Be before Doing

June 22, 2022


The background of this passage is very well set in verse one of the chapter. The Israelites are encamped at Gilgal, having crossed the mighty Jordan during the flood season. The mighty hand of their God has melted the kingdoms that lie ahead of them with fear. In fact, the Bible notes that there was “no spirit left in them.”

Human logic would say that this was the best time to attack and conquer the land. Undoubtedly, their spirits were elated and their morale buoyed by the great miracle they were part of. But, God has another thought. He knew that the lesson has not been learnt yet. They still bore the marks of a rebellious nation. He wanted the new generation to go through the sign of their covenant with Him, to remember the meal that bound them to a greater event of their redemption and to focus solely on Him as their commander-in-chief. We will now focus on these three lessons for ourselves.


Most people associate revival with heightened religious activity. In fact, every time the history of revivals is told, one cannot help but get lost in the details of the actions the people were involved in. However, at the heart of true revival is the rediscovery of true commitment to God and going back to the covenant relationship He desires with us. This is because we are prone to going astray and forsaking our God. In fact, most of us feel miles away from God and we wonder what is happening to us. As I always remind us, if we feel far away from God it is helpful to ask ourselves who moved away!

The Lord instructs Joshua in verse two not to attack the city of Jericho which is right before their eyes. The Lord, instructs Joshua to reinstate the sign of their covenant with Him. He wants all males in the camp circumcised! The scriptures remind us that this would be the second time the nation of Israel would be undergoing this ritual. According to Gen. 17:10-14, the covenant between God and Abraham was that all males were to be circumcised at eight days old. However, the people under Moses never practised the rite for the forty years of wandering in the desert.

Maybe a compelling reason why God never reminded Moses about circumcision was that his generation was condemned. But we see here that their rebellious nature kept them from true obedience to God. They had moved away from God and only a revival would bring the nation back. This revival came in the Generation Joshua was to bring up. Another generation that had to learn a fresh what it means to obey God.

In scripture, circumcision is an outward sign of an inner covenant with God. The state of our heart is very important. In Deuteronomy 10:16, God calls Israel to circumcise their hearts so that they will no longer be rebellious. The prophet Jeremiah called the people to circumcise their hearts (Jer.4:4) and their ears (Jer. 6:10). Paul would later say that true circumcision is a matter of the heart rather than the body (Rom. 2:29).

These references, and many more, remind us that God desires for us to keep ourselves pure. Holiness is a matter of the heart first. We cannot keep holiness by outward observance alone. We must, so to speak, circumcise our hearts! We must become revived in our hearts before we can be in our actions. Before we can take on spiritual battles for God, our hearts must be in the right place. Our covenant with God must be intact before facing our Jerichos. We must rein in our wayward hearts towards true revival.


With all the clamour about miracles, people tend to forget that the greatest miracle is our redemption through blood. The Old Testament feast of Passover prefigured the death of Christ on the cross. How timely it was that after the healing of the nation from the circumcision, it was time for the Passover. A feast which had been largely ignored during Moses’ Generation. They were supposed to observe it every year, but we only see them observing it only twice before this. Before leaving Egypt and at Mt Sinai when the commandments were given. Again this neglect indicates their lack of connection with the God who delivered them from slavery.

God reminds Joshua’s Generation here that the greatest miracle, bigger than the parting of the Jordan is their redemption from Egypt and their adoption as the people of God.

It is noteworthy that the provision of Manna ceases immediately after they are the Passover. It seems to be a clear indication that they are now in the promised land and that God has given the land into their hands. It is the reconnection with their God that ensures that they attain their promise. They needed not to rely on transient graces such as the provision of manna, they had the ultimate grace: the land.

Our generation too like the generation of Moses is obsessed with miracles. We have witnessed more than we need to understand and seek God. Our hearts are still not connected to Him. It’s time for us to go back to the beginning and reconnect with the Passover lamb. To re-live our redemption. To reconnect with our saviour. The cross of Christ should occupy our view of the world. Nothing should loom as big in our focus as the cross of Jesus Christ. “At the cross where we first saw the light and the burden of our hearts rolled away! It was there by faith, We received our sight and now We are happy all the way!”


The passage ends with Joshua having a confrontation with a stranger. The stranger has his sword drawn, a clear sign of readiness for battle.

It happens that Joshua is strolling near the gates of Jericho. No doubt contemplating the inevitable battle that he must win over this imposing city. That he is near Jericho and not at the camp with his people is telling. We can sympathize with Joshua, seeing that he is now in charge and the destiny of an entire nation is on his shoulders. The weight of his responsibility must be causing sleepless nights. It is with this background that he has his theophany.

Most biblical scholars have identified the stranger who appears to Joshua as the pre-incarnate Christ. In other words, it was an appearance of Jesus before his birth. This we confirm by the fact that Joshua worships him and he does not stop him. He in fact encourages him to go ahead and remove his shoes as he is standing on holy ground.

The theophany helps Joshua rededicate himself to the task. Here he was thinking that he was in charge while all the while God in the person of Christ was the real commander of his army.

Joshua asks the stranger whose side he is on. To which the stranger answers that he is on neither side, for he is the commander of the armies of God.

This is very profound because in life we think in the categories of “us” versus “them.” It would very much help to note that God is on neither side. One person has said that you begin to know you are worshipping an idol when your god hates the people you hate! You see my friends, God does not take our human sides, instead, He has His will, which we would do well to follow. In every situation, it is important to ask, “ Lord, what do you want me to do?” We must come to the point where we realize that our destiny and that of our ministry are in the hands of God. It calls us to rededicate ourselves and our ministry to serve God’s will and not our own. Our rededication acknowledges that indeed the battle belongs to the Lord.

It is easy to be lost in the hustle and bustle of service. But we must stop and ask who are we really. Do we qualify to serve? Have we “become” before we can “do”?