Peninsula Community Church
Joshua – Removing Reproach
November 22, 2015
Joshua 4:19-24 The people came up out of the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and they encamped at Gilgal on the east border of Jericho. And those twelve stones, which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean? ’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground. ’ For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”
As we begin today let me ask you a question. Do you have that place or places in your memory that you love to return to as way to be refreshed and renewed. Perhaps it is a place you go to remember the past and remember what transpired in your life. Perhaps it is place in your house or location in your town. Perhaps it is simply a memory that comes when you need to be encouraged.
When Michelle and I were dating, we loved to go to Northport Harbor on Long Island. It was a beautiful place. There were sail boats and cabin cruisers lining the docks. Next to the dock was a beautiful park. We would often walk the streets of the village and buy a slice of pizza or a sandwich and then go the park and enjoy a picnic lunch. To make this a more notable place, this was the place where I proposed to Michelle. Every time I think of Northport Harbor, I think of those days and a smile fills my heart. Joshua had such a location. It was called Gilgal. As we read the story of Joshua we find that he returned to Gilgal many times after the battles he faced. He returned there throughout his life, as it was a place that held special meaning in his heart.
Why was Gilgal so important? To begin with we must understand the meaning of the word Gilgal. The name Gilgal means “to roll off reproach.” In the days of Joshua the names of cities described how they were used and the purpose of the city. In the case of Gilgal, it was a place where the disappointments and disapprovals of the past had been removed. It is not by chance the first city that the children of Israel camped upon their arrival into the promise land was the city of Gilgal. As a result it held a special place in their hearts and in the heart of Joshua for several reasons.
First of all Gilgal was a place to remember all that God had done on their behalf. This was an important time for the Children of Israel as they had enough to feel disappointed and disproval over in their past. After all, they had been wandering through the desolate land of the wilderness for forty years. They had been faithless. They had been rebellious. They had rejected God and they certainly rejected Moses as their leader. And yet, God led them into the promised land and led them to camp at Gilgal. In remembering where they came from they also remembered that God’s grace and mercy was always so evident in their life. Instead of forbidding them to enter the land, He had promised them, He graciously gave them the land in spite of their past.
Secondly, Gilgal represented a place of change. If you will go back with me to the days before they entered the promised land. They were standing by the Jordan River. Their beloved leader, who they had a love/hate relationship with, was now dead. Now Joshua was their leader and all kinds of questions swirled around his appointment as the new leader. How would he serve them? What would he accomplish? Would he serve God faithfully? Would they follow this new leader? Would they be successful once they entered the land?
It was also a time of change for them in terms of the provision of God. If you remember in the wilderness, they had their food provided for them: both manna and quail. Water was provided and their clothes never wore out. They were guided by a fire by night and a cloud by day as they journeyed through the wilderness. Now, they would have to fend for themselves.
It is important for us to realize that life is full of changes. It has been said that the only thing that never changes is change itself. Most of us have a range of emotion when it comes to change. Our emotions can run from mild irritation to a full blown hatred toward anything that resembles change. The question for us is not whether or not change will come but what will we do with change. Joshua reminds us that while change will happen there are a couple of unchangeable dynamics.
First, the future blessing and inheritance of God was already theirs. Notice that they were called to take what was already given to them. All they had to do was fight for it. It is noteworthy that in Joshua 1 that God gave Joshua a specific description of the land they were to possess. While it was already their land, they had to appropriate the land for themselves. Secondly, because they were given specific instructions on the territory they were not to possess what was not theirs but only that which God had given them. The problem for us is that we try to possess what has not been given to us at times. When we do this we can become jealous or angry and we can blame God when we do not receive what we expected, when that is not God’s desire at all.
Secondly, Joshua had a promise that no enemy would stand against them. Here is a fact we must understand. The enemy wants us to be more afraid of them rather than us recognizing our power over the enemy. As we see the terror of ISIS unleashed we know that much of their goal is to instill fear and confusion and as long as we do not fight them that fear grows. Their goal is to intimidate us and as we have seen, too many in leadership around the world have been intimated into passivity. And yet they continue to gain strength and power. Our spiritual enemy desires to take us out. The enemy does not always gain victory through complete defeat but through intimidation and fear. But we there is a promise we can hold onto. It is the promise that as Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (John 4:4).
Spiritually, we face the enemy of discouragement, fear, anxiety, and hopelessness. But we must recognize that all of these enemies are defeated in Christ. You see we are more than conquerers. Paul understood this when he penned these words. If God is for us, who can be against us? …Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? … Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:35-39). Joshua had this promise and so do we today. We are more than conquerers because Christ lives in us.
Thirdly, God told Joshua to take courage and strength to accomplish what he was called to do. In this challenge there were two aspects to be considered. First, God promised Joshua that He would be with him. But He also warned him that they must follow the commands of God. By taking courage in the presence of God and by following the law of God, they would be assured of their success. In other words, God’s things done God’s way will result in God’s blessing and victory.
The third thing for Gilgal is that it was a reminder of the resurrection which is represented by baptism. The children of Israel were to cross over the Jordan but in so doing they were to make a proclamation of truth. They were to take twelve stones from the one side of the Jordan and place them in the Jordan followed by taking twelve stones from the river and placing them near Gilgal. They were to take one stone for each tribe. This was to serve as a symbol of God’s deliverance. By placing the stones in the river they were in essence recognizing that their past was behind them and this was a day of new beginnings. In essence they were experiencing a resurrection of sort. They were dying to their past and were being raised to a new life and to a new day. Rather than being a symbol of death, I propose that it is in essence the Jordan River was a symbol of life. Why? Because in the very act of moving stones in and out of the river there was a sign of life which is best illustrated by water baptism in the New Testament. The stones were to be used as a symbol of that transaction so that when the people would ask what does this mean they could say it represents the victories won in their lives just as baptism represents our new life in Christ.
Paul understood this when he penned these words in Colossians 2:11-15. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
So let me ask you where is your Gilgal? Do you have a place of remembrance? Do you have that place you go to when you have won battles or for that matter you have lost a few? I suggest that one of the best places you can go is into the closet of prayer. For it is in the closet of prayer that we remember all that God has done for us. It is in the closet of prayer that we find that reproach is rolled away. Where we have been disappointed and have received disapproval, it is in our prayer closet that we can find peace and we can find hope. If you don’t have a Gilgal, I pray today that you will find one so that the memory of the work of Christ is alive in you.
Copyright © 2015 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom