Autumn/Winter Edition 1996 (Part One)
- GILGAL - JERICHO: A Crucial Crossroads
It is now undeniable that a significant body of dissenting believers, a Remnant of the churches, exists in this country. Everywhere, both inside and outside churches, there are Christians who "sigh and cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof." (Ez 9:4).
As pilgrims and strangers on this earth, with a heavenly hope, we are at odds with a church system that is more and more wedded to the world and its ways. We reject ecumenism; we suspect unity that compromises truth; our aim is not to christianise the world before the Second Coming; we abhor "partying in the Spirit", the lowering of biblical standards and the disappearance of sound Bible teaching.
It also grates on our nerves when men and women set themselves up, in pride and arrogance, as a national church leadership that we neither asked for nor believe is necessary. Even more so when they demand our submission to them!
All of this and much more sets us apart, and makes us the dissenters we are - not by choice, but by the inevitable process of being pushed out of the Egypt that the churches have become.
What does that make us? Some would have us believe we are simply outcasts, a nonentity doomed to die out, under judge-ment, rebellious and fearful of change. Nothing could be further from the truth. Actually, again and again the Lord has shown his favour towards those who remain steadfast in the face of apostasy. This growing band of believers is being moulded into shape by no human hand. Already it is conscious of its unity under one Head. Already it is gathering together by miraculous means. No man could or should try to organise this, because it is from beginning to end a work of God.
We have been oppressed, but we have a future and a hope in God. We have come out of Egypt, and walked through dry places, but we must not fall and die here. We must go forward. We exercised faith to come out of error; now we must crown our faith with the works that God commands, for faith without works is dead.
As the world slides into chaos and the devil redoubles his deceptions, God intends for us to know His power, His protection and His peace. If we get into a wilderness mentality and see ourselves as victims only, then we will miss what God has for us.
A NEW PATH
It has concerned me for some time that we are beginning to lose sight of the basics; we have been so cast down that our eyes are on the ground instead of on the Throne. We must beware of getting stuck in wilderness mode, for - as God said to Moses: "Ye have compassed this mountain long enough" . (Deut 2:3).
We have, like the Israelites of old in their wilderness, spent a lot of time groaning and bemoaning the state of things in the churches. Some of this has been productive and necessary. The Lord has allowed it in order to salve our wounds and to help us to share our problems constructively. That has been part of his wilderness provision.
We have not been without water (though we had to go to the Rock for it); nor have we been without bread (though it was as insubstantial as manna and only lasted one day at a time). The provision has been there every step of the way.
But since Spring the Lord has been saying to me "It is enough!". I believe the same word is also for the Body in general, for we are approaching the end of the wilderness part of our journey. We are entering a time of transition between what is behind and what is ahead. We have passed through a figurative Jordan and now, like the Israelites, we are pausing before Jericho in order to do some very important things. These will become clear as you read on.
The situation I want us to focus on is found in Joshua chapters 4-6.
THE ENEMY QUAKES IN FEAR
The Israelites were about to take their Promised Land. Moses had died, Joshua had taken over the leadership; a whole new generation had been raised up - obedient and willing rather than rebellious and cowardly - and they had crossed over the river Jordan in a miraculous way. Furthermore, things looked hopeful, for the inhabitants of the land were scared stiff.
"So it was, when all the kings of the Amorites who were on the west side of the Jordan, and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea, heard that the LORD had dried up the waters of the Jordan from before the children of Israel until we had crossed over, that their heart melted; and there was no spirit in them any longer because of the children of Israel. (Joshua 5:1)
Our enemy, as the Bible indicates, is not flesh and blood but supernatural powers. Faced with so much that is wrong and unbiblical, we could begin to despair and believe that the devil has been victorious. God will indeed allow satan to have his day. Nevertheless, the devil is actually terrified of us and what we might do.
Like those Canaanite kings, the spiritual world sees our faith and obedience and they quake in fear. At this time of transition before we face the next battle, it's good to remind ourselves of the greatness of God, and of His undying love for us. Let's rejoice in hope and the confidence that God gives us! This "land" before us is a land of promise. It has already been given - it is our inheritance in Jesus Christ.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: (1 Pet 1:3-7)
Despite the fearfulness of Israel's enemies, however, Joshua knew there were a number of very important things to be done in preparation before Jericho's walls would fall.
