Then the LORD said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” So the place has been called Gilgal to this day. (Joshua 5:9)
Egypt had enslaved the children of Israel for many generations, but God sent his deliverer, Moses, to bring them out. Pharaoh reluctantly agreed to let them go but then changed his mind and chased after them. When his army had them backed up to the Rea Sea with nowhere to go, God parted the waters for the children of Israel to go safely across. Pharaoh’s army tried to follow but were drowned by the returning waters.
Israel’s deliverance, though, was not yet complete. There was still the wilderness to cross before they reached the promised land, and what should have been an eleven-day trek turned into forty years of wandering because they were not willing to cross over into the land of promise. They were fearful of the “giants” they heard were there and were unwilling to trust God to safely lead them in.
They wanted to go back, for Egypt was still in their hearts and bondage still had a strong hold on their minds. “Better we should die in the wilderness,” they said. And so they did. God gave them up to their desire. Forty years in the desert was not his idea. He would gladly have led them into the land if only they had been willing. But they were not. So they wandered, a natural result of their faithlessness. Even so, God was faithful, providing for their needs all along the way.
But now their self-imposed exile was over. That entire generation had died off and a new one had arisen that knew neither Egypt nor bondage. God brought them on into the promised land, and the reproach of Egypt was finally rolled away.
Sometimes the reproach on us is the accusations, the condemnations, the abuse put on us by others. Sometimes it is our own faithless choices and behaviors. Sometimes it is the shame we feel about our failures, our weaknesses — our helplessness. These become bondages from which we must be delivered.
But the good news of the gospel is that, in Jesus Christ, God has removed all our reproach. Christ has broken the power of sin, the power of death, the power of the accuser. His cross is the victory and his resurrection is the proof. The “reproach of Egypt” has been rolled away from us as surely as the stone was rolled away from the empty tomb on resurrection morning.