You are made for more. This is something we have been talking about weekly as we go through a sermon series in the book of Joshua. Some of these passages and themes are accessible and easy to get excited about. Others, however, might cause us to raise an eyebrow, grit our teeth, or scratch our heads. In this case, circumcision would be that act. Why do passages of the Old Testament have to talk about something so odd and unusual? To be fair, each passage deserves its own look, but the one found in Joshua 5 has some encouraging truths under the surface. For today’s purposes, let’s look at Joshua 5.
2 At that time the Lord told Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise this second generation of Israelites.” 3 So Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the entire male population of Israel at Gibeath-haaraloth. 4 Joshua had to circumcise them because all the men who were old enough to fight in battle when they left Egypt had died in the wilderness. 5 Those who left Egypt had all been circumcised, but none of those born after the Exodus, during the years in the wilderness, had been circumcised. 6 The Israelites had traveled in the wilderness for forty years until all the men who were old enough to fight in battle when they left Egypt had died. For they had disobeyed the Lord, and the Lord vowed he would not let them enter the land he had sworn to give us—a land flowing with milk and honey.7 So Joshua circumcised their sons—those who had grown up to take their fathers’ places—for they had not been circumcised on the way to the Promised Land. (Joshua 5:2–7, NLT)
Circumcision was an important way for the Israelites to distinguish themselves as belonging to Yahweh, the God of Israel.
It might seem strange to us, and that’s okay! But to them, it was not weird. The problem wasn’t the act of circumcision, it was that a whole generation had forgone the identity marker while wandering in the wilderness. But this wasn’t the wilderness generation, those who doubted God and wandered from His blessing. This was the generation that was faithful to God and was already grabbing holding of His promised blessings, the promised land. But one thing they had lacked up to this point, they were not circumcised.
It is important to remember that the physical operation of circumcision was meant to symbolize the spiritual operation for the heart (see Jeremiah 4:4). Colossians 2:11–12 (NLT) provides a great place for us to give new significance to this message for today. It says:
11 When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature. 12 For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.
When we give our life to Jesus we are put under a spiritual operation where God now has permission to cut away what no longer belongs and give us a new life and new identity.
In Christ, we belong to Him, so similarly He wants us to cut away things that separate us from Him. For the Israelties, this meant making a distinguishing marker of who they were, under the influence and bondage of Egypt (Joshua 5:9), and who they are now, a people inheriting new territory with a purpose to represent the one true God to the world. Let’s keep reading though because it gets even better.
10 While the Israelites were camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, they celebrated Passover on the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month. 11 The very next day they began to eat unleavened bread and roasted grain harvested from the land. 12 No manna appeared on the day they first ate from the crops of the land, and it was never seen again. So from that time on the Israelites ate from the crops of Canaan. (Joshua 5:10–12, NLT)
After obeying God’s call to circumcision, the Israelites celebrated Passover, but with newfound inspiration since they were obediently living out who God called them to be. And what happened as a result of their steps of obedience? They began to eat “from the crops of the land” (v. 12). For YEARS their steady diet consisted of manna. But now they were eating of the earth’s variety within the promised land.
There is a principle here: Rights and responsibility go hand-in-hand.
As the Israelites took new steps of obedience, new privileges followed suit. In this case, eating food directly from the promised land was a blessing that surely surpassed eating the manna. No hate toward manna, it was God’s provision during the wandering years. But manna was never God’s best for His people.
The Israelites were made for more than manna, but they couldn’t enjoy the new provision until they came to terms with their new identity as a people belonging to the Lord.
We all have God-given responsibilities. And if we want to open the ground to receive the new privileges that come from walking faithfully with God, we might want to start taking our identity seriously. Our hearts no longer wander without a home. We have a home in the heart of God. And so when we live out of a place of belonging to Him, we find that everything finds its proper place.
Now, a fair word of caution, we don’t determine what blessings or privileges God will grant to us on this side of eternity. Being faithful to God does not give us some sort of leverage over God. Just as we let go of our former identity to grab hold of who we are in God, we also have to relinquish our desires into His hand and let our hands be open to what He has for us. Trust His goodness. You were made for more.