Gilgal and Jericho

Session 3 in the series "Bringing sons to glory"

Gilgal and the city of Jericho are biblical sites just north of the Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth, where the Jordan River ends. Jesus passed through Jericho on His way to Jerusalem to the pilgrim feasts of Israel. There is spiritual significance in both Gilgal and Jericho. We examine the meaning of both words, and the symbolism of Gilgal and Jericho.

After viewing, your next session is: Session 4 – Who is He who helps? »

Gilgal and Jericho (Session 3)

Part 1: Gilgal

The Father so loves us that He sent His Son, Jesus, to pay the price for sin. Everyone who believes in Jesus is forgiven.

Jesus came down from heaven, and ascended back to heaven. Jesus was born in a stable. He died on a cross.

Jesus didn't live among the religious authorities in Jerusalem. Jesus lived in the Galilee, among the people the religious leaders despised … the poor and the uneducated. Jesus also fed, and healed and delivered Gentiles (non-Jews) on the other side of the Jordan. The religious leaders considered Gentiles to be unclean and unworthy.

Jesus came from highest high to lowest low. He deliberately took the low place.

Galilee, in Hebrew, is "Galil". Galil means a "circle" in Hebrew.

Jesus started with people of low standing. Jesus is coming back for people who are humbly waiting for Him.

Jesus time on earth was not His final destiny, or His final destination … it was a brief period when He humbled Himself, to serve us.

In the circumference of a circle, from heaven and back to heaven, it was the lowest arc He passed through and endured ... a time of hardship.

The Hebrew word "Gilgal" means "rolling".

Gilgal is a place in Israel. It is a place Jesus would pass through on His way to the festivals in Jerusalem. Gilgal is at the lowest place on earth. Gilgal is where the River Jordan enters the Dead Sea. At Gilgal, the Jewish pilgrims from the Galilee would turn and head up to the mountains of Jerusalem. They had walked down, to the lowest place on earth, now they would turn and head up. As they walked, they would sing the Psalms of Ascent.

In a spiritual sense, we turn off the path that leads to death. We turn to God in Christ Jesus. Our lives have come to nothing. Now we start to grow ... in Jesus. We pass through our spiritual Gilgal. We have gone down. Now we can start to go up. Jesus wants to take us on.

"In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that He ... should make the architect of their salvation perfect through suffering, because the One who makes people holy, and those who are made holy, all have one source. Therefore Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers" (Hebrews 2:10-12).

We are purified by faith in Jesus. We become brothers of Jesus. He is the Son of God. In Him, we become sons of God. And Jesus is taking us on to glory.

In the Hebrew of the Old Testament, and in the Greek of the New Testament, the passages that refer to us as being in God's family, use words for "son" or "sons". The Bible refers to sons because that is the final destiny for all who believe in Jesus ... whether you are male or female in this life. In heaven there will be no marriage of men and women.

More important than whether we are in this order, or that order, in this life, is the question of heart. Jesus is looking for humble people who will trust Him, obey Him, and serve others in love.

The spirit of the world is self-interest. The spirit of the Kingdom of God is self-sacrifice. It's the willingness to take the low place.

The LORD brought Israel out of Egypt in order to bring them into the Promised Land. It was an actual event, but there is also symbolic spiritual meaning in it. The LORD was bringing Israel out of the world to bring them into life in the Spirit ... a life where they would trust Him, and would yield as they learned to trust Him.

The LORD could have brought Israel into the Promised Land the short way, along the coast. Instead, He took them into the wilderness ... the long way round (see Exodus 13:17). The LORD wanted Israel to learn some things.

It has often been noted: it took a few days to get Israel out of Egypt, but it took 40 years to get Egypt out of Israel.

After wandering in the Sinai desert for 40 years, the LORD could have brought Israel into the Promised Land from the south. Instead, He took Israel around to the east and brought them in across the Jordan River at the lowest place on earth. Israel crossed the river and camped at Gilgal.

Gilgal, which means "rolling", gives a picture of movement. Draw a circle ... it starts at the top and goes down. You can't get back to the top without passing through the low arc.

Gilgal is a picture of a place of humbling ... the lowest place on earth; lowliness in this life.

Gilgal is an actual place, but Gilgal also symbolizes the dealings of God. You can humble yourself, or God will humble you. And when He humbles you, you can yield, and accept that He is right and you are wrong. Or, you can resist.

