“But [do not] . . . enter into Gilgal . . . for Gilgal shall surely go into captivity.” (Amos 5:5)
Gilgal was the place of new beginnings. Twelve memorial stones from the Jordan were set up at Gilgal after the miraculous crossing of the Jordan River (Joshua 4:3). The nation was circumcised there in preparation for their possession of the land (Joshua 5:5). The Passover was celebrated (Joshua 5:10), and the miraculous manna ceased (Joshua 5:12). The victorious campaign in the hill country of Judea extending to Kadesh-barnea and Gaza was conducted from Gilgal (Joshua 10:15). The great battle at the waters of Merom was conducted from Gilgal (Joshua 10:43; 11:5). Saul was crowned Israel’s first king at Gilgal (1 Samuel 11:15).
Yet, the activity at Gilgal began to obscure the Word of God. Saul compromised and sacrificed at Gilgal to try to gain God’s blessing. His desire for political favor resulted in direct disobedience to God.
A zeal for “righteous action” without obedience can result in evil. Jephthah’s foolish vow and subsequent bad leadership led to a horrible slaughter (Judges 11–12). Micah’s selfish desire for a personal priest led to terrible apostasy (Judges 17–18). A Levite’s false zeal for revenge led Israel into civil war (Judges 19–21).
When activity substitutes for holiness, the cause starts to justify the activity. Activity then becomes necessary to preserve the cause, and dedication to the activity is equated with loyalty and holiness. In many cases, preservation of a memorable event overrides biblical truth. We don’t need “activity” at Gilgal as much as we need “abiding” in Christ. The “branches” need the “vine” (John 15). HMM III