A Word from Kay Daigle on how to use the resources for this study…I want to encourage you to complete the personal lesson below before you click on any of the accompanying elements that may be found with this lesson (audio lecture, manuscript, PowerPoint, or handout). This study was written to help you maximize your personal spiritual growth. That means that you first spend time with God through His word, and then hopefully, discuss what you learned with a small group of women. After that, if you want to hear the audio (or read the manuscript) and follow the PowerPoint, filling in the handout, then that is a great time to do it! I cannot cover all the verses in depth, but you can read and study them for yourself. It is best for you to think through the passages before hearing what anyone else thinks, even me! You will find some lessons without lectures. At our church we use some of those weeks to spend extra time in our small groups sharing life stories, having a longer prayer time, or expressing how God is working in our lives.
“’Truly I am the commander of the LORD’s army. Now I have arrived!’ Joshua bowed down with his face to the ground and asked, ‘What does my master want to say to his servant?’”
We like to force others to our side—whatever that side is. Just like little kids arguing over a game, we want to “win” by having others agree with us and not with the other side. Adults are no different. We often tell others about those who are “wrong” so that we get that third party on our side before the other person does!
What about God’s side? Do we ever think about what that side would be? Or do we assume we know it, and of course, it happens to be our side!
Read Joshua 5:2-3.
1. What instructions did God give Joshua and how did Joshua respond?
2. How did the Israelites give a marker or reminder, as we studied last week, to this occasion? (The answer may seem hard to find but it is in v.3.)
Let’s look back at the beginning of the rite of circumcision for the Jewish people. Read Gen. 17:1-14. Let’s answer some basic who, what, when, where, why, and how questions about this story in order to be sure we cover the basics, as all good reporters do. Note questions #3-5 cover what, how, who, when specifically, and they hint at why!
3. What was the significance of being circumcised? How important was it?
4. Who was to be circumcised and when?
5. What promises were reiterated to Abram from the covenant in Gen. 15, which we studied in a previous lesson?
Digging for Diamonds: Look up Exodus 4:24-26 and Acts 16:1-3. What do these verses show about the importance of circumcision for the Jewish people? You may want to read in your commentaries about these verses, which you may consider strange!
6. Sharing question: You could say that circumcision indicated that the baby boy was to be on the LORD’s side. How do you show people that you are on the LORD’s side with actions rather than words? Do you respond differently to situations at home, at work, or in the PTA? What situation are you facing right now in which you can choose to show yourself to be on the LORD’s side by your actions? How do your words show you to be on his side (not words about him but all your words)?
7. Responding to God: The previous question may have uncovered some situations in which you have failed to act on God’s side. If not, ask God if there are some and confess those to Him. You may want to read David’s psalm of confession in Ps.51. Of course, God already knows everything but expects you to confess in order to walk in fellowship with Him (1 John 1:8-9). Write a prayer or psalm of confession. (A psalm would be poetic.)
8. Why did Joshua have to circumcise the men who had entered the land?
9. If you had been one of the people of Israel, finally about to have the dreams of the land fulfilled, this event may have seemed like a delay and maybe a useless delay. How do you think you would have felt? What made it important enough for God to demand it before they possessed the land?
Sometimes our priorities are not God’s. Sometimes we fail to see the importance of the little things that God considers important; therefore, God may bring our dreams to a halt until we take care of the things that He deems important.
Digging for Diamonds: Use your knowledge of the Bible. What other stories can you think of that emphasize the importance of the little things? Maybe you can think of another example of God delaying until the issue was cleared.
10. Read what Jesus said. Write down what you learn about obedience in the small things.
a. Mt. 25:31-46
Before we leave this idea of the little things and before you think about your life and the little things there, I want you to read this real-life story that applies so well.
Denise shares her story of a time when God showed her to get rid of an attitude that she had. When God wants us to obey, it’s not always the kinds of issues we would put in our Top Ten list! Sometimes it’s the small things in life that breed sinful resentment and bitterness. In reality what seems insignificant to us, may be a big thing that affects our lives without our realization.
I used to mow the grass because my husband was physically unable to do it. As I mowed, I felt sorry for myself, let anger build up, cried, and was somewhat embarrassed to be mowing my yard in an affluent neighborhood where women didn’t clean or iron—let alone mow! (I did all three.)
I began to pray about my attitude, and God brought about a complete change—so much so that I began enjoy each Friday morning when I mowed. This has been very encouraging to me through the years, because I have proof that God really cares about what goes on in my mind.
