He said that He is the bread of life–if we have faith in Him, our souls will be satisfied.

Be thankful for the Lord’s gracious provision.


Here’s the strangest thing that happened just before Jericho: v.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?’”

Now, we aren’t given a lot of details here, but the ones we have are startling!

Joshua is out near Jericho. Is he spying it out himself?

What time of day is it? What else is going on? We don’t know.

But Joshua runs into a man who has a drawn sword.

That means that he means business. War is in the air. Judgment, danger, warfare.

Joshua doesn’t know him, perhaps he can see something different about this man–in how he dresses, or how he hold himself, or what kind of a sword he has.

Joshua walks up to him! “Be strong and courageous, Joshua!”

And he asks him his allegiance: “Are you for us or for our enemies?”

What’s the answer? V.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?’ 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.”

Are you on our side or their side?


The question is: Are you on the LORD’s side?

Are you aligned with Him and under His authority and worshiping Him alone in His holiness?

Joshua gets it right away. He goes facedown.

This is the commander of the LORD’s army.

We’re not sure if He’s the angel of the Lord, or a pre-incarnate manifestation of the Lord Jesus, or both or what He is. But we know this, He is the commander of the LORD’s army.

I don’t think He’s talking about Israel here, though Israel was also the Lord’s army. And Joshua realizes that He’s really second in command!

But I think He’s talking about the angelic army. The LORD of HOSTS.

The commander of the army of the LORD.

Who is going to really do the battle?

The LORD is. Israel will have to fight, but the LORD will do all of the real fighting for them.

What an encouragement this is! It’s like another way of saying, “Be Strong and Courageous!” Just Before Jericho!

The LORD’s army is here!

But it’s also humbling, isn’t it?

It’s not about you, Joshua. It’s about the Lord.

Take off your sandals. Like Moses, the place where you are standing is holy ground.

God is here.

And the question is not is he for you or against you (He’s for you, of course, He’s with you, of course–but that’s not the question!).

The question is are YOU for Him?

Align Yourself Under the Authority of the Lord.

Follow Him. Humble Yourself Before Him.

Worship Him. Where He is is holy.

Sign up for His army. Follow the Lord.


Its true that many of people don't so much as denounce their faith but are afraid to glorify it in the way that they should. Stand up and be proud of the God that we serve and let all that you encounter know that you are blessed and a product of his grace. We are a Christian based company out of Rancho Cucamonga, Ca and your blog posts are an inspiration to me. Thank you
Succession Media Group