An Obstacle or An Opportunity? (Joshua 4-5)

Scripture reading – Joshua 4-5

With the promises of the LORD, and the priests bearing the Ark of the Covenant, “the people removed from their tents, to pass over Jordan” (3:14). When the priests bearing the Ark stepped into the waters, they receded, and “and rose up upon an heap… and the people passed over right against Jericho” (3:16).

Joshua 4 – A Miracle, and a Memorial

What a glorious event in Israel’s history, and one that the LORD commanded Joshua to memorialize in a physical memorial of twelve stones (4:1-8). Joshua commanded twelve men, each representing his tribe, to pass before the Ark, and “take ye up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder” (4:5). The weight, and size of the stones did require the men to shoulder them, and they went before the Ark and carried them to Gilgal (4:8, 19-20), the place Israel would encamp after crossing the dry riverbed into Canaan.

Joshua set in place a second memorial, consisting of twelve stones, representing the Twelve Tribes of Israel. He built it “in the midst of Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests which bare the ark of the covenant stood” (4:9).

All the people passed over, including forty thousand men of war from the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and “half the tribe of Manasseh” (4:13). That day, the LORD had fulfilled His promise, for He had “magnified Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they feared him, as they feared Moses, all the days of his life” (4:14).

The LORD then instructed Joshua, “16Command the priests that bear the ark of the testimony, that they come up out of Jordan” (4:16).” Then the priests came “up out of the midst of Jordan, and the soles of the priests’ feet were lifted up unto the dry land, that the waters of Jordan returned unto their place, and flowed over all his banks, as they did before” (4:18).”

That evening, the people encamped at the plain of Gilgal, east of Jericho, and Joshua took the twelve stones the men had removed from the Jordan, and built a memorial, a testimony to generations that would follow. When their children should ask, “What mean these stones” (4:21), their parents were to instruct them: “Israel came over this Jordan on dry land. 23For the Lord your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until ye were passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red sea, which he dried up from before us, until we were gone over” (4:22-23).

Joshua 5 – A New Land, and a Renewed Covenant

The nations in Canaan had not assaulted Israel; however, their spies had witnessed the power and presence of the LORD in the midst of His people. “All the kings of the Amorites, which were on the side of Jordan westward, and all the kings of the Canaanites, which were by the sea, heard that the Lord had dried up the waters of Jordan from before the children of Israel, until we were passed over, that their heart melted, neither was there spirit in them any more, because of the children of Israel” (5:1).

Renewing the Covenant, and the Sign of Circumcision (5:2-9)

Circumcision had not been observed in Israel during the wilderness wanderings; however, in the new land, the LORD commanded Joshua to circumcise the men of Israel (5:2-3).

Circumcision served as a physical reminder of Israel’s covenant with the LORD (Exodus 19:5-6), and a testimony that the LORD had, “rolled away the reproach of Egypt” (5:9) What was “the reproach of Egypt?” I believe it was the reproach of the faithless generation that refused to believe the LORD, and had turned back from the land He had promised them for an inheritance (5:6). The name of the place of circumcision would be Gilgal, meaning “rolled away” (5:9).

Remembering the His grace, and goodness, Israel reaffirmed the LORD’S presence and observed the Passover (5:10), and the Feast of Unleavened Bread (5:11). The next day, the provision of manna ceased, and “they did eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year” (5:12).

A Heavenly Vision: A Pre-Incarnate Appearance of Christ (5:13-15)

When Joshua was near the city of Jericho, he looked up, and “behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand” (5:13). Joshua bravely went to the man, and asked, “Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?” (5:13)

The man introduced himself, saying, “Nay; but as captain of the host of the Lord am I now come” (5:14; Hebrews 2:10). Joshua, sensing he was in the presence, not of a man, but the LORD Himself, “fell on his face to the earth, and did worship…and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant?” (5:14)

The LORD, “captain of the host,” and ready for battle, “said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so” (5:15).

What made the ground holy? It was the presence of the LORD. As Moses honored the LORD, and removed his shoes in the LORD’S presence before the flaming bush (Exodus 3:5), Joshua removed his shoes.

With his shoes removed, and his face bowed to the earth, Joshua was ready to receive his marching orders for the siege of Jericho (Joshua 6).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith