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Sermons of Rev Mike Willmouth
"Restoring Our Fellowship With The Lord"
Joshua 5:1-15

(This Sermon was preached at Trinity Bible Church on November 11, 2001. All Scripture
references used in this sermon are based upon the NASB®, unless otherwise stated)

This Sermon was written and submitted by: Joseph M. Willmouth, Pastor of Trinity Bible Church in Biloxi, Mississippi 39532. This contributed article is copyright protected, and the sole property of the contributing author.  It may be freely copied and used provided the above credits are included. Document expiration: indefinite.

1 Now it came about when all the kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan to the west, and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea, heard how the LORD had dried up the waters of the Jordan before the sons of Israel until they had crossed, that their hearts melted, and there was no spirit in them any longer, because of the sons of Israel. 2 At that time the LORD said to Joshua, "Make for yourself flint knives and circumcise again the sons of Israel the second time." 3 So Joshua made himself flint knives and circumcised the sons of Israel at Gibeath-haaraloth. 4 And this is the reason why Joshua circumcised them: all the people who came out of Egypt who were males, all the men of war, died in the wilderness along the way, after they came out of Egypt. 5 For all the people who came out were circumcised, but all the people who were born in the wilderness along the way as they came out of Egypt had not been circumcised. 6 For the sons of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, until all the nation, that is, the men of war who came out of Egypt, perished because they did not listen to the voice of the LORD, to whom the LORD had sworn that He would not let them see the land which the LORD had sworn to their fathers to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey. 7 And their children whom He raised up in their place, Joshua circumcised; for they were uncircumcised, because they had not circumcised them along the way. 8 Now it came about when they had finished circumcising all the nation, that they remained in their places in the 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 name of that place is called Gilgal to this day.10 While the sons of Israel camped at Gilgal, they observed the Passover on the evening of the fourteenth day of the month on the desert plains of Jericho. 11 And on the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. 12 And the manna ceased on the day after they had eaten some of the produce of the land, so that the sons of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate some of the yield of the land of Canaan during that year. 13Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to him and said to him, "Are you for us or for our adversaries?" 14 And he said, "No, rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the LORD." And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, "What has my lord to say to his servant?" 15 And the captain of the LORD's host said to Joshua, "Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy." And Joshua did so.

Introduction: The nation of Israel had totally put their faith in God, and God had led them across the flooded Jordan river on dry ground. They now stood at the threshold of the Promised Land, waiting to possess it, but before they could do that they had to take care of another matter first. They needed to completely restore their fellowship with God, and break their ties with their sinful past life. They had a relationship with God through the covenants that were given them by God, but their fellowship with God had not always been what it should be as they wandered through the wilderness. Now before they could receive God's blessings and possess the Promised Land they first needed to make sure they were in fellowship with God. One of the similarities, or things that Christians have in common with Israel is that we tend to act a lot like them. We have a relationship with God, through the New Covenant, through the blood of Jesus Christ. But like Israel, we tend to be rebellious against God and as result our fellowship isn't as close as it should be. We can learn from Israel's example here in this passage of Scripture today about restoring our fellowship with the Lord

I. Renew Your Commitment To The Lord (vv.1-9).
1. Be obedient to His Word (vv.1-8).

A. Verse 1 is a transitional verse that sums up the effect that the miraculous crossing of the Jordan had on the inhabitants of Canaan, and explains how Israel could have been secure enough to observe the covenant ceremonies that follow (EBCNT).
1) The inhabitants of the great crossroad city couldn't help but tremble at the thought of such a powerful God (MOT).

2) From a military standpoint, the perfect moment to attack Jericho would have been immediately upon crossing the Jordan River, but God wanted them to stop and get their priorities straight because of the nations disobedience in the past (MOT).

B. Before the Israelites could claim the Promised Land they first had to restore the sign of the covenant that was made with Abraham, that must of had been suspended while a whole generation disobeyed God and wandered in the wilderness for nearly 40 years (EBCNT).
1) Genesis 17:7-14, "'And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. And I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.' God said further to Abraham, 'Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations.  This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised. And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you.  And every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations, a servant who is born in the house or who is bought with money from any foreigner, who is not of your descendants. A servant who is born in your house or who is bought with your money shall surely be circumcised; thus shall My covenant be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. But an uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.'"
A) When God reaffirmed his covenant with Abraham, promising him the land of Canaan, he warned him that anyone who was not circumcised would be violating the covenant.

B) For Israel circumcision marked one's entrance into the covenant community.

2) So now God commands Joshua to reinstate circumcision after it had been neglected during the forty years in the desert.

