Joshua 5 opens with these words:
Now it came about when all the kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan to the west and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea, heard how the LORD had dried up the waters of the Jordan before the sons of Israel until they had crossed, that their hearts melted and there was no spirit in them any longer because of the sons of Israel. At that time, the LORD said to Joshua, ‘Make for yourself flint knives and circumcise again the sons of Israel a second time.’ So Joshua made himself flint knives and circumcised the sons of Israel at Gibeath-haaraloth. This is the reason why Joshua circumcised them; all the people who came out of Egypt who were males, all the men of war, died in the wilderness along the way after they came out of Egypt. For all the people who came out were cicumcised but all the people who were born in the wilderness along the way as they came out of Egypt had not been circumcised.
God has always desired that his people be set apart, that there be a distinguishing mark upon them, that they be different. When the Hebrews crossed the Jordan to occupy the Promised Land, God marked them by circumcision. Circumcision was an outward sign of inward obedience. It was a physical act filled with spiritual meaning, a very important means of marking their identity as the people of God. It revealed the covenant relationship that God had with his people. Joshua set aside a whole day to perform mass circumcision. And God was pleased.
Throughout scripture circumcision is a metaphor for holiness. It is clear from the scriptures that the outward act of circumcision is of no avail without an inner commitment to the Word and the ways of God.
Moses complained that he had “uncircumcised lips” (Ex. 6:12), by which he meant his speech was not fit to participate in God’s program. Jeremiah spoke of uncircumcised ears, that is, ears unfit to hear God’s word. When Israel entered the Promised Land, they were to regard its fruit as uncircumcised for three years, but “In the fourth year all its fruit must be consecrated as a praise offering to the LORD” (Lev. 19:24).
Jeremiah issued the call to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, “Circumcise yourselves to the LORD; remove the foreskin of your hearts” (Jer. 4:4). A circumcised heart referred to the human intellectual-emotional-spiritual forum, where decisions were made. It was a call to radical spiritual surgery where the spirit was broken before the LORD, the heart was open and humbled, and the will was submissive to God. It provided the true identity of God’s people. It was a way that they would represent God to the world.
God still desires a holy people today. A holy person is not an odd person, but a distinct person. A holy person has a quality about their life that is different from the secular world. Their present lifestyle is not only different from past lifestyles, but is different from the lifestyles of the unbelievers around them. Those circumcised in heart are real, genuine, authentic.
Some people balk at being ‘different’. Why?
We don’t want to stand out of the crowd. We wear the same style of clothes, we talk similarly, we conform to the in things. What we fear most in life is being different. We have become an assembly line society, terrified of being set apart.
And, furthermore, we don’t like the idea of holiness because, we think, it communicates an attitude and displays actions that have become known as “holier-than-thou.” We disdain a spirituality and behavior that puts one on a pedestal as being better than the rest. We think that holy people live in far away monasteries, separate themselves from any kind of fun and frivolity, and trade in their luxury cars, comfortable homes, and well-paying jobs for a peace corps stint in a third world country. Consequently, we say, “No, thank you” to holiness.
But is that a true picture of holiness?
Holiness, being different, is none of that. Yet it is more than that.
It is thinking differently, living differently, talk differently and love differently.
It means simply that we are dedicated to order our lives according to the Eternal Word of God and strive consistently to conduct ourselves in keeping with His Word.
Our world today has a desperate need for people who are different. There is a mark about their lives that sets them apart. Living such a way, like circumcision, will not be easy, in fact, at times it will be painful. But it will make a difference iod and learn to walk in His ways.