Wednesday, June 20, 2018

EmmDev 2018-06-20 [Faith among grasshopper hearts] Dedication and Trust

Dedication and Trust

Our reading today is about two significant practices that were resumed now that the Israelites were in the promised land: Circumcision and Passover.

When God called Abram, He instructed him to be circumcised and to circumcise their baby boys on the eighth day. This differentiated them from surrounding nations who circumcised at puberty. This early circumcision (which would have been noticed by boys from surrounding nations when they swam at waterholes) was a sign that the Israelites belonged to God. Our passage tells us that all boys born during the Exodus and desert wandering had not been circumcised. This points to a loss of identity and purpose.

Circumcision represented their belonging to God, but it was also an act that symbolised the Israelites being set apart and dedicating themselves to God.

The Passover was the Feast that celebrated deliverance from Egypt. Sadly it was only celebrated during their actual escape, and then a year later at Mount Sinai. Then, unfortunately, the spies went into the land and the people, overtaken by the "grasshopper mentality", rebelled and God sentenced them to wander the desert until that faithless generation passed away. It seems that they did not celebrate the Passover during these forty years.

Now, as they enter the Promised Land, these two rituals, which speak of belonging and deliverance are celebrated.

There was considerable risk in both these rituals. Circumcision incapacitated the men for a couple of days. Historically, Jacob's sons used this to their advantage when they convinced Hamor and Shechem and their village to be circumcised, and, while the men were still in pain, they attacked the village. (Gen.34) During Passover, the festivities would have distracted the people and they would have been easy to attack. But this risk is mitigated by verse 1 which explains that the inhabitants of the land are paralysed with fear because of the Israelites' miraculous crossing of the Jordan River.

When we take significant steps for the Kingdom of God, it is good for us to make sure that we take stock. Have we neglected practices of dedication? Have we lost identity and purpose? It might be good to take a moment and dedicate ourselves fully to God. Have we neglected to praise and give thanks for God's faithfulness in the past? It would be good to pick these up again...

1 Now when all the Amorite kings west of the Jordan and all the Canaanite kings along the coast heard how the LORD had dried up the Jordan before the Israelites until we had crossed over, their hearts melted and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites.
2 At that time the LORD said to Joshua, "Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites again." 3 So Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the Israelites at Gibeath Haaraloth.
4 Now this is why he did so: All those who came out of Egypt--all the men of military age--died in the desert on the way after leaving Egypt. 5 All the people that came out had been circumcised, but all the people born in the desert during the journey from Egypt had not. 6 The Israelites had moved about in the desert forty years until all the men who were of military age when they left Egypt had died, since they had not obeyed the LORD. For the LORD had sworn to them that they would not see the land that he had solemnly promised their fathers to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey. 7 So he raised up their sons in their place, and these were the ones Joshua circumcised. They were still uncircumcised because they had not been circumcised on the way. 8 And after the whole nation had been circumcised, they remained where they were in camp until they were healed.
9 Then the LORD said to Joshua, "Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you." So the place has been called Gilgal to this day.
10 On the evening of the fourteenth day of the month, while camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, the Israelites celebrated the Passover.      (Joshua 5:1-8)

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