<image courtesy of powerbooktrance>
One of the recurring themes throughout Joshua is the need to follow the instructions God gives the people. The importance of this will become painfully clear later in the story of Israel as the nation endures the consequences of ignoring God’s instruction. But, here again in Joshua, we see something of a reminder—this time before the army goes to war—about operating within God’s parameters. It’s a reminder that’s good for us to hear, too, when we’re looking for victory within our own lives:
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 desert on the way after leaving Egypt. 5 All the people that came out had been circumcised, but all the people born in the desert during the journey from Egypt had not. 6 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. 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.
Think of the ridiculous notion of following this particular instruction—the people are smack in enemy territory; the simple fact of their presence is a declaration of war on the tribes and city-states in the area. The only means of escape for the people of Israel (crossing the Jordan River) is cut off, and God gives them instruction that will keep them immobile “until they were healed.” Strong, able-bodied, motivated warriors were needed because the danger and opposition is intense. But instruction comes to undergo the important, sacred rite of circumcision… but doing so will put all of the fighting men out of commission. From a tactical, human understanding, this order comes at the worst possible time and doesn’t make any sense.
Once again this is an act which speaks clearly of trusting in God’s strength and power. Just as the people had already been reminded that God is powerful, now they are forced to trust in that same power to sustain and protect them. Sometimes for us, just like for the people of Israel all those years ago on the shores of the Jordan River, evidence of relying on God’s power is found in our obedience even when we don’t have all the understanding we would want.
Before we fight our next battle, before we confront the thing causing our tension headaches or deal with the thing keeping us up at night, we are called to recognize and follow God’s instructions, trusting in the power of His Spirit even to be obedient, including:
- God’s commands not worry (Matthew 6:25-34)
- Keeping our homes in order (1 Timothy 3:2-5)
- Respecting the authority placed in our lives (even if our boss, parent, pastor, principal, or other leader just ‘doesn’t get it’) (Luke 20:20-26; Romans 13:1-7)
- Honor our parents (Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:1-3)
- Seek the Kingdom first (1 Peter 1:13-25)
Each of these can seem untimely, unfair, and uncomfortable—but it’s especially in those difficult moments when our obedience is a testimony of trust and faith in the One who instructs us; a trust His victory is coming.