For one reason or another which I shall attempt to get into, God has been leading me to passages of scripture concerning the Jewish rite of circumcision and all manner of circumcision addressed in the new testament as well.
I can see some of your faces (especially my male readers!) Circum . . . what?! Are you crazy?! No, and I do believe that God’s word really is “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb 4:12) and that “all scripture is inspired (God Breathed) by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man (or in my case – woman) of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16-17)
My point? When I started studying this particular subject, I found myself thinking/praying, “What in the world, Lord?”
I remember some months back Jason asking me one evening something about circumcision today and how did I feel about it. Jonah is circumcised, first of all. It wasn’t something we agonized over or put a whole lot of thought into, to be completely honest. I guess when you get down to it, it was a decision made based on cultural tradition and partly for health reasons. End of story. So when Jason asked what I thought about it, well, I didn’t really “think” about it. I know that it isn’t a requirement for being a child of God, but at one point in history – it did.
Which leads me to my present study. At the moment, I am nearing the end of an incredible Beth Moore study, Believing God. Now, in scripture we’ve come to the end of the Israelite’s time in the desert. All the unfaithful, unbelieving forefathers have, for lack of a better term, dropped dead in the desert just like God said they would. “O Israel, you should listen and be careful to do it (obey God’s laws), that it may be well with you and that you may multiply greatly, just as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Deut 6:3)
We read in Numbers 13 & 14 how Moses and Aaron send spies to check out Canaan which God said, “which I am going to give to the sons of Israel . . .” (Num 13:1). The spies return with their tails between their legs spinning tales of men who were huge and made the Israelites look like “grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight . . .” (Num 13:33) In short, the Israelites freak out, choosing to trust the words of a few sissies over the promises of God.
Despite the pleas of Aaron and Moses, God brings down the Word, showing that He can be tested only so much before He’s had enough. “Surely all the men who have seen My glory and My signs which I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have put me to the test these ten times and have not listened to My voice, shall by no means see the land which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who spurned Me see it. But my servant Caleb, because he has a different and has followed Me fully, I will bring him into the land which he entered, and his descendants shall take possession of it. Now the Amalekites and the Canaanites live in the valleys; turn tomorrow and set out to the wilderness by the way of the Red Sea.” (Num 14:22-25)
Can you say, “Ouch”? Yet it was obvious they had it coming.
So, in Believing God, Beth takes us, literally, full circle to a place called Gilgal, which by no coincidence means, “circle”. See Joshua chapters 3 &4 “And the people came up out of the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and encamped in Gilgal, in the east border of Jericho.” You might have noticed that this is right before the walls come toppling down at Jericho. They’ve just crossed the Jordan river on dry land, just like their great-grandparents did at the Red Sea, and they’ve set up a memorial of 12 stones. They’ve come full circle.
As we studied this last night, it hit me particularly how poignant this is as a believer. To come full circle – to our own personal Gilgals. Can’t you imagine how the Israelites felt? They’d seen their poor, miserable parents and grandparents miss out on God’s best, His promise, the land flowing with milk and honey because they refused to believe even after all they’d been through, all they’d witnessed. God was patient, for as long as His just nature could allow. I wonder if this new generation of believers were just a tad nervous? Did they tremble as they crossed the Jordan with its waters stacked up on either side? Did they pray like crazy that they would have hearts to believe because they knew what the consequences were?
Here’s where we finally get to circumcision . . . See Joshua 5:2-9, Verse 9 says, ” Then the LORD said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” So the name of that place is called Gilgal[I.e. rolling]to this day.” God was renewing His covenant here, using the circumcision as a sign of Israel coming full circle and placing their trust in Him. In the new testament it says, “and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.” It hit me like a ton of bricks as Beth was sharing how God has also “rolled away our reproach” when we have a circumcision of the heart – when we understand that God nailed our reproach to the cross. ” for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh,” (Philippians 3:3) and ” having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” (Col 2:14)
When Beth asked what reproach we had been wearing, so many things came to mind. Things you never want anyone to know, maybe a family history of dysfunction and abuse, major screw-ups, repeated failings . . . God knows them all. Isn’t His grace amazing? Just when I think I have a hang on this “being a Christian” thing, God shows up and makes it clear that not only do I not have a “hang on” anything, but that the journey’s just begun, and that’s a good thing.