The Christian life is not something that is done to you. The Christian life is a life that you participate in.

This theme of being reduced by the LORD ... of being sidelined until we accept our inability to accomplish anything of real worth to God, in our own strength and cleverness … this theme is evidenced in the lives of many significant people in the Bible.

Joseph ... Joseph was a favoured son of Jacob. His brothers were jealous. They sold him into slavery. Joseph was unjustly imprisoned in Egypt. But, in the LORD's timing, and through circumstances he could never have engineered himself, Joseph was elevated in a moment in time, to the second highest office in the land.

In Joseph's absolute weakness God's power was made manifest.

Moses … Moses tried to rescue an Israelite. Moses killed an Egyptian in order to help the people of God. Moses found out that God's people don't always appreciate help from their brothers. Moses had to run for his life.

After 40 years in the wilderness of Midian, when he had come to the place where he said to the LORD, "Send my brother Aaron instead" ... when Moses' self-confidence was exhausted, the LORD worked astonishing miracles through Moses, and Moses was the one who led Israel out of Egypt.

David … The LORD took David from being a shepherd-boy and anointed him to be king over Israel. But David spent years running from King Saul before he actually took his place on the throne. David was a long time being reduced before he was ready for the throne.

The apostle Paul ... After his salvation, Paul spent three years in Arabia, and many years in obscurity, before the LORD used him to bring the gospel to Gentiles. Paul was beaten and stoned and shipwrecked as he went about his work. At the end of his life, he said that everyone in Asia had deserted him. Paul looked like a failure. Yet everyone who reads the Bible today benefits from his ministry.

And, of course, in the life of Jesus, the cross looked like absolute failure. But, what to men looks like defeat, the LORD turns into victory.

The message is one of self-sacrifice ... life thrown away ... a life that the world would consider wasted but, (like a tiny seed buried in the ground), a life that God turns into something productive and reproductive through His supernatural life force ... a different life entirely.

God's ways are not man's ways.

In contrast, people in the Bible like King Saul and King Solomon ... who started out well but who never went through the times of preparation in the wilderness ... these people ended up badly.

Part 2: Jericho

When Israel crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land, the first victory that God gave them was the conquest of Jericho. Jericho was a city on the edge of the plain of Gilgal.

Jericho was a supernatural victory. Israel simply had to march around the city walls. After seven days, the walls collapsed.

Enter into life in the Spirit, and we experience the power of God. But, we haven't finished yet.

We may have come a long way in appreciating the futility of life without the LORD's help, but there's still a lot to learn. The LORD is bringing sons to glory.

After the victory at Jericho, Israel suffered defeat at Ai. Israel failed to enquire of the LORD, and they blundered on in their own strength. When they called out to the LORD, the LORD gave them the strategy for victory.

Lesson learned? No.

Israel again failed to enquire of the LORD, and they were deceived by the Gibeonites.

Life in the Spirit means a life seeking after the LORD ... finding out His will ... learning to not trust in our own strength, our own cleverness.

The Hebrew word for Jericho is spelled in two different ways in the Hebrew Bible.

Through the writings of Moses, in the first five books of the Bible, Jericho is spelled YUD, RESH, CHET, VAV. The root here is the word "yere'ach" which means "moon" in Hebrew. The VAV at the end of the word means "his" moon.

Jericho was a Canaanite stronghold ... a spiritual stronghold of one of their many gods.

Moses, looking from outside the Promised Land, saw the city as a Canaanite stronghold. However, the book of Joshua was written by Joshua, after Israel had taken the Promised Land. Jericho was defeated. The spiritual stronghold was torn down. The city now belonged to the LORD and to His people. The spelling of Jericho in the Book of Joshua becomes YUD, RESH, YUD, CHET, VAV ... "Yericho".

The root of the word in Hebrew ... the middle letters ... spell "re'ach" (RESH, YUD, CHET). Re'ach means "aroma" or "fragrance" in Hebrew.

In 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 we read: "God leads us in triumph in Christ. He manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Jesus. We are a fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved. Among those who are perishing we are the aroma of death."

In entering the spiritual Jericho, the place of the LORD's victory, we take on His fragrance … attractive to those open to faith in Christ ... repulsive to those devoted to the world.

