(Is it not 'wonder'ful, remarkable, that now, as we near the climax of the Lenten season of introspection, remorse, desire for forgiveness-- in this darkening hour before the suffering and death of our Lord Christ Jesus-- the voice of God breaks through, not with harsh words of admonishment or condemnation, but hopeful ones of Annunciation?)

Josh. 5: 9--12

This fragment screams to be placed within its context, its only source of meaning. Where is Gilgal? Why are the Israelites there? What is so special about the fourteenth day? Of what month?

The people came up from the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and encamped at Gilgal on the eastern border of Jericho. (4: 19). Regardless of the numbers, it would have taken the whole day for the Israelites to break camp, descend into the Jordan valley, carry everything across the river and set up their tents again, as well as erecting two sets of twelve memorial stones (4: 8, 9 & 20). It is easy to imagine that, even though they had at last entered the Promised Land, they had little time or energy for celebration but, instead, turned in early.

The next day, the eleventh, was the Great Day of Circumcision, although for some reason it has not survived as a memorial feast day in the liturgy. This was followed by two days of ill-tempered groaning, during which, in addition to their regular household duties, all the work of the camp had to be done by the women. This included the daily gathering of the manna. Then came the fourteenth day of the first month, and now everyone was in the mood for celebration.

And the LORD said to Joshua, "Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt." (9) What did Today mean to God? The eleventh, or fourteenth, of Nisan? Might it include all four days, during which so much of such tremendous significance for Israel occurred? Might Today imply those events, rather than the elapse of time? Or could it refer to the willingness-- the faith, trust-- of the people to engage in and experience those events? "Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt." God speaks of release, redemption, freedom and the prospect of new life; the people-- whether they realized it or not-- had more reason to celebrate than just for having entered Canaan.

So they offered the passover sacrifice on the fourteenth day of the month, toward evening. (10) Christians tend to cringe at the word sacrifice, thinking of the bloody slaughter of innocent animals to appease angry gods. But this is not what it meant to the Hebrews, especially not the Passover sacrifice. Butcher shops, meat markets and the refrigeration they depend on, did not exist in those days, and the animal sacrifice was the primary means of introducing meat into the diet, a rare and welcome occasion. The sacrifices involved high cost-- the loss or price of an animal-- but were moments of celebration, justifiably called "feast days". Sacrifices were offered more in thanksgiving to God for the blessings of life and the provision of food; good reasons indeed for festive celebration.

The last meal that the Israelites ate in Egypt was the Passover feast; it was the first that they celebrated in the Promised Land. This sacrifice opened and closed the season of wandering and homelessness, and God's words reminded them of their deliverance-- out of and in to. Passover is not a celebration of the slaughter of Egypt's firstborn; it is the festive memorial of God's deliverance and restoration.

On the day after... they ate of the produce... of the land [and] the manna ceased. (11..12) The cessation of the manna does not mark the end of their-- or our-- dependence on God; it demonstrates YHWH's grace toward us in the expansion of the daily provision, from manna into the produce... of the land. Only the provender changed; the process remains.

Psalm 32

If we do not understand the varieties of Hebrew sacrifices, then we tend to misconstrue them all as "sin-offerings". The Israelites were certainly aware of their transgression and need to be forgiven; indeed, their Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, is the most solemn day of the year for that reason. But it is to be noted that the sacrifice more than merely covered over or "paid for" their sins. "The killing of the sin-offering on Yom Kippur symbolized the destruction of evil and the purification of one's soul."(1)

Christians, especially during this season of Lent, also are aware of their transgression and need to be forgiven, and from this perspective look forward anxiously and hopefully to the Passion of our Lord and His resurrection. By His stripes we are healed; by His blood we are cleansed. But perhaps we are missing something: that on the cross God destroyed evil: killed it, dead, Dead, DEAD!(2)

Only symbolically? Or in actual fact? What do you believe, Christian?

2 Cor. 5: 16--21

For anyone united to Christ, there is a new creation: the old order has gone; a new order has already begun. (17) And what does this change of order mean for you? That your sin has (again) been forgiven? Good. That you have been (once more) reconciled to God? Better. But does your new order stop there? Or has the work of God (20) gone beyond that, accomplished more? What has your God rolled away from you? And what do rolled away and has gone imply?

Luke 15: 1--3, 11b--32

"Father, give me my share of the property." So he divided his estate between them. (12) Although we go through our annual cycles of remembrance and celebration (which is good), the fact is that God provided (divided) the property some 1,970 years ago and, when we were ready, gave us each our share in it.

What have you done with your share? Did you quickly "cash it in"? Have you buried it in a hole in the ground? Or invested it for the Master's profit? Do you hold on to it and examine it closely to enjoy its full worth? Or....

In the beginning
God created light and life
and then died for love.(3)

1. 1 Abraham P. Bloch, The Biblical and Historical Background of the Jewish Holy Days; KTAV

Publishing House, Inc., New York, 1978; p.29.

2. 2 Read, in this order, 1Jn. 3: 8; 2Cor. 5: 21; Rom. 6: 18 and 22.

3. 3 Haiku poem by Phil Gilman. Please feel free to utilize anything by me; just give God the

Glory, Praise and Thanks and me whatever credit may be due.

(comments to Phil at ENAPXH@aol.com )