3) This act of circumcision was Israel's recognition of God's faithfulness to his promise, and was Israel's response to the stipulated sign of the covenant (NCWB).

C. The Conquest had to be delayed until the men recovered (EBCNT).
1) Since the circumcision had to be performed at this crucial moment shows how foundational the covenant relationship was between God and Israel.

2) Israel's willingness to be circumcised was an outward evidence of an inward faith (JIS).

Application: We are reminded in these opening verses that God doesn't function on our timetables. He has a way of making us bide our time, until we are prepared to follow His directions (MOT). The most important thing that the Israelites had to take care of first wasn't conquering the land, but conquering their hearts. They had neglected the basic principles of their faith so they needed to put things right in their spiritual life. The act of circumcision was only an outward sign of their inward condition. Romans 2:28-29, "For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God." This is the same for Christians today. Many people think that they are right with God because they have their name on a membership roll, or because they have been baptized, but they live like they are racing to hell. Just as these Jewish men had to submit to God's will, so believers today must yield to the Spirit of God and allow Him to make true in their personal experience what God says is true in His Word (BS). The first step in mending any broken fellowship is for the believer to return to God's Word and obey it.

2. Recognize His willingness to restore fellowship (v.9).

A. No one is sure exactly what this verse means.
1) Some believe that this means that the Israelites, now reestablished as the covenant people in the Land of Promise, had been delivered from their national disgrace of enslavement and homelessness (EBCNT).

2) J. Vernon McGee believes this verse is a reference to the fact that the rite of circumcision had been neglected during the wilderness wanderings (McGee).

B. I think the best explanation is the simplest, and that Israel's past unfaithfulness had now been put right, and thus their reproach from the time of their enslavement and their disobedience in the wilderness had now been "rolled away."
- "Gilgal" in Hebrew means "the rolling" (Ryrie).
Application: One of the greatest truths taught throughout the Bible is God's willingness to reach out to fallen man. God was the first to seek out Adam and Eve when they sinned. God reached out to Noah and his family to save them from a godless world that was doomed. From Genesis to Revelation, it is God who has sought to restore the broken relationships between Him and man. If fact man is incapable of seeking God on their own, Romans 3:11, "There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God." God's goodness is shown here in that even though Israel had broken their covenant with Him, He did not forget His promise to Abraham, and He once again reached out to fallen man to restore His relationship with them. The same God that reached out to the backslidden nation Israel is also willing to forgive backslidden Christians. A lot of believers today struggle with this issue. Some believe that they have lost their salvation and that their walk with God cannot be restored. Others suffer from guilt and will not allow themselves to be forgiven, but God's Word tells us that God is able and willing to forgive those who come to Him; 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." We need to remember that when Christ died for our sins on the cross He died for them all, even the ones we will commit in our future. We need only to acknowledge our sins to Him to restore our fellowship with Him.

II. Remember God's Goodness (vv.10-12).
1. Learn from the past (v.10).

A. The Israelites now celebrated the Passover in the Promised Land on the same day of the year as they celebrated it before leaving Egypt (JIS).
1) It is no accident that God got the Israelites into the Promised Land just in time to celebrate the Passover.

2) Israel had celebrated the Passover only two previously--when leaving Egypt and at Sinai (Exod 12:2, 6, 18; Num.9:1-5), it had been neglected during the wilderness wanderings.

A) This was only the third Passover the nation had observed.

B) The first was observed in Egypt the night before their deliverance from bondage and oppression (Ex. 12:1-28).

C) The second was observed at Mount Sinai just before the people broke camp and moved toward Canaan (Num. 9:1-5).

3) The Passover had been neglected during the years of rejection and wandering, just as circumcision had been (EBCNT).
B. It is also important to recognize that the without circumcision the Israelites would have been unqualified to participate in this important event (Ex. 12:43-44: BKC).

C. No doubt many an Israelite remembered how his father killed a lamb and sprinkled its blood on the door post and lintel (BKC).

1) Those now in Canaan could still hear the awful death cries of the Egyptians' firstborn.

2) Then there was the excitement of the midnight departure, the terror of the Egyptian pursuit, and the thrill of walking between walls of water to escape Egypt.

3) Now they were reliving it again.

4) As the lambs were slain they were assured that as the Red Sea crossing was followed by the destruction of the Egyptians, so the crossing of the Jordan would be followed by the defeat of the Canaanites.