11. Responding to God: Spend time just sitting quietly before God, asking Him to show you any small thing in which you have not obeyed. Ask Him if there is anything in your life keeping you from moving forward to see the dreams He has for you fulfilled. Write down what He shows you.
12. Sharing question: Share with your group what you did about what God showed you in #11. OR share about a time when God made clear to you that you needed to deal with something that seemed small to you but which was important to Him.
Read Joshua 5:9.
13. The NET Bible tells us that the name Gilgal sounds like “roll away”.4 Why did they name the place Gilgal?
In v.9 we find the Hebrew word cherpah, which is translated “disgrace” in the NET Bible. It is also translated “shame” (NLT) and “reproach” (NIV, NASB, NKJV). The word in the New Testament used to translate this Hebrew word in Joshua 5:9 comes from the idea of someone being taunted and reviled, reproach being brought on the person for some reason.5
The NET Bible gives us this insight into this verse:
One might take the disgrace of Egypt as a reference to their uncircumcised condition (see Gen 34:14), but the generation that left Egypt was circumcised (see v. 5). It more likely refers to the disgrace they experienced in Egyptian slavery. When this new generation reached the promised land and renewed their covenantal commitment to the Lord by submitting to the rite of circumcision, the Lord’s deliverance of his people from slavery, which had begun with the plagues and the crossing of the Red Sea, reached its climax.6
14. God always promised to “roll away the disgrace” of His people Israel as He did at Gilgal, even though their sins had often caused that shame. Write down your insights from these verses:
a. Isa. 25:7-9 (The word is in v.8)
p. Ezek. 36:27-32 (The actual word is in v. 30 but the context is helpful.)
15. Sharing question: Eventually, the Old Testament reveals that the people of Israel were disgraced by their idolatry and by the consequences that they had to endure because of it. Those who were innocent had to deal with the same captivity and desolation that the others did. Have you been disgraced by something you or a family member has done? Share your situation and your feelings of shame with your small group.
Digging for Diamonds: In our modern society many believe there should be no shame over anything because all choices are equally okay. Should people ever feel shame or disgrace, and if so, when? How does God use our shame over our sins? What verses come to mind on this issue?
16. Jesus came and rolled away the disgrace and shame which comes from our sins; in other words, although we brought this on ourselves, He took care of it! Read these verses and write down the dream He fulfills for us:
17. Sharing question: How do you feel knowing that Jesus took your shame upon Himself at the cross and rolled it away from your life? Do you truly believe that, or do you harbor the guilt of a past sin? Without necessarily sharing the details of the sin, share your need to believe that you are forgiven and that your shame is truly rolled away. You may want to make that need your prayer request for this week so that your group can pray with you.
18. Responding to God: Draw a picture of Jesus rolling away the shame of your sins or even that one sin on which you tend to dwell.
Read Joshua 5:10-12.
19. What else happened at Gilgal?
20. What do you learn about the significance of the feast of Passover from these verses?
Digging for Diamonds: Find information about the celebration of Passover today online or in other resources that you have.
21. Read Ex. 16:2-15. Why did God send manna? What do you see as the significance of the last of the manna in God’s fulfilling the dreams that He had given His people?
22. Picture yourself as part of that first Passover in the land, as part of the group eating food that was grown there in the land given to you by God instead of the manna. What might you be thinking and feeling?
23. Sharing question: What dreams has God fulfilled in your life—graduations, weddings, births, new jobs, new homes, old friends, new businesses, sales, ministry opportunities, etc.? How have you celebrated them? Or perhaps there is something you can do to celebrate a dream fulfilled now. If so, what is it?
24. Responding to God: Write a prayer expressing your thanks for the dreams that God has fulfilled in your life.
Read Joshua 5:13-15.
25. As a good reporter, tell us the “who, what, when, where, why, and how” of this event. You can write it as a newspaper article or simply answer the questions that the text answers. What would be your headline?
