Circumcised Heart

INTRODUCTION: The circumcision of the male foreskin was required by the LORD as a token of the covenant He made with Abraham and to his descendents. The LORD also required that all other males who dwelt with Abraham must be circumcised, but He specified that His covenant would follow only through Isaac's descendents. Scripture reveals that outward obedience by circumcision of the flesh is not sufficient in itself: there must be a commitment in the heart by faith; otherwise circumcision of the flesh is of no value. Whether circumcised in the flesh or not, those whose heart is "circumcised" through the mercy and grace of God will desire to walk in all the ways of the LORD God with love and service to Him and to others because of the eternal inheritance God then has given to them.

NOTE: All Bible passages are from the 1769 King James Bible.

A - CIRCUMCISION AS THE TOKEN OF THE COVENANT

Genesis 17 "1 And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. 2 And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. 3 And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, 4 As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. 5 Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. 6 And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. 8 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. 9 And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. 10 This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. 11 And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. 12 And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed. 13 He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. 14 And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant. 15 And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. 16 And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her. 17 Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? 18 And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee! 19 And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him. 20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. 21 But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year. 22 And he left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham."

Genesis 17 "23 And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham's house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him. 24 And Abraham was ninety years old and nine, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 25 And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 26 In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son. 27 And all the men of his house, born in the house, and bought with money of the stranger, were circumcised with him."

Genesis 21 "1 And the LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did unto Sarah as he had spoken. 2 For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him. 3 And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, whom Sarah bare to him, Isaac. 4 And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac being eight days old, as God had commanded him. 5 And Abraham was an hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him."

Genesis 24 "66 And the servant told Isaac all things that he had done. 67 And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her: and Isaac was comforted after his mother's death. 25:1 Then again Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah. 2 And she bare him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah. 3 And Jokshan begat Sheba, and Dedan. And the sons of Dedan were Asshurim, and Letushim, and Leummim. 4 And the sons of Midian; Ephah, and Epher, and Hanoch, and Abida, and Eldaah. All these were the children of Keturah. 5 And Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac. 6 But unto the sons of the concubines, which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, eastward, unto the east country. 7 And these are the days of the years of Abraham's life which he lived, an hundred threescore and fifteen years. 8 Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people. 9 And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, which is before Mamre; 10 The field which Abraham purchased of the sons of Heth: there was Abraham buried, and Sarah his wife."

Genesis 34 "6 And Hamor the father of Shechem went out unto Jacob to commune with him. 7 And the sons of Jacob came out of the field when they heard it: and the men were grieved, and they were very wroth, because he had wrought folly in Israel in lying with Jacob's daughter; which thing ought not to be done. 8 And Hamor communed with them, saying, The soul of my son Shechem longeth for your daughter: I pray you give her him to wife. 9 And make ye marriages with us, and give your daughters unto us, and take our daughters unto you. 10 And ye shall dwell with us: and the land shall be before you; dwell and trade ye therein, and get you possessions therein. 11 And Shechem said unto her father and unto her brethren, Let me find grace in your eyes, and what ye shall say unto me I will give. 12 Ask me never so much dowry and gift, and I will give according as ye shall say unto me: but give me the damsel to wife. 13 And the sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father deceitfully, and said, because he had defiled Dinah their sister: 14 And they said unto them, We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one that is uncircumcised; for that were a reproach unto us: 15 But in this will we consent unto you: If ye will be as we be, that every male of you be circumcised; 16 Then will we give our daughters unto you, and we will take your daughters to us, and we will dwell with you, and we will become one people. 17 But if ye will not hearken unto us, to be circumcised; then will we take our daughter, and we will be gone. 18 And their words pleased Hamor, and Shechem Hamor's son. 19 And the young man deferred not to do the thing, because he had delight in Jacob's daughter: and he was more honourable than all the house of his father. 20 And Hamor and Shechem his son came unto the gate of their city, and communed with the men of their city, saying, 21 These men are peaceable with us; therefore let them dwell in the land, and trade therein; for the land, behold, it is large enough for them; let us take their daughters to us for wives, and let us give them our daughters. 22 Only herein will the men consent unto us for to dwell with us, to be one people, if every male among us be circumcised, as they are circumcised. 23 Shall not their cattle and their substance and every beast of theirs be ours? only let us consent unto them, and they will dwell with us. 24 And unto Hamor and unto Shechem his son hearkened all that went out of the gate of his city; and every male was circumcised, all that went out of the gate of his city. 25 And it came to pass on the third day, when they were sore, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brethren, took each man his sword, and came upon the city boldly, and slew all the males. 26 And they slew Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem's house, and went out. 27 The sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and spoiled the city, because they had defiled their sister. 28 They took their sheep, and their oxen, and their asses, and that which was in the city, and that which was in the field, 29 And all their wealth, and all their little ones, and their wives took they captive, and spoiled even all that was in the house. 30 And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites: and I being few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house. 31 And they said, Should he deal with our sister as with an harlot? 35:1 And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother. 2 Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments: 3 And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went. 4 And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem."