In the Bible, two events at Jericho need to be highlighted: Number 1) Rahab hid the spies of Israel. Rahab was a Gentile. Rahab put her life at risk. Rahab recognised that God was with Israel, and she decided to trust the God of Israel. Rahab was told to hang a scarlet cord from her window. Rahab obeyed.

Israel charged into Jericho when the walls collapsed, but Israel spared Rahab and her family, who were in the room marked by the scarlet cord.

It's not hard to see, in the scarlet cord, the protection of being under the blood of Jesus.

Rahab, a Gentile, later married Salmon, and their son was Boaz. And from this came the line to King David, and the line from there to the LORD Jesus.

Number 2) There is another link to a scarlet thread at Jericho. At Jericho, Israel was not to take the plunder. The plunder was devoted to the LORD. But, at Jericho, Achan took some of the devoted treasure. Judgment came upon him and his family. Achan was a descendant of Zerah. Part of the line of Zerah was annihilated.

Zerah was the brother of Perez ... they were twins, born to Judah and Tamar. Zerah was born first. When his hand came out, the nurse tied a scarlet thread to his wrist, but he drew back, and Perez was born. The line to King David and to Jesus came through Perez.

Zerah should have had the rights of the first-born, but Zerah drew back. However, Zerah still carried a scarlet thread.

Israel drew back in the days of the LORD Jesus. The early church was all Jewish, but most Jews rejected Jesus. In time, God's favour moved to the Gentiles.

But, the scarlet thread on the hand of Zerah symbolizes last days salvation for the remnant of Israel.

Many in Israel who walked after the flesh would never enter into their inheritance as sons of God. But Zerah's line did not die out. Other sons continued ... wise men endured. Israel has been preserved, so that the LORD will still have a people for Himself from among the last days remnant of Israel.

Part 3 - Jesus and Jericho

In the life of the LORD Jesus, we see significant events that happened on the plains of Gilgal, in and around the city of Jericho, which had been rebuilt by His time.

In the book of Luke, chapter 18, we read that as Jesus drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside, begging. The blind man called out to Jesus. Jesus restored his sight. "Your faith has made you well," Jesus said.

In Mark, chapter 10, we read that, as Jesus was leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus (a blind man) called out, and Jesus healed him and told him, "Your faith has made you well."

This is not the same event that was recorded in Luke 18. One was as Jesus approached Jericho. The other was as Jesus left Jericho.

And there is a third incident, which we read about in Matthew chapter 20, as Jesus was about to go up to Jerusalem. Two blind men ... not one, two men together ... called out, "Have mercy on us". The crowd sternly told the blind men to be quiet, but they cried out all the more ... "We want our eyes to be opened." Jesus touched their eyes, and they regained their sight and followed Him.

There are three separate incidents. They are actual events, but the first man, at the entrance to Jericho, is a picture of people of faith within Israel ... the first in the harvest of souls to bring about a family for God.

On leaving Jericho is a picture of Jesus healing Gentiles. Bartimaeus is a name with non-Jewish roots. "Timaeus" is a Greek word. This is a symbol of Gentile believers, having their eyes opened. We, who had no covenant with God, were grafted in after the fragrance of the Messiah had been released through the Jewish people.

And then, there is the image of two people ... Jew and Gentile I would say ... together. It speaks to me of a time, at the end of the age, where we come together and call out together to the LORD. We need revelation.

The apostle Paul prayed, that "the eyes of our hearts may be enlightened, so that we will know what is the hope of His calling, the riches of the glory of His inheritance, and the greatness of His power for us who believe." (Ephesians 1:18-19)

We are sons of God. The power of God is in us, because Christ lives in us. When we first come to faith, we don't automatically grasp this truth. As we grow in it, we are transformed, and empowered.

Back to the gospel stories of Jesus healing the blind men.

Jesus healed one man, then He entered Jericho. And He healed other blind men when He left Jericho.

In Jericho, we read about Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus responded to Jesus. And Zacchaeus said he would restore to those he had cheated, and would make a sacrificial offering from his wealth. Zacchaeus obviously chose to believe in Jesus. But Zacchaeus demonstrated that his faith was real.

