The Covenant of Circumcision
And God said to Abraham: “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 child among you shall be circumcised; and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you. He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not your descendant. He who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money must be circumcised, and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.” (Gen 17:9-14)
Our God promised Abraham saying, “I will give you the land of Canaan, and your descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. And I will be their God”. And over the last two days, we had a close look at what the promise meant. It means that God will be with them and be their King; thus, save them. In other words, it is Immanuel – God with us. That is what He promised Abraham. I will be with you. However, it is not just that God wants to be with them. He asks, “Is this what you want too?” “Yes I do”. “Then let us make a covenant”. How was the covenant established? God commanded them to be circumcised.
So, anyone among them who was circumcised was deemed to be in the promise and God would fulfill His promise to them. The only condition God put forward was nothing else but whether or not they were willing to come into this covenant. He was not concerned about who they were, what they had done, or their personality or nationality. As long as a person came into the covenant, God’s promise that He would be with them would be fulfilled in him. The only condition that needed to be met was not even difficult. A person simply needed to confirm whether or not he wanted to be in the covenant. But that could not be done with words only; the foreskin had to be removed. The foreskin of the man’s genitals was removed. It would result in some bleeding. Furthermore, that will remain as a mark until the person dies. Hence nothing else mattered and anyone who was circumcised had the promise. Whoever was not circumcised had nothing to do with the promise.
Therefore, what God is seeking from us is that we have the willingness to be in the covenant of God, regardless of our deeds or character. Hence the way for us to come into God is by believing in Jesus. Do you want to be in Jesus? Then who you are, what kind of a person you are is irrelevant. So how do we go into Jesus? This part is very concrete and specific. It is not abstract. God approves of this too. In Jesus’ name, one is baptized. Thus, he enters into the covenant of God. They are entering Immanuel. This is irrespective of one’s character, deeds or feelings. If you have been baptized in Jesus’ name, you are inside the covenant. But since people are so doubtful, God gives the Holy Spirit as a guarantee by which we have a clear testimony while we are on earth.
Anyone who is baptized in Jesus’ name and received the Holy Spirit has been circumcised in their heart. Thus, nobody needs to teach them that they must know God, or who God is. A person who received the Holy Spirit will endeavor to keep God’s law with his heart. Hence, the law of God is no longer engraved on stone tablets but on the tablets of their hearts and they strive to obey it. Of course, there is another law at work inside of us that tries to go against it. Nevertheless, God’s law is always with them to guide them as to what they must do. Of course, it is up to them to struggle to keep the law but God’s law is already within them.
The day the Holy Spirit came – the Day of Pentecost – is actually the same as the day that Moses came down after receiving the Law on Mount Sinai. In the past, the Law was written on stone tablets, but now we receive the Holy Spirit. What does that mean? The law of God is written on the tablets of our hearts. Although in Old Testament times, the covenant was established through circumcision, from the time of Moses God says, “Circumcise your heart”. Let’s have a read of Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy 10:16. Deuteronomy 10:16. Let’s begin. “Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer.” Even though you have been circumcised, what good is it if you still disobey? It means that they are not acknowledging that God is with them. But this is the fundamental condition for us to enter the covenant – to acknowledge that God is with us. We must believe that God is with us, and thus live in front of God who dwells inside us. What is sin? Everything we do while thinking God is not with us is sin. “God is with us” – to believe and acknowledge this is fundamental.
Circumcision was the way that they acknowledged this. However, if they were circumcised in their flesh but failed to acknowledge that God was with them, then they were not circumcised in their hearts. So, it continues to say in Jeremiah 4:4. Let’s look at Jeremiah 4:4. “Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the foreskins of your hearts, you men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, lest My fury come forth like fire, and burn so that no one can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.” So, circumcise yourselves, take away the foreskin of your heart. Don’t just take off the foreskin of your flesh but of your heart and belong to the Lord. Otherwise, these things will come upon you. Next, let’s read Romans 2:29. Romans 2:29. “But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.” Even if one is circumcised in the flesh, it will mean nothing if he doesn’t understand what is fundamental – “God is with us”.
However, we who have come into Jesus Christ, who have been baptized and received the Holy Spirit, don’t only acknowledge that God is with us but it’s become a concrete reality which we experience the testimony of all the time. So, whatever we do, we acknowledge that God is with us. Why do people sin? They commit sins because they think God is not watching them. A thief commits theft because he doesn’t actually believe nor is aware that God is with him even though he might say that God is with him. A person that believes God is with him will not do silly things to make God who dwells within him feel awkward. On the contrary, if one believes God is with him, he would strive to do that which pleases Him and what He desires. We have to be circumcised in our hearts so that God’s covenant can become ours and ultimately enter the kingdom of heaven without any issues. Let us pray together. Ask the Lord, “Help me Lord to be circumcised in my heart so that I will acknowledge Immanuel in every single moment”.
God our Father, help us to always acknowledge that You are with us because You have poured Your Spirit on us and have written Your word in our hearts, and thus always obey the Lord who is Immanuel. Help us to acknowledge that the Lord is with us and saves in every trial. Help us to be those circumcised in our hearts. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
The Director of Sungrak Mission Center