COMMENTS: The LORD changed Abram's name to Abraham and said He was establishing an everlasting covenant with him, to be a God to Abraham and to his descendents. Every male child was to be circumcised when eight days old: whether born in the family or bought with money of any stranger which was not Abraham's descendent. The LORD said His covenant in the flesh was an everlasting covenant, and the male child whose foreskin flesh is not circumcised has broken the covenant: that soul shall be cut off from his people. Abraham was concerned about his son Ishmael when the LORD said that Sarah would bear a child to be named Isaac, and the LORD would establish His covenant with Isaac as an everlasting covenant. The LORD assured Abraham that he would bless Ishmael in many ways, but His covenant he would establish with Isaac; and then the LORD left Abraham.

Abraham took Ishmael his only son at that time, and every male among those of Abraham's house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin that very day, as God had said to him. Though Abraham circumcised all males with him at that time, the LORD had told him the "everlasting covenant" would be carried through Isaac who was yet to be born. Ishmael was the son of Abraham by Hagar the Egyptian, but he was not in the line of the covenant that would only be for the descendents of Isaac.

Then in chapter 21 we have the record that the LORD did unto Sarah as he had spoken and she gave birth to a son when she was thought to be well past childbearing. Abraham named this son Isaac, and he circumcised him on the eighth day as God had commanded. In chapter 24 we have the record that after Sarah died, Isaac took Rebekah as his wife, and Abraham took Keturah as his wife. Later Abraham gave all of his possessions to Isaac, and sent away all in the families of Ishmael and of the sons and grandsons of Keturah. All of these males would have been circumcised as Abraham faithfully followed the instructions of the LORD, but only descendents of Isaac would have the everlasting covenant.

I searched the Old and the New Testament for any definitive record that Isaac circumcised the twins, Esau and Jacob, eight days after they were born. Similarly, I could not find any reference that Jacob circumcised any of his twelve sons as commanded by the LORD. That is why I included the reference from Genesis chapter 34 when Jacob's daughter Dinah had been sexually defiled. Shechem wanted to pay whatever dowry required to have Dinah as his wife; her brothers deceptive answer included the fact that Jacob, his sons, and all other males with him were all circumcised. Shechem and his father convinced the men of the city that if all were circumcised, they would benefit in material ways. But while they were sorely incapacitated from the procedure, Simeon and Levi went in and killed all the men of the city and brought their sister Dinah out, and the other brothers finished off the city. God spoke to Jacob with instructions, and Jacob told everyone with him to put away every strange god that was among them, and to put on clean garments. They gave Jacob all the strange gods, and all earrings from their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem. This turned out to be a "cleansing" of idols from among them.


B - ESAU HAD DESPISED HIS BIRTHRIGHT AS A SON OF ISAAC

Genesis 25 "29 And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he was faint: 30 And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom. 31 And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright. 32 And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me? 33 And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright."

