Well, I had to go here. Last time I blogged my way through the Bible I remember intentionally avoiding writing about this particular section of Scripture.
In Genesis 17, God reaffirms his covenant with Moses. This covenant was God’s great promise to multiply the offspring of Abraham, to make him the father of kings and prophets and priests, and to eventually save all creation through Abraham’s One true offspring.
God makes this promise separately from any requirement of Abraham. God will keep His end of the bargain whether or not Abraham lives righteously.
However, in Genesis 17, God does require something from Abraham, something very sensitive and vulnerable. God tells Abraham that his end of the bargain is not some great work of morality or self-sacrifice, but that every single male in his household and of his offspring forevermore would be circumcised.
How The Israelites got stuck with circumcision AND no bacon is beyond me.
Here’s the thing, God gives Abraham this seemingly outlandish command:
“As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised.
But it’s not really about circumcision, it’s about being God’s people. It’s a physical mark of what God has done for and in and through Abraham. Throughout much of the Old Testament, God tells his people how they should live in order to show the world that they are his people, and here in Genesis 17, we see the origin of it all.
Circumcision is God making it clear that His people are to be set apart and holy, utterly different from the world. As Scripture unfolds, we begin to see that God’s concern is not for the physical act but for the attitude of the heart. This heart transformation is made possible only in Jesus, who was fully cut off from the presence of God so that we who were cut off would be welcomed into the family of God.