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  • Writer's pictureRob

The Ninety-Sixth (Flesh)

I want to start off by saying the title for this week is not one of my favorite words! Do you have words that just make you cringe when you hear them? I've heard some people say "moist" is one of those words for them. Well flesh is one of those words for me! But I'm overcoming the cringiness this week to take a moment to talk about it from a scriptural point of view.

One of the things that's always made me wonder is Yehovah's requirement for circumcision starting with Abraham. His commandment was that it be done at eight days old, and not even just those born in the family but also those who were bought from foreigners (Genesis 17:10-13). Now, that is interesting, but hold that thought!

First, can we just take a moment to address the fact that this is the first time, probably in the history of man but at least in scripture, that the idea of circumcision is brought up? I mean, how did Abraham even know what he was supposed to do? The word used for circumcise is mul, and if you look elsewhere in scripture you see this word used in a different context.

Some places where you see this word it's translated to "cut off" or "cut down" (Job 14:2, 18:16, 24:24, Psalm 37:2, 90:6). In others, it's translated to "destroy" (Psalm 118:10-12). So, how did Abraham know what God was talking about? Well, I don't know for sure, but I believe it has to do with God speaking to his heart. I think Yehovah's commandment was put in Abraham's heart so he knew what to do.

But that brings me to my next question: why? Obviously, it was to be a sign of Yehovah's covenant with Abraham and His people (Genesis 17:11), but that's definitely not an obvious sign! There's an extremely limited number of situations where someone else might see this sign, if you catch my drift, so why did God make it so concealed? This doesn't really set them apart from the world in an obvious way. After the action was performed, you couldn't look at Abraham on the street and say he's one of God's chosen people.

Abraham definitely knew for himself though, and so did everyone else that was a part of this covenant. This sign was intended as a remembrance to the person, not to the world. A reminder of their status, how they should act, and who they should be to the world. This sign was taken a step further later on when the idea was used to remind God's people to be kind and love others (Deuteronomy 10:16-19).

But wait a minute, "circumcise the foreskin of your heart?!" Where have I heard that before? Oh yeah, Paul! (Romans 2:29) This is yet another example of how you cannot take the New Testament without its foundation in the Old Testament, and in order to understand the New Testament, you need to start in the Old Testament.

Paul sums up this idea of an inward sign in his letter to the church in Rome. He even goes so far as to say those that are circumcised (physically) and don't keep the law are effectively uncircumcised, so logically those uncircumcised that keep the righteousness of the law are effectively circumcised! (Romans 2:26) You see, Paul was making a point here that those taking pride in their chosen status based on their circumcision, and judging those uncircumcised, were not as good as they thought they were. He was taking them down a notch since they weren't actually acting out the whole point of God giving circumcision as a commandment: to be God's chosen in your heart which then gets shown outwardly by how you act.

For me though, this is not the whole story of why circumcision. God could have told Abraham to do anything as a sign of His covenant. He could have told Abraham he had to tie a stick to his leg, or keep a rock in his pocket. But instead, God had him remove a part of his flesh. This is the other half of the why. Not only was circumcision the inward sign to the individual, but it was to make a point that you must deny your fleshly desires. In Paul's words, it is to keep our body under subjection (1 Corinthians 9:27).

By cutting off a piece of flesh, it is a very visible, physical reminder that the flesh is not what matters, it's just a vessel that our spirit is in (2 Corinthians 4:7). To let it control us, to focus on it rather than God, or to care more about how it looks/feels/what we do in it than obeying God is to put this temporary, earthly existence above God and His promise for our eternity.

There is a man by the name of Jordan Peterson that has fairly recently been brought to Jesus. He has a very touching interview where he talks about when he came to the realization of the reality of Jesus and His divinity, but as far as our current discussion I want to direct you to a clip of his recent interview with Tucker Carlson. In it, he talks about speaking truth no matter the consequence, rather than hiding behind lies, and that's exactly the idea behind the sign of circumcision as it relates to denying flesh.

When you put God first, you act and speak the way He has instructed no matter the consequence, rather than hiding behind however the world wants us to act. God has always wanted us to make Him the priority over the world. We talked about that last week. That's the love He desires from us, and why He chose circumcision as the sign of the covenant with Abraham.

In my personal experience, that method of operation, where you act and speak how God taught us through scripture, is very freeing. That is not to say that it's easy, by any means, but through faith and trust in Him you rest in the knowledge that no matter what happens you know you did what God expects, to the best of your knowledge. You're not worried because not only do you know you did what was right, but you know that what happens to this temporary vessel you are currently in doesn't matter, what matters is your love for Him.

Before closing this week, I did have you hold a thought that I wanted to address. Did you see that God required those foreigners that were purchased by Abraham and his descendants to be circumcised as well? These were people not of Abraham's bloodline but were brought into the covenant with them. Does that sound familiar? Sounds a lot like the gentile believers in Christ to me! All the way back to Abraham, God included all of man in His covenants, it didn't just start with Jesus. Just like Rahab being given such a prestigious position as being in the bloodline of our Savior (Matthew 1:5).

So, God requires us to deny the flesh, the worldly things, and love Him first and foremost regardless of the worldly consequences. Circumcision was a sign of this, but the true purpose was to create a personal reminder to BE a child of God, and ACT like it based on how He taught us to act through His law. Be very careful to understand which comes first, though! We cannot just act however we want and claim it's ok because we are a child of God. That's not how it works. We have to act how He taught us in order to be His children.

I hope you have a wonderful week! Shabbat shalom and God bless you!

-Rob and Sara Gene

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