Genesis 28 "1 And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan. 2 Arise, go to Padanaram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother's father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother's brother. 3 And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people; 4 And give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham. 5 And Isaac sent away Jacob: and he went to Padanaram unto Laban, son of Bethuel the Syrian, the brother of Rebekah, Jacob's and Esau's mother."

Genesis 46 "1 And Israel took his journey with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices unto the God of his father Isaac. 2 And God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night, and said, Jacob, Jacob. And he said, Here am I. 3 And he said, I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation: 4 I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again: and Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes. 5 And Jacob rose up from Beersheba: and the sons of Israel carried Jacob their father, and their little ones, and their wives, in the wagons which Pharaoh had sent to carry him. 6 And they took their cattle, and their goods, which they had gotten in the land of Canaan, and came into Egypt, Jacob, and all his seed with him: 7 His sons, and his sons' sons with him, his daughters, and his sons' daughters, and all his seed brought he with him into Egypt."

Exodus 12 "40 Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years. 41 And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt. 42 It is a night to be much observed unto the LORD for bringing them out from the land of Egypt: this is that night of the LORD to be observed of all the children of Israel in their generations. 43 And the LORD said unto Moses and Aaron, This is the ordinance of the Passover: There shall no stranger eat thereof: 44 But every man's servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof. 45 A foreigner and an hired servant shall not eat thereof. 46 In one house shall it be eaten; thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall ye break a bone thereof. 47 All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. 48 And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof. 49 One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you. 50 Thus did all the children of Israel; as the LORD commanded Moses and Aaron, so did they. 51 And it came to pass the selfsame day, that the LORD did bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their armies."

Deuteronomy 10 "12 And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, 13 To keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good? 14 Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the LORD'S thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is. 15 Only the LORD had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all people, as it is this day. 16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked. 17 For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward: 18 He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment. 19 Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. 20 Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God; him shalt thou serve, and to him shalt thou cleave, and swear by his name. 21 He is thy praise, and he is thy God, that hath done for thee these great and terrible things, which thine eyes have seen. 22 Thy fathers went down into Egypt with threescore and ten persons; and now the LORD thy God hath made thee as the stars of heaven for multitude."

Deuteronomy 30 "1 And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee, 2 And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; 3 That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee. 4 If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee: 5 And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. 6 And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live. 7 And the LORD thy God will put all these curses upon thine enemies, and on them that hate thee, which persecuted thee. 8 And thou shalt return and obey the voice of the LORD, and do all his commandments which I command thee this day. 9 And the LORD thy God will make thee plenteous in every work of thine hand, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy land, for good: for the LORD will again rejoice over thee for good, as he rejoiced over thy fathers: 10 If thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the law, and if thou turn unto the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul. 11 For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off."

Joshua 5 "1 And it came to pass, when all the kings of the Amorites, which were on the side of Jordan westward, and all the kings of the Canaanites, which were by the sea, heard that the LORD had dried up the waters of Jordan from before the children of Israel, until we were passed over, that their heart melted, neither was there spirit in them any more, because of the children of Israel. 2 At that time the LORD said unto Joshua, Make thee sharp knives, and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time. 3 And Joshua made him sharp knives, and circumcised the children of Israel at the hill of the foreskins. 4 And this is the cause why Joshua did circumcise: All the people that came out of Egypt, that were males, even all the men of war, died in the wilderness by the way, after they came out of Egypt. 5 Now all the people that came out were circumcised: but all the people that were born in the wilderness by the way as they came forth out of Egypt, them they had not circumcised. 6 For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the people that were men of war, which came out of Egypt, were consumed, because they obeyed not the voice of the LORD: unto whom the LORD sware that he would not shew them the land, which the LORD sware unto their fathers that he would give us, a land that floweth with milk and honey. 7 And their children, whom he raised up in their stead, them Joshua circumcised: for they were uncircumcised, because they had not circumcised them by the way."

