13. The Place of Power.
"Yet not I, but Christ lives in me." — Gal. 2:20.
Gilgal, which signifies "Rolling," or "Rolling away," is Israel's centre of strength all through the conflicts recorded in the book of Joshua. To Gilgal they repaired, whether after victory or defeat, and from this camp they issued forth to battle.
At their circumcision "the Lord said unto Joshua, This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you. Wherefore the name of the place is called Gilgal, 'Rolling away,' unto this day." It might, perhaps, have been expected that God would have declared Israel free from the reproach of Egypt after He had cast their enemies into the depths of the sea, or immediately upon His bringing them over Jordan into Canaan; but no, He required them to be circumcised first.
At Gilgal Jehovah Himself rolled the reproach away, and Israel stood before Him in the blessing wherewith He had blessed them. Pharaoh had said that, if they did get out of Egypt, they would be shut in the wilderness; and verily it had seemed as if they would wander and die there. In the camp in Canaan they were before Jehovah His army, His nation on the earth, according to His accomplished purpose, His purchased people seated in His promised land, and marked off by Him for Himself from the nations surrounding them and He declared them to be His indeed.
At our camp we see what God has wrought; and with God's work before us, we are established in His grace, which is in itself the prime element of Christian strength. God has accomplished His purpose towards His redeemed in Christ, and has planted them, who were of the land of bondage, in the heavenly places in Christ. He has removed from them, through Christ, every single thing His eye saw contrary to His own mind in them, for His people are dead with Christ; and He has made them in Christ exactly in accordance with His mind, for they are risen with Christ, seated in Christ on high; and this is the camp — the place of strength for the Christian. In whatever way the world be viewed, or in whatever way the flesh, as the principle of evil, be regarded, in Christ who is risen from the dead, in Christ who has gone up on high, the reproach is rolled off God's redeemed people by God Himself. He Himself pronounces them free, for it was not what Israel said of themselves, but what Jehovah declared respecting them, that rendered Gilgal — the camp — their centre of power.
It was at Gilgal the twelve stones from the bed of the Jordan were pitched for the memorial, which declared not only the divine power which had arrested the river, but which reminded Israel of the depths wherein the ark of the covenant had stood for them.
And here it is, in spirit, that the true practical spirit of circumcision is carried out by God's saints; true mortification of self is found where there is true heart-dwelling in the memory of Jesus' death. As Israel beheld these memorial stones, they would of necessity consider the place where the ark had been for them. And abiding in the memory of Christ's death for us, we, being risen with Christ, are, practically speaking, in the place of power, for we cannot overcome the foe for God unless we ourselves be in subjection to Him. The believer knows well enough that though he be seated in the heavenly places in Christ, yet unless he mortify his members which are on the earth, he has no practical power for his daily life. The knowledge of our death with Christ and our mortifying of our desires cannot be disassociated in practical life. We are not in the Jordan, we are taken out of it; but the memory of Christ's death for us need be ever in our hearts if we would live truly for Him. A saint may know his position in Christ from the Scriptures, yet be living a very untoward life as a Christian. But such would not be the case if his heart was occupied with Christ's death for him, by which his sins were put away, and in whom he is raised to the new life. The apostle says, "the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me" (Gal. 2:20); ever was the memory of Jesus' dying love before his soul. As our hearts gaze, as it were, upon the memorial stones, we say to ourselves, He went into death for us; we died with Him; and then, by the power of the Holy Ghost, we are enabled to put to death our pride and our ways which once we loved.
Two great memories mark the camp of Gilgal: the twelve stones taken from the bed of Jordan, the memorial of God's work in bringing them into the promised possession, and of the place where the ark stood firm; and the circumcision, the witness that nationally they were absolutely Jehovah's own people. The teachings of these two figures give precisely the two great elements of blessing, abiding in the faith of which is strength. First, in Christ ascended, the Christian is brought into all the privileges of all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places; second, by identification with Christ in His death, the Christian is, as a fallen child of Adam, dead and buried and out of sight before God.
The camp was for all Israel — not for the men of war only, not for the nine and a half tribes only; there was but one camp, with its memorial stones and its circumcision; and, as we contemplate our camp, we rejoice that its mighty realities are for "all saints," all of whom are "blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ," and all of whom are "dead with Christ." Whether our individual faith rises to God's thoughts of our Gilgal is another question; nevertheless, as the camp, the place of strength, possesses the believer's soul, so does he make it his resort, whether before victory or after defeat.
From the stronghold of divine grace the Christian soldier needs to be continually going forth, and hither he needs to be continually returning; the twelve stones, and the circumcision made without hands, must ever be before his soul; he needs to be again and again strengthened for his warfare by the faith of the truth of his being a member of the body of Christ, and by the faith of the truth that he has been crucified with Christ.
The effective soldier of Christ is girded about with divine realities, he is braced up in heart by God's word as to what real blessing is, and his energy for warfare lies in being in the Spirit as to the truth. Power of darkness and spiritual wickedness in heavenly places are the foes, and, dwelling in heart in the faith of being blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places in Christ, we fight the enemy in the field he occupies. To slacken the girdle is to give Satan an advantage. Do we give up a single truth God has given us? or, Do we fail in practically putting our own desires to death? — then, by that surrender, spiritual strength departs and courage fails.