The beginning of the book of Joshua is truly fascinating. I love the warrior imagery of conquest and how God is continually telling his people there is no need for fear. I love the newness as they are fresh out of the wilderness, about to set foot upon their much awaited land of promise. I love how Moses changes Joshua’s name from Hoshea, giving it a more personal touch: it isn’t just salvation, it is Yahweh alone that saves.
But, Gilgal. I am loving Gilgal right now. Here is a little backstory: the Israelites crossed the Jordan River miraculously, and as soon as they set foot on their land, God started calling them a nation instead of just a people. God instructed the nation to take twelve stones (one from each tribe) to set up as a memorial for how He alone allowed them to cross the 90-100 foot waters of the river, possibly this high during harvest time. God is all about setting up stones of remembrance that tell of His glory and favor.
The Canaanites had just witnessed the river folding up upon itself and they were quaking in fear at this group of people that had this mighty God on their side. The word tells us their hearts were melting. It seems like immediate war and conquest would have been ripe for the taking, an easy victory, but God’s time is never ours. He never seems to rush things, does He? Gilgal must take place first.
Gilgal is the first base camp in the land of promise. In Hebrew, it is a word play on the word “galal,” which means to whirl, roll, turn, drive away, to be rolled (in blood), remove contempt, or to roll oneself upon the Lord.
The first thing the nation is instructed to do has nothing to do with war or conquest. God tells them to restore the rites of circumcision and Passover. The first thing needed is a restoration of identity. During the forty years of wandering in the wilderness, neither were done. The unbelieving generation was not even allowed to enter the Promised Land due to their disobedience to Yahweh. When the younger generation enters, they are bereft of older family members and elders and mentors. They need a quick study in Who they belong to and What they are to be about. They need a lesson in identity. Circumcision would restore the covenant relationship with Yahweh. Passover would celebrate their redemption from their bonds of slavery.
You can’t conquer your enemy until you know Who you belong to.
“And the LORD said to Joshua, ‘Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt form you.’ And so the name of that place is called Gilgal to this day.” Joshua 5:9 You guys! God took their “cherpah,” their reproach, their shame, their scorn, their stigma, and rolled it right off. Can I get an amen?
There are different theories on just what exactly the Israelites’ reproach was from. After some study, I’m landing on two things. First, there was the reproach of slavery. God wanted to roll off the weight of being known as a people group enslaved to another people group. Slavery was not how they would be known in the future. They were now land owners and military conquerors. God wanted Egypt washed off of them once and for all. Second, there was the reproach of being the children of a disobedient generation. Perhaps they wanted to rise up in belief in this Holy God, but wondered if they would always be defined by who their parents were. Perhaps there was even some reproach in not having been circumcised, as they knew it was a sign of their covenant relationship with God.
Sometimes, the reproach is from our personal disobedience, but other times, it is from sins that have been committed against us. God wants it all rolled off…
Gilgal. You know I am all over that definition that says, “to be rolled, in blood.” There is power, Power, POWER in the blood of our sacrificial Lamb and there is not a single bit of shame that He is incapable of rolling off you, dear one.
In rolling away the reproach, a restoration of identity is restored. We become Worshipers. Celebrators of the covenant. Conquerors. Promised Land Dwellers.
Roll yourself upon the Lord and let Him roll away the reproach once and for all. After circumcision, the nation rested and remained in Gilgal until they were healed. Stay; be still before God. Rest and Heal. Remember who you belong to.
You are My Child
Your Name is engraved on My hands
I will never leave you nor forsake you
No one can snatch you out of my hands
You are chosen
You are precious
You are my Hephzibah: My delight is in you
*After thinking more about this subject, I want to add one more thing. Sometimes our reproach comes from something so hidden that we think we are the only ones that know about it. We have agreed with the Accuser and allowed ourselves to be defined in a particular way, even if it is just by ourselves. God wants to call you by something new. He isn’t in the business of shining a light on something in order to expose and shame, but to redeem and restore.
One small example of this comes from 9th grade. I was in an environment of youth at a swim party where I only knew my brother (who appropriately was ignoring me, being a 12th grader.) I would swim over to a set of twin girls, hoping to have someone to talk to, and they would abruptly swim away. I caught on after a few laps around the pool. Satan used that to tell me I wasn’t welcome in a crowd of new people, in fact, I would be flat out rejected if I tried to talk to someone in a new environment. I hate unfamiliar crowds to this day. I hate that a ridiculous event in 9th grade rolled on the reproach and told me I am unwelcome. But, I love that my God wants to roll it away, all these years later.
Be still. Hear what He has to say. Then rest and heal, friends.