COMMENTS: Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel by the LORD, his eleven sons and all who were with them went into Egypt when his son Joseph was ruler under Pharaoh. The children of Israel remained in Egypt 430 years until the LORD brought them out under the leadership of Moses. That very night the LORD established the Passover, and it was to be observed by only those who were circumcised throughout all the generations of the children of Israel. When Israel entered the land promised by the LORD, only the descendents through Isaac and Jacob were set apart to that everlasting covenant. The descendents of Ishmael and the descendents of Abraham's wife Keturah had become very numerous throughout the lifetime of Isaac and Jacob, and during the centuries before the LORD allowed Joshua to bring the children of Israel into the land promised to Jacob. The descendents of Esau also would not have part of the blessing through his father Isaac because Esau's name was changed to Edom as the forefather of the Edomites, after he had despised his birthright and sold it to Jacob. During the forty years in the wilderness outside of Egypt, Moses wrote some passages in Deuteronomy that only the circumcision of the heart, made without hands, enabled men to worship with all the heart and soul, and to serve the LORD out of love as they kept His commandments. Moses reminded the children of Israel that it was God's choice to set their generations apart for His love above other people: He is a great and mighty God above all gods, and he does not regard the merit of any person or take any reward by which they would earn His blessings. God alone had performed all the mighty works for Israel, and they should show kindness even to strangers because they had been foreigners while in Egypt.

In chapter 30 of Deuteronomy Moses again emphasized the need to have that genuine inward commitment to the LORD expressed as circumcision of the heart. It is performed only by the LORD for those who place full faith and trust in Him, and it does not depend on observing outward signs alone because those do not keep anyone from continually following the desires of the flesh. Moses warned that God would bring judgment on His chosen people because of the hardness of their hearts, but they could return to the LORD for mercy. After Moses and all the generation that had rebelled against the LORD in the wilderness had died, it was necessary for Joshua to obey the LORD and circumcise all the males who had been born during the forty years in the wilderness since no circumcisions had been performed during that period.


C - THE CENTURIES OF JUDGES AND KINGS ENDED IN EXILE FOR ISRAEL

Jeremiah 1 "1 The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, of the priests that were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin: 2 To whom the word of the LORD came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign. 3 It came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, unto the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah the son of Josiah king of Judah, unto the carrying away of Jerusalem captive in the fifth month. 4 Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. 6 Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child. 7 But the LORD said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. 8 Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD. 9 Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. 10 See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant. 11 Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Jeremiah, what seest thou? And I said, I see a rod of an almond tree. 12 Then said the LORD unto me, Thou hast well seen: for I will hasten my word to perform it. 13 And the word of the LORD came unto me the second time, saying, What seest thou? And I said, I see a seething pot; and the face thereof is toward the north. 14 Then the LORD said unto me, Out of the north an evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land. 15 For, lo, I will call all the families of the kingdoms of the north, saith the LORD; and they shall come, and they shall set every one his throne at the entering of the gates of Jerusalem, and against all the walls thereof round about, and against all the cities of Judah. 16 And I will utter my judgments against them touching all their wickedness, who have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, and worshipped the works of their own hands. 17 Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them. 18 For, behold, I have made thee this day a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brasen walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the land. 19 And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the LORD, to deliver thee."

