“When the circumcising of the whole nation was finished, they remained in their places in the camp until they were healed. And the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” And so the name of that place is called Gilgal to this day.” (Joshua 5:8-9)
When I read about the men of Israel getting circumcised when they entered the Promised Land, I have a strong visceral reaction. Sorry, I can’t help it. Circumcision is about taking what is most personal and private and intimate and making it vulnerable and exposed. And that can be super painful (And yes, we’ve dealt with this before on the blog. See Day 017: Guys, We Need to Talk About Genesis 17:23).
So I imagine that Joshua might have met some resistance in the camp when he ordered the men to be circumcised en masse. Bear in mind that at this point, the people had not conquered any of the Canaanites in the land. For what it’s worth, way back in Genesis 34 the sons of Israel themselves had used circumcision as a battle strategy. They had convinced the men of Shechem to be circumcised so they could intermarry with Israel, and then slaughtered them while they were all recovering. So I can imagine that at least a few of the men were saying, “Joshua, wouldn’t it make sense to delay this little procedure until after we’ve conquered our enemies? We don’t want them doing to us what we did to the men of Shechem. It’s just common sense” (And, yes, we’ve talked about this, too. See Day 052: Common Sense-ing Ourselves Out of Obedience (Leviticus 24-25).
Did you know that in God’s eyes, there is no distinction between delayed obedience and immediate disobedience? Joshua was wise enough to realize that there would be no victories in the Promised Land if they did not commit to obedience from the moment they crossed the Jordan. He was one of two people (along with Caleb, whom we will talk about later this week) who understood firsthand the cost of disobedience. So if there were objections voiced to the mass circumcision, they were not entertained. It was not put to a vote.
But now, notice the tenderness of God. While the men were recovering, God protected them from their enemies. And not only did He protect them, He forgave them. On that day, the people were able to put the humiliation and shame of Egypt completely behind them. And when they went to battle against Jericho, God gave them a mighty victory.
Contrast this to what happens two chapters later. In Joshua 7, Israel is humiliated by Ai, a town they thought would be a cakewalk after the mighty Jericho fell. Joshua learns the defeat was due to one man, Achan, who tried to hide some of the things he plundered from Jericho. And until his sin was brought out in the open, Israel couldn’t prevail against her enemies. Achan’s sin affected him, his family, and his family of faith. What he attempted to conceal resulted in their ruin.
Do you see the contrast? The men of Israel laid themselves bare before God, and He protected them and gave them the victory. God guards what we give Him. He who knows our innermost being (Psalm 139) will keep safe what we bring to Him.
On the other hand, Achan tried to conceal something from God. The entire community suffered defeat because of his attempts to keep his sin secret.
What we try to keep from God, God will expose. But what we expose to God, God will keep. We can’t hide anything from Him, but praise God that we can entrust everything to Him.