A few years ago I watched an interesting show about soldiers who wanted to become Navy SEALS. As I watched, I was stunned at the extreme physical testing these recruits went through during the time they referred to as “Hell Week”. They went through food and sleep deprivation while enduring grueling physical and mental challenges. Those who couldn’t hack these extreme conditions could quit at any time. All they had to do was ring the camp bell.
You would think most would have quit under these intense conditions. However, very few actually rang the bell in defeat. Most endured the extreme physical pain in order to receive the privilege of becoming a Navy SEAL.
Our military men and women understand that physical pain is part of becoming a warrior. As one Marine’s t-shirt read “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” They know that pain will only make them stronger and better fit to do their job. The same needs to be true for us.
As warriors in God’s army, we need to realize that every amount of pain we endure only makes us stronger. As a result, we become more capable of defeating our enemy.
One of the most painful parts of Christianity is facing the sin in our lives. However, it must be faced and destroyed so we can be free to enter into God’s promises. Our sins cannot come along with us. We need to get to the place where we will accept the pain and remove the sin so we can be free to live holier lives. We need to take the slogan from the Marine’s t-shirt and realize that spiritual pain is sin leaving the body.
In this chapter, we will examine the painful experience God put the Israelites through so they could be free to engage their enemy and fully enter into their Promised Land.
As we do, we will see the need to remove our sinful tendencies so we can be free to live a holier life. Only then can we enter into God’s Promises. Let’s get started.
Welcome to Spiritual Hell Week
When we last left the children of Israel, they had just crossed the Jordan and entered into their Promised Land. God had miraculously parted the Red Sea and brought them safely to the other side. As the nation stood at the banks of the Jordan, I am sure they felt excited about going in and conquering their land. Those feelings probably increased as they learned of the attitude of their enemies.
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.
Their enemies were paralyzed with fear! They had no courage or strength to fight. They knew that if the Israelite’s God could dry up a flooding river, then He could certainly conquer them. It seemed like the perfect time for Israel to begin destroying their enemies. Obviously Joshua thought so, for we read that he went to seek God’s will about where to begin the attack. However, he didn’t get the answer he was expecting.
An Unthinkable Command is Given
2 At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make flint knives for yourself, and circumcise the sons of Israel again the second time.”
You got to be kidding me! The people were finally at the foothills of their Promised Land. They had just miraculously crossed the Jordan. Now they were ready to kick some Canaanite butt! However, as they prepared to begin conquering their promised land, God stopped them and said, “Wait! Do you remember forty years ago how you were commanded by Me to circumcise yourselves? I wanted the things from your old life removed. You can’t enter into My full blessing until all of the old things are gone. So, right now, circumcise yourselves.”
We can only imagine what the Israelite men were thinking now. “Uh God, don’t you think you could have mentioned this on the other side of the river? Right over that rise is an enemy city. Back there we were safe from any kind of attack. This is gonna hurt really bad. It would have been a lot easier if we had done it back there.” I am sure this was their reaction. It certainly would have been mine.
Think about it. Circumcising a fully grown man causes devastating pain. The man is left weak and delirious with fever for days. If the enemy attacked them in this weakened condition, they would be annihilated. Why would God possible make this command? As we continue on, we are given the explanation.
3 So Joshua made flint knives for himself, and circumcised the sons of Israel at the hill of the foreskins. 4 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. 5 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. 6 For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the people who were men of war, who came out of Egypt, were consumed, because they did not obey the voice of the Lord—to whom the Lord swore that He would not show them the land which the Lord had sworn to their fathers that He would give us, “a land flowing with milk and honey.”
7 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. 8So it was, when they had finished circumcising all the people, that they stayed in their places in the camp till they were healed.
We read here that Joshua obediently did what God asked. Then we are given the explanation why God wanted it done. After God had judged the first generation of rebellious Israelites and told them they would never enter the Promised Land, they stopped obeying God’s command to circumcise their children.
For an Israelite, circumcision set them apart as God’s children. It was what made them different. It was the sign that they followed God and He would fight for them. Now, as the next generation of Israelites prepared to enter their Promised Land, they needed to be circumcised and set apart as God’s children. They couldn’t enter the battle until this happened. The same is true for us.
