I took a moment this morning to ask the Lord where in the Bible I should read, to be ministered to according to His will. I felt the need to go back to Joshua. I love Joshua and read it A LOT, but this morning, the Lord pointed out a group of words I had never mulled over before: “the reproach of Egypt.” The scripture, Joshua 5:9, says, “Then the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.’” I couldn’t move past the promise of this scripture.
It was a pivotal moment for the Israelites. They were on the cusp of walking into their Promised Land. All that they had been wandering about in the desert hoping for was about to become a reality. They were about to capture the first city in the land God was releasing to them in fulfillment of His promise to Abraham somewhere around 500 years before. They were about to step into battles they didn’t even have to fight. Walk into houses fully furnished for their arrival. Settle into a land that they had never known, but had envisioned through the wistful smiles and dimming eyes of their elders. Their castles in the sky were settled into a land called Canaan and spread out before their ever-wandering hearts.
Let me set the stage a little for this verse: Moses had died and Joshua was roused by God to lead the people forward. The dust had hardly settled over the grave and God was telling Joshua, “It’s time to get up and move into the land. Prepare the people to walk through the Jordan.” I find it interesting that they wandered 40 years between two large rivers that held them captive in the desert until God was ready to make a way for them.
Three days later: the Israelites had been instructed. They had consecrated themselves and packed up. They were waiting for further direction. Joshua told the Levitical priests to pick up the ark and move forward. The people were instructed to follow the priests because they had never been that way before. Don’t miss the fact that someone else was supposed to lead them. They were not to rely on their own understanding. “Clearly, we walk forward.” No. Clearly, you follow. The leaders of the tribes were to pick up a stone from the middle of the Jordan to build a memorial with. When they all crossed, the priests moved forward and as soon as their feet were out of the water, the river returned to flood stage.
On the other side of the Jordan, they were officially in Canaan. They camped under the stars beneath the shadow of the walls of Jericho. Here, in this foreboding position, God told them to circumcise themselves. Not just their hearts, but their physical selves. It’s curious that God would lead them to such a vulnerable position their first night in Canaan and then command them to make themselves easy prey by undergoing circumcision. Encroaching on Jericho was an act of war and here they were signing their death warrants … except God had already stepped in. Every warring faction in Canaan was afraid of them, even while they were helpless. The Israelites, in a radical act of obedience, physically disabled themselves from fighting and their first week or two in the land, had to trust God for protection from unknown enemies while their bodies healed. From the start, they were utterly dependent on God for survival there.
Their obedience led to their freedom in this new place. Because of their obedience, God removed their reproach. They would not be slaves in Canaan, so they couldn’t take their slave mindset into the land. They were going to be victors in Canaan, so they couldn’t take their victim mindset into the land. They were going to see new things in the land, so they had to forget the old things. God removed their reproach so that nothing of their old life would follow them into Canaan. He removed their shame. He removed their insecurities. The men in the camp had never seen warfare, but they had been raised by a generation who had only known defeat and captivity. God had to remove that from their hearts and minds. Instead of scorning the Israelites for their past, the nations in Canaan were filled with awe and dread because they knew God was moving the Israelites in, one victory at a time.
This one verse signified that God was removing all the former shackles in their hearts and minds so they could walk into Canaan as free men in their hearts and minds so that they could be victorious. They needed to see themselves as God saw them. As Beloved. As warriors. As owners and not beggars. You see, for forty years, Egypt might have speculated that God had led the children of Israel out into the wilderness to kill them off (Deut. 9:28). But God was about to exalt this nation that had been bowed down in defeat for so long. His glory was tied up in them and He honored them so that all people would honor Him in their hearts. After the Israelites were settled into the land, all people would look at the progression of victories and be unable to deny that these were a people God loved and cared for. Before they were conquerors, they had to be conquered by God. Their obedience was an act of surrender. Their faith was set in motion. Their God was about to deliver on His long-awaited promise.
Perhaps you’re there, friend. Poised on the edge of your promise. I was reminded of my promise the other day and I’ll be honest: it really ticked me off. There was no humility as I approached God’s throne in open defiance. “I am sick of hearing about this promise! Stop telling me that just over this mountain is the Promised Land because I feel like I keep getting to the top only to find it’s not the top and I still have climbing to go. I’ve been trudging toward it for so long! I’m weary and I can’t keep getting my hopes up!”
Maybe this is why the Holy Spirit led me back to Joshua today. Clearly, there are some things in me that God needs to deal with. You too? For instance, I can clearly identify that I’m throwing shade at God for promises I’ve been waiting on a long time. Not anywhere near 500 years, but for me, it’s felt like FOREVER.
Remember the two large rivers they crossed? The Red Sea separated them from Egypt, the place of their captivity, and the Jordan kept them from their promise until God was ready to release them. God had created a way of getting these people to look to Him for everything. Their waiting period was divinely orchestrated to draw them closer to God and prepare them to have all that He wanted to gift them. Us too, friend!!
One last thing before Jericho: they had to be circumcised. They had to cut away the things God said to cut away. They had to rely on Him for healing, and not only, but for safety in their time of healing. They had to become reliant on God for everything. They had to know who gave victory. They had to know the sheltering of the Almighty in dangerous places. They had to experience the truth that victory was not on them, it was on Him. Looking back at the last few years of my life, I can easily recognize that this has been God’s purpose; to destroy the fiercely independent woman I have become and create in me a heart that relies solely on Him for everything. To remove the things that can’t go with me into His Promised Land and heal me. I can’t take insecurities into His promises. I can’t take past defeats, or fear. I can’t take a victim mentality, or any abandonment issues I’ve had. I can’t take my own strength. His glory is tied up in honoring His promises in my life and He has to fulfill His promises because He cannot lie! Your life too! Be conquered by God, friend, so He can bring you into the Land overflowing with goodness that He promised you so long ago.