THE NEED TO CIRCUMCISE OUR HEARTS AFRESH
At that time the LORD said to Joshua, "Make flint knives for yourself, and circumcise the sons of Israel again the second time." So Joshua made flint knives for himself, and circumcised the sons of Israel at the hill of the foreskins. And this is the reason why Joshua circumcised them: All the people who came out of Egypt who were males, all the men of war, had died in the wilderness on the way, after they had come out of Egypt. For all the people who came out had been circumcised, but all the people born in the wilderness, on the way as they came out of Egypt, had not been circumcised. (Josh 5:2-6)
It is surprising that one of the most fundamental commands of God - that all males should be circumcised - had not yet been obeyed. During the wilderness years this was not perhaps so important. Now, facing the new uncharted land full of hope and danger it was VITAL! God needed to know if the people were truly His in body, soul and spirit:
For thus saith the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings. (Jer 4:3-4)
GILGAL - ROLLED AWAY
The place where the men of Israel were circumcised that day was called GILGAL, "rolled away", because the old life and curse of Egypt, and the humiliation of life in the wilderness, and their rebellious flesh-life was rolled away from them and forgotten. Any last remaining doubt, sin or hesitation in serving the Lord, any little stumbling block that would hinder their victory, HAD to be removed.
We also must lay down anything that hinders, and especially any tendency to lean on human abilities: "For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." (Phil 3:3)
Before we can go forward, there must be a cutting off from all that is behind. Circumcision means, as the New Testament shows us, the rolling away of the flesh-life and thus total dedication to God. It was an outward sign of something inward, even to the OT saints - that the hearts of the people were purged of selfish motives and were set on obeying the Lord in all things. Fleshy thoughts, motives and actions had to be rolled away. This meant, as well as the more obvious sins, forsaking emotional ties, family ties, fear, worldly desires, and anything else that would hinder their walk with God.
The Israelites had to CUT OFF all ties to the past, including the memory of Egypt, and even put behind them their lives in the wilderness that were so familiar and comforting to them. (They had never known anything else, after all.)
It is too easy to get settled into a rut wherever we are, whether in a dying church fellowship or a lonely bedsitter. We keep in touch with friends that are bad for our spiritual walk simply because they are familiar. We settle for the familiar and comforting, but God wants us to move on. We cling on - in our minds - to that which is behind us rather than brave the new fearful experience of what lies ahead. But God is saying right now:
Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert. (Isa 43:18-19)
Are you remembering the former things? Are they pulling at your guts and hurting you? Do you find it hard to cut off and break free from what you have left behind? It IS hard, but God commands that you be circumcised in your heart - let it be cut off and roll it away at Gilgal.
THE REPROACH IS REMOVED
Then Joshua circumcised their sons whom He raised up in their place; for they were uncircumcised, because they had not been circumcised on the way. So it was, when they had finished circumcising all the people, that they stayed in their places in the camp till they were healed. Then the LORD said to Joshua, "This day I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you." Therefore the name of the place is called Gilgal to this day. (Josh 5:7-9)
We have looked at the meaning of circumcision, but there is something else here. God told them "I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt". It wasn't just their flesh lives given over in obedience and dedication to God, it was the reproach of Egypt that was removed that day.
Egypt, we know, means the world. Furthermore, the Israelites were in bondage in Egypt, in slavery, and under oppression - this was shameful and humiliating to the people of God. They had been forced to eat unclean foods, tangle with demons and idols, and cowtow to ungodly rulers. All of this was a "reproach".
Vine's study dictionary says this about the word 'reproach':
- "Reproach" has a twofold usage. On the one hand, the word denotes the
state in which one finds himself. The unmarried woman
The reproach is the taunt of the enemy. Jesus endured the reproach of the Cross, an instrument of criminal execution for the Son of God. We bear the reproach of the Cross by following Him in a world that hates God.