While God doesn’t require us to circumcise ourselves physically, he does want us to circumcise our hearts. We read in Romans 2:29 that we need to allow the Spirit of God to circumcise our heart. This means we allow the Holy Spirit to point out areas of sin in our lives that must be destroyed. We must then kill the sin so we can live a holier life.
Holiness seems to have become a dirty word in the Christian community. People are too busy making sure they don’t offend anybody. A theology of becoming like the world so we can reach the world seems to prevail. We have to stay up to date with the latest tv shows and movies so we can relate to the people. We have to dress like the world in order to reach them. We need to talk like the world so we can understand them. We certainly can’t criticize the sinful way the world lives so we don’t offend them.
These attitudes have done little to reach the world, but they have done a lot to make us less holy and spotless before God. This must change. A friend of mine recently said the following: “Instead of being embarrassed and ashamed for being a strong Christian, our lives should embarrass the world for the shameful way they live.”
We do this by living a holier lifestyle. I am not saying we need to attack the unsaved for the way they live. What I am saying is we need to live a different way than they do. Our lives need to reflect that we follow God. We do this by taking out our flint knives and cutting off areas of sin in our lives. We then need to begin living a godlier lifestyle. Only then can we live in God’s Promises.
I know from personal experience the need to do this. I also know that it can really hurt. The Holy Spirit has pointed out lots of areas of sin in my life which needed to be dealt with before I could even attempt to destroy my enemies.
One area of sin He exposed was my unhealthy addiction to sports, especially football and the Denver Broncos. While watching football is not in itself a sin, I literally had made it a sin by giving it too important of a place in my life. I lived and breathed for the Denver Broncos. I could name the players, their stats, and even the plays in their playbook. I was obsessed. I even skipped church services in order to watch their games.
The Holy Spirit pointed out the sinful way I had made the Broncos a god. He then made me go cold turkey on football for awhile. It was hard, especially since that very season the Broncos had an excellent year, making it all the way to the AFC Championship game. It killed me inside not to watch those games. It was so hard. That year God didn’t even let me watch the Superbowl. I spent it in my room while my dad watched the Pittsburg Steelers win the Championship.
I know this sounds ridiculous. I mean, it is only football. However, for me, it was more than that because I made it more important than God in my life. It became a sin and I had to kill it. Now years later, it is no big deal to miss a game. As a matter of fact, the few times I have sat down to watch a game, I find myself bored. However, I never get bored spending time with God and studying His word. This is only possible because I took a flint knife and circumcised the unhealthy attachment in my heart to football.
Another area of sin my life which I had to kill was lying. For me, this was a huge generational sin. My father is a diagnosed pathological liar, so lying came very easy to me. However, in order for me to enter God’s Promised Land for me, I had to cut this sin out of my life. God required me to speak nothing but the absolute truth.
If I told someone I drove five miles and it was actually 5.6 miles, then I had to go back and tell them the absolute truth. I remember one day the Holy Spirit reminded me of a time years earlier when I had lied in college to avoid paying a fine. He required me to write a letter, confessing what I had done, along with a check for the money I owed. Events like these are embarrassing and painful, but the pain is just sin leaving my body. I don’t know what your areas of sin you deal with in your life. It could be deceit, hate, anger, or sexual sin. It isn’t important that I know. What is important is that you allow the Holy Spirit to show you what areas of sin are keeping you from living a holy life. Then you need to grab your flint knife and circumcise your heart. Only then can you receive the rewards of those who circumcise their hearts. What are these rewards? Let’s look at the passage again to see how God rewarded the Israelites for being obedient to Him.
Unbelievable Rewards are Given
As we return to Joshua 5, we see that God gives three rewards to the people of Israel for obediently circumcising themselves. The good news for us is that the same rewards are available to us if we obey the Holy Spirit’s lead and kill the sin in our lives.
1. We receive a renewed relationship with God.
9 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. 10 Now the children of Israel camped in Gilgal, and kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight on the plains of Jericho. 11 And they ate of the produce of the land on the day after the Passover, unleavened bread and parched grain, on the very same day. 12 Then the manna ceased on the day after they had eaten the produce of the land; and the children of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate the food of the land of Canaan that year.
Once the Israelites obeyed God and circumcised themselves, they entered into a deeper relationship with God. They experienced God’s forgiveness. They broke free of the shame of being slaves to someone else. They could once again celebrate the Passover with God. Finally, they began to eat from the fruit of their new land. They were now back to a right relationship with God as they lived in His promises.
