Rolled Away

Rolled Away

Rolled Away Joshua 5

Sometimes an old children’s Sunday School chorus says it best. Here’s one from back in the day: “Rolled away, rolled away, rolled away. Every burden in my heart rolled away.” (2x). Please keep this thought in mind as I move onward here. Every burden in your heart. Every weight that hinders your freedom. Every bond that ties you down. Every memory that brings shame. Every generational wound that brings disgrace. All that, rolled away? In one hopeful word, Yes.

Fortunately, there is in Scripture a moment in history that gives us a good picture of what this can look like. It’s in a Jewish landmark, a place called Gilgal, a place for renewal, a place where all their burdens were rolled away. But this wasn’t just one moment in time, there were a series of profound moments that changed the faith of the Jewish people forever.

There they were, the new generation of Jewish wanderers standing near the overflowing banks of the Jordan River. Everyone standing there realized it was impassible, because it was harvest season, and the waters were way too high to cross. What should they do now, after all these years? Here they finally reach the gateway to the Promised Land after 40 years, and they are unable to walk through it. But God has a plan of course. After feeding, clothing, and directing them in the wilderness all that time, He won’t let a flooding river stop them short of the goal line.

Of course, we all know the back story to this situation, how they got to the Jordan River in the first place. We’ve read the book. We’ve seen the movie. The 400 years of slavery. Moses, the Prince of Egypt. The ten plagues. The Passover, with a lamb’s blood painted on the door posts of each Jewish home to escape the Angel of Death. The release of the Jews by Pharaoh. The parting of the Red Sea by God Himself to finally free the Jews from Egypt’s power. Then the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.

And now, those years of being lost over with, the ex-slaves have mostly died off during the wilderness wandering, and their descendants are ready to take over the Promised Land in Canaan. Heaven knows that generation of ex-slaves were wandering all those years because they feared the Canaanites more than they trusted God. Those Jews were intimidated by their size, their number, their fortified cities. Those ex-slaves were mortified by the Canaanites, and so were punished for their fear for 40 years. God saw fit to see that fearful generation die out before anyone could even think about conquering the Promised Land.

So back to God’s plan here at the Jordan. As we know with the Red Sea 40 years ago, God loves to play with water. So God has the priests carry the Arc of the Covenant, that golden box that contained the commandment stones hand-etched by God Himself, they carry that Arc to the river, and as the priests stand there in the water, the river stops flowing. Try to imagine this scene: the cloud of God’s presence hovering over a big gold box, held on long poles by four strong priests, standing in the swirling river. And all of sudden the river just stops flowing, just like that. All the Israelites were now able to cross the Jordan on dry ground into Canaan, the long-sought Promised Land.

This miraculous event once again reminds the Jewish people that God is the reason they are here. God, who brought them out of Egypt, who fed them manna for 40 years, and who now enabled them to enter the land of the Canaanites. They all knew that they have been utterly dependent on God in the past, and they will be just as dependent on Him for their future.

So this new generation has now entered the Promised Land, and have decided to gather together about two miles from Jericho and get organized. They are waiting for marching orders from Joshua. So after placing stones from the Jordan at their camp sight in memory of God’s miracle at the river, God has something important to say to Joshua and to all the Jews at this critical hour. With the whole nation of Israel gathered there, God thundered these momentous words with profound authority, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you!” (Joshua 5:9). God is saying here that He has rolled away the heavy weight of shame, guilt, disdain; the disgrace that was the Jewish experience in Egypt. God has rolled all that away. So no longer do they have the mentality of being a slave, of being hindered or held back, of being in bondage. No longer do they have to feel scorned as when they were slaves. This new Jewish generation are to live in freedom. They are now intended to enjoy life without the burden of slavery, the shame of being owned, the despair they experienced in history.

This was momentous in Jewish history. After 400 years of slavery and subjection, and after 40 years of wandering, they were a free nation. It is now official, declared by God! As a sign of this renewal, to confirm it and etch it into the psyche of every Jew, the entire nation of Israel celebrated Passover right then, right there, for the first time in 40 years. They remembered together the passing over of death and judgment in Egypt, the lamb’s blood on the doorposts, Pharaoh’s release, and God’s salvation. They celebrated this Old Testament sacrament to renew their old relationship with God. Everyone in the spiritual nation of Israel now knows… no more business as usual; we have turned a corner; we are a renewed people. God has rolled away the reproach of Egypt, the disgrace of bondage, the humiliating shame of being dehumanized, hindered from being fully human.

This famous place of renewal was named Gilgal, because that Hebrew word evidently sounds like “rolling.” Gilgal became their military base camp, as well as the headquarters for worship as a nation. Gilgal came to represent a nation-changing renewal as they entered the Promised Land. Gilgal signifies where God rolled away their history of slavery in Egypt. Gilgal was where there was a national healing of memories.

And now here is something I need to say… I declare to you that you can establish your very own Gilgal. You can renew your old relationship with God right now. The Lord can roll away your recent years of bondage and your wandering in the wilderness.

Me? In bondage, you say? You might be thinking that you have been a slave to no one, that you don’t need anything rolled away, and that you don’t need to renew your relationship to God. Well, there are many ways to be in bondage… Maybe you’re in bondage to yourself, your selfish desires, your self-oriented lifestyle, your inability to get outside your self; maybe you’re in bondage to a particular sin, a reliance on a drug, or gambling, or pornography, or partying. Maybe you are enslaved to the expectations of friends, or maybe the values of the world in terms of ambition, success, or happiness. Maybe you are in bondage to technology. If you feel empty in any way, or if you’re feeling weighed down in some way, there’s a good chance you are in bondage, trying to fill a hole that only God can fill.

I am here to tell you that God can roll away the effects of that bondage. He can roll away the burden of that weight on your spirit. He can roll away the effects of being a servant to something other than God. He can roll away your painful memories. He can roll away despair over your history, recent or otherwise. God is the original Holy Roller. He can roll all that away so you can live in freedom.

When you return to Jesus, you can renew your relationship to God just like the Israelites. You can be released from the personal effects of shame and reproach, including self-reproach. Jesus the pure Lamb has poured out His life blood for you, placed that blood on the doorposts of your heart, and enabled you to bypass judgment. By returning to Jesus, you can stand in Gilgal, celebrating that spiritual Passover, rejoined into God’s family, His community. You are no longer a slave, you need no longer to be held down or tied up. Instead of held down, you are now lifted up. Instead of dis-graced, you are now graced.

It is no longer a time to wander in the wilderness, lost in the cosmos, fearful of the future, living with the mentality of a slave to your past. It is time to renew your old relationship with God, who will roll away all the effects of life lived outside of God’s direction. It is time to embrace the weightless freedom found in Christ alone.

Rolled away, rolled away, rolled away, every burden of my heart rolled away.” And this is my prayer. May every burden of your heart be rolled away, so you can safely live in the Promised Land of God’s purpose for your life.

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