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Joshua 5:9-12

Joshua 5:9-12 As the Israelites wandered the desert for forty years grappling with the promise of God to see the promised land, something godly was transpiring. In his book Dark Night of the Soul, St. John of the Cross writes of the divine fire, which “is introduced into the substance of the soul and united with it through perfect and complete purgation and purity, its flame, which is the Holy Spirit, wounds the soul by destroying and consuming the imperfections of its bad habits.”[1] Whilst the Israelites wandered in the desert a purging, a plan and a promise were being fulfilled by God. Each Israelite man, woman or child walking out of Egypt would have anticipated and expedited fulfillment to God’s promise, yet as they wandered doubt and criticism from other nations were heaped upon them. Egypt reproached the Israelites as they walked aimlessly in the wilderness for forty years, assuming God had abandoned them. Moses had predicted other nations looking upon the Israelites with disdain and punishing them for their sins.[2] As other nations were jeering, God was working actively. In verse 9 of Joshua chapter 5, God is coming good on His plan to “roll away” the shame of the Israelites. The Hebrew word גִּלְגָּ֔ל, which means to roll.[3] The shame of slavery, of suffering under the Egyptians, and the humiliation of being controlled by another nation was finished—they were leaving the wilderness to enter into a land of their own. The Lord here, through the circumcision of the men, is saying that He is fulfilling His promise, which is seen through the healing of the men during the Passover celebration. Our modern churches may not fully understand the impact of men needing to be circumcised. According to Exodus 12:48, no uncircumcised male could celebrate the Passover, so the Israelites honored God’s command. In the circumcising of the males, Israel is heralding their roots and celebrated God’s miraculous deliverance of them from Egypt. Passover marked a turning point for the Israelites and commemorated a time in the nation’s history, which had now come to an end. God honored his promise of provision and being with the Israelites as they wandered through the desert. As temporal people, our desire to know the final outcome limits our ability to see how God is working in the present. There is a tendency to focus too far in the future and misinterpret how God is working in the present, often leaving individuals with a removed sense of God. As a church, we can often set our sights on the end and miss how God is providing in the middle. The forty years were still a fulfilment of God to make good on His promise. Throughout the wandering Manna was miraculously provided for by God and the Israelites did not want for food. The Israelites camped near Jericho and “they celebrated Passover on the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month.”[4] This particular verse looks back to 4:19 where the Israelites were encamped near the vicinity of Jericho and were asked to prepare food. Here the Israelites were fulfilling their portion of the promise, as instructed by God for the day and hour to offer the lamb. Passover, the Jewish festival marking Israel’s redemption from Egypt, is also celebrated in Joshua as a way of ushering in a new chapter in God’s faithfulness to His people. The author of Joshua did not reference a lamb being sacrificed in association with the Israelites observing Passover in these verses, rather the event is significant. Here the Israelites are prepared for what God has and are celebrating provisions of food. God miraculously provided Manna during the wilderness wandering and now with the celebration of Passover a transition is happening. No longer did Manna appear for the Israelites as a tangible provision from God, the Israelites were to live off the land as promised. From the Passover forward the Israelites lived off the crops of the land of Canaan. After living on manna, a symbol for wilderness living, the Israelites were allowed to feast off the land. Manna had been a provision arriving back in Exodus 16, shortly after the Israelites escaped from Egypt. Some scholars would mention “unleavened bread and roasted grain” are not feasts of a new land after being in the wilderness for forty years. Rather looking at “unleavened bread and roasted grain”, we see an opportunity for quick consumption, a swift fulfilment of God’s provision. The picture painted through these verses in Joshua can provide hope for individuals who may be wandering through their own valleys/deserts. God is faithful in His promises, yet, not always in ways known to humanity. The Israelites may have desired the fast lane to Canaan, yet, what was learned in the middle? During the forty years wandering in the desert, the Israelites needed to yield further their spirits towards God’s provision. As a nation they were vulnerable to other nation’s attacks, needed provisions for their food, and they were walking along a path of disbelief and death. There are several individuals who have come across my path in resent months who’ve expressed a sense of desperation, of hopelessness, and a separation from God, they feel as if God has left them. Words often fall flat when trying to comfort people are in such a state, however, God’s faithfulness is proven throughout the entirety of scripture. God shows up in miraculous ways, God provides, and God is always near, even when he is not felt. St. John of the Cross writes further, “The very fire of love that afterward is united with the soul, glorifying it, is what previously assailed it by purging it, just as the fire that penetrates a log of wood is the same that first makes an assault on the wood, wounding it with the flame, drying it out, and stripping it of its unsightly qualities until it is so disposed that is can be penetrated and transformed into fire.”[5] Even though God may not lead everyone through forty years