To Cut Away
Sermon on Joshua 5:1-10
Title: to cut away
Theme: God’s people ought to cut away all that is unnecessary as they move to where God is moving them to be.
Goal: to encourage God’s people to cut away all that is unnecessary in their development as God’s people.
Need: God’s people often allow an unclean spiritual life to hinder their entrance into the promised land.
- Covenant Sign
- Covenant Submission
- Covenant Savior
Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,
An uncomfortable topic to talk about. Circumcision. Does it strike you as a little bit odd that after the Israelites have crossed over the Jordan River, they stop, the set up the 12 stones they had taken out of the middle of the Jordan. They do that so that all nations will know the power of God, and so that every generation of Israelite will be amazed and awestruck at the God who loves them so much. The very next thing, they circumcise all the males in the entire nation.
Really an odd and uncomfortable story God has preserved for us if you stop to think about it.
If God didn’t seem odd from time to time, wouldn’t that mean we have some problems with our image of God. We’d have him packed in tight. “Nope, no mysteries with God for me. I thought about it and yep. God pretty well fits the way I always thought he would.”
I hope not.
This passage especially raises interesting things about God and the way he related with the Israelite people. But, just like always, when we see God relating one way to the Israelites, we know there is truth there that we need to imbed in our own relating with God. Truth for our totally real relationship with him.
What’s more amazing, when we start to relate well with God, the best parts of our life and our world start to make sense as well. Will they be friction free? Nope, that’s the result of sin. But, catching what God is doing here with the Israelites can make us think differently about what you are going to do after you step back into your car, get back home, head to school, encounter co workers, as you face temptation. The relationship, the covenant relationship made real for you will get you ready to step into the promised land you have been waiting for.
The first encounter we have with the mystery of God in this passage is the command that God gives. Two commands really. Make flint knives!! Oh… Okay God, that’s what you want us to be doing…. I am on it. Actually make flint knives and circumcise.
The first part of the passage reminds Israel and reminds us of the Covenant Sign. God has an arrangement with his people. Circumcise your males as a mark that you are my chosen and loved people.
Quite the sign. Couldn’t it be a little bit easier? Don’t you think Abraham would have thought for a second, “How about a secret handshake instead.”
The question it raises in my mind is, why circumcision, could there have been any number of different ways to show the covenant? I don’t really know aside from the symbolism that accompanies it holds so much meaning. A entering into a covenant- making an agreement of that kind was a bloody event. It included the sacrifice of animals. In fact, the word they used for making a covenant agreement was the word cut. They would cut a covenant. Cutting and the blood are potent symbols of covenant.
Also the symbol of cleanliness is important with circumcison. The removal of a dirty, “unclean” part of the body was important. In the new testament you hear the Pharisees talking about clean and unclean people. Part of that had to do with being circumcised.
But, God never intended the sign of the covenant to be simply a physical cutting away of something unclean. It was supposed be much deeper than that. The people of God, when they enter into a relationship with God ought to be cut to the heart.
Deuteronomy 30:6 says, 6The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.” Cut to the heart. The Israelite people were supposed to see in this ceremony that their hearts were supposed to be clean and free from sin.
Today the sign of the covenant is much easier. It is baptism. In baptism, we are supposed to be cut to the heart. The tumors of sin or the stains of evil come off when we are baptized by the power of God’s Holy Spirit.
With that sign as well comes a simlar message of getting rid of all that hinders. Hebrews 12:1 1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
In our relationships with God we come to these points where he has led us along the way. As a church God has brought us through some pretty significant times. For this congregation to be here even still in this 60th anniversary year of the congreation, God has brought us through so much. But as we look ahead at the next phase of life as a church and ministry center in this community, we need to remember that we ought to be cut to the heart.
You might have been baptized in this church 45 years ago as a little baby, or been welcomed here in the last couple of years as a grown person. Your relationship with Christ might be fresh and new, or old and experienced. But we all need to be circumcised in our hearts. We all need to have what is unclean cut away. Sin. It shouldn’t be here. Trouble and difficulty, they cling to our insides. We need the cleansing by Jesus Christ.
Baptism sounds way easier as the way to join with Christ today than circumcision during the Old Testament times. Well, it may not hurt as much physically to be baptized, but what remains the same still is that with the sign of the relationship, we also much have a submission to the relationship, the covenant with God. That’s the second thing I want to highlight in the passage. The crazy act of submission to the covenant.
Submission to the covenant looks like this in our passage. A huge gathering of people, already with their weapons in hand, needing to be healthy and strong to defeat the people who have been in the land God promised to Israel. They stop and they intentionally injure themselves with circumcision. The enemy nations all around could attack these Israelites at any moment. And here their warriors are in no shape for battle. Well, not like we would think.
That’s how it happens with God. Like a trained athlete, we need to prepare for the race of life. A spiritual race. Often what seems like important to life preparation is anything but. We aren’t victorious because of our own natural abilities or physical readiness. We aren’t victorious over sin death and hell, because we got it right somewhere down the line and we put the devil in a headlock. Not at all. We are victorious over sin and death, and we are champions in life when we submit to our God and the type of relationship he wants from us.
God wants the best for us. He does. He tells us that over and over again. But the best is only the best when it is God’s best. Our best is like looking through the wrong end of the telescope. Good luck trying to see the depths of outspace that way. You got the equipment, just let the expert show you how to get the most out of it. God has our best. Let him show us what that looks like. We will not have that unless we allow ourselves to be vulnerable to attack. Step out on a limb. Get out of the boat. And dozens of other cliches. It doesn’t matter how cliché it is, just do it. Can we do that? All together, submit to whatever our coveant relationship with God leads us into.
The covenant sign of circumcision is important. Submitting to it the pain and the vulnerability that come with a relationship with God is something we shouldn’t shy away from.
Finally, we need to realize that all this covenant talk is made perfect through Jesus Christ, our Covenant savior.
Let’s look back at Hebrews 12 again.
1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
We lock our selves into Jesus Christ. He is the author of our relationship with God. He is the one who makes that relationship perfect. Jesus went to the cross. Remember how important blood is in the covenant and relationship with God. Baptism doesn’t have any blood. Where’s the blood. Jesus Christ. The Cup remember is the blood of the covenant! The blood of the relationship. Jesus fulfills the blood required by the covenant sign.
Jesus Christ fulfills the covenant submission. True covenant submission for us would be to suffer all the wrath of God for our sins. Hebrews 12 says Jesus scorned the shame of the cross. He endured the worst torment, spiritual emotional, physical, so that we wouldn’t have to and because we couldn’t. Through Christ’s Covenant Submission we are welcomed into Christ’s promised land.
This week, take a look at where your covenant relationship with God is at. First all, have you received the sign of baptism. Have you cut a covenant with God, saying that you have a changed heart, ready get rid of the sin that chokes your heart and soul? If you have, then which best are you striving for, you own goals and plans and purposes in life, or have you submitted. Have you accepted the pain and the winding road that submitting to Christ might include.
Has your life been transformed into a covenant life?