“Ye have compassed this mountain long enough: turn you northward. (KJV)”
If we look closely at this passage in Deuteronomy we can see that God provides us with some training for times when we find ourselves wandering in the “wilderness.” The supposition here is that God knows that our tendency is to fall or slip into a state of wandering. We all get to places where it seems that we move without vision, without passion, and without purpose. One of the dangers we face as Christians is that of becoming religious, where our routine is often substituted for relationship, and we trade rituals for power.
2 Timothy 3:5
5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
One of the worst things that can happen to a child of God is to fall into this lifestyle of making allowances for the wrong attitudes and appetites of our flesh, but continuing on just as though we have fully dealt with it. The children of Israel turned an eleven-day journey into a 40-year death march because they were more comfortable with the form than the power. They would rather go through the motions than to submit themselves to God.
Just before entering their promised land, God brought them to a place called Gilgal, which means “rolled away.” It was here that God would take away the reproach of Egypt from them. This place represented all of their wilderness wanderings, their endless circles, their ceaseless activity, their religious ceremonies void of God’s power.
“Make thee sharp knives and circumcise again the children of Israel.”
Our Gilgal is where God delivers us from the carnal cycles, or the excessive flesh that is keeping us from experiencing real power, transforming power in our lives. In the book of Hebrews, it says that the Word of God is sharper than a two-edged sword. Don’t hide your flesh from the Word, do not protect your flesh from the sword of the Spirit. I can confidently tell you from my own experience: that which you spare from the sword will continue to enslave you and keep you from true freedom and the victory over the flesh that Christ died to give you, until it is cut away.
It says that they tarried in the camps till they were whole. Listen to what God is showing us here, the pure Word of God will cut, and sometimes it cuts deep. It will force us to let the Holy Ghost cut away the layers of flesh that keep us from His power. It won’t always be minor surgery and it often involves pain, but ultimately it produces wholeness, healing, and power. Only God can make us whole and he does it by delivering us from the flesh by His Word, and filling us with the Holy Ghost.
Many people know just enough of the Word to make them argumentative, but not enough to make them change. They have studied enough to make them religious, but not enough to make them hunger for righteousness. They have memorized enough to make them seem happy, but not hidden enough in their hearts to make them pursue holiness. They are “stuck in the rut” of carnal cycles. They are continually moving but never growing, always learning but never coming to the knowledge of the truth. The great danger that faces everyone who continues in this condition: they mistake activity for progress. They convince themselves that being busy for the Lord is equivalent to growing in the Lord. They deceive themselves!
They are stuck in a carnal cycle and they continue to “compass” the mountain over and over; year after year. The mountain represents those things in your life that you never seem to be able to get victory over: a habit, a critical spirit, unforgiveness, gossip, cussing, losing your temper, over eating, lust, jealousy, or hate. Compassing the mountain means that every time you are faced with these sins, you react according to the flesh and not the spirit. It seems like a never ending cycle, a carnal cycle in which you abuse the grace of God time and time again; you react according to the flesh, you feel guilty, you repent, and then you feel better. At least until the next time you experience similar conditions and it seems the cycle starts over again.
Compassing the mountain means that you never deal with the real issue, you skirt the issue, you put on your spiritual blinders and then continue on religiously as though the problem doesn’t exist. It’s the cycle of responding to the pressures of life, pressures which are common to all, by surrendering to the temptations of the flesh. Some surrender to sexual immorality, others to drugs and alcohol, many over eat, lose their temper, lie, hold a grudge, sulk and pout, draw into themselves, or get moody and unpredictable. It’s what the Word of God refers to as “being conformed to the patterns of this world.”
In every situation you have a choice whether you will respond according to the flesh or according to the Word of God. If you respond according to the flesh, it’s one more time around the mountain.
Are you fed up with circling your mountain? Have you compassed this mountain long enough? Then allow the sharp edge of the Word of God to have its way in your life and identify those attitudes and characteristics that are of the flesh, and allow the Holy Ghost to cut it away and crucify your flesh once and for all!
This means that we have to surrender to the operation of the Holy Spirit as he addresses those secret places in our lives, and we submit to God as our deliverer and our healer. It means that we pray through until the Holy Ghost makes our heart His dwelling place. Only then can we continue into our promise land and start enjoying the inheritance of being God’s children.
“19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
24 And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.