Application: Remembering the past was an excellent preparation for the tests of the future (BKC). It was important for Israel build their faith upon God's faithfulness in their past. The Passover meal was a reminder of God's love for His people, and His willingness to preserve them. It was a reminder of what happens when they put their faith into action by being obedient to God's Word. Those who obeyed God's Word, their first born male children were spared from the hands of death. With the reestablishment of the Passover meal, it marked their reconciliation with God and that the Israelites needed to start a new life with Him in the Promised Land. The same is true for Christians today when we partake of the Lord's Supper. If done correctly, that is in the right attitude, it should help to keep our fellowship with the Lord strong as we examine ourselves and reflect upon meaning of the elements. We too have a future with the Lord as we have been promised and reminded in the Lord's Supper that our Lord will return someday, and we partake of this memorial together with the Lord.

2. Don't live in the past (vv.11-12).

A. God had promised to bring Israel into a land of abundance, "a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey" (Deut. 8:8).
- Now at last they had tasted the fruit of the land and realized it was a foretaste of blessings to come (BKC).
B. This abundance of food led to the discontinuance of the manna (NCWB).
1) The fact of its ceasing teaches that God acts in miraculous ways when needed.

2) Now that His people had sufficient food supplies, the miraculous manna was no longer needed.

Application: The Passover reminded the Israelites of their redemption from Egypt, while the manna reminded them of their desire to go back to Egypt (BS). This Old Testament account reminds us that God's provision is suitable for our present circumstances. For God to have continued to provide manna would have made the people dependent in an unhealthy way. He is more likely to intervene in a supernatural way when there is no natural source of supply. These two verses serve to remind us that change is a fact of life, and God's resources are sufficient to help us live creatively with any change (MOT). Likewise as Christians we are reminded of this same truth in Philippians 4:19, "And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus." Manna was now a thing of the past along with their old life, now Israel was to look towards the future and their new life with the Lord. When a believer confesses their sins to the Lord and is forgiven, his walk with the Lord is restored fully. We should look forward in our walk with the Lord and not long to go back.

III. Submit To The Lord's Leadership (vv.13-15).
1. Recognize the Lord's headship (vv.13-14a).

A. It is evident from the context that this was not a mere vision, but an actual appearance; the suddenness made Joshua uncertain whether it was friend or foe (NCWB).

B. What Joshua experienced here what is called a "theophany" (the-off-uh-nee), a manifestation of God in visible form (JIS).

1) This is a physical manifestation of God, and is sometimes referred to as a "Christophany" (Moody).

2) Some simply refer to this as the "Pre incarnate Christ."

3) Other terms that have been used throughout the Old Testament are "the angle of the Lord," "the angel of God," and here in this verse, "the captain of the host of the Lord" (Showers).

4) A theophany usually refers to an appearance of Christ in human form in the Old Testament (e.g. Gen.18; Judg.6).

C. Regardless of what title you want to put on this, it is clear that Joshua worshiped the captain of the host, and no angel would accept this--so this had to be Christ.
1) We know from the Scriptures that angels refused to be worshiped.

2) Revelation 19:10, "And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said to me, 'Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.'"

Application: Joshua had to recognize that he was second in command. It's when we start putting our own desires above God's is when we get ourselves into trouble. Israel had learned this lesson the hard way and Joshua wasn't about to repeat it. It's doubtful that anybody else in the camp of Israel knew about Joshua's meeting with the Lord, but that meeting made the difference between success and failure on the battlefield. Watchman Nee wrote, "Not until we take the place of a servant can He take His place as Lord" (BS). This same truth was taught by Jesus Christ to his disciples when He washed their feet in John 13:15-17, "For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master; neither is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them." As Christians, we have no right to call Jesus our Lord if He's not the captain of our hearts. We, like Joshua, must recognize who's second in command. It is never a question whether God is on our side but whether we are on God's side (EBCNT).

2. Humble yourself before the Lord (v.14b).

A. A part of recognizing God's sovereignty is to humble ourselves before Him.

B. Joshua bowed down before the Lord.

1) "fell,"("naphal" {naw-fal}); to be cast down, to fall prostrate, prostrate oneself before.

2) "bowed down," ("shachah" {shaw-khaw}); to bow down (before God in worship).

C. The adoption by Joshua of this absolute form of prostration demonstrates the profound reverence he had for the divine visitor (NCWB).
Application: Again, to be humble means that you must first recognize your position before the Lord. Joshua humbled himself, even though he was the leader of millions of people, he recognized his true position before the Lord. This portion of Scripture also gives us a clue about worship. Can a prideful person really worship the Lord Jesus Christ if they have not surrendered their lives to Him first? True worship of God doesn't depend upon the music director or the music. It doesn't depend upon how good the pastor can preach. But it does depend upon a heart that seeks the presence of the Lord and will bow its heart in His presence. Joshua had to humble himself so that God could lift him up to where He wanted him. One of my favorite passages is James 4:10, "Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you." The word picture that the Apostle James uses is that of cutting off your mountain top so that God can lift you up. In other words we need to come down off our mountains of human pride so that God can elevate us to a position that make us useful to Him. A part of making sure that we have a right relationship with God is that we must first recognize our position before Him.

