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Before Joshua and the first generation could enter the promised land proper, they had to be circumcised all over again, for not one of them had been circumcised in the desert.  In Joshua 5.4 we are told the reason why and All the people that came out had been circumcised, but all the people born in the desert during the journey from Egypt had not.  They were still uncircumcised because they had not been circumcised on the way.  Which meant that their fathers who spent 40 years in the desert going from campsite to campsite did nothing to ensure that their own sons and daughters complied with God’s law even though they had plenty of time to do so… 40 years in the desert and not one person circumcised his sons.  And when they had done that, God said to them, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.”

What was the reproach of Egypt that God was speaking of?  We know that many times that first generation looked back to Egypt whenever things got tough.  In Exodus 14.11, as soon as they were in danger, they turned back and remembered the graves of Egypt, saying, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt…”  In Exodus 16.3, when there was no meat, they remembered the meat of Egypt, saying, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt!  There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”  In Exodus 17.3, when there was no water to drink, they remembered the waters of Egypt, and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”  Finally, when Moses was away for 40 days with the Lord, they turned back to the gods of Egypt and had Aaron make a calf for them in Exodus 32.1, “Come, make us gods who will go before us.”

The reproach of Egypt was the way the Israelites of the first generation kept going back to the way things were… to their Egyptian graves, water, food and gods, and when they encountered the fortified cities of Canaan, they reverted back to the way war was waged in Egypt.  You see, they had no siege weapons or chariots like the Egyptians, and as such, they could not see how lightly armed infantry could win against well armed men and fortified cities.  Their thinking, their mindset, indeed their culture was still very much Egyptian by the time they came to Canaan.  They were still not only wearing the clothes of Egypt… but also the thoughts of Egyptians.  They had not turned around completely in their thinking or in their very culture.  They were not Israelites, they were Egypto-Israelites.  Israelites by name, Egyptians by thought, culture and everything else.  For them, the old was better than what they now had in the desert.  They were incredibly hankering for the old wine, as we say.

Unfortunately and fortunately, they cannot be blamed.  Even though they were slaves in Egypt, Egypt and all its ways were all they knew.  They knew everyone died in Egypt, and there was always water, vegetables and meat to eat because the Nile never ran dry.  They knew that in Egypt you worshipped more than one god and you showed that by making an image.  As well as that, the warfare of Egypt dictated that you needed chariots, not just infantry.  So, even though they walked out of Egypt free from slavery, they carried on them the clothes and finery of Egypt, and in them all the traditions, cultures and experiences of Egypt.  They were at best… only Israelites or Hebrews by name, but they were Egyptians through and through.  And when they arrived at Canaan, they were still Egyptians, even though they had now received the laws for Israel and the tabernacle.

The instructions given to them by God from the eating of the Passover to the arrival at Canaan were all the instructions that when followed and obeyed, would give rise to their own social and religious culture, as well as a new mindset.  The Sabbath rest, the feast days, the tabernacle worship.  Those were the new threads that would make up the fabric of their new society – Israel.  With that, the miraculous provisions of manna, quail, water, the cloud by day, the column of fire by night, their personal experience of having their God speak to them from the top of the mountain, and having men like Moses and the 70 elders who have the testimony of eating in the presence of God.  These things with the laws that governed their behaviour were the means by which their mindset would be changed and their behaviour would be changed until they were truly Israelites without a trace of Egypt left in them.  Perhaps the time for them to go from the Red Sea to Canaan was too short, but for whatever reason, when they arrived at Canaan, they were still thinking, speaking and acting like Egyptians.  Indeed, they said, “Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt? We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”

Egypt was always on their minds, hearts and tongues, as well as in their actions.  For they were delivered out of Egypt by the mighty arm of the Lord with signs and wonders, but there was no repentance needed for them from sin, for they were not under any law, for the law was not given until the night of the Passover.  The only thing they had to do was to have faith in God and believe in the one He had sent – Moses.  The truth was they did not really believe in Moses except when the miracles were completed, and even then, the story of Exodus shows us their faith in Moses was always fickle.  As soon as there was any difficulty, they would turn away from God and Moses, and accuse him of murder.  Not only would they turn away from God and His servant Moses, they would turn back to the land of slavery, Egypt, with all its harsh treatment, fear and death, and they forgot that they had been crying out to God to deliver them.

Their repentance from their lack of faith in God and Moses was never complete and certainly not absolute.  With their children however, except for Achan, it was a very different story.  40 years of living in the desert with all that their life consisted of, moving camp, observing the Sabbath, eating manna, the burnt offerings, and so on.  This generation was the first to develop a true Israelite culture, and because they were either too young to remember or were born outside of Egypt, they had no Egypt in them except for the stories of slavery and deliverance by God from slavery.  For them, Egypt offered only slavery, not graves, water, food or gods.  They already had their graves, water, food and God right here in the desert.  What they did not have were towns, houses, fields and land of their own and a life other than the desert.  For them, the conquest of Canaan was the answer to all their problems and they could see it.  Egypt was not the answer, the desert was not their home, Canaan was the future. 

