Thursday, April 10, 2008

Genesis 17:9-14

Genesis 17:9-14: God said further to Abraham, “Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised. And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. And every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations, a servant who is born in the house or who is bought with money from any foreigner, who is not of your descendants. A servant who is born in your house or who is bought with your money shall surely be circumcised; thus shall My covenant be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. But an uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.”

It is after He has reassured Abraham of His covenant with him that God goes on to show Abraham what his part will be. Interestingly, God does not ask Abraham to undertake any action that will directly help bring about the promised outcome of the covenant. Abraham’s role and the role of all those that come after him is one of simply continued
faith and belief in the covenant’s promise. And that faith and belief is to be evidenced by each male being circumcised. God Himself says that will be “the sign” of the covenant. The same is true for believers today. God delivers His promises – our part is first and foremost simply to have faith demonstrated in various ways that are pleasing to God and then to follow His instructions and guidance in our lives. But our part is nothing that will directly bring about our salvation.

And God does go on to give us instructions. In Abraham’s case, He instructed Abraham that the circumcision ceremony would take place on the eighth day of life for newborns. And furthermore, God instructs that not only Abraham’s descendants are to have this operation performed on them, but also any servant that is born in their homes or any adult servant who has been bought by Abraham or his descendants. Circumcision then became that part of the sign of the covenant that is man’s responsibility in this case. There are promises or covenants that God has made with all His children and we are required to uphold the corresponding requirements that God outlines in conjunction with each. For example, later in Scripture we will hear God saying, “If My people…do so and so…then I will…do this.”

In addition, God, in speaking to you or me through other parts of Scripture, through other Christians from whom we seek help, or through our conversations with Him in prayer, may communicate a promise unique to us and along with it the role that we need to play in its fruition. God grant each of us the wisdom to fulfill our part with faith and patience. Abraham’s descendants had to do it with a sign in their flesh – a sign that because of its nature was private, rather than public. Our covenants are between God and us. What the world sees is the outcome of the covenant – living life as a child of His.

In this section of scripture God also warns Abraham about any male who will not be circumcised. That male will be cut off from the family because he would have broken God’s covenant. What God offers is clearly a covenant for all of Abraham’s descendants. Therein lies the evidence of His universal love (to Abraham’s seed in this case, without exception). On the receiving end, however, individually man may choose to reject the covenant by not fulfilling his own part. Therein lies evidence of God’s justice. The same is true of salvation today.

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