When Obedience Doesn’t Make Sense

By: Jenny Stricklin
It was a new day for a new generation. After 40 long years in the wilderness, they were finally about to enter the promised land. And not without some fanfare. God had just shown off in a dramatic, Red Sea Part II kind of moment. Thousands of Israelites passed over the Jordan River on dry ground. And to make sure no one dared forget, they’d situated twelve stones at their camp as a reminder for their kids that God is real. And He’s powerful. And He’s faithful to His people.

In fact, that was the whole point of the miracle – that all the peoples of the earth would see and know the one true God!

And sure enough, the kings all around heard what the God of Israel had done. The Scripture says, “their hearts melted”. They were deflated and demoralized. If they had ever considered moving in on Israel, there’s no way they were going to attempt that now.

Israel was winning! They’d just been on the receiving end of a massive miracle. Their rivals were scared.  The morale was high. I can just imagine the hype! They were ready to conquer this long-awaited land—now was the time!

And yet, it was at that moment that the Lord interrupted their pep rally: “I want you to circumcise all your men,” He said to Joshua.

Um. Excuse me. What? These men were about to go to battle! They were gearing up for conquest!

But circumcision was a big deal. It was a mark of the covenant God made with Abraham, a sign that the Israelites were His set apart people. The problem was that a whole generation of men had not received the mark as infants like they should have. This was serious and disgraceful and, according to the covenant, warranted rejection as God’s chosen people.

God was making a point here, specifically for the next generation.

He’d told them before to remember His faithfulness. But now He seemed to be adding, ”Don’t just remember! Respond! Take on the responsibility that your fathers carried. Keep the covenant. Be sanctified and set apart.” We see this same idea under the New Covenant. Romans 12:1 says, “In view of God’s mercies, offer your bodies…holy and pleasing to the Lord.”

Sometimes being set a part can feel like a setback. But in faith, Joshua obeyed immediately and completely. And it moved God to action. Joshua 5:9 says that God “rolled away their reproach”. He lifted their shame.  Anyone need Him to do that for you?

After Joshua submitted to God in this act of consecration, He gets a visit from the Commander of the Lord’s army. Some even believe this to have been the preincarnate Christ. That’s a really big deal.

Over and over in scripture we see that wholehearted obedience invites the presence of God. And holiness sets the stage for holy ground moments. I think we all want the holy ground moments. But are we willing to pay the price in holiness and obedience?

We are now God’s covenant people, set apart for a watching world to see His glory. It’s a new day for a new generation. How will we respond?
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