Joshua 5:2—3, “At that time the LORD said unto Joshua, Make thee sharp knives, and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time. And Joshua made him sharp knives, and circumcised the children of Israel at the hill of the foreskins.”
In Joshua 5, the next generation of Israel stands ready to claim the promise that the previous generation had refused. This generation also stood there lacking the sign of the covenant – circumcision. Obviously, this topic is a sensitive one; touching on a private aspect of humanity, but it must be understood before we move forward. Circumcision was the token, the sign (one could say memorial) of God’s covenant relationship with Abraham and his descendants (see Gen. 17:10-14). From Abraham would come a mighty nation that would inherit the Promised Land, and from whom God would bless not just them but all nations. That was the covenant, and circumcision physically marked them as a separated, holy nation (Exodus 19:5-6). It reminded them that their bodies belonged to God. Therefore, circumcision was a graphic symbol of the need for removing sin. This physical operation on the body was always meant to symbolize a spiritual operation on the heart. “Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked” (Deuteronomy 10:16; c.f. Romans 2:25-29; Colossians 2:11). Circumcision was an outward symbol of their national identity, and it was also to symbolize an inward reality of their relationship to God. On the precipice of conquering Canaan, the first place to which Joshua leads them is not Jericho but to renewal. The nation of Yahweh could not move forward without the sign of Yahweh’s covenant.
Today, individual believers and local churches must understand that we cannot faithfully move forward along the path that the Lord is leading if we are unfaithful and disobedient in what He has commanded. Consider this believer, if your fellowship with Christ is cold, if you’re simply going through the motions, if you are not following Christ as you should, then you are backslidden and have arrived at the place of renewal. We cannot claim the victory God has promised if we are not following the basics of the Christian walk. As you stand at the crossroads today, which direction do you need to take in order to move forward?