The Israelites finally have arrived. After forty years of wandering in the wilderness, God has brought them into the Promised Land. The long and difficult journey has lasted for a generation, but now it is over. They have a new beginning.
After the people cross the Jordan and enter into the land, they make camp at a place called Gilgal, from the Hebrew word galal, which means “to roll.” God declares that God has “rolled away from [them] the disgrace of Egypt,” where their ancestors were enslaved, oppressed, and treated as less than human. God clears away all of that pain and suffering and gives the people freedom.
In this moment, God not only rolls away the yoke of slavery; God also washes away the people’s sin. They would have arrived forty years sooner if they had trusted in God’s power to deliver them. When God first brought their ancestors to the edge of the Promised Land, they gave in to fear and couldn’t believe that God would help them. But now, in spite of their wavering faith along the way, God has delivered them.
This story of new beginnings plays out again and again in the lives of God’s people. God is always ready to roll away our past and give us a new beginning. Whether we suffer at the hands of others who oppress us or from our own fear and doubt—or both—we proclaim a God who frees us from what binds us and, with each new day, gives us a fresh start.
Liberating and forgiving God, thank you for giving us a new beginning with each new day. Help us to trust in your power to roll away all that binds us. Guide us through our seasons of wilderness, and bring us into the fullness of your love and hope. Amen.
Lent is a time for focusing on our need for God and for remembering God’s abundant resources for filling that need. When the Israelites finally pass into Canaan, they observe the Passover as a reminder of God’s deliverance of them from Egypt. The psalmist, traditionally David, rejoices in the fact that God does not count his sins against him. Paul declares that through Christ, God has made everything new. God no longer holds our sins against us, and we in turn appeal to others to accept this free gift. Jesus eats with sinners and tells the story of the prodigal son to demonstrate that no matter how far we stray, God will always welcome us home with open arms. God never stops pursuing us, even if we feel unloved or unworthy.
Read Joshua 5:9-12. What stories do you tell about your faith? What do these stories help you remember?
Read Psalm 32. When have you hidden from God? When has God been your hiding place?
Read 2 Corinthians 5:16-21. We are ambassadors for Christ. How does your life display for others that life in Christ eliminates worldly identity labels?
Read Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32. Do you identify with the prodigal son, the elder son, or the father in the parable? Are you ready to rejoin God’s household on God’s terms? Are you ready to welcome everyone home?
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