Faith looks like something. And Jesus said, "Today salvation has come to this house." (Luke 19:9)

There is one more New Testament event at Jericho, that we need to examine. Jesus was about to go up to Jerusalem. James and John came to Jesus and asked to be allowed to sit on Jesus' right and on His left, in the kingdom.

Jesus' response? "The rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and exercise authority over them, but it is not to be this way among you. If you want to be great, you need to be a servant. If you want to be first, you need to be a slave. The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom."

It's no accident that this testimony comes from Jesus here, at Gilgal, as we leave Jericho, before we start the ascent ... growing in Christ.

We are sons. Jesus ... the Son of God ... went down, to go up. Jesus is bringing sons to glory ... on the same path.

Part 4 - Back to Gilgal

Jesus told many parables. A parable is a story with a meaning. The parable isn't a precise picture. It's a shadow of the meaning. The story gives hints of spiritual truth.

Jesus said He told parables so that only those who were ready would understand.

The Bible is full of true stories in the history of Israel and in the lives of God's people. The Holy Spirit gives us certain facts about certain events and characters. The Holy Spirit wants us to learn lessons ... when we are ready to hear.

Saul was the first to become king of Israel. Saul was from the tribe of Benjamin. Saul started out well. The LORD changed Saul (see 1 Samuel 10:6,9). He became a different person.

Saul was made king at Gilgal (see 1 Samuel 11:15) ... at the low place. But Saul stumbled. And Saul stumbled at Gilgal (see 1 Samuel 13:8-14 and 1 Samuel 15).

Saul obeyed God only as far as it suited him (see 1 Sam 15:9). Saul magnified himself, rather than the LORD. (see 1 Sam 15:12). When things went wrong, Saul blamed the people, rather than himself. (see 1 Samuel 15:21). Saul feared what man thought (see 1 Sam 15:24). And Saul wanted personal honour, even in the midst of his downfall (see 1 Sam 15:30). Saul died at the hands of his enemies.

The LORD wanted Saul to take a low place ... even as king. The LORD wanted Saul to obey Him. But, Saul was self-absorbed.

David replaced Saul on the throne of Israel. David was from the tribe of Judah. Saul was from the line of Benjamin.

But, David had made a covenant with Saul's son, Jonathan. Jonathan died, together with Saul. But David found a son of Jonathan, and David brought that son before him.

Mephibosheth ... in Hebrew we'd say, Meh Fee Boshet ... "from a mouth: shame" ... "Boshet" : Shame. Mephibosheth confessed his shame.

When Mephibosheth was first brought to King David, after the death of Saul (and it was many years after the death of Saul), Mephibosheth fell on his face. "What is your servant, that you would regard a dead dog like me?" he said to king David. (2 Sam 9:8)

King David took Mephibosheth into his household.

Mephibosheth had been an infant at the time of Saul's misdeeds, but Mephibosheth made no excuses for his family. He only looked for mercy, and he received mercy.

There's a lesson in that. Look to Jesus for mercy, and you'll receive mercy. None of us have any grounds to justify ourselves. Confess your need of Jesus and be justified by faith in Him.

King David faced many trials. One was when his own son, Absalom, rebelled and took over the throne. David fled to the other side of the Jordan.

After Absalom was killed in battle, David was ready to return to Jerusalem. The tribe of Judah came down to Gilgal to bring king David back, across the Jordan. Then, Mephibosheth came down to Gilgal to receive king David. Once again, Mephibosheth simply confessed shame (see 2 Sam 19:28).

After the king crossed the Jordan and stopped at Gilgal, "all the men of Israel" came to him (see 2 Sam 19:41).

Jesus is going to return ... He is the King of kings. He is coming to reign. He has been away, and His favour has gone to all the nations. Everyone who trusts in Him, those who have humbled themselves, or received His humbling, will be ready to meet Him. They will be a people in the spiritual low place ... the lowest place.

And, the remnant of Israel ... all Israel ... will be brought to the low place, to meet their King.

But, it's not over even then. As we see from the last verse of 2 Samuel chapter 19, Judah and Israel still squabbled over the King. But the LORD intends to bring us into unity. Jew and Gentile together ... united in faith ... denominational walls broken down.

We continue reading the Psalms of Ascent ... and we shall come to Psalm 133, (about that unity). And the last, Psalm 134, (when it's all accomplished) ... but there is much for each of us to learn on the journey of faith.