So, when they were all circumcised at Gibeath Haaraloth, it marked the slant of a new beginning, almost a new covenant.  They would follow Joshua and obey him in a way their fathers never did with Moses, and there was no Egypt for them to contend with within their thoughts, hearts or mind, and what clothes they did have from Egypt were well and truly old.  Their march around Jericho for six days in silence, 500,000 marching in silence for six days, was the sign of how different they were from their forefathers.  The fact they were prepared to go to war without chariots and siege weapons showed how different their thinking was, even when it came to warfare.  There was no Egypt left in them.  Even Achan was tempted to sin, not by the gods of Egypt, but by a Babylonian robe and silver and gold.  One man amongst 500,000 plus disobeyed.  Even the initial battle plan against Ai was obeyed by the 3000 without question.  They were defeated not because of their sin, but because Joshua departed from God’s original plan, and Joshua’s plan could not cover for Achan’s sin.  Two wrongs do not make a right.  However, as I have said, had Joshua stuck to the battle plan of Jericho at Ai, then even Achan’s sin would not have mattered, even though Achan would have paid for it.  Those 36 men from the 3000 would have lived. 

In the same way, Christ’s obedience to God’s plan without deviation, once and for all covered all sins of those who belong to Him.  As they continued to resist any departure from Christ’s plans, their own personal sins would not have made any difference to the end result.  Peter’s denial of Christ and his speaking up against the things of God made no difference to God’s plans.  However, when they departed as a group from the commands and orders of Jesus, what happened at Ai to Joshua has been happening to us.

The original disciples suffered the same problem as the first generation of the Israelites.  For they were Jewish, and though they became disciples of Christ and were the new creation as their spirits were born again by the Holy Spirit, they carried in them their Jewish heritage and mindset and customs, and everything that did not work in their time can be traced to this one truth.  Their turning away from the observance of the law was not as complete as the way they were cut off from the law by the law for drinking the blood and eating the flesh of Jesus.

They still had on their hearts Israel, for the last question they asked Jesus in Acts was, “Lord, are You at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”  Their eagerness and lack of opposition to James the Younger’s recommendation in Acts 15 showed they held Jewishness dear to them.  As well as their habit of going to the temple to pray… as blood drinkers they had no right to be in the temple.  And of course the statement of Acts 21.20:  Then they said to Paul: “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law.”  In effect, they had raised up in Jerusalem a Judeo-Christian church, which in itself is an oxymoron.  You cannot have anything to do with a Christian if you are a Jew, and Judaism must automatically exclude all Christianity.  To think that there is such a culture as Judeo-Christianity is to be as deluded as the first generation of Israelites who thought they could go back to Egypt.

Think… they had left Egypt, and as a result of their deliverance from Egypt, the Egyptians suffered the loss of their economy, their sons and their army.  How stupid can you get and still live!  There was nothing waiting for them in Egypt but revenge by the Egyptians, nothing but damnation.  Even the graves of Egypt would not welcome them.  It was God’s kindness that He never permitted them to go back to Egypt again.

Likewise, anyone who has drunk the blood and eaten the flesh is cut off from the law.  You have committed the sin that makes you guilty of all other sins as well.  The definition of sin according to the law has been completely fulfilled in us who have eaten the flesh and drunk the blood of Jesus who fulfilled the law.  So, we are sinners saved by grace through faith in Christ.  Yes… but once we are saved, where do we go?  It is like Israel, now that you have marched out of Egypt with all its gold and treasures, and killed their first born sons and their army, where do you go from here?  One thing is certain, you cannot go back.  Thus, the repentance, the turning around, the turning away, the walking away from the old must be as absolute as the Israelites walking away from Egypt.  And as the Israelites journeyed away from Egypt, so their habits had to change… their food (manna), their water supply (from a rock and not a river), their religious service (sacrifices to the unseen God, not an idol), and so on and so on… until truly they were… a new nation that did not remind anyone of Egypt.

Likewise Jesus, as He began to raise up His disciples, began to show them through His signs and wonders and teachings the new that was coming, right up until John 6, with the eating of His flesh and blood, which would get them cut off from God according to the law.  John 6.53, for those who heard it and practised it, is like crossing of the Red Sea for Israel.  Once across, there is no way back, and even if you could, nothing but death awaits you. 

Likewise, nothing but death awaits all who go back to partial observance of the law.  It is just that by the grace of God the manner of death that happened to Stephen as well as all the apostles who went back to partial observance of the law in any manner is martyrdom.  Beginning with Stephen whose entire speech of 53 verses never once mentioned the Name the Father gave Jesus.  He spoke of Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, Jacob and Moses by name, and he mentioned God, the Lord, the Most High, the Holy Spirit and the Righteous One… but never the Name that had been given by which all men are saved – Jesus.  The only Name that affords protection so that not one disciple was lost except the one condemned.  The only Name given to He who is the Life, the Way, the Truth and the Resurrection.  Even Paul died because he agreed to the suggestion of the elders in Acts 21.  The introduction of the teachings of James ensured all Christians would now practise partial observance of the Law of Moses with the teachings of Jesus, and to date, the result of that doctrine speaks for itself by its silence, the silence of the graves that surrounds the church.  All have died and are awaiting the promise of John 11.25.  There are no witnesses amongst the disciples of Jesus to bear witness to John 11.26… “and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die.”  Again I remind you, Enoch and Elijah were not disciples or even believers of Jesus Christ… of God, yes… of Jesus, no.

