Joshua 4:19, “ And the people came up out of Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and encamped in Gilgal, in the east border of Jericho.”
In Joshua 3-4 we read about the children of Israel passing over Jordan and arriving in Canaan. The first place they would encamp would be Gilgal. When reading through Joshua chapters 4 and 5, the Bible student will notice some similarities in this place (Gilgal) and the New Testament Church. In this effort, I’m certainly not able to completely cover the subject, but I would ask the reader to consider the following:
(1) Gilgal was the place where the memorial stones were placed (Joshua 4:20)! Every time an Israelite returned to Gilgal they would be able to look on those stones and have their mind stirred to the great blessings of God which they had experienced in times past. By thinking on those miraculous events, they would be encouraged in the Lord’s love and care for them as they would face the everyday troubles of life. And so, it is in the House of the Lord today. Each time we come together and worship the Lord, we are reminded of God’s grace and love for us. In the song service, in the prayers, and in the preaching of the gospel we are reminded of the Lord’s rich blessings on our life that we may be encouraged for the battle at hand.
(2) Gilgal was a place of sacrifice (Josh 5:10, “kept the Passover…”)! While thinking on this portion in the Word of God, our minds cannot fully comprehend the scene. With the number of families involved, there would be a great number of lambs slain during this time of service. The keeping of Passover required a sacrifice. In a similar manner, it is in the House of the Lord where we see the children of God making sacrifice to serve the Lord. In Romans 12:1, the Apostle Paul exhorts the reader to “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”
(3) Gilgal was a place of rest for Israel (Josh 4:19 and 20, “encamped” and “pitch”)! Gilgal was the place where the children of Israel would sit down for a while. They encamped and pitched their tents and rested from the journey. And so, it is in the New Testament Church. The children of God come to rest a while from all the billows and waves of troubles which they face in this world. In Hebrews 4:9 we read “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.” The Bible declares in clarity that the entire elect family will rest in the arms of Jesus some sweet and glorious day, but how often we fail to remember about the rest God has provided for us in His Church. What a rich blessing it is for a weary child of grace to come and sit down in the finished work of Christ and find a peace “which passeth all understanding” (Phil 4:7) in trusting in His strong arms of mercy.
(4) Gilgal was a place where the men of Israel humbled themselves to be Identified with the people of Israel by being circumcised (Joshua 5:2)! While in the wilderness for 40 years, a generation was raised up which were not circumcised as those of the nation had been before. After crossing Jordan, the nation set aside another time of circumcision that they would be identified as the children of Abraham. This event did not make them the children of Israel, but identified them as such. In the New Testament Church, it is in baptism where we find the children of God being identified as part of God’s family. Baptism does not make one a child of grace, but baptism identifies one as God’s precious child. Dear reader, if you want the world to see that you believe that you belong to God, baptism is the answer to that longing desire.
(5) Gilgal was the place where Egypt was rolled away from Israel (Josh 5:9)! The Lord had delivered the children of Israel many years before, but it was here in Gilgal where the nation experienced the freedom from the reproach of Egypt. It was here in Gilgal that they could forget all the toils of the past. In the New Testament Church, a child of grace can enjoy a similar experience. In the House of God, we can forget the pains of our past sins, believing Jesus Christ has atoned for each one by the offering of His precious life. We can lay aside a past way of life following in His perfect commands and we are able to sweep our minds of the pains we have experienced in this world by looking toward the One Who loved us before the world began.
(6) Gilgal was the place where the children of Israel “did eat the old corn of the land” (Joshua 5:11)! The corn, which they enjoyed eating, had been there all along. They just finally arrived in a place to eat. And so, it is in the House of God. The child of grace comes to a place to feast upon, not something new, but the Good Ol’ Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is there where we are spiritually nourished with the truth, the old corn of the land (Jer 15).
(7) It was just outside of Gilgal that Joshua saw the Lord, face to face (Joshua 5:13-15)! When the Lord appeared to Joshua it surely must have been an amazing and encouraging event in this soldier’s life. Joshua loved the Lord and when he looked up, saw Him and understood that it was the Lord, his heart must have sped up with excitement. Joshua was encouraged to go forward in the commands of God by this precious visitation from God. In a like manner, each time we gather in the House of God, we, through an eye of faith, can look upon the Captain of our Salvation. In this experience, we, the New Testament Church, are encouraged concerning the battles of life.
Dear child of grace, I’m sure you have already concluded that the writer loves the Lord’s Church. The Church, as Gilgal was to the children of Israel, has been a great blessing in my life. I cannot imagine trying to go through life without the strength and encouragement I receive in the Kingdom of God. If you, dear child of grace, are looking for rest, spiritual nourishment, peace and a place to sacrifice yourself unto Him; who loved you so much He died in your room and stead on the Cross of Calvary, then the Church is the place provided by God to do so. I look forward to seeing you there this Sunday, Amen!