Circumcision: A Cutting Edge Sermon
Today, we're going to look at circumcision. Genesis 17 is the first time the Bible mentions circumcision. And there are at least a 100 references to circumcision in the Bible.
We are going to dive into what circumcision is all about. And in order to understand this completely; fully, let's take a look at the context; the position or the circumstance by which God gave this command, or this covenant sign to Abraham.
So, we read that, "Abraham is now 99 years old ..." [Genesis 17:1] It has been about 24 years, since he heard God's call to leave his hometown to enter the Promised Land. God originally promised him a great nation, a great name, a great land, and also a promise of a Savior.
Abraham, understood all that! But it has been 24 years, and Sarah, his wife, had not been pregnant at all. She had been barren all this while. So they came up with a plan of Abraham going in to Hagar, who is Sarah's handmaid. They had relationships, and at 86 years old, that's about 13 years before this, Abraham and Hagar have a son named Ishmael.
But God is saying to Abraham, "The promise about the Savior, and about a great nation and so on and so forth, will not be via Ishmael, but it will be via another son, you will have with Sarah." So God now says to Abraham, "I am the Almighty God: walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and thee: and I will multiply thee exceedingly." [Genesis 17:2] So God is coming to Abraham to re-affirm His covenant, His promise with him.
In fact, God says at this point, “Neither shall thy name be called any more Abram: but thou shalt be called Abraham: because I have made thee a father of many nations. And I will make thee increase, exceedingly, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and between thy seed after thee in their generations, by a perpetual covenant: to be a God to thee, and to thy seed after thee.” [Genesis 17:5-7]
God is reaffirming what He has been saying to Abraham, for these many years. And here it is, "Sarai thy wife thou shalt not call Sarai, but Sara. And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her." [Genesis 17:15-16]
It's been 24 years, but now God says, "I will give Sarah for sure, a son." And Abraham believed God in this circumstance, even though he's a 100 and Sarah is 90 years old.
But, let's come now to the circumcision, this sign that God will give to Abraham. "This is my covenant which you shall observe, between me and you, and thy seed after thee: All the male kind of you shall be circumcised:" [Genesis 17:10] So circumcision will be a sign given to Abraham and his descendants.
And this is interesting, "He who is eight days, among you shall be circumcised." [Genesis 17:12] Now, this is actually very medical! Vitamin K is at its highest level in the infant, when he is eight days old. And vitamin K is crucial to blood clotting. It has something to do with something called prothrombin and the clotting factors and all these things. And so at eight days old, that's the best time! You circumcised earlier, he's going to bleed like crazy, but circumcised 8 days old, better chance that it will clot better.
“He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. 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.” [Genesis 17:12-14] So God wanted this to be a very uniform universal sign that every male in the Jewish or in Abrahamic descendants would obey.
This is the first account of circumcision, but we need to understand the why, what's the significance behind this all. So let's look at the Meaning of circumcision.
What's the significance of it all? Well, it's actually found in a text, we are told that, "Circumcision is a sign of the covenant." [Genesis 17:11]
Now, the covenant that God made with Abraham is this - that God will give Abraham a land, a great name, a great nation, and a Savior from his descendant. That's the promise! And this circumcision is meant to be a sign, meant to be a physical reminder of God's promise. So the key thing is not the circumcision, the key thing is the covenant, the key thing is the promise.
Circumcision is a physical reminder that God has promised to Abraham and to his descendants, that God will bless them with a land, with a great name, with a great nation and with most of all, the promise of the Savior. So Paul would also affirm that, that, "He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well," [Romans 4:11] The circumcision reminds God's people that God has given Abraham a promise.
As you continue in scripture reading about circumcision, you would also see that God intends circumcision, the act of cutting that foreskin to also symbolize something else. We see for example in Deuteronomy 30:6, "And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart " There is no skin on the heart. But the idea here is, God is saying, "The circumcision of the foreskin, is to kind of remind you of the need to cut off something from the heart ..."
You say, "What do we cut off from the heart." From here, you could probably see that is cutting off the sinful lusts, sinful desires, the sinful habits of life, the sinful idols in our heart, "... so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live." [Deuteronomy 30:6]
And again we see in Jeremiah 9:25-26, "Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will punish all those who are circumcised merely in the flesh. Ah, Egypt, Judah, Edom and so on and so forth, for all these nations are uncircumcised and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in heart."
So from here we understand, that God intends for the physical act of circumcision, to remind His people to also be circumcised in the heart - have a clean heart.
So let me summarize it, or maybe let's look at one more set of verses before we summarize it all. For no one is a Jew, a true Jew, a true Jew is someone who knows God and who belongs to God. So, "No one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly ..." [Romans 2:28] So the Jews may say, "I'm circumcised, I'm God's people." Not necessarily! "For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter." [Romans 2:28-29]
Although we all do not need a physical circumcision, we all need a spiritual circumcision.
What's the spiritual circumcision? "Circumcised therefore this foreskin of your heart and be no longer stubborn." [Deuteronomy 10:16] In other words, be willing to cut off the loves for the things of this world, be willing to cut off the lust and excesses and the sins of life. Do not be stubborn.
The Bible also says, "The LORD Your God will circumcise your heart." [Deuteronomy 30:6] So, the Bible is clear that God is calling all men and women to have a circumcision, and that is the circumcision of the heart.
How can I have a clean heart? I can have clean hands, I can have a clean mouth, but how do I clean the heart? "How can I circumcise the heart?
Well, it is not easy, because the cleaning of the heart is like becoming a new creation. That's how difficult it is! "For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation." [Galatians 6:15] I hope you get the inference there that God is saying, "The circumcision of the flesh, is not important. But the circumcision of the heart, is all important. And the circumcision of the heart is like being made a new creation."
In other words it is as difficult as being totally changed. It's being born again! And that's why none of us can do it. None of us can do it! This can only be done by God Himself. In the sacrament of baptism "In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ " [Colossians 2:11]
Paul is saying that, "This cleansing of the heart, this circumcision of the heart, this new creation cannot be done by your hands, it can only be done by Christ. There is only one Spiritual Surgeon, who can be competent in this job, and He is Jesus Christ." So I need to be circumcised, but you can't do it, your priest can't do it, no one in this world can do it, except for Jesus Christ. All we can do is to surrender to his working within us. And that begins by putting our trust in Jesus the Spiritual Surgeon, and enter into the waters of baptism, so that he can circumcise our heart, make us a new creation. “Buried with him in baptism, in whom also you are risen again by the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him up from the dead.” [Colossians 2:12]