I say this with great reverence and humility, but sometimes our magnificent God commands rituals which are mysteriously odd.
For example, why did God command Abraham and his descendents to engage in a gender-based ritual that could be performed only by men and boys? And out of all the worship ceremonies that could be imagined, why did God require physical surgery? And why did God require a physical surgery on the most delicate and private part of a man’s anatomy?
What’s the deal with circumcision?
Sure, there was some temporal benefit resultig from this surgery. God was helping and not harming the health of his friends.
There was also great cultural significance. This surgery marked the elect from their pagan neighbors. It pointed out those who could partake of the holy meals and those who could not. However, even this is somewhat mysterious to us, for it was not a mark readily seen in the course of one’s everyday dealings.
There was also great ritualistic importance. In former days, in order for one to rightly proclaim himself a follower of God and pursue membership in his church, much more was required than merely walking down an aisle, going through a New Member’s Course, getting baptized, and receiving one’s tithing envelopes. No, serious commitment was required to join the Old Testament version of the church of Jesus Christ. Serious pain had to be endured. Membership was not for the faint of heart or those interested in giving Jesus a try. Membeship circumcision was for the sold-out, sacrificial, and serious disciple. For the believer, it was the mark of man’s commitment to the one, true God.
However, the most important facet of circumcision was the spiritual teaching attached to this sacramental ceremony. [This is true with all God’s sacraments.] And the spiritual meaning of circumcision can be found strewn throughout both the Old and New Testaments. One such example is found in Deuteronomy 30:6:
And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.
Circumcision preached generational depravity. The male organ was designed by God for use in physical and spiritual procreation. It was designed for a man to partner with his wife in producing worshiping disciples that would fill the earth. However, after the Fall in the Garden of Eden, all Adam and Eve could produce was godless rebels. All men and women could do was produce children of the devil who produced more hellions after their own image. Man was totally unable to worship and fill the earth with disciples in the way commanded by the Lord. He was only a rebel-producing factory.
Circumcision preached the Gospel-work of God. Like the human physician would go to work and cut off a portion of human flesh from a man or boy’s physical appendage, so the Great Physician to go to work on behalf of his elect. He would be the Heart Surgeon who would cut out the “wicked fleshly heart” and install a transplanted “holy heart.” And what would be the glorious result? With their new heart, men would love and live differently. Because of the work of the Great Physician and Heart Surgeon, God’s people would love him with all their heart and soul, and they would enjoy abundant life.
Circumcision preached familial grace. In accordance with God’s will, male believers and their not-yet-believing-male children were to be circumcised. Those who profesed faith and those who had not professed faith were to receive the same sacramental sign. Why? It was because God wished to proclain his covenantal tendency to circumcise the hearts of adult believers and also their not-yet-believing children. God loved to save believers and their households, and he wanted his church to know and express this truth.
Today, circumcision is no longer a required worship rite of the church of Jesus Christ. In the words of the Apostle Paul, to be circumcised or not circumcised means nothing. No longer does God require worshipers to engage in this painful, bloody, and gender-specific practice. The worship rules of God have changed from those presented under the Old Covenant of grace.
However, though the worship-rules of God have changed, the salvific truths presented by the ancient rite of circumcision have not changed. God remains the same — yesterday, today, and forever. Therefore …
We are still depraved parents unable to pass along righteousness to our children. We cannot cure the fatal disease we pass along by nature and nurture. Therefore, it is good and right for us to confess our sins to our God and our children. Let us acknowledge vertically and horizontally our weakness and need.
We still have a God who is the Great Physician and the Heart Surgeon. God is the one who has already performed surgery on us who believe, and he is the only one who can fix what ails our sons, daughters, friends, and neighbors. He is the one who goes to work, and upon his work only can we depend. Therefore, let us give thanks to God for the wonderful surgery of heart-transplanting-grace which he has already done. And then, with renewed vigor and strength, let us enjoy our new hearts and glorify him. Let us love with our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and let us live out the abundant life that only comes as a result of his good work.
Finally, let us remember we still have a God who loves to show forth familial grace. He is the God of the Covenant who has a long track-record of saving believing parents and their not-yet-believing children. Therefore, let us supplicate, for this surely is a prayer in accordance with the will of God.
- Let us pray for our spouses who do not know Jesus.
- Let us pray for our children who are playing the role of the prodigal.
- Let us pray for our grandchildren who have not yet expressed their faith.
- Let us pray for our church-family children and their broken-hearted parents.
It is time for us to strom heaven’s gates. It is time for us to approach the throne-room of God with great zeal. Today is the day for us to “have a little talk with Jesus … and tell him about our troubles.” We have a God who loves giving heart transplants to Christians and their non-Christian offspring. We have a Great Physician who is the Heart Surgeon. Let’s beg him to go to work, in accordance with his desires, one more time.