All the miracles of Jesus, like the miracles of Moses, are designed to destroy the old in such a way that there is no way back.  They were to destroy the old way…

  • When drunkenness was a sin, Jesus made good wine from unclean water;
  • When touching the dead was a sin, Jesus raise the dead and touched them;
  • When touching lepers was a sin, Jesus healed the lepers;
  • When bread had to be bought or it came from Heaven, Jesus multiplied it in His hands;
  • When demons were not to be spoken to, Jesus asked for their name and told them to be quiet;
  • When an adulteress was to be stoned, Jesus let her live;
  • When no one is born blind except for the sins of the fathers or their own sins, Jesus said it was so that the work of God could be displayed in his life;
  • When they walked across the sea and river on dry land, Jesus walked on the water;
  • When association with Gentiles was not allowed, Jesus offered to go to their house to heal the sick.

Just like the 12 miracles of Moses so destroyed Egypt and made the Hebrews pariah to the Egyptians, so the miracles of Jesus destroyed all that the Jews held dear in their version of the law and made Jesus and therefore all His disciples pariah to the teachers of the law and those who are zealous for the law.

Instead, like the Israelites shamelessly complaining to God about the availability of graves in Egypt, the water and food and gods of Egypt, whilst conveniently forgetting the slavery of Egypt, so we have embraced the law that Christ set us free from and embraced its teachings in part… the parts that suit us (just like the Hebrews) and observed them, throwing them in God’s face in the same way the Israelites threw their comments in God’s face.

There was no absolute repentance by the first disciples, no absolute turning around from the obsolete law and complete, unencumbered, unconditional obedience to the words and practices of Jesus.

To listen to Jesus is to listen to One whom the law must judge as blasphemous, for He preached disobedience to the law by the drinking of His blood and eating of His flesh.  When Jesus said He is the Son of God, it is not blasphemy for He was speaking the truth.

To practise the words of Jesus and to attempt to do what He has been doing is to practise that which is considered sin by the law. 

  • For to raise the dead, you have to touch the dead (even though Elisha and Elijah both did it and lived);
  • To forgive the adulteress is to disobey the law;
  • To touch a leper is to make oneself unclean by the law;
  • To change water to good wine is to encourage drunkenness;
  • To say that looking with lust in your heart is adultery is to make adultery universally available to all who can see;
  • And so on.

Just as the first generation’s delusional fond memories of Egypt killed them all in the desert, so the delusional fondness for the partial observance of the law by the first disciples to all who call themselves Christians, has buried them all and will continue to bury them unless, like the second generation, we come to the place of absolute repentance.  We come to our own Gibeah Haaraloth, and once more, circumcise ourselves so that the reproach of the law can be rolled away from us.  And we enter the promised land with absolute resolve to obey God by listening to Jesus only.  Like those of Joshua’s day, we must see that the law has nothing to offer us except death and the dry desert conditions of religion that serves no purpose.

We can thank God our Joshua is the Holy Spirit and He does not make mistakes like Joshua.  He will always do exactly what God has in mind, say exactly what God has in mind… and a church that listens to what the Holy Spirit is saying is like the Israelites of Joshua… listening as they marched around Jericho in silence… waiting, listening for that order – “Shout!”  Each one listening so intently that no one spoke, for fear they missed the command and failed to shout and had to be sent back into the desert.

It is all new!  The old is gone, not just passed away, but gone!  There can be no turning back unless you want to die.  All who want to live and never die must press on into all that is of the new creation, the manifestation of that which God has in mind for those who have been salvaged.  Transformed, transfigured, born again into someone who bears little or no resemblance of what they were… men and women who can do the things that Jesus can do and even the greater things.  Sons and daughters who resemble nothing of the sons and daughters of the world who take their share of wealth and squander it, or those who guard their share and bicker about it with their father, or those who say yes to their father only to lie, or those who say no only to repent.

No, they, you, will be sons and daughters who in the very least will do what Jesus has done, that is, to obey the Father in all He commands you, and like Him, to even die to fulfil that commandment, to choose to die listening to Jesus than to live and not listen.  That is the least you will do.  And because Jesus is at the right hand of the Father and the Holy Spirit has been sent by Him, you will do the greater thing.  The greatest of the greater things is to be the son or daughter who does exactly what the Father would have commanded before the command is given.  The son who went after the prodigal brother before the father asked, the son who obeyed before he was commanded.  This is possible because the Holy Spirit is He who knows the thoughts of God, and when you are one with Him as Jesus is One with the Father… you too will know the thoughts of God, and knowing the thoughts of God will permit you to do what God would have commanded before a command is spoken.

So perfection comes and there is no need for tongues.  Silence… for God is in His holy temple… you, and you are in Him.  Prepare to march.

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