3. Seek the Lord's will in how you will serve Him (v.14c).

A. Joshua sought the Lord's direction, not his own direction.

B. Joshua realized that the Lord was right there with him, and he needed to be open to Him (MOT).

Application: Very few believers today seem to be asking what the Lord wants them to do. Christians want to go where Churches offer them the most programs or excitement. When times get tuff in a Church, most believers don't seek the Lord's direction but instead look to see where the closest exit is. Joshua didn't seek a way out of the circumstances that he found himself in, but instead wanted to know what God wanted him to do. Joshua sought the Lord's direction not only for his life, but for his nation. Wouldn't it be great if as Christians, we sought what was best for our church body before we sought what was best for us? I think most of us would find that the two go hand in hand. Not only should we seek the Lord's direction, but we need to take time to listen to His answer.

4. Give reverence to the Lord (v.15).

A. Instead of Joshua rushing into battle, he first needed to take time to be holy (BS).

B. The ground was holy because Jesus Christ is holy.

Application: Sometimes as Christians we forget this truth, that Jesus Christ is holy and righteous. We talk much about our personal relationship with Him, but we forget that when we are in His presence it is holy ground. Too often the prevailing attitude is that Jesus is like some human friend whom we can choose to treat any way we please, when we want. Yes, Jesus Christ is a very personal Savior, but He is still God and very holy, and He deserves our reverence. The ground may be level at the cross, but we are not equal with Christ and should never treat Him as such.

Truths to Ponder:
1. We must be spiritually prepared is we are going to do the Lord's work.

A. This means we must first make sure that our fellowship with the Lord is right.

B. Never forget that we have a God of reconciliation.

1) He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to reconcile the lost world to Him if they will accept His gift of grace (Relationship).

2) God will reconcile the backslidden believer who confesses their sins to Him (Fellowship).

2. We must always put our trust in the Lord.
A. We can trust the Lord because He has always been faithful, and still is faithful today.
- We need to only look at our past to see this is true.
B. To walk with the Lord we must not cling to the past but cling to the Lord as He leads us.
3. We must always submit to the Lord's leadership.
A. This means we put His desires before our desires.

B. This means we must recognize our position before the Lord and that He is a holy and righteous God.

C. Instead of rushing into battle, we need to take time to be holy first.

- This means that we should never run ahead of God, nor lag to far behind Him either.

Study References

BKC - John Walvoord & Roy Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Old Testament ed).
BS - Be Strong; putting God's Power to Work in Your Life, by Warren Wiersbe.
EBCNT - Zondervan's, Expositor's Bible Commentary, New Testament.
JIS - Journey Into Success, by Tommy C. Higle
Moody - The Moody Handbook of Theology, by Paul Enns
MOT - Mastering the Old Testament, vol.6, Joshua, by John Huffman.
McGee - J. Vernon McGee, Joshua and Judges (commentary).
NCWB - New Commentary on the Whole Bible, J. D. Douglas gen. ed. (Old Testament Volume).
Showers - Those Invisible Spirits called Angels, by Dr. Renald Showers.

Hebrew Study Reference Tools

. Analytical Key to the Old Testament, by John Owens, Baker Books, Grand Rapids MI, 1999
. Bible Works 4.0 for Windows, Hermeneutika Bible Research Software, Big Fork MO., 2nd edition.
. Biblical Hebrew; An Introductory Grammar, by Page Kelley, Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids MI, 1992
. Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, by E. Brown, S. Driver, and C. Briggs, Hendrickson Publishers, 1996
. The Complete Word Study Bible & Reference CD, by Dr. Spiros Zodhiates, AMG Publishers, 1997
. Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament, by H.W.F. Gesenius, Baker Books, Grand Rapids MI, 1994
. Nelson's Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament, Merrill Unger and William White Editors, Thomas Nelson
    Publishers, Nashville TN, 1980.
. The New Englishman's Hebrew Concordance, by Wigram, Hendrickson Publishers, 1984.
. New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology, Willem VanGemeran, General Editor, Zondervan Publishing
    House, Grand Rapids MI, 1997
. Old Testament Parsing Guide, by Todd Beall, William Banks and Colin Smith, Broadman & Holman Publishers, Nashville
    TN, 2000.
. Wilson's Old Testament Word Studies, by William Wilson, MacDonald Publishing Co. McLean VA, (note dated).