God’s Knife in Your Life
We do not practise circumcision anymore.
Or do we still?
An old practice lives on…
Pain and Blood
Circumcision was very important to God, as a sign of his covenant.
Whoever belonged to Abraham, also belonged to him. That applied to children, and others living in the home. If a man refused to be circumcised, he had to leave Abraham.
But it was a curious sign! It did not happen anywhere in the world that boys just born were circumcised. Some nations practised this ritual for young adult men, on their way to marriage and procreation. Others practised circumcision for health reasons. But never with a child of just eight days old.
Just imagine as father you had to take a knife. To cut in the flesh of your child.
Really cutting off a piece from the small foreskin, the front portion of his small penis. Who would have enjoyed that? For adult males it was extremely painful.
The history of the sons of Jacob, Simeon, and Levi is well-known. They exterminated all the men from Shechem on the third day after they had been circumcised. The men were very sore and therefore unable to fight (Gen. 34).
A Little Dying…
The sign wants to show us something. That is why it is a sign. We do not practise this sign anymore, but the value and the content of it have remained, in Christ (Article 25 of the Belgic Confession).
When a piece of flesh is cut away from you, it dies. You have died a little, you feel the pain of it.
Pay close attention to what God shows you. For this little dying, is a symbol of the death you deserve.
This also applies to a newborn baby. The way we are, from our first beginning, makes us unfit to live with God. He is only light, there is no darkness in him.
While we, with our children, are marked by our sins and the results of sin. God shows us and lets us feel: you cannot live like this! He wants us to see this clearly, and to let us realize it.
Therefore, this sign is so important for our understanding and for his holiness.
Also when circumcision is approached from the viewpoint of cleanliness, the message remains the same. If God would cut out everything that was unclean in us, not much would be left.
Girls did not have to become jealous. For them, circumcision would be much more drastic.
What happens today with other religions has not been requested by God. This sign showed the procreation, every child (male/female) was conceived under this sign.
…But Especially Living!
On the other hand: this same sign gave hope!
To cut away caused pain, the message was clear, but the piece of flesh was very small.
God wanted to show also: this is all I need. I do not need more from you.
Looking at it this way, it was a tremendous sign! That little dying, that was someone’s death, that was enough for God! From now on there was life, onto eternity.
It was a privilege to wear this sign. But then it had to be understood and appreciated.
Then man becomes thankful, and life becomes something special. You receive your life back from death, so to speak. This is the language of the sign that wants to penetrate everywhere and always with God’s mercy.
For death was indeed deserved. And those drops of blood ask for more.
We start to understand why God was so perturbed when the sign of circumcision was seen as just something outward, something to be proud(!) of, so that as a Jew you could elevate yourself above the uncircumcised. Then grace was gone, while the covenant with the Holy One can only exist through grace.
Jesus Also Carried the Sign of Circumcision
When we understand circumcision like this, it draws our special attention that also the little Jesus was circumcised. What could have been the reason for this? For after all, he had no sin or stain, why then would the knife need to be used on him?
Indeed, that cannot be the underlying reason in his case.. His own sin does not necessitate this surgery. For he is conceived by the Holy Spirit, pure in body and soul. If anyone knows that, it is Joseph. And yet, that cutting, that little bit of dying, also for the little Jesus.
With this difference: with him, God does not say: “this is all I need”. No, especially because he will be the Saviour and will bear the name Jesus, for him this little dying is the beginning of his complete sacrifice, his dying in body and soul, eventually on the cross.
That is how Jesus has carried this sign, from day to day. The beginning of his dying, with the call for more. All those drops of blood, throughout the ages, pointed to him. Specifically because he is pure, he can and he will die for others. The sign of circumcision he receives as the certainty, that this is the purpose of him being on earth. He has carried it, with distress (Luke 12:50).
This wonder — how for me to comprehend?
My spirit in reverent silence ends.
And Yet, Circumcised Still
We may be glad that this circumcision is now not needed anymore. Every blood sacrifice has been fulfilled, and whoever still continues with that now, ignores Golgotha.
And yet. Paul writes to the Colossians that they underwent the greatest circumcision that exists
(Col. 2:11-12). “…a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.”
“First to be buried”, it is still the exact same message that each Christian gets pressed upon him.
First into death, so that from there one is raised. Your life is a beautiful gift!
Actually, it cannot be done, you should remain buried, for as you are now, you cannot live with God. But God lets it go: when you have been underwater for “a little while”, then that was your dying. With Christ you may live now, for ever.
A fantastic sign! To wear this only outwardly, does not make any sense. To be baptised, it must happen in your heart, just like circumcision is to be a matter of the heart (Rom. 2:25-29).
It wants to fill you with hope in a life when all can turn against you, and in which especially the enmity and the evil in the world can make things difficult for you. Many people, because of their faith in Jesus, experience all kinds of misery. Their plight touches our hearts. But we are often amazed about the joy and the expectation, which, despite all that happens, continues to fill those beaten hearts. They have received a treasure from God himself that no man and no enemy can take from them. It radiates from their eyes, even when death is coming closer.
For death has already been conquered. God has personally sealed that to them.
That we can thus be Christians must be God’s intention with the sign of circumcision and baptism.
We live in a world which is going to be destroyed. Through globalization we see quite a bit of that. The new year will be full of it. This may overwhelm you. A great feeling of powerlessness can come over you. But you carry the promise and the sign and the seal that death is already behind you. All kinds of trouble can happen to you in this life. Or you can be a witness to some of these. But through it all, God goes upward with you. That may be your learning experience.
Baptism marks the program of the Holy Spirit in your life, dying and being raised again, toward the great day of the resurrection.
He also continues to use the knife in your life: what is sinful must disappear, to make place for dedication. 2 Peter 3:11 says: “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness”.
You Continue to be Amazed
When we understand that circumcision and baptism actually contain exactly the same message, then therein lies an answer to the amazement over child baptism. Sometime people, mockingly, speak about “baby baptism”, like: is that not strange and weird?! Then what is forgotten, is that the “baby circumcision” in earlier times was equally strange and weird in human eyes.
A baby does not realize and does not believe as an adult. And yet, specifically commanded by God, those little ones are given the exact same sign! That is his covenant. And it is so until today: the little ones get the same as the adults. They may just as much belong to Christ and be cleansed by his blood (Article 34, Belgic Confession).
Now when people are surprised about this, and therefore are hesitant about child baptism, then especially do not fight the hesitancy. On the contrary, be amazed together!
But show them that this hesitancy is from all times! For this is hard to comprehend. Abraham was really tried, and only afterward did he receive the sign and seal of his justification.
Subsequently, his eight-day old son received the same sign, “just like that”. How is it possible?
People will show up quickly and eagerly, to say: “that is impossible, that does not fit”. And yet, it is true; both: the extreme effort God requests from us to keep and prove our faith, and that his grace is and remains 100% his gift, a gift that also a child may receive who did nothing for it.
Whomever cancels one of these two, also breaks God’s covenant.
Let a denial make room for devotion and worship.
May criticisms move over for amazement.
And continue to be amazed…