Circumcision of the Heart

Photo by Engin Akyurt on

October 12, 2021

We were to read Genesis 9-18 this week. However, there is so much to talk about in the first 8 chapters of Genesis that I am going to summarize these, then discuss at length Genesis 17.  

After creation, Adam and Eve made the choice to disobey God and ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Because of this, sin entered the world, and Adam and Eve had to leave the garden and no longer take from the tree of life and live forever. There would be death and pain because of sin.

Over time, man became more wicked and God was grieved. The LORD said that he would wipe out mankind, animals, creatures, and birds because of so much evil. There was one man righteous at that time and it was Noah. God told Noah to build an ark (which took over 100 years), and put his family and every kind of animal and bird, male and female, into the ark. Then God made it rain and flood the entire earth for 150 days. Once the rain stopped, Noah and his 3 sons and their wives, along with the animals were put on the earth. God told them to be fruitful, and increase in number, and so they did. God made a covenant with Noah that he would not flood the whole earth that would destroy life, instead He would make a rainbow appear. This would be to remember the covenant between God and all of life.

One of the sons of Noah was named Shem. Through his linage came Abram.

God had made a promise to Abram when he was 75 years old that he would become a great nation. Abraham had faith and it was counted as righteousness to him.

The problem was that Sarai his wife was barren, and they had no children. After time, his wife Sarai did not become pregnant, so Sarai had Abram sleep with the maidservant Hagar (a common practice in those days). Hagar had a son and name him Ishmael.

Sarai and Abram thought that God’s promise of being a great nation was going to be through Ishmael. Thirteen years after Ishmael was born, God came to Abraham again.

Genesis 17:1-14 says, “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty[a]; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”

Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram[b]; your name will be Abraham,[c] for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”

Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. 13 Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

15 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”

17 Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”

19 Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac.[d] I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. 20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. 21 But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.” 22 When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.

23 On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him. 24 Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised, 25 and his son Ishmael was thirteen; 26 Abraham and his son Ishmael were both circumcised on that very day. 27 And every male in Abraham’s household, including those born in his household or bought from a foreigner, was circumcised with him.”

We are going to dive into this part of the text.

It took 25 years for Abram to understand the entire covenant God made with him. Initially, Abram (means exalted father) was told he would be a great nation. He was never told who the mother was going to be of this great nation so when Sarai did not conceive, she had Abram sleep with Hagar, her maidservant. Hagar became pregnant and had a son called Ishmael.  

Thirteen years later God came to Abram and spoke again. God told Abram to walk before God and be blameless, then God would make a covenant and increase Abram’s family size. Abram had to do something first in the covenant before God would increase his family size.

God clarified the covenant even more. This is what God would do for Abram:

  1. Abram would be the father of many nations
  2. Abram would have the name Abraham (means father of many nations)
  3. Abraham would be fruitful
  4. There would be kings that would come from Abraham (Jesus is one of them)
  5. The covenant would be with Abraham and his descendants and would be everlasting
  6. God was Abraham’s God and the God of his descendants
  7. The whole land of Canaan would be everlasting for Abraham and his descendants (Isreal)

This is what Abraham had to do for God:

  1. The covenant had to be kept by Abraham and all the males and any worker or servant in the household
  2. Each male was to be circumcised when he was 8 days old along with the males currently
  3. This covenant in Abraham’s “flesh” was to be everlasting
  4. Any uncircumcised male would be “cut off” from his people because the covenant was broken

Sarai’s name was changed to Sarah. Ishmael was blessed. But the covenant was going to be in the line of Sarah and Abraham’s son, who would be called Isaac.

Immediately, Abraham and his entire household of males, were circumcised. Sarah became pregnant and a year later had her son Isaac.

This ends chapter 17 of Genesis. It is important to understand the significance of circumcision and how it still relates to us today.

Circumcision is the cutting off of the foreskin of a male. The cutting off of flesh. We know through history that it was already practiced in some neighboring communities, so was not new, although it was often done at puberty as a right of passage. With the Isrealites, circumcision was done at the age of 8 days and was a theological rite of passage into the covenant community. It was an outward way to show union with God.

Sarah was 90 years old and barren, and Abraham was 99 years old. Some scholars believe that circumcision was a constant reminder of the miracle birth of Isaac and the creation of the Jewish race.

In Genesis 15:6 we learn that Abraham had faith and it was credited as righteousness. According to Romans 4:11, “11 And he received circumcision as a sign, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them.” Abraham had faith first, then had the physical mark of the covenant through circumcision.

How does circumcision relate to us today? According to Paul in Galations 5:6 “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”

Males, for religious reasons, do not need to be physically circumcised today. However, there is a different circumcision. Colossians 2:10-12 says, “10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh[a] was put off when you were circumcised by[b] Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.”

This is saying that Christians are not circumcised by human hands like Abraham’s family, but are circumcised by Christ. This circumcision is Christ’s death on the cross. Prior to having faith in Christ, our whole self was ruled by our own desires, but once we have faith in Christ, our fleshly ways are cut off and we are brought to fullness in Christ through our faith and baptism. We are then given the Holy Spirit as a sign of our conversion (Ephesians 4:30). Philippians 3:3 says, “For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh—”

We no longer live by the rules and laws of the Old Testament. Romans 6:14 says, “For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

Have you been circumcised by Christ?

Have your fleshly ways been cut off?

How can you thank God today for His grace?

4 thoughts on “Circumcision of the Heart

  1. Roxanne, I am enjoying the readings and appreciate the time you are taking for this Bible study. I don’t see next weeks assignment at the end of your remarks. Let me know what I should be reading next. Thanks again.

    Fran Oakes

    Sent from my iPhone



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