Jeremiah 4 "1 If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the LORD, return unto me: and if thou wilt put away thine abominations out of my sight, then shalt thou not remove. 2 And thou shalt swear, The LORD liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness; and the nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory. 3 For thus saith the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. 4 Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings. 5 Declare ye in Judah, and publish in Jerusalem; and say, Blow ye the trumpet in the land: cry, gather together, and say, Assemble yourselves, and let us go into the defenced cities. 6 Set up the standard toward Zion: retire, stay not: for I will bring evil from the north, and a great destruction. 7 The lion is come up from his thicket, and the destroyer of the Gentiles is on his way; he is gone forth from his place to make thy land desolate; and thy cities shall be laid waste, without an inhabitant. 8 For this gird you with sackcloth, lament and howl: for the fierce anger of the LORD is not turned back from us. 9 And it shall come to pass at that day, saith the LORD, that the heart of the king shall perish, and the heart of the princes; and the priests shall be astonished, and the prophets shall wonder. 10 Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! surely thou hast greatly deceived this people and Jerusalem, saying, Ye shall have peace; whereas the sword reacheth unto the soul. 11 At that time shall it be said to this people and to Jerusalem, A dry wind of the high places in the wilderness toward the daughter of my people, not to fan, nor to cleanse, 12 Even a full wind from those places shall come unto me: now also will I give sentence against them. 13 Behold, he shall come up as clouds, and his chariots shall be as a whirlwind: his horses are swifter than eagles. Woe unto us! for we are spoiled. 14 O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved. How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee?"

Jeremiah 9 "23 Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: 24 But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD. 25 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will punish all them which are circumcised with the uncircumcised; 26 Egypt, and Judah, and Edom, and the children of Ammon, and Moab, and all that are in the utmost corners, that dwell in the wilderness: for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart."

COMMENTS: After about four hundred years under many judges who were leaders of various tribes in Israel, the people asked Samuel to appoint for them a king like the nations around them. Samuel was guided by the LORD to grant their request even though Samuel was reluctant as he knew God was to be their king. The line of kings began with the Benjamite Saul, but after his death, David of the tribe of Judah became king. Israel had victories over enemies, but after much family conflict, the throne passed to David's son Solomon for a period of forty years of peace. There were some who would have opposed Solomon, but his kingdom was secure. When Solomon's son Rehoboam became king, ten tribes separated into a northern kingdom, and that division lasted for hundreds of years under separate kings. The children of Israel were repeatedly unfaithful to the LORD throughout the period of judges and of kings, but the LORD showed mercy as well as judgment. I did not list references for that long period of judges and kings in Israel's history since my focus is on passages about the call to a circumcised heart. When Jeremiah began his writing, the northern kingdom had already fallen into foreign domination with many taken captive, and many foreigners had become residents in northern Israel. God was warning the southern kingdom of their impending demise as well.

In Jeremiah chapter 4 the message from God was that Judah and Jerusalem would not be removed from their place if they would return to God and put away all the despicable abominations out of His sight, then they would swear the LORD lives in truth, judgment, and in righteousness. Two figures of speech were used to emphasize their fallen condition: they were like those who don't properly prepare the soil and even sow among thorns; and they needed the full commitment described as a circumcised heart in the inner most part of their being. Otherwise the LORD said His fury would come upon the men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem like an unquenchable fire to consume the evil they were doing. These words had little effect on those for whom they were written, and therefore that judgment came to pass.

In Jeremiah chapter 9 he wrote that the LORD said the wise man should not glory in his wisdom, neither should the mighty man glory in his might, nor should the rich man glory in his riches. Whoever takes glory should do so only in that he understands and knows the LORD, that He is the LORD which exercises lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, says the LORD. After the Apostle Paul was converted by the LORD, he understood the value of these words written by Jeremiah as a truth for all ages. 1 Corinthians 1 "26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29 That no flesh should glory in his presence." Jeremiah continued as he wrote that the LORD said the days will come that I will punish all them which are circumcised along with the uncircumcised. This indicated the lack of circumcision of the heart by Israel with the token of circumcision in the flesh. The punishment would extend past the listed nations to all that are in the utmost corners.


D - JESUS SAID HONORING GOD WITH LOVE IN THE HEART IS THE ONLY TRUE WORSHIP

John 5 "37 And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape. 38 And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not. 39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. 40 And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. 41 I receive not honour from men. 42 But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. 43 I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. 44 How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?"

Matthew 15 "1 Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, 2 Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. 3 But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? 4 For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. 5 But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; 6 And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. 7 Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, 8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. 9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."

