Why Did God Require the Israelite Warriors Be Circumcised RIGHT BEFORE BATTLE?! #188
Happy Saturday to you, friends! Today will be the day that we set the all time BRP record for most chapters read in a day, so get ready to celebrate! We’re reading Joshua 5 and 6, Psalms 132-134, Isaiah 65 and Matthew 13 for a grand total of SEVEN chapters! Now, I need to let you know that Robert Murray M’Cheyne, the author of our Bible reading plan, only had us down for 5 verses in Joshua 6, with us finishing the passage tomorrow, but I said, “NO WAY, BOBBY!” We are going to read BOTH of those chapters today, and take a small break tomorrow. So, what are we doing engaging in all of this idle chatter…let’s cut right to our main topic…get it…cut?
Today we are talking about circumcision. Everybody knows that that means, right? No – you don’t know – ok, let’s Google the definition. Googling circumcision brings up this helpful little description at #1, “The action or practice of circumcising a young boy or man.” Okay, now that you know what it means…I’m sorry? You still don’t know? My bad – here is another definition, “the act of circumcising; especially : the cutting off of the foreskin of males that is practiced as a religious rite by Jews ” I only found ONE definition that didn’t use the ‘p’ word, and I went with that one so I wouldn’t giggle.
So, circumcision is a most delicate surgery that is usually done to babies shortly after they are born. I’m sure it hurts them, but as they aren’t walking around very much at less than a month old, perhaps it is easier for them to recover from it. Circumcision in an adult male, however, is a far more difficult thing. Circumcision in an adult male without any sort of anesthetic is an even more difficult thing. Circumcision in an adult male without any sort of anesthetic or antibiotics to help with recovery afterwards just keeps getting more and more difficult. Circumcision in an adult male USING A KNIFE MADE OF A ROCK LIKE FLINT and without any sort of anesthetic or antibiotics just sounds pretty agonizing. Now – imagine that situation RIGHT BEFORE THE BIGGEST BATTLE IN ISRAEL’S HISTORY UP UNTIL THAT POINT. Who would command such a thing? Imagine my beloved Crimson Tide ALL getting this surgery done right before the Iron Bowl…I would cry! But – God did something even more outrageous than that – let’s read.
Can you imagine the reaction that the Israelite army might have had after Joshua told them that God was commanding circumcision before battle? “He wants us to do WHAT?” “God wants us to CUT OFF WHAT?!” I imagine that this sort of thing wasn’t a huge morale booster, so why in the world would God want to do such a thing – this is the most counterintuitive thing I’ve ever heard of – it’s like shooting yourself in the foot before a race, only much, much worse. WHY?!
I believe the answer is, quite simply, God does not want His people relying on their own power, but on His power. Let’s see an example of this in King Hezekiah’s life:
32 After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah. He laid siege to the fortified cities, thinking to conquer them for himself. 2 When Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come and that he intended to wage war against Jerusalem, 3 he consulted with his officials and military staff about blocking off the water from the springs outside the city, and they helped him. 4 They gathered a large group of people who blocked all the springs and the stream that flowed through the land. “Why should the kings of Assyria come and find plenty of water?” they said. 5 Then he worked hard repairing all the broken sections of the wall and building towers on it. He built another wall outside that one and reinforced the terraces of the City of David. He also made large numbers of weapons and shields. 6 He appointed military officers over the people and assembled them before him in the square at the city gate and encouraged them with these words: 7 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. 8 With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah the king of Judah said.
2nd Chronicles 32:1-8
God was VERY clear with His people – there job was to cleave to Him, and He would cause them to be victorious. Not by cunning military strategy, not by overwhelming force, not by advanced technology, but by His power! As God asked Job:
Do you have an arm like God’s,
and can your voice thunder like his?
The most difficult thing I’ve ever had to learn is that God’s power is not perfected in my strength, but in my weakness. It is a lesson that I’ve learned so poorly, that God seems to delight in teaching me again and again. God is not about the business of making His people strong and mighty in and of themselves, but He is about the business of making our roots deep and strong in Him, so that He shines throughout our weakness. The apostle Paul puts it this way:
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2nd Corinthians 12:7-10
DId you catch that? God sent torment into Paul’s life to keep him from becoming prideful and to teach him to walk in human weakness so that he would walk also in the great power of God. We are not to rely on ourselves, but on our Heavenly Father. THIS dynamic, I believe, is why God called Joshua to circumcise those soldiers before battle, because the battle wasn’t their’s to win, but the Lord’s to win. And how did they win the battle? With their sword-fighting skills? No – with their walking and trusting in God – may we do the same!
Allow me to close with this powerful truth from Jeremiah 17:
5 This is what the Lord says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man,who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord. 6 That person will be like a bush in the wastelands;they will not see prosperity when it comes.They will dwell in the parched places of the desert,in a salt land where no one lives. 7 “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. 8 They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”