Micah: From Shittim to Gilgal


     “My people, remember what Balak king of Moab counseled and what Balaam son of Beor answered. Remember your journey from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the righteous acts of the Lord…. Micah 6:5 NIV

    Every family has a story or two about a branch of the family tree that made a sideways decision which led their particular clan down the primrose path.

    Family reunions are spent in conversations that go something like this:

    “Whatever happened to…”

    “Oh you know they just fell apart after the…. I heard their children ended up…. Tsk,tsk,tsk isn’t it just terrible and they had so much promise.”

    On the other hand every family also has its success stories.


   “Oh you know he finished his degree and got hired as the CEO of…What a marvelous guy. I wish he was here today.”

    Ultimately the difference between the two stories lies in a decision not necessarily a personality. Usually the family black sheep is wounded but likeable, while the family hero can often be an arrogant know-it-all or a bully.

     Israel was no different. Micah was calling the people to remember that their success or failure as a nation did not lie in their personality or their talent. Their hope lay in their decision regarding God.

    God says in Micah 6:5 ” Remember your journey from Shittim to Gilgal.”

    That’s a reference you will probably miss unless you know Israel’s history. It’s not a reference to a journey over land. The distance between Shittim and Gilgal is really only a jump across the River Jordan. It’s a reference to a journey through time. You see it took Israel forty years to jump the Jordan because of a decision made at Shittim. To understand you have to go all the way back to the days of Moses.

     The story of Shittim began as Israel arrived at  the doorstep of Moab. Moab’s king, Balak, was looking for a way to get rid of what he consider a major pest problem.

    So he sent for the seer Balaam. Balak wanted the magic man to whammy the Israelites with a curse. Instead Balaam blessed them in the name of Israel’s God.

     Balak not to be so easily discouraged looked for a way around the blessing. Balaam apparently a little bent out of shape about being “misused” by God helped Balak find the loophole.

      Through subterfuge Balak arranged for the women of Moab to sleep with the men of Israel and ensnare them into the worship of a false God. That one decision stole Israel’s godly blessing and released a plague upon the Israelites that killed 24,000 people.

     Forty years later the people of Israel finally crossed the Jordan and landed at Gilgal. In that place they had to make a decision different from the decision they made at Shittim. They had to choose God. It was in Gilgal according to Joshua chapter 5 that the Israelites renewed their dedication at last to God through the covenant of circumcision.

     At Shittim and in their successive wilderness wanderings the Israelites stopped practicing circumcision (the sign of their dedication to God). A wrong choice made by one generation flowed over to effect the potential blessing of the next. So at Gilgal the Israelites had to reverse the curse by making a new choice. That one decision by the men of Israel, to endure the pain of cutting the flesh off at Gilgal, released a generation of blessing that allowed them to take the land of Canaan as their own.

      Generations later God called to His people through Micah and warned them to remember the journey their ancestors took. He offered His hands out and said , ” Choose…Shittim or Gilgal?”

     Today He says to us, “Shittim or Gilgal?”

     He is cheering you on to His choice.

“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8 NIV