Mark 12 "28 And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? 29 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: 30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. 31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. 32 And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he: 33 And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question."

COMMENTS: When Jesus took upon himself flesh and came into the world through the family line of King David, he was born under the law written by Moses. He did not begin his public ministry until about the age of thirty, and his message was about the Kingdom of God. In John chapter 5 He very clearly said he was sent from the Father to bring eternal life, and the Scripture prophecies had foretold of His coming. He told the religious leaders that he knew that they did not have the love of God in them; for He came in His Father's name and they would not receive Him. He asked how they could believe if they receive honor from each other, but do not seek the honor that comes only from God.

In Matthew 15 Jesus had no hesitation when he addressed some scribes and Pharisees as hypocrites and told them that Isaiah's words applied to them because they would draw near to God with their mouth, and honor with their lips; but their hearts were far from Him. Their worship was in vain because they taught for doctrines the commandments of men. In Mark's gospel, there was a scribe who had heard Jesus in conversations with other religious leaders, and he perceived that Jesus had answered well. So he asked which was the first commandment of all, and Jesus gave him two commandments with the statement that there were no others greater. The scribe then called Jesus master and said he had spoken well and said the truth. There is one God; and there is none other but Him: and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbor as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. When Jesus saw that this scribe answered discreetly, he told him he was not far from the Kingdom of God. After that public exchange, no one else asked Jesus any questions. What a beautiful way for that scribe to express true worship of the Lord, without dismissing God's commandments.


E - STEPHEN SKILLFULLY PRESENTED JESUS AS THE CHRIST TO HOSTILE LISTENERS

Acts 6 "8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people. 9 Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen. 10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake. 11 Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God. 12 And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council, 13 And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law: 14 For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us. 15 And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel. 7:1 Then said the high priest, Are these things so? 2 And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran, 3 And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee. 4 Then came he out of the land of the Chaldaeans, and dwelt in Charran: and from thence, when his father was dead, he removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell. 5 And he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child. 6 And God spake on this wise, That his seed should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil four hundred years. 7 And the nation to whom they shall be in bondage will I judge, said God: and after that shall they come forth, and serve me in this place. 8 And he gave him the covenant of circumcision: and so Abraham begat Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat the twelve patriarchs."

Acts 7 "48 Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, 49 Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? 50 Hath not my hand made all these things? 51 Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. 52 Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: 53 Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it. 54 When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. 55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, 56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. 57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, 58 And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. 59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. 60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep."

Philippians 3 "3 For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. 4 Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: 5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; 6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. 7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith."

COMMENTS: Stephen was a fully dedicated Jewish follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, though he was not one of the chosen apostles. His belief within his heart was openly shown by miracles and wonders, which made him the target of attacks by unbelieving Jews. He was taken before the council and false witnesses accused him of blasphemous speaking against the holy place and the law: saying that Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered to the Jews. When the high priest asked Stephen if the accusations were true, he respectfully responded, then offered a brief outline of the key points of their history, beginning with the appearance of the God of glory to their father Abraham to call him out of Mesopotamia. Stephen said the LORD gave the covenant of circumcision through Abraham, before he had any possession in this land where they presently dwell. So Abraham fathered Isaac, the son promised by the LORD, and circumcised him the eighth day. Isaac fathered Jacob; and Jacob fathered the twelve patriarchs.

When Stephen came to the content he shared beginning in chapter 7 and verse 48, the anger of his listeners began to rise to a violent point. He was very accurate when he characterized them as stiff necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, always resisting the Holy Spirit even as their fathers had done. Their fathers had killed prophets who foretold of the coming of the Just One; and Stephen said of whom now you have been the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it. They were at a boiling point, but Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit as he looked into heaven and saw the glory of Jesus at the right hand of God. They cast Stephen outside the city and stoned him. Stephen called out for the Lord Jesus to receive his spirit, and not to hold this sin against those who stoned him; then he fell asleep. This is also the first mention of a young man named Saul, who would become known as Paul, a very effective apostle after conversion directly by the risen Lord.

