Forty years to the date when Israel passed through the Jordan, Israel celebrated its second Passover meal, as established in Exodus 12:3. According to Joshua (5:12), “The manna stopped the day after this Passover and they ate food from the land; from then on there was no manna.” God’s timing was evident in Israel’s securing of the Promised Land.
Disobedience and unbelief had created a desert of carcasses and four decades of wandering. But, from the day of circumcision, obedience to Passover, and the placing of 12 stones in wheel formation, God would forgive Israel, and “rolled away the reproach of Egypt from them. So this place has been called Gilgal to this day,” (Joshua 5:9).
What is meant by this? “Rolled away” is a Hebrew play on words, with “Gilgal” meaning to turn or roll oneself in blood. The blood shed in the circumcisions, in honor of God, rolled back the wheel of fate. The wheel of stones signified a rolling away of reproach (sin).
It was déjà vu, again, in God’s parting of the Red Sea and the drought of unbelief as the Israelites wandered in the desert. At the Jordan, they were given a second chance to show faith, and to proceed into the Promised Land. They got it right, and celebrated Passover, circumcised men of military age, and placed the memorial stones as instructed. Obedient to God, the Israelites could move into their future.
We all have wildernesses, places where we sin and disobey God, often in cycles. But God can roll away the reproach (our sins), as easily as He rolled away the stone blocking the disciples from seeing the resurrected Jesus!
Beth Moore states in her book, Believing God, “We know we’re coming full circle with God when we stand at a similar crossroad where we made such a mess of life before, but this time, we take a different road!” To break this cycle, we must pass a test of faith in the wilderness. By prevailing, we show ourselves believers of God, not just believers in God.
Slavery is that which keeps us from our ordained destiny. We may become enslaved to unbelief, timidity, sexual and physical addictions, and compulsive behavior, including having unsanctified mouths and compulsive speech (i.e., not able to keep silent).
When we have a heart for God, sin breaks our hearts. We can fall backward into the same ditch of despair. By God’s grace, we can lift ourselves out. But, until we submit to Him, He will not roll away the reproach, heal our wounds, or allow us to make decisions pointing us in new directions.
Beth Moore says that, “Reproach is any feeling of shame, any sense that we’ve been despised or become the object of contempt. She says it’s a wardrobe problem, our unwillingness to ’put off’ something we’ve been wearing is a mental issue really.” Moore uses the analogy of a woman forced to wear the “scarlet letter,” an “A” on her clothes, signifying adultery. I don’t know about you, but I know I have worn my reproaches on my outer garments.
Beloved, if any one of you wears something from your past, belonging to you or not, you need to meet God in Gilgal. He is waiting to remove your scarlet letter. He is waiting to circumcise your troubles, help you place your circle of stones, and roll away your reproach.
The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door at 6001 NW 8th Ave., Miami. To contact the church, call 305-759-0373 or email the pastor at firstname.lastname@example.org.