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 Gibeath 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. Joshua 5:2-7
Today we land on an unusual passage. The miracle has taken place and a nation passes over the river (Joshua 4:1). Can you imagine seeing between half a million and two million people crossing a river? What a terrifying experience for the other nations! These people seem so strong and so powerful, and their God works wonders for them! I expect the Israelites felt pretty good about the situation too! And then the plot twists.
God tells them that they need to return to an old practice, one that they haven’t done for many years, one that has become neglected. They need to circumcise every male. This act of obedience must have taken a chunk of time and it makes all the fighting men weak! There is battle in front of them, a river cuts off their retreat. If the other nations know that the fighting men are unable to give battle, the Israelites are in terrible trouble. God’s command puts them in a place of weakness. But the people choose obedience.
I have only led worship once. It was a terrible experience. I was pastoring a team that could be dysfunctional at times. There was infighting, insecurity, moaning, and a great deal of hurting. I felt God leading me to pick up the guitar and lead them in singing “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,” an old song inviting people to do exactly what its title describes, and I did! I was off key, I stumbled through the words and I missed chords. But God was there and met with his people. It was a life giving experience and one I was completely unable to create myself!
At times God seems more interested in our weakness than our strength. This doesn’t mean he didn’t give us our strength and that it isn’t valuable, but it does mean that we must learn not to rely on ourselves. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says it like this “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul’s desire is to be strong but in this instance he is made weak and comes to see that as a good thing. Those occasional moments where we are called to a place of weakness keep us relying on God. That is a good place to be!
By Alex Walton