In Paul's letter to the Philippians he said those who are of true circumcision worship God in the spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Paul described his own background as a Benjamite, circumcised the eighth day, a very zealous Pharisee, etcetera. He said all those things he had gained before, he now counted as lost for the Excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord: and be found in Him, not having his own righteousness of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.


F - THE NEW TESTAMENT FURTHER CONFIRMS JEW AND GENTILE ARE ALIKE BY CIRCUMCISION MADE WITHOUT HANDS

Acts 15 "1 And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. 2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. 3 And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. 4 And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. 5 But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses. 6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. 7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. 8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; 9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. 12 Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them."

Acts 15 "13 And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: 14 Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. 15 And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, 16 After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: 17 That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. 18 Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. 19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: 20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. 21 For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day. 22 Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren: 23 And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: 24 Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: 25 It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. 28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; 29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well."

Romans 4 "8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. 9 Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. 10 How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. 11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: 12 And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised."

Galatians 4 "28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. 29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. 30 Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. 31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free. 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. 2 Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. 3 For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. 4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. 5 For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. 6 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love."

Colossians 2 "8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. 9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. 10 And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: 11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: 12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead."

COMMENTS: Paul and Barnabas were establishing Jews and Gentiles alike as part of the church in Christ Jesus at Antioch when men from Jerusalem came and disputed that circumcision in the manner of Moses was required for any who would be saved. Because of this the church sent Paul and Barnabas, and some others to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders for their answer about this point. At Jerusalem they were received by the church and the apostles and elders, and they described things that God had done with them. When some Pharisees who were believers said it was necessary to have circumcision and follow the Law of Moses, Peter and James gave their own testimonies to bring the discussion to the point where all finally agreed salvation in Christ is available to Jew and Gentile alike. Paul and Barnabas were given letters from the Jerusalem leadership to comfort the Gentile brethren of Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia to make it clear it is not necessary to be circumcised and follow the Law of Moses to be saved. Judas and Silas traveled with Paul and Barnabas to testify that the letters were genuine.

Paul pointed out in Romans 4 faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness, and he had that faith before he was circumcised: then the circumcision was made a sign of that faith. Therefore, Abraham can rightly be called the father of all who have that faith in God, whether their flesh is circumcised or uncircumcised. In Galatians Paul addressed believers who are by faith descendents of Abraham and Isaac, and have been set free from a different kind of bondage. The descendents by bloodline who depend only on circumcision and keeping of the Law of Moses are not free in Christ. Anyone who puts confidence in keeping the whole law, will not have the grace offered in Christ. Through the Spirit we wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision avails any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which works by love. In Colossians Paul says to beware of accepting philosophy and vain deceit contained in some traditions of men based on principals of the world, and not after Christ. In Christ dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. You are complete in Him, the head of all principality and power: in whom also you are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands.

--- REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER ---

LORD, I thank you for circumcision as the token of the covenant that set apart those who were blessed by you for their obedience to that requirement, which also made Abraham the father of all those who have genuine worship of the only true God. By your Spirit, before entry into the Promised Land Moses wrote about the necessity for "circumcision of the heart" for genuine worship. Jeremiah wrote in similar manner before the fall of the southern kingdom of Judah to the Babylonians, which ended all Jewish rule in the land of Israel. But you, LORD God, sent your Son to be born of a virgin in the bloodline of King David to bring Jew and Gentile together when they believe in the sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection of the Savior of the world. Lord Jesus, while speaking to religious leaders, you testified that you are the one promise in Scripture. Since your resurrection, you have sent many disciples and apostles throughout the world to proclaim the way of salvation. Thank you for summarizing the commandments in a way that helps all who accept your gift by mercy and grace to show love by serving you and serving others because of the eternal inheritance the one and only God has given to them. May this be evident in my life. Amen, and amen.

Published 16 October 2018