Covenant Business

If you're going to take on the work of the covenant, take it all on.

Joshua 5 (2)

At that time the L
ORD 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. Joshua 5.2, 3

1.  Review Genesis 17.1-14. What was the role of circumcision in God’s covenant?

2.  Circumcising the entire male population of Israel was a bit risky, as a recovery time was required (cf. v. 8; Gen. 34.20-25). How would doing so at this time have strengthened Israel’s dependence on the Lord?

Think about it.
We recall that, when Moses set out to lead God’s people into the next stage of their covenant relationship with Him, he neglected his first covenant obligation, that of circumcising his sons. His wife Zipporah would have to remind him of what God required and undertake the task for him, because God was angry at Moses (Ex. 4.21-26). God did not wait to see if Joshua would make the same mistake, as he hadn’t thought to do so to this point.

As frequently in Israel’s history, when the Lord is preparing to do something great for His people, He first brings them to a state of increased dependency upon Him (cf. Gen. 32.22-32; Ex. 5.1-21; Jdgs. 7.1-8; etc.). With the flooding Jordan behind them and all their males (except Joshua and Caleb, v. 6) in a state of recuperation, Israel was vulnerable at Gilgal. It is an indication of the people’s trust in the Lord that they submitted to this covenant obligation without grumbling.

Sometimes God requires us to do things that don’t seem to make sense. We can’t always understand His reasons; but if we can understand His Word, then we must obey it, no matter the cost, and trust in Him to keep and bless us as a result.

Meditate and discuss.
1.  What are some aspects of the life of faith that people today might find unreasonable, if only for them. Tithing? Bearing witness for Jesus? Praying without ceasing? Explain. 

2.  Baptism replaces circumcision as the ongoing sign of entrance into God’s covenant. Why is this an effective means of reminding us of God’s grace and our need to submit to Him?

3.  How would circumcision have reminded Israel of God’s faithfulness? How can every baptism fulfill that same purpose for us?

“Now, this was a figure of baptism, for, just as circumcision cuts off from the body a part which is not useful but a useless superfluity, so by holy baptism are we circumcised of sin. It is obvious that sin is a superfluity of concupiscence and of no use.” John of Damascus (650-750 AD)

Lord, I’m recalling my own baptism just now, and remembering that in it I…

Pray Psalm 86.11-13.

In giving us His Spirit, the Lord circumcised our hearts (cf. Deut. 30.1-10; Ezek. 36.26, 27) and brought us into His covenant. Pray that He will sanctify you in your heart to fear, love, praise, and glorify Him today in all your walk with and work for Him.

Psalm 86.10-15 (Andrews: Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven)
Lord, You are great, You wondrous deeds do;
You are the only and sovereign Lord.
Teach me Your way, let me give heed to,
With all my heart, Savior, all Your Word!
Lord, be gracious to me, Lord, be gracious to me,
Praise Your Name forever, Lord!

Great is Your mercy, Lord, toward me;
You have delivered my soul from hell.
Though dreadful foes and threats arrayed be,
You will Your grace and Your mercy tell!
Lord, be gracious to me, Lord, be gracious to me,
Slow to anger, loving well!

T. M. Moore

Where does the book of Joshua fit in the ongoing story of God’s covenant? Our workbook, God’s Covenant, can help you discover the place in God’s work of redemption not only of Joshua but of all the books of the Bible. God’s Covenant is a valuable resource to guide you in all your studies in God’s Word. To order your copy, click here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from 
The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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