Monday, July 18, 2011

Gilgal: Roll Away the Shame and Reproach

At that time the LORD said to Joshua, "Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites again."  So Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the Israelites at Gilbeath Haaraloth.

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.  All the people that came out had been circumcised, but all the people born in the wilderness during the journey from Egypt had not.  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.  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.  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.  (Joshua 5:2-9)

       Gilgal was the very first place at which the children of Israel arrived once they crossed the Jordan River into the promised land.  Anticipation of the unknown mixed with fear and trepidation were surely some of the emotions these chosen ones experienced as they felt the ground beneath them.  But also, they were eye witnesses of the majestic miraculous of God as He parted the waters of the Jordan in order that they could ford across safely.  Seeing this mighty miracle by the Hand of this God of their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, should have imparted a great measure of faith to aid in their conquest of the new land set before them. 

       Indeed, this was a new generation of Israelites coming into the promised land.  Their forefathers had died in the wilderness after forty years of aimless wondering, decreed by God because of their unfaithfulness and rebellion.  In light of this, those entering the promised land bore the shame and reproach of their parents who had been slaves in Egypt.  The ceremony of circumcision realized at Gilgal was necessary in order to establish a memorial wherein God's people knew they were permanently free from any and all bondage their parents experienced as slaves in Egypt.  Had the Israelites not experienced Gilgal, they could never have forged ahead with great victories in the promised land.  It would have been literally impossible.

       Beloved, we like the children of Israel, cross over the Jordan River when we accept Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives.  We go from the right side (death, flesh) to the left (life, spirit).  Once in the promised land, our salvation is complete as far as rebirth is concerned.  "And this is the testimony:  God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son."  (I John 5:11)  Unfortunately, as the case often is, the mind still bears the brunt of the life we left behind on the right side of the river.

       The prostitute still sees the faces of the countless men to whom she relinquished her body time and again on a bed of anonymity.  The drug addict carries needle marks on the arms where veins used to be, an ever-present reminder of the numerous highs experienced.  The alcoholic may still crave a drink in order to squelch feelings of helplessness and confusion.  The fornicator is forever rejected by the ex-spouse and the children, despite giving up the sexual infidelity after salvation.  The lesbian still is bewildered about feelings she daily encounters that contradict everything she knows is right.  And so the list continues....

       Lest we read the above list without finding our old identities there, the shame and reproach of any sinner's life is most assuredly relative, whether others perceive it as severe or not.  All Christians enter the realm of salvation carrying burdens from our own distinct "Egypt."  The memories of these experiences hinder us from moving forward into the promised land.  Rather than progressing westwardly and claiming the infinite territory that God has given us in Christ, we spend countless hours reliving what was or worse, what could have been.

       Brothers and sisters, God does NOT remember the life you had before you accepted Christ, the life you had on the right side of the Jordan!  "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death."  (Romans 8:1-2)  We must believe and appropriate this truth for our lives.  The verity of the freedom we experience in Christ must serve as our Gilgal, circumcision experience, the eternal power of the cross to absorb confessed sin!  The shame and reproach have been rolled away and were nailed to His cross.  They're gone; we cannot afford to linger on these past experiences!  "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed."  (John 8:36)  "....He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood before us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross."  (Colossians 2:13-14)  Hallelujah!  Glory to God! 

       Christians that continue to wallow in the spiritual mud of memories risk insulting God by rejecting His grace and mercy.  Moreover, we become slaves of our past, a tragedy unparalleled other than going to eternal damnation when we die!  Dear friends in Christ, God chose you and me before the foundation of the world to be His precious children.  That being said, consider the following scripture:  "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.  In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will."  (Ephesians 1:4-5)  The Lord keeps no record of our past wrongs.  Nor should we!

       Finally, we can go to Gilgal anytime we need and/or as the Holy Spirit prompts us, and allow the Lord to graciously roll away other kinds of painful memories.  Many people suffer things as Christians that, if left unchecked, can build great barriers further hindering their advancement into the promised land.  Christians suffer loses, rejection, death of loved ones, divorce, financial ruins, sickness, marital infidelity, etc.  We are not exempt from suffering, however we mustn't ever let these trials and tribulations stop us from winning the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 3:14)  This was the Apostle Paul's attitude and must be ours as well.  Our promised land is huge and sets before us.  We have much conquering to do in this life!

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