I want to revisit a part of Genesis 17 that I didn't focus too hard on during the sermon. This chapter of Genesis establishes the Abrahamic Covenant symbol of circumcision. It's not exactly a comfortable topic and in the more reserved culture, you just don't dwell on that topic.
Here in the internet, though, there's a little more openness. Not complete insanity. Just a little more freedom. However, if you're uncomfortable reading about circumcision and considering this, please just go on to your next blog. It won't hurt you.
As someone who has read the Bible a good bit, I've long been aware of circumcision. I understood it to be the sign of the covenant with Abraham, and learned a couple of basic things that we Gentiles think were God's purpose behind instituting it. These things are:
1. Circumcision was an immensely personal mark of belonging to the community of God. This is not a process that one is unaware of: you can tell it was done even if you don't remember it happening.
2. Circumcision was a permanent change. There were some issues in the Hellenistic period some 1500 years after Abraham, but even those weren't true "undoings." It was more of a cover-up. This action marked the member of the covenant community as a lifetime participant.
3. Circumcision was a parental directive. After you get past Abraham, parents choose to circumcise their sons. Except for the opening chapters in Joshua. This should have been seen as the beginning of parental commitment to raise children to serve the One True God.
On behalf of my Presbyterian reader (s)? I'll leave out the discussion, for now, of whether baptism is analogous to circumcision for the New Covenant. Let's focus on the Old Testament for now, shall we?
What struck me this time through Genesis 17 was this: Abraham is 99 years old at this point. The Almighty One tells Abraham two things in this passage: he'll have a child, soon. And to circumcise himself and all the males in the household.
We know from further chapters that Abraham is 100 when Isaac is born. So in the span of about a year, Abraham circumcises himself, Sarah conceives, and they have a baby.
Let's think about the obedience and faith factor here: just think, for a minute. Picture the idea of circumcision in your mind. Now, if you're not recognizing the risk to future generations, look up "circumcision" again. Yet Abraham obeys anyway.
What about us?
Based on the great preponderance of New Testament writings on the subject, we're not required to circumcise or be circumcised. So how does this help us understand?
What do we think about those acts of obedience and faith that come very close to home?
What about those that make us think the promise of God is endangered?
In all, I think there's a vivid portrait here of personal, painful obedience to God that we would do well to remember. It's not always easy. I know that I cannot always see how it helps.
But it's not my job to do that. Grand strategy is neither my strong suit nor my responsibility. Obedience is my responsibility. The results?
Those belong to Him who actually knows what's going on and what to do about it.