“And it came to pass, when they had done circumcising all the people, that they abode in their places in the camp, till they were whole. And the LORD said unto Joshua, This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you. Wherefore the name of the place is called Gilgal unto this day.” Joshua 5:8-9
The rite (actually, a surgical procedure) of circumcision (performed on all the males) was somehow VERY IMPORTANT to the Lord. He had commanded it since the days of Abraham!
God to Abraham: “And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.” Genesis 17:11, a personal requirement. Then immediately, in the very next verse, a national requirement. “And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.” Every little baby boy!
But WHY is this so significant?
Our Text today supplies a “hint,” if not a “reason!”
Here it is once more, with some word emphasized, capitalized. “And it came to pass, when they had done circumcising all the people, that they abode in their places in the camp, till they were whole. And the LORD said unto Joshua, This day have I ROLLED AWAY THE REPROACH OF EGYPT from off you. Wherefore the name of the place is called Gilgal unto this day.”
God took something away (here called a “reproach”) from the Israelites that day. As if that excess skin being cut off each man’s body was a “symbol,” a “picture” of the PUTTING OFF of something!
And it is!
The putting off of the “flesh!”
I suppose God could have asked them to cut off a finger, a toe, etc. … BUT HE DID NOT. The message would have been essentially the same, either way. As followers of God … people must always be wary of the flesh, the body, which does not always cooperate with the things of God!
We owe a lot to the Prophets, and to Paul … for an understanding (spiritually) of what circumcision represents, even yet today in our Christian lives.
Deuteronomy 30:6 gets us started. “And the LORD thy God will CIRCUMCISE THINE HEART, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.” Hearts having been clipped of fleshly longings … so it is not just a physical thing.
Jeremiah is (typically) more blunt. “Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and TAKE AWAY THE FORESKINS OF YOUR HEART, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.” Jeremiah 4:4, hearts wrongly craving the sensual things of the flesh! See it, “hearts” circumcised again, a spiritual truth taught by a prior physical act!
Then Paul also shows us the metaphorical, typological, symbolic purpose of circumcision. “For he is not a Jew, which is one OUTWARDLY; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew, which is one INWARDLY; and circumcision is that of the HEART, in the SPIRIT, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” Romans 2:28-29
So … today’s lesson … every Believer in Jesus Christ … man or woman … can live a life of “excision” (“separation”) from the fleshly desires of our old sinful natures!
We can “put off” (parallel to “circumcise”) these things!
Paul again: “Now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.” Colossians 3:8, now THAT’S the principle of circumcision for us today!
— Dr. Mike Bagwell
By the way, in keeping with this central theme, the circumcision of Israel occurred at a place named “Gilgal.” Which means in Hebrew … “a rolling away!” Putting off the sins of the flesh!