It’s weird. Let’s just go ahead and establish that much. That God would pick circumcision as the sign of the covenant. Couldn’t it have been something a little less intimate or graphic? Something more along the lines of a tattoo or a ring. Like the diamond I wear on my left hand to show that I’m married to a smokin hot farmer (just sayin). Wouldn’t that be better? A sign visible to everyone?
Devotional Scripture: Genesis 17:9-14, 22-27
Key Verse: “But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.” Romans 2:29
I guess that’s why I’m not running the world. Because actually no. Circumcision was in fact the most befitting sign. Everything God does has purpose. In your life, in mine, and in the stories of the Old Testament. And the nuggets of truth we can discover when we dig a little deeper into such symbolism is one reason why I absolutely loooove the Old Testament.
It was to be a sign, not outwardly, but personally. A reminder they had been set apart to God – physically and spiritually. For greater purposes. Kings were to come from these people; specifically THE King of Kings. Christ was the very specific seed or offspring God was referring to in Genesis 12:3 and 17:8 (Gal 3:16). So God reminded where it mattered most (in the flesh of their foreskin)…to be pure. To live differently, not as the world lives, but as God desired “I am God Almighty, walk before me, and be blameless” (Gen. 17:1).
Similarly we have the command “as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (1 Peter 1:15). Be set apart. Be different. For though you are not marked specifically by the sign of circumcision you are marked by the Holy Spirit.
It was not limited either, to just Jewish born males. Every male who was brought into a Jewish home, even those who were bought were to be circumcised. Why? Quite possibly to indicate there was no racial discrimination. No social discrimination. Just as there is no discrimination regarding the New Covenant in Christ. “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith” (Gal. 4:26). So circumcision was not just for the elite or the privileged because Christ is not just for the elite or the privileged. How thankful I am that Christ came to seek and save the sinner!
But it was mandatory. “Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant” (Gen. 17:14). Practically speaking such strict measures were necessary if the covenant was to be passed from generation to generation. Spiritually speaking it was mandatory because there must be “a cutting off of the flesh” to be a part of not only the Abrahamic covenant but the New Covenant in Christ.
Or as Paul puts it in Romans 2, “a circumcision of the heart.” Because God’s not interested in mere outward expressions, but inner transformations. The flesh in Scripture is symbolic of that which is in opposition to God (Rom. 8:7). It’s the part of us that wants to do life without God – on our terms. The part of us that seeks to fulfill every whim and desire with worldly pleasures; instead of Him who gives true fulfillment. But in Christ I crucify the flesh! Cutting it off (see the symbolism). Circumcising my heart so it’s no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me (Gal. 2:20). No longer living in the flesh, but by the Spirit (Rom. 8:9). “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there” (Gal. 5:24; NLT). But is it really so? Have I crucified the desires of my flesh (cutting them off) or do I let them live as though they cohabitate with my spirit? May it not be so! For to think my flesh and my spirit can co-exist is a delusion I must not surrender to. WE must not surrender to! The flesh and the spirit are at war with each other (Rom. 7:23). To think otherwise is to live apart from truth- apart from reality – and at a distance from God.
Because the reality is we won’t know the full power available to us; the victory waiting for us; or the wonderment of a deep relationship with Christ, if the flesh is not cut off. Consider Joshua 5 – The Israelites were about to enter the Promised Land (under the leadership of Joshua) after 40 years in the wilderness. Their first stop would be the battle of Jericho. But before they could experience God’s blessing and victory circumcision had to take place (a cutting off of the flesh had to take place). You see the children who had been born in the wilderness (now grown men) had never been circumcised.
What a picture! If you want to experience the power of God in your life – cut off the flesh. Live apart from the world (Rom. 12:2). Live in obedience to God. If you are in Christ – you are the very temple of the living God – his spirit dwells in you. So be separate from the world. Circumcise your heart!
If I sin do I cease to be a son or daughter of God? No absolutely not. Salvation is gained by grace not works and can’t be lost. But think of it this way: If my kids have been out playing in the dirt and they’re filthy – unless they clean up we can’t go out for ice cream. They’re still my kids. And I still love them but until they’re clean they’re gonna miss out on the ice cream.
“Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1; NKJV).
No doubt circumcision was a sign. But it’s also to be our way of life as we live circumcised in heart. As we live every day to love God.
Contemplate and Evaluate:
- Do you strive daily to cut off the flesh or have you allowed your flesh to cohabitate with your spirit?
- What choices can you make today to show you’ve been marked by the Holy Spirit – set aside for God’s purposes?