Summary: If you’re going to be ready to face the spiritual battles ahead, you must let God roll away your shame, relish your salvation, and respect your Sovereign Lord.
Some time ago, a fictitious manual for Peace Corp volunteers headed for South America contained the following advice on “What to Do If Attacked by an Anaconda”:
#1, If you're attacked by an anaconda, do not run; the snake is faster than you are.
#2, Lie flat on the ground.
#3, Put your arms tight at your sides and your legs tight against one another.
#4, The snake will begin to climb over your body.
#5, Do not panic.
#6, The snake will begin to swallow you from the feet end.
#7, Step six will take a long time.
#8, After a while, slowly and with as little movement as possible, reach down, take your knife, and very gently slide it into the snake's mouth. Then suddenly sever the snake's head.
#9, Be sure your knife is sharp. And
#10, Be sure you have your knife. (John Ortberg, The Daniel Project—Part 3, November 15, 2009; www.PreachingToday.com)
Though somewhat humorous, these instructions make a serious point: You need to be prepared! Now, you probably don’t ever have to worry about an anaconda attack, but there is another snake that seeks to devour you every day (1 Peter 5:8). And that’s that old serpent, the devil, who wants to take you down every chance he gets. The Bible says, “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against… the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).
My dear friends, we’re engaged in a spiritual battle, so how do we prepare for that battle? How do we get ready to fight the devil and his minions? How do we steel ourselves to take on the unseen forces of evil? Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Joshua 5, Joshua 5, where we can learn some lessons from the Children of Israel as they prepared for battle against enemy forces in Joshua’s day.
Joshua 5:1 As soon as all the kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan to the west, and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea, heard that the LORD had dried up the waters of the Jordan for the people of Israel until they had crossed over, their hearts melted and there was no longer any spirit in them because of the people of Israel. (ESV)
God’s mighty hand in drying up the Jordan River demoralized the enemy! It was “shock and awe”, creating the best time to attack, so verse 2 says at that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Go forth and conquer!” Is that what your Bible says? No!
Joshua 5:2-3 At that time the LORD said to Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise the sons of Israel a second time.” So Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the sons of Israel at Gibeath-haaraloth.(ESV) – which means “hill of the foreskins.”
Now, wait a minute! What’s going on here? Instead of attacking when victory is assured, God instructs all the men and soldiers to be circumcised. Ouch! That’s going to take several days to heal and incapacitate Israel’s entire army.
In Genesis 34, when Jacob’s sons wanted to get revenge after Shechem raped their sister, they tricked him and his men into getting circumcised. Shechem wanted to marry their sister, and Jacob’s sons said the only way they would allow it is if he and all the men of his city would undergo the surgery on a very sensitive part of their body. Then three days later, when they were very sore, two of Jacob’s sons went into the city and slaughtered Shechem, his father, and every other male. Well here, Joshua’s army is making themselves very vulnerable to the same kind of fate. Why?
Joshua 5:4-7 And this is the reason why Joshua circumcised them: all the males of the people who came out of Egypt, all the men of war, had died in the wilderness on the way after they had come out of Egypt. Though all the people who came out had been circumcised, yet all the people who were born on the way in the wilderness after they had come out of Egypt had not been circumcised. For the people of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, until all the nation, the men of war who came out of Egypt, perished, because they did not obey the voice of the LORD; the LORD swore to them that he would not let them see the land that the LORD had sworn to their fathers to give to us, a land flowing with milk and honey. So it was their children, whom he raised up in their place, that Joshua circumcised. For they were uncircumcised, because they had not been circumcised on the way. (ESV)
Joshua circumcised his soldiers, because they had not been circumcised when they were eight (8) days old as required in God’s Covenant to Abraham (Genesis 17:12). An entire generation of male Israelites had missed it! Those born in Egypt had been circumcised, but their sons, born in the wilderness, were not.