Joshua 5:1-12: The Next Generation

Read: Joshua 5:1-12: The Next Generation

The prior generation that had left Israel had by this time all died off. In the desert, they had not circumcised their sons. In response to this, God commanded Joshua to have them make flint knives and circumcise their sons. Circumcision was the sign of the covenant made between Abraham and God. God promised to make Abraham the father of many nations and that they would inherit the land of Canaan (Genesis 17, Exodus 3:17). The generation that died in the desert had faltered in their faith in the desert, and because of this, they were not allowed to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 14:32-34, Numbers 26:64-65). After they were finished with the circumcision, they ate food from the land, and the manna that God had been providing stopped (Exodus 16). God had provided the manna to the obstinate generation, but the new generation was the one who would inherit the land of Canaan and would eat of its produce.

The renewal of the sign of the covenant and the cessation of manna both point to a key transition in the history of Israel. The generation that had left Egypt had passed away, and God renewed his fervor with the new generation of Joshua, who had committed themselves to God. Manna was a blessing from God, but it ceased because the promise was being revealed. Jesus points out that manna, although was from God, still was not enough to grant them life, as the generation that left Egypt had died even though they ate manna. Jesus calls himself the “bread of life”, a metaphor speaking about the means to eternal life, saying that he who eats this bread will never die (John 6:49). Likewise, the sign of the covenant, circumcision, was just a sign. Paul points out that the reality of the matter is that circumcision is an outward maker of something more spiritually significant, and all those who have faith are the ones who are heirs to the promise (Romans 4) and that it was really not a matter of circumcision of uncircumcision, rather a matter of obedience (1 Corinthians 7:9). Paul quotes in Romans 4:17 from Genesis 17:4: God would make Abraham the father of many nations. The ultimate manifestation of this is revealed in Revelation 7:9 when there is a multitude from every tribe, tongue and nation worshipping before God.

The mighty works of God caused the hearts of the kings of the kingdoms of Canaan to melt and the spirit of their armies to fade. They realized that they were no match for an army whose God could part the waters of the Jordan and the Red Sea. The deeds of God had been declared and they were afraid. For those who oppose God, the same is true. The enemies of God fear God because of the mighty works he can do. God’s calling to his people is a calling to obedience – that is to follow the commandments of God by circumcising one’s heart as Paul calls it, alluding to the generation that chose to follow God (Romans 2:29, Deuteronomy 30:6). God is going to accomplish his mission one way or another and the call he gives is a call to obedience. Christians therefore have two options:

  1. Be obstinate like the generation in the desert and let the blessings pass to a future generation who is willing to obey God.
  2. Submit to God and obey him. These are the ones who get to see God work mightily in their generation toward the achievement of the grand vision of a person from every tribe, tongue, and nation worshipping before God!

God wants his people to choose to submit and obey.

Lord, I want to be a part of your mission! Help me to obey you in all I do!

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