Even more so in these times, and under these particular circumstances, we are suffering the scornful taunts and rebukes of those who do not understand our choice to serve the Lord in truth and holiness, without compromise. This is our reproach right now, and if we allow it to hinder our walk, we will fail to get the victory.
The reproach of the Cross can either consume us, or we can consume it! Reproaches can roll over us and mangle us, OR they can be rolled away harmlessly if we deal with them in a mature and scriptural way.
Have you been taunted and abused? Rejected and lied about? There are two ways of dealing with it:
Either you can let rejection and opposition warp you into bitterness and thus give satan the victory; OR you can treat it as an opportunity to endure patiently the reproach of the Cross - rejoice in suffering as the Lord commands - and grow more mature as a result. Thus God gets the victory and turns the devil's attack into glory on your behalf. Your spiritual growth is the best way to get your own back both on the devil and those who have hurt you.
Taunts and jeers, if we brood on them, will undermine our strength and turn us from our purpose. So the stain of reproach must be rolled away, by turning it into an occasion for maturity. Endurance produces character, as the scripture says:
"we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." Rom 5:3-5
"Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." James 1:3-4
And furthermore we must wait on the Lord for the WOUNDS TO BE HEALED before we go into battle. "So it was, when they had finished circumcising all the people, that they stayed in their places in the camp till they were healed."
LET GO OF WHAT IS BEHIND
I sense that many are suffering silently from deep wounds. It is not the British nature to parade our problems before all and sundry. We prefer to use the good old stiff-upper-lip technique and soldier on without saying anything. Some people almost think it's sinful to feel hurt or rejected.
They also seem to think they are personally responsible for family members and friends who have not come out of error. Is this your situation? Carrying a heavy load of guilt and pain will impede your progress. Take it to the Lord in prayer, cry it out, tell God your pain and receive his comfort. These things must be "rolled away" at Gilgal.
The second inappropriate way to deal with rejections and hurts is to get stuck in a revolving door of self-pity. There are people who now roam around looking for sympathy at every opportunity, and given half a chance they will tell their tales of woe over and over, never receiving healing but always looking for more ministry. That is not the Bible way. We can acknowledge hurts, and there is legitimate ministry, but then we have to get up and go on, not bearing a grudge. All this must be "rolled away" at Gilgal.
The old lives that many of us led are like elastic bands, pulling us back. Also, we can become spiritually tied to people and places if we don't make a definite break with them. I well remember, years ago, when we moved from Oxford to Bristol that for some strange reason I just couldn't settle in or feel at home, even though I knew the move had been in God's will. I felt dispossessed, rootless, unable to fit in with our new church however much I appreciated it. Finally I decided to ask an elder for prayer, and during a short conversation the Lord spoke to my heart. It struck me like a thunderbolt, so much so that I jumped. "You have never let go of Oxford". It was true - unfinished business, friends, heartaches and hopes - it all kept me from moving on to the new thing God had for me in Bristol.
It was the work of a moment to get free - I simply, before God, let go of Oxford and lay down all that it represented. I cut myself off from all the unfinished business and pledged to make a new beginning. A great weight fell off me - and I was free!! I never again felt that drawing back to the old. Oxford had "rolled away" - Gilgal.
THE TIES THAT BIND
Friends, family members and church situations can tie you to the old life, particularly if you feel responsible for them. You feel you CAN'T let them go because how else will they find the truth? But YOU are not responsible for saving that situation, and God does not hold you responsible as long as you have obeyed the Lord and done your bit.
If you have said all you can say, you have discharged your responsibility - now it's up to them. Leave them to God. When Jesus challenged the rich young man to follow Him, he walked away and rejected eternal life. (Matt 19:21-26) Did Jesus run after him, grab him by the shoulders and beg him to reconsider? Some of us act like that. But Jesus allowed the young man to walk away. The seed had been sown, now it must germinate on its own, and God is responsible for what happens to the word that has been spoken.
To put it pictorially, some people come out of error like jumpers on a bungee rope. They come so far, propelled by grief and anger at heresy - then TWANG! The rope pulls them to a halt and they can't go any further. They are tied to the old, so they can't go forward into the new.
