God promises many things and sometimes he ask for something in return. This time God asks Abraham to be obedient by way of circumcision. You can look it up the procedure if you want but, yikes, at the age of 99 years old Abraham followed through on this request from God. So, the question that seems relevant here is why circumcision and why did God ask Abraham to be circumcised?
Abraham Built a Life Trusting God
The story of Abraham is one of the longer entries in the book of Genesis. This history picks up when Abraham is already 75 years old and God calls him to leave the land of his fathers (Genesis Chapter 12). At 86 years old Abraham and Sarah make the mistake to try and solve the problem of no children by taking a second wife, Hagar, to whom Ishmael is born (Genesis Chapter 16). Then at age 99 God moves to put into motion the convent promises that had been made by having Abraham circumcised. God gives Abraham new life with a name change and the concreate promise of a son (Genesis 17). One year later at 100 years old Abraham become the father to the promise (Genesis 21). Then finally Abraham dies at 175 years (Genesis Chapter 25).
There are many events in this history (Lot, Sodom, Melchizedek, Isaac and Rebecca, Ishmael, Abimelech) but one right in the middle stands out. God changes Abraham’s name and introduces the covenant of circumcision.
5 No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations… 10 This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. Genesis 17:5;10-11 ESV
God asks for Commitment
Abram at 99 years old is born again with a new name and a call to action by Abraham to be circumcised. God called him for this moment but Abraham started the journey when he was 75 years old. 24 years of trusting God and being faithful have given way to this moment. Up until this point God has made multiple promises and convents with Abraham but has not really asked anything of Abraham in return.
Genesis 12:2 “I will make of you a great nation”
Genesis 13:15 “all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever”
Genesis 15:18 “On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates,”
A Covenant Between God and the Future
For 24 years Abraham as been living a nomad life in a land that was not his and without an heir. All the promises God has been making to Abraham will start their fulfillment on this day. Outside of taking that first step to leave his family and venture into the unknown today is the first day God has asked Abraham to confirm the covenant between God and man.
And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. Genesis 17:7 ESV
This covenant God is bringing into existence is not just for Abraham. It is a covenant for all his offspring that come after him. God has been making promises to Abraham and now God asks Abraham to do something uncomfortable and strange. Why circumcision? Why must Abraham be circumcised?
Three Reasons Why Circumcision
Here are three reasons that get to the heart of why God asked this odd request of Abraham, his household, and his descendants.
Sex and Atoning Sacrifice
The promise to Abraham is a child and that he would be the father of many nations. That promise is delivered sexually from Man to Woman. A blood sacrifice is being requested by God to prepare the way for the birth of Isaac one year later. Abraham circumcised meets these requirements. Sheading of blood was known since God introduced the first death to cover the sins of Adam and Eve both physically with clothing as well as spiritually. See here Zipporah protecting Moses her husband with the sacrifice of circumcision of their son. Circumcision is a sacrifice is related to the promise of children and nations.
24 At a lodging place on the way the Lord met him and sought to put him to death. 25 Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it and said, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!” 26 So he let him alone. It was then that she said, “A bridegroom of blood,” because of the circumcision. Exodus 4:24-26 ESV
Personal Mark Between God, Husband, and Wife
Abraham circumcised and all of those in his company represents a personal choice to serve God with all their hearts. They will see this mark every day and their wives will see this mark when it comes to sexual relations. For the future generations sons will be marked this way and these people will identify as the children of Abraham. They will identify and remember God who has made this covenant. In reality there is a genius here at work from God because stones, temples, and books are easily forgotten, torn down, or lost to time. But here we are thousands of years later still talking about this act of obedience and remembrance of what God has done.
Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. Genesis 12:7 ESV
The Physical Represents the Spiritual
Circumcision does not apply to the follower of Christ to be included in Abraham’s family because circumcision is symbolic of what God really wants from his people. What Abraham did that day was an act of obeisance because he loved and trusted God. The physical mark truly represented what had already happened in the heart. For 24 years Abraham had seen God work and he knew he could trust God for everything.
Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. 16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. Deuteronomy 10:15-16 ESV
Dear reader God knows what he is doing and God can be trusted even if it seems weird to our modern broken brain. God change Abram’s name to Abraham to represent the new life and purpose that God had given.
|Abraham||Father of Multitude|
God calls us even today and we can be given a mark not of physical rules under this old covenant but a spiritual mark under the new covenant of Jesus who died for the sins of people like you and me. If you want a relationship like Abraham and God then submit to Jesus in the same way that Abraham submitted to God. Good news is that you don’t need to cut anything off to do it. You just need to lay down your life and trust God.
13 And because of what Christ did, all you others too, who heard the Good News about how to be saved, and trusted Christ, were marked as belonging to Christ by the Holy Spirit, who long ago had been promised to all of us Christians. 14 His presence within us is God’s guarantee that he really will give us all that he promised; and the Spirit’s seal upon us means that God has already purchased us and that he guarantees to bring us to himself. This is just one more reason for us to praise our glorious God. Ephesians 1:13-14 TLB
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