My last post covered God’s perfect timing as He clarified His covenant with Abraham prior to launch (Gen. 17:1-8). This post covers God’s expectations of Abraham and his descendants in relation to His covenant. We’ll explore Abraham’s reaction to God and the remainder of chapter 17 next week.
You may read Genesis 17 here: Bible Gateway.
A covenant is a contract. While most contracts require an even trade, God’s terms were quite lopsided.
What exactly were God’s terms?
Abraham’s responsibility: “Walk before me and be blameless. . . . This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised . . . . It will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.” – Gen. 17:1, 10-11
And God’s part?
He would give Abraham property, heirs, wealth, and power (Gen. 17:4-8).
God’s requirement for Abraham to circumcise the males in his household, however, was not conditional to His promise. But disobedience to this command would be costly: “Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”
Typically, this is a reference to execution, sometimes by the Israelites, but usually by God, in the form of premature death.” – Layman’s Bible Commentary
Circumcision: The Sign of the Covenant
The word circumcision means ‘cutting around.’ It refers to a minor operation that removes the foreskin from the male organ. Only males underwent circumcision. In the patriarchal society of the ancient Near East, people considered that a girl or woman shared the condition of her father if she was single, or her husband if she was married. . . . It [circumcision] is to an Israelite what a wedding ring is to a bridegroom.” – Layman’s Bible Commentary
Circumcision was personal for the individual concerned, his parents, and his wife. This outward sign symbolized an inward commitment.
Although following God requires commitment and obedience, His benefits and blessings far outweigh our cost of discomfort or inconvenience.
How does the biblical command for circumcision relate to us today?
Once an individual was circumcised, there was no turning back. Similarly, God wants us to commit our lives to Him, walking blamelessly before Him by not turning back and indulging in sin. Deuteronomy 30:6 speaks of the kind of circumcision that counts—circumcision of the heart—operated by the Holy Spirit. It involves cutting away the old sinful nature instead of mechanically observing the written code.
For more on this concept please see The Meaning of Circumcision. . . . Have a wonderful week!