So, if you have come out of a bad situation, but have been hanging on to it in your mind and spirit, now is the time to "roll it away" at Gilgal. Let it go! Repent of it - the biblical word "repent" means to change your mind about something. Utterly forsake the old things, and trust God to do what you cannot do. Now you must think of your own walk instead, and spiritual and emotional ties will drag you backwards like a bungee rope.
And the children of Israel encamped in Gilgal, and kept the passover on the fourteenth day of the month at even in the plains of Jericho. Joshua 5:10
The fact that Passover was celebrated at this time is another indication that it's a time of transition between the old and the new. Passover literally meant that the angel of death in Egypt passed over the people of God - they were spared. But then there were other passovers - for they passed over the Red Sea, and then they passed over the Jordan. Each was another miraculous step in their figurative walk towards the final victory.
To digress for a moment, it's interesting to see that that Elijah, just before he was taken up to heaven, also passed through a Gilgal, Jericho and the Jordan. (2Ki 2:1-11) All journeys and new directions with the Lord begin at Gilgal. We must cut off from the old before we can progress into the new.
Going back to the Joshua passage, note what happened the day after that Passover:
NO LONGER THE MANNA; NOW THE FULLY-RIPE GRAIN
And they did eat of the old corn of the land on the morrow after the passover, unleavened cakes, and parched corn in the selfsame day. And the manna ceased on the morrow after they had eaten of the old corn of the land; neither had the children of Israel manna any more; but they did eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year. (Josh 5:11-12)
passage is full of meaning for us!
Secondly, the stored grain that they ate was "parched". QALAH. It had been put through the fire; but the word also has a root meaning of "despised, lightly esteemed, condemned."
Now if we put the two together we see the application to our lives. The old corn, parched and scorched, is like the people who had also gone through the fire, yet were preserved and kept by God. We too have been despised and rejected, we have gone through the fire, yet God has kept us and preserved us.
"And the manna ceased on the morrow after they had eaten of the old corn of the land; neither had the children of Israel manna any more"
If we are to move on, the manna must cease and we must begin to eat the "old corn" of the land. The wilderness provision may be safe and easy, but the new way is one of labour, faith and prayer - hard work! However, that labour will bring forth a harvest. We must now stop thinking of ourselves and our own needs and problems. We must become ministers in the field of God, ready to roll up our sleeves and get stuck in to the tasks the Lord will give us. There is work to be done, providing grain both for ourselves and our church families.
THE PROMISE OF PROVISION
This seems to hold out a promise of harvest. When the people moved on from the wilderness experience, one result was that they ate the fruit of that land. Our moving on into mature ministry and the right understanding of the Word of God will lead to a harvest, and give life to others. At last we are going to see fruit!
It seems clear that Joshua, after doing what God had told him, then experienced a divine visitation. In the passage about Elijah's journey we see that he also passed through Bethel, which was the sacred place where Jacob had met with God. (Gen 28)
The result of our waiting on God, and rolling away the ties to the past and all hindrances, and making a commitment to eat the "old corn" instead of the manna, is that Jesus Christ will meet with us to guide, instruct and empower us on the next stage of the journey.
Victory is certain if we only do what the Lord commands, wait on Him in full trust and obedience, and dedicate ourselves to His new vision. We may not know what our particular "Jericho" will entail, but we know that the Captain of the Lord's Host will be with us, sword in hand.
Although there will undoubtedly be fierce battles ahead, trials, anxieties and persecution, we can walk forward in total confidence in our Lord, for He is the Captain of the Lord's hosts, and He will be with us. As He promised Joshua:
SUMMARY - CHOOSING THE BLESSING
Another passage spells out the promises and warnings on entering into the Promised Land:
I know that you, like me, covet the blessing of the Lord. Let us heed these words, Let us purge ourselves of all error, and make up our minds to serve the Lord with all our heart, mind and soul. An exciting and challenging time lies ahead.
IMPORTANT MEETINGS This article is intended to be a preparation for a series of one-day meetings to be held in November. They are to be times of fellowship, intercession, re-dedication and seeking the Lord for the future. They are being organised by a group of individuals and ministries. These meetings may provide vital guidance for the way ahead - please pray about the possibility of attending.