Most of our English translations suggest that the commander answered “neither” or “no” to Joshua’s question. James Montgomery Boice explains this seemingly strange answer: “It was not for Joshua to claim the allegiance of God for his cause, however right it was, but rather for God to claim Joshua. The two would fight together, but Joshua would be following the commander of the armies of the Lord in his causes and battles rather than it being the other way around.”7
Boice goes on to say, “This is a most profound principle. Christians have a tendency to marshal God for their programs rather than simply follow him wherever he leads. As a result, the God they speak of seems to many outsiders to be quite partisan rather than the God of all men and women, which he truly is.”8
26. Sharing question: Consider Dr. Boice’s concern about putting God on our side rather than being on His. How have you witnessed this happen first-hand in your church, among other believers, or in the political arena? (As you share this with your group, be sure that your own attitude is not as one-sided as the situation you are describingJ)
27. Read Mt. 16:21-28. How was Peter not on God’s side? What was wrong with Peter’s thinking?
Who was this commander? Many scholars say it was Jesus Himself who appeared to Joshua.9 In any case, it was a supernatural being sent from God to encourage Joshua on the eve of battle.
Our tendency is to pray for our selfish desires or for the way we would handle a situation in our own wisdom and with our own limited sight rather than praying for God’s kingdom agenda. Essentially, we tell God what His side should be. As a result, we often pray against the very will of God, believing that He is on our side! Instead, we should pray to have the attitude of Joshua in 5:14, our Thought to Cherish this week: “What does my master want to say to his servant?”
28. Sharing question: If you can think of a prayer that you prayed that you later realized was opposite of God’s will, share with your small group.
29. Sharing question: Think of one prayer request that you have right now that you can revise to be more kingdom-focused. If you need help, turn to the back of this study where I have put some kingdom prayers from the Scripture. Use one of these, or think of a way to pray for the situation that is clearly on God’s side. Share with your group your new prayer.
30. Responding to God: Spend quiet time before God asking Him to show you where you have attempted to mobilize Him on your side rather than showing allegiance to His. Pray Joshua’s prayer: “What does my master want to say to his servant?” Write out your new prayer below.
God gives dreams, but we often fight Him because we want what we want instead of being on His side and realizing that what He wants is best!
I was in a phase of my Christian life where I wanted God to do what I wanted to do. It is like if you have a house and you invite people to come and see the living room and kitchen, but keep all the doors closed to the other rooms. I wouldn’t acknowledge it to myself, but in hindsight, I wanted to keep God closed to the rooms of my dating life and work life.
There was a guy that I wanted to marry in my 20s, and I prayed for that. Then, I would pray for other relationships to also work out. I would date non-Christian men, thinking that they would see the light and become a believer and we would be happy ever after. Then, in my mid-30s, I actually did date a Christian man, but he had a lot of baggage and I realized that I just couldn’t go there.
So, lying in bed one night, I finally said “Lord, you may not want me to get married. But you have provided for me. And so I know that if marriage is in my future, it will be of your doing alone. I release my hold on it. Thank you that you have given me the ability to support myself if that is what I need to do.”
Three weeks later, I was set up on a blind date with the love of my life, who was a committed Christian man before I met him. Resolution may not happen so quickly for everyone, but the action of submitting changed my life, and still changes it today. I know that God’s plans are definitely for my good and more importantly, for His good pleasure.
“For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.”
I'm not sure what my prayers were during the time my dad was ill with pancreatic cancer, but I know my mother's prayer. She prayed religiously that God would heal my dad. She desperately wanted the miracle. She wanted to live out the rest of her life with my dad and she wanted him to live beyond his 70 young years.
They had been married 47 years when the doctors diagnosed dad's illness during gall bladder surgery in the summer of 1981. For a while it appeared that perhaps the diagnosis was incorrect but in the fall, symptoms reappeared and it would be in August of 1982 when my dad went home to be with the Lord. He was a believer and a faithful servant.
My mother grieved and railed at God for not heeding her prayer. It would be some time before she would come to terms with God, and it would be a long time before I knew the rest of her prayer. You see, even though she prayed for dad's healing, she also prayed that he would not suffer the terrible pain that so often accompanies pancreatic cancer. And during the course of his illness, not one time did my dad require pain medication. He was never in pain; discomfort, yes, but he never took any kind of pain killer. What a blessing God bestowed on him and those around him. The thing my mother wanted most was for God to heal my dad, but the gift God gave my dad was freedom from crippling pain during the last year he was with us. God always answers prayer, not always the way we want. We lost my dad to this life, but he didn't have to suffer during the preparation for his home going. I miss him, but I'm so very grateful for God's blessing.
5 See Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance Greek reference #2781 and its root words.
6 Note 2 in NET Bible: New English Translation (Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C., 2003), 402.
7 James Montgomery Boice, Joshua: An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005), 46-47.
8 Ibid., 47.
9 See Boice (44), Davis (40), and Woudstra (105).