Israel Obeys the Covenant
“While the people of Israel were encamped at Gilgal, they kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month in the evening on the plains of Jericho” (v. 10).- Joshua 5:1–12
Dr. R.C. Sproul frequently encouraged believers to put ourselves in the shoes of the people described in the Bible so that we might have a better understanding of God’s purposes. Reading Joshua 3–5 in this way is very helpful. Imagine what it must have been like to be an Israelite about to enter the promised land. Moses, the renowned leader through whom God worked mightily, has recently died, and Joshua is a good man, but he isn’t Moses. You are about to fight against peoples more numerous than your nation (Deut. 34–Josh. 2). Naturally, you are afraid, even perhaps doubting that you can accomplish the conquest of Canaan.
What will it take for you to overcome this fear and doubt? Assurances that God will be with you just as He was with Moses and your ancestors. God gave these assurances to Israel. He promised to be with Joshua and the people (Josh. 1). He confirmed His presence by repeating the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea during the exodus when He stopped the waters of the Jordan River so that Israel could cross into Canaan. Israel learned from this that the same favor that was on Moses as Israel escaped Pharaoh was on Israel as Joshua brought them into the land (Ex. 14; Josh. 3). Moreover, the people crossed the river and then, as we see in today’s passage, celebrated the Passover during the same period when the very first Passover was celebrated on the night Israel left Egypt (Ex. 12:1–6; Josh. 4:19; 5:10). This reminded Israel of that great act of salvation forty years earlier, confirming that God was still with them. Finally, the Israelites who crossed the Jordan River were circumcised with flint knives after coming into Canaan (Josh. 5:1–9). Apparently, these descendants of the actual Israelites who went out of Egypt had not been circumcised—not surprising given their parents’ overall rebelliousness against God’s commands (Deut. 9:7). Moses’ son was similarly circumcised to remedy an earlier neglect of the sign (Ex. 4:24–25), and since God was clearly with Moses during and after that event, having something similar happen again assured the Israelites that God was with them as they followed Joshua.
Importantly, Israel’s circumcision and Passover keeping were acts of obedience by which they could demonstrate their faith. By keeping the covenant through obeying these rites (Gen. 17; Ex. 12), the Israelites recommitted themselves to the Lord, preparing themselves to receive their inheritance. When we obey the Lord, we show our commitment to Him and that we are ready to receive His blessings.
An outward act of obedience in itself does not prove that genuine faith is present, but we have no reason to believe genuine faith is present if we never see any outward acts of obedience to God’s covenant demands. True saving faith and obedience to God’s commandments go together, and those who have truly trusted in God for salvation will be concerned to obey Him.
Passages for Further Study
2 Chronicles 30; 35:1–19