Devotional & Reflection
Genesis 17:9-14: Circumcise What? What Circumcise!!!
Have you ever wondered what the Old Testament has got to do with the world today? If you have, you are like many of us who are hungry to live out God's word - in particular the Old Testament. In this passage, you would probably ask, "What has circumcision got to do with us Christians today anyway?"
To recap, there are three main markers in Abraham's 25 years recounted in Gen 12 till Gen 17: his Call (Gen 12), the Covenant (Gen 15) and Circumcision - A Sign Of The Covenant And Abraham's Commitment (Gen 17).
God in fact gave two signs of His covenant to Abraham when he was 99 years old. First, He changed Abram's name to Abraham. Abram means "exalted (as to his) father" which seemed to imply that Abram was of royal or noble lineage (Hamilton, Genesis and Bible Knowledge Commentary). But his new name, Abraham means "father of a multitude of nations." Imagine people smiling or even sneering at this 99-year old who calls himself a father of a multitude of nations. The other sign of God's covenant and promise is circumcision.
Circumcision was practiced in those days in the ancient Near East to mark one's transition into puberty and manhood (Kidner, Genesis). However, God gave a new spiritual meaning to this practice when he instituted his promise or when He cut a covenant with Abraham. The cutting of the covenant involved the cutting the male's foreskin at eight days old (17:12).
Circumcision later symbolized the discarding of pagan ways (Jos 5:9) and one's natural self-will (Deut 10:16) in addition to our commitment to God (Jer 4:4) (Kidner, Genesis).
Circumcision then, in summary, is an outward sign of an inward heart commitment and devotion to God.
Notice the play of words on cut and cut-off. Those who do not cut (circumcise) are cut off (17:14). Cut-off may mean ex-communication or extermination / execution (Hamilton leans to the latter meaning).
In the New Testament after Jesus' redemptive work, the Jerusalem Council decided that physical circumcision was not necessary for salvation (Acts 15). Paul confirmed it in Gal 6:15. For Christians today, we may ask, "What do we circumcise?" or "Circumcise what?" Then, we can respond in amazement "What? Circumcise!!! What Circumcise!!!" or in obedience "Circumcise what in my life?"
We are challenged to circumcise our sinful nature (Col 2:11-12). Just as Abraham prepared for the fulfillment of the promise with circumcision during his period of waiting, we too are challenged to circumcise our hearts during our period of tiresome waiting.
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