As we kill the sin in our lives, we, too, will experience a renewed relationship with God. We will no longer be seen as a man who struggles with porn. We won’t be known as a liar. Whatever our sin, we will be forgiven by God and viewed as His holy child. Then we then develop the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives. This allows us freedom to worship God and experience His promises.
2. We gain open communication with God.
The second benefit of circumcising our heart is we can speak freely with God.
13 And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, “Are You for us or for our adversaries?” 14 So He said, “No, but as Commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, “What does my Lord say to His servant?” 15 Then the Commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, “Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so. We read here that Joshua was confronted by a man holding a sword.
Who was this man? It was Jesus! By circumcising the nation, Joshua was prepared to speak to God face to face. The two events are not a coincidence. As a matter of fact, it is not the first time it happened in the Bible.
In Genesis 17, we read of the first time God commanded the people of Israel to be circumcised. It is also the place where the original promise is given to Abraham that the Israelites would be given their Promised Land. In Genesis 17:9-14, God commanded Abraham to circumcise His descendants. Abraham did it immediately.
On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him. 24 Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised, 25 and his son Ishmael was thirteen; 26 Abraham and his son Ishmael were both circumcised on that same day. 27 And every male in Abraham's household, including those born in his household or bought from a foreigner, was circumcised with him.
Abraham was obedient to God and circumcised his entire household. Immediately after doing this, we read in chapter 18 that Jesus appeared and spoke to Abraham face to face. Now, over a hundred years later, we see the same thing happen to Joshua after he circumcised the nation of Israel.
We, like Abraham and the Israelites, need to remove the sin from our lives. It will hurt, but in the pain, God will come to us and we will experience God in our lives in a way that we previously could only imagine. God longs to be with us. But we, through holding onto the past and the sins which are familiar to us, are keeping God away from us. He is there waiting to embrace us and give us what He promised. We can now communicate openly and freely with God. We can hear His voice as He leads and guides us. The sin is no longer there to separate us. We can now have open lines of communication with Him.
3. We receive victory over our enemies.
The third benefit to killing our sin is it helps us defeat our enemies.
Now Jericho was securely shut up because of the children of Israel; none went out, and none came in. 2 And the Lord said to Joshua: “See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor.
Jericho was the immediate city standing between Israel and the Promised Land. The Israelites could probably see Jericho as they crossed the Jordan. They were fresh off victories on the other side. Then God miraculously brought them across the Jordan by parting the turbulent waters, allowing them safe passage across. In their minds, Jericho was next. As they crossed the Jordan, the Israelites probably thought that within 48 hours that fine city would be theirs. However, at that time they didn’t have God’s blessing. Now that they had removed there iniquities, God not only gave them His permission to go forward, but His solemn word that they would be victorious. We, too, have this promise.
When we circumcise our hearts by removing sin, we deal a death blow to our enemies. The only way demons can influence is because we them ground by sinning. When we remove the sins, we take away any rights or power they have. They have no ability to stay. We can then kick them out by the power of Jesus’ name. This is only possible when we are willing to go through the pain of removing the sin in our lives.
In this chapter, we have taken an honest look at the need to remove the sin in our lives. I have tried to be honest with you about the pain involved in this process. However, the pain we will experience in no way out shadows the rewards of reconciliation and open communication with God. The pain is also worth enduring in order to destroy our enemies. The question is: Will you go through it?
Will you face the pain and allow the Holy Spirit to work with you to remove the sins?
Will you be open and honest about your sins?
Will you do whatever it takes to change your lifestyle in order to live a holier, more righteous life before God?
Will you deal a death blow to your enemy by putting down your sword and picking up you flint knife?
Is a little pain worth having the sin leave your body?
I guarantee the pain is more than worth it. The question is: Will you endure it?
1. Chapter 5’s War Drill required us to daily spend time alone with God, allowing the Holy Spirit to point out areas of sin. Now we need to take out our flint knife and cut the sin out of our life no matter what it takes. Replace the sin with a more godly activity.
2. This chapter contained the following quote: “Instead of being embarrassed and ashamed for being a strong Christian, our lives should embarrass the world for the shameful way they live.” Analyze yourself. Are you ashamed to be different, or are you willing to live a holier life no matter what others think?