Posted by: Brad Beaman | July 19, 2015

Spiritual Preparation for Great Things Ahead

Jordan River at Banias

Jordan River at Banias

What do you expect to see after a great victory? In winning a war you expect to see a whole nation in jubilant celebration. There will be parades maybe even a ticker-tape parade and much fanfare. When a team wins a championship football game you expect to see the team dump Gatorade on the winning coach. In other sports they might carry the game hero on their shoulders. There are a lot of different ways to celebrate a victorious moment.

After the miracle at the parting of the Red Sea the people of God wrote songs and with tambourine and dancing were in jubilant celebration. It seems like in Exodus 15 the men and women had a sort of dueling celebration where the men would sing and then the women would answer with their celebration song and dance.

In so many ways there are parallels to the parting of the Red Sea and the crossing of the Jordan described in Joshua Chapter 3. But following the Jordan crossing miracle we see something very different. Joshua Chapter 5 finds Israel on the heels of one of the greatest miracles of all time. They experienced something very similar to the parting of the Red sea.

This time the miracle was the parting or stopping of the River Jordan at flood stage. The Jordan stopped flowing as soon as the priests stuck their foot in the water and the water piled up like a giant wall as the people cross on dry ground. This time the post victory is much more serious. This time the focus is on spiritual preparation for what lies ahead.

This is a new generation of Israelites who only heard about the parting of the Red Sea. The whole nation crosses the Jordan River at flood stage on dry ground. They prepared themselves (Joshua 3:5) to cross the river. Chapter 4 is their post miracle response. This time they are making a memorial to remember the miracle.

But there is much more preparation before God’s people undertake a battle with Jericho. What does God call his people to do after this great miracle? Now at this crucial juncture God calls His people to deeper spiritual preparation in trust and obedience.

In the Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 17) God promised to give Abraham’s descendants the land of Canaan. The sign of the Abrahamic covenant between God and His people is circumcision. For thirty eight years in the wilderness no one has ever been circumcised except Joshua and Caleb had lived before the parting of the Red Sea.

God led His people to cross the Jordan at flood stage without this outward sign, but not any longer. Not before the battles for possessing the promised land. Before the battle of Jericho God set His people apart with His sign as His covenant people. They made themselves useable unto God.

Ever since Joshua was leading God’s people had responded by faith and now they are ready for what God will do next. The river at flood stage behind them and the fortified city before them. No turning back.

There are some very interesting thoughts about this circumcision. Why do we know that to be uncircumcised is to be cut off from their people? Because Moses recorded it. He wrote Genesis and we find this in Genesis 17:14. Then there is Exodus 5:21-25 when Moses was warning Pharaoh of the plagues. Only families whose males were circumcised could take the Passover. Moses children could be facing death but Moses wife Zipporah circumcises their children.

Joshua was an incredible leader. After forty years of wondering in the wilderness uncircumcised never taking the Passover he leads the people into the promise land and spiritually prepares them after they became so unprepared ignoring the command to circumcise males on the eight day and having not taken the Passover in 40 years.

This is a transitional point in the history of Israel. God’s people were unprepared spiritually for the battle of Jericho and Joshua got them prepared. To mark this transition no longer would manna fall from heaven (Josh 5:12), but now God’s people would work the land of milk and honey for their food. It was a new call to obedience in a new chapter in their lives.

The New Testament covenant sign is not circumcision but baptism. Baptism is commanded for the new believer. It may be that God uses a new Christian mightily without the outward sign but then at some point He convicts the believer to obedience in this command. The New Testament pattern* is immediate baptism after believing in Christ. To go on as a believer in Jesus Christ with God’s blessing is to be obedient in baptism.

Acts 2:37-41                   Heard Gospel, Believed, Immediate Baptism

Acts 8:5-13                       Heard Gospel, Believed, Immediate Baptism

Acts 8:36-38                     Heard Gospel, Believed, Immediate Baptism

Acts 9:10-19                     Heard Gospel, Believed, Immediate Baptism

Acts 10:47-48                   Heard Gospel, Believed, Immediate Baptism

Acts 16:13-15                   Heard Gospel, Believed, Immediate Baptism

Acts 16:27-34                   Heard Gospel, Believed, Immediate Baptism

Acts 18:5-8                       Heard Gospel, Believed, Immediate Baptism

Acts 19:1-5                       Heard Gospel, Believed, Immediate Baptism

Acts 22:14-17                   Heard Gospel, Believed, Immediate Baptism, (Paul’s Baptism was not absolutely immediate. He was still blind after meeting Jesus on the Damascus Road and Ananias asked Paul, why delay your baptism?

(* verses and pattern adapted from Tree of Life discipleship training manual)

Now God’s people could celebrate the Passover. In the Old Testament God’s people could not celebrate the Passover with males uncircumcised in the house. This was crucial to being a spiritually prepared people of God.

Just as Baptism has replaced circusision for the believer in Christ. In the same way in the new covenant, the far surpassing covenant (2 Cor. 3:10) the Lord’s Supper has replaced observing the Passover.

In preparing God’s people spiritually a reproach was “rolled away” The place was called Gilgal, meaning to roll as a reference to the rolling. The rolling away of the reproach of God’s people being spiritually unprepared.

How could the priests who carried the Ark of the Covenant when the Jordan River stopped not be circumcised? That is a reproach that is rolled back at Gilgal. It is a time and place to get prepared. What they do is physical but the circumcision and observing the Passover is about a spiritual preparation. There is only one day a year they can celebrate the Passover so the timing of crossing the Jordan and the circumcision is crucial and certainly appointed by God.

In what is called a Theophany God manifested Himself in a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ as a man with a drawn sword. The captain of the Lord’s army. Joshua fell on his face. There is a parallel to experience of Moses at the burning bush to take off his shoes.

We have a leader here who is willing to make Spiritual priorities number one. They were not carrying Joshua on their shoulders and pouring Gatorade on his head. No Joshua was on his face before God. Here is a leader ready to go beyond what had already been done.

Think about what is happening here. Joshua is meeting the captain of the Lords army who is none other than Jesus. The name Joshua in Hebrew is savior and Jesus is the same Greek name. Joshua taking God’s people into the promise land was a foreshadow of what Jesus would do in taking His people into the new covenant through His death and shedding of His blood.

God uses ordinary people but calls us to go deep in our faith. To be extreme in our obedience. Though none go with me, I still will follow. Is God calling you to deep faith and extreme obedience to accomplish what can only be understood as a miracle of God? Then you must be spiritually prepared.

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