Summary: 8th in long series on Joshua. 1st of 2 sermons on mass circumcision in ch.5. This deals with cutting the sin out of our lives, execution-style.
Joshua 5:1-9 – Precision Cutting
(I got some good info from another SermonCentral preacher. Good stuff!)
An ancient story is told about a slave who traveled with his master to Baghdad. As he walked the busy streets he found himself in the market place where he saw Death in human form. Death looked at him with such a piercing look that it frightened the slave, and he interpreted that look to mean that Death was planning soon to take his life.
He quickly rushed back to his master, told him what he had seen in the market place and asked if he might ride his camel to Samara, 15 hours away. Surely, he would be safe there Surely, Death would not know where to find him. The master gave him permission, and quickly the slave was on his way to Samara.
A few hours later the master was in the market place where he also saw Death in human form. He walked up to Death and asked, "Why did you look at my slave with such a threatening look?" Death answered, "That was not a threatening look. That was a look of surprise. I had a date with him tonight in Samara and I was surprised to see him here in Baghdad."
That’s kind of a silly story, but the point is clear: each of us has an appointment with death. It may be soon, it may be a while. It may be in a decade, it may be in a day. Either way, it pays to be ready.
But that’s not the kind of death I want to talk about this afternoon. I want to look at our passage today from Joshua 5, and tie it into something practical for us today. The passage is about circumcision.
Read Joshua 5:1-9.
Now, I want to be tactful here, but still be faithful to what the passage is saying. The setting is this: The Israelites have crossed the Jordan. They are about to get marching orders as to how to conquer the Promised Land. But there is something that needs to be taken care of first. That’s the issue of circumcision.
You see, circumcision for a Jew carries much more importance than it does for the rest of us. Many little boys are circumcised today because of the health factor. Simply put, circumcision cuts down on the spread of germs and diseases. It’s a cleanliness thing.
But for a Jew, the issue is much more pronounced. For a Jew, circumcision is about the agreement between God and His people. We call it a covenant, a contract or a promise between the Creator and the created. It’s a centuries-old agreement that started way back with Abraham. It was a sign that God chose one particular family to pour out His blessings on, and pour out His blessings through. It was a symbol that His people would remain faithful, and so would God.
In time, circumcision began to symbolize the Law. It came to mean that if you were obedient in this issue, then you were fine with all the other ones. In NT times, some people wanted Gentiles to submit to circumcision in order to be saved. It was like, “Jesus plus the Law.” That was stopped because that would mean you needed more than Jesus to save you. And if you need more than Jesus, why did He die, then?
Well, it’s not that way anymore. Like most issues, it died. Like eating meat sacrificed to idols, which was another hot topic or red flag, it ended. Makes you think that the issues we fight over may not matter as time passes.
But for the Jew, this remains central to their beliefs. Circumcision means being set apart from others. It means being part of a family. And it means being clean before the Lord. Which is where I want to camp out on today.
At the town of Gilgal, Joshua reinstated the covenant of circumcision. Apparently, in their 40 years of wandering, the practice was put on hold. But now that they are about to fight for a common prize, now that they are about to get the best God has for them, they need to remember who they are, and whose they are. Circumcision means being clean before the Lord.
Well, the NT gives a new meaning to circumcision. It’s not so much of an issue. Galatians 6:15 says, “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.” That’s what’s most important. In fact, what the NT accomplishes is a spiritual circumcision. Philippians 3:3 says, “For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh.” And again, Paul says in Colossians 2:11, “In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ.”