Entering a new century, something very few of us have experienced in the past, is an appropriate time to examine the tone of our spiritual health, our devotion to Christ, our submission to the word of God, and a time to put our spiritual house in order. Recognizing that an assembly of God’s people is only as strong and vibrant as the spiritual life of those in fellowship, a personal evaluation is timely. In this age of convenience and instant gratification we must awaken from the spiritual malaise that is slowly paralyzing and neutralizing many.
There are many useful lessons to be learned from God’s ancient people as they faced critical times in their long history. When they crossed the Jordan and passed into the land of Canaan there was one place above many that figured prominently in their lives – Gilgal. We will take a brief look at four occasions when Israel resorted to Gilgal.
Gilgal – The Place of Rest and Refreshment
The Lord had delivered Israel from the hand of Pharaoh and the bondage of Egypt 40 years earlier. They sojoumed in the wilderness all those years because they had not obeyed the voice of the Lord (Josh 5:6). The Lord in His mercy finally brought them to the banks of the Jordan which they crossed over as though on dry land, and encamped at Gilgal. There, these weary pilgrims found a place of rest and refreshment. It must have been a beautiful experience.
In these busy days when the many demands of every day living take up so much of our time and energy, we need times of spiritual rest and ref reshment. We need time for prayer, for the Word of God, for the gatherings of the assembly, and for fellowship with God’s people. Neglect of these privileges and opportunities are sigus of coldness of heart that lead to backsliding.
Gilgal – The Place of Remembrance
After crossing the Jordan, twelve men appointed by Joshua each carried a stone out of the place where the priests’ feet stood firm. Joshua used these stones to erect a memorial at Gilgal to remind Israel of God’s faithfulness to them and His mighty deliverance from the waters of Jordan.
While we may never visit the “holy land,” every believer should visit Calvary daily. It is the place to remember and to rejoice in the mighty deliverance from the penalty of our sin and the blessings of redemption. Remember Calvary – all that it means to God the Father, all that it means to the Lord Jesus Christ, and all that it means to you and me.
Gilgal- The Place of Spiritual Renewal
During the forty years of sojourning in the wilderness, Israel had neglected to circumcise the male children. Circumcision linked them to Abraham and God’s covenant promise that His people would possess the land.
The Passover feast instituted in Egypt had only been kept twice before, once in Egypt (Exod 12:1-28) and once on Mt. Sinai (Num 9:1-5). No uncircumcised Israelite could eat of the Passover and because of their disobedience they had forfeited the right to hold this feast for all those years.
Now, in obedience to the Lord’s direction, Joshua circumcised all the male Israelites at Gilgal and the reproach of Egypt was rolled away. Israel, now in submission to the will of God, is in a fit condition to observe the Passover. Gilgal is the place of spiritual renewal, where communion with God is restored. The application to us as believers is clear, obedience to the Word of God and submission to the will of God are paramount if we are to maintain fellowship and communion with the Lord. “But be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22).
Gilgal – The Place Where The Flesh is Judged
Amalek, grandson of Esau, was born “after the flesh” (Gen 36:12). He was the father of the Amalekites, sworn enemies of God’s people. “Then came Amalek” (Exod 17:8). God’s word to Saul was to destroy Amalek and spare them not, but in blatant disobedience he spared Agag the king (1 Sam 15:8). Samuel called for Agag to be brought before him and he hewed him in pieces at Gilgal.
Believers have three common enemies, the world, the flesh, and the devil. Every believer must keep the flesh in the place of death. If, like Saul, we spare the flesh we will walk after the flesh and our lives will be centered on self and prone to sin. If our supreme desire is to glorify God, our lives must be lived in victory over the flesh, by doing as Samuel did when he judged the flesh.
Personal commitment to the lessons of Gilgal – Rest and Refreshment, Remembrance, Spiritual Renewal and Judging the Flesh will bring glory to God, blessing to ourselves, and to the assemblies of God’s people.