Covenant and Conquest
Text: Joshua 5
Proposition: Covenant is where God offers to man the opportunity to be bound to God, conquest is dependent upon covenant.
Introduction: Whether you are a member of a political party, a golf club, or Facebook there will be things as a member that you will agree to do and things that you agree not to do. We call that a contract but in the language of the Scripture it was called a covenant. This was especially true when the covenant was made by God to man. God made a covenant with Adam on how they should live in Eden, certain things to do and certain things not to do. God made a covenant with Noah and then Abraham, then Moses and then with David. Of all these covenants, it’s the one made with Abraham that especially catches our attention today.
In Genesis 17: 7,8 God says to Abraham, “And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” So God says that He will never cease to be their God and that the land of Canaan is part of this covenant as an everlasting possession. Then look at what God says next in Genesis 17:10 “This is My covenant which you shall keep between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised…”. The land of Canaan was part of the covenant and the sign that Canaan was theirs was the circumcision of the males as their sign of being in covenant with God. So before Israel ever went to Egypt, circumcision and Canaan were signs of the covenant they had with God. 430 years later the captivity in Egypt is over.
It took two years for them to get to Kadesh Barnea, the edge of the promised land. From here they sent 12 spies to check out the land and 40 days later those spies, including Caleb and Joshua, returned. All except these two said that it was impossible to take the land, the land God had given to them. God judged them for their unbelief and said that for every day the spies were checking out the land Israel would spend one year in waiting, 40 days meant 40 years. The men, not just the spies but of the whole nation, who had been unwilling to trust God would die, every man 20 years and older. And this is where Joshua 5 starts coming into view. All the male children during those 40 years were not circumcised. The fathers had broken covenant with God by refusing to enter the promised land and their children would bear the consequences of being out of covenant with God for the next 40 years. Not only that but God had given a specific directive to Moses on the very night of Passover as they left Egypt (Ex.12:48) that no uncircumcised person was to be allowed to eat the Passover meal. Putting these two points together we would conclude that all the men of Israel who were born during those 40 years of wandering would have been uncircumcised and would not have been allowed to eat the Passover and possibly by extension Israel as a nation may not have celebrated Passover for 40 years until the time they crossed over the Jordan into Canaan. (Unger)
Where we are about to go in Joshua 5 has everything to do with covenants and especially this covenant made with Abraham some 500 years before the day of Joshua. It’s all about honoring God, honoring Him first and then doing the work of conquest. Covenant and then Conquest. Turn with me to Joshua 5.
I. When God Calls You to Covenant With Him… Do It Now.
The people crossed over the Jordan on the 10th day of the month, the Passover would be celebrated on the 14th day. In between on those four days Joshua is commanded by God to put the mark of the covenant upon all the men of Israel. In four days 601,730 men would be circumcised (Num.26:51) with flint knives. Every male child over eight days old would be circumcised. The result of that would incapacitate the entire army for at least 10 days. This would be done in full view of Jericho just 2 miles away. Logistically this would be tantamount an invitation to genocide except for one thing… the promises of God. In Exodus 23:27 God had promised Moses, “I will send My fear before you and will destroy all the people to whom you shall come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you.” The fear the Ammorite and Canaanite kings felt was from the power of God, the stopping of a river that allowed a million plus people to cross right in front of their stronghold. So when you read Joshua 5:1 you see God’s protecting hand in place before the invitation to covenant is given. God does not ask of us anything more than what we are able to do, but He does ask that we put our lives into His hands.
This circumcision meant that they were now a people in covenant with God, there were things expected of them that called for greater self discipline, greater faith, greater obedience. Their lives were in His hands.
This circumcision would remain as a mark of covenant with God until the days of Jesus Christ. Then a new kind of circumcision was required. In Romans 2:29 Paul writes, “But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.” In Colossians 2:10 he put it like this, “And in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.” The sign of being in covenant with God through the person of Jesus Christ is no longer circumcision, it is baptism. It is a covenantal sign for all, for boys and girls, men and women. It is a sign that says you are under covenant with God, it calls for a greater discipline, a greater faith and a greater obedience. My life is in His hands.
II. When God’s Mark Is Upon You, You Aren’t Who You Were Anymore.
When all the acts of circumcision are complete God makes this peculiar statement to Joshua in verse 9, “This day I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” Before they were a nation of runaway slaves, before they were a people who doubted God and believed in idols, before they were a people lost in the wilderness…but not anymore. Their identity was changed and it was God who changed it. It is the new reality of who they are that will now enable them in God. Sometimes it’s like that with us, our past has a grip on who we believe we are. Have you failed in business, have you gone through divorce, have you committed adultery, have you been pushed away, have you failed, fallen or feared? Has that perception of what you went through been a part, a strong part, of how you see yourself today? Then let me ask you this, have you come into covenant with the living God, have you accepted His invitation to be marked by the blood, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ through faith and in baptism? By faith has your heart been circumcised by the Lord Jesus Christ? Is it no longer you who live but Christ who now lives in you? If you answer yes then this day know that the reproach of your Egypt has been rolled away. When God’s mark is upon you, you are not who you were anymore! 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
It was a new Israel that celebrated Passover on the twilight of that 14th day. There was new food, they were leaving manna and eating promised food. Perhaps it was on Sunday, that new day that Joshua left camp and walked towards Jericho. He looked down just for a minute and when he looked up standing just opposite him was a warrior, sword drawn, standing there. With courage Joshua took a step towards this warrior asking, “Are you for us or for our adversaries”. The response surprised him, “No, but as Commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” You’d expect the answer to be, ‘I’m on your side’ or ‘I’m on their side’. But the answer was, ‘No’. In other words God is not on any person’s side, we are to be on His side, He is the Commander. This pre-incarnate appearance of the Lord was not lost on Joshua. He falls face down to the ground asking, “What does my Lord say to His servant?” What will your response be when you suddenly see Jesus? Will you be quick to agree that it is you who needs to be on His side? Will you too fall face down and ask what does the Lord require of me? What you will hear that day is the same as what you will hear this day, ‘Remove your shoe for the place where you stand is holy’. Draw close to hear, humble yourselves, where He meets us, even here this morning, is holy ground. Commit yourself to being on His side. First comes the mark of being in covenant, then comes quest.