Look at what God says Today we conclude Abraham’s tale of two covenants 4… Abraham has to do and also his descendants. They must agree that male children in the household, all those who are a part of the family and household will be circumcised.
Trusting that everyone understands what circumcision means, I won’t give any details now. This is not the moment that circumcision was invented or established. Circumcision was something that was practiced in ancient cultures even before this time and outside of Israel. What God did instead is to take this practice and give it new meaning according to His purposes. The practice now is required not of only Abraham and his descendants but even to those in the household who are brought in and paid for as servants. And this event must take place on the eighth day of the infant’s life. You can see God’s handiwork by in Creation why we understand it was the eighth day that the infant was to be circumcised. Abraham’s Tale of Two Covenants
The body needs a certain vitamin, vitamin K, not one you hear much about, to allow
for proper blood clotting. The reason you don’t see vitamin K on the shelves in stores generally is that you don’t need to have supplements, your body produces it naturally and plenty of quantity to do what you need to be done when it comes time for blood clotting. At birth, a baby’s own production of vitamin K doesn’t happen naturally. The baby has not been producing it in the womb because it gets its supply from the mother’s blood. So Initially as the baby is born it has very low amounts of vitamin K and for the first few days of life, that level begins to drop until the baby’s own production kicks in about the fifth or sixth day. Because the levels in the body are so low the body does what it naturally does, it tries to seek homeostasis (balance). So it stars ramping up the production of vitamin K at a faster than normal rate just to get back up to where wants to be. But then it overshoots. The body ends up peaking with too much vitamin K in the next few days until it finally settles down and gets to its normal level. Where do you think the peak production of vitamin K is in the life of an infant? Day eight. So the day God defines here for the circumcision moment is the day when the body has the most blood clotting vitamin in the bloodstream. insuring the best possible outcome when that surgery takes place. Abraham’s Tale of Two Covenants
To understand what God is doing here in the covenant itself, let’s make some observations. First, notice this is a covenant that requires Abraham and his
descendants to take action, to obey God’s commands or the covenant doesn’t last. That tells us again this is a new and different covenant than the Abrahamic Covenant. Secondly, the timing of the covenant. It is on the eighth day of life. Clearly, this is a cross-generational covenant. It is not a covenant with a person, but a covenant with a people. Because the individuals themselves, the person who is being circumcised is not a party to the discussion are they? They are not volunteering the process in their own life. They are having it done to them. So this is not a covenant in which the person involved is agreeing to something and by their actions is joining something. It’s being done to them. So it’s cross-generational. It’s about a people group, not about an individual person. No one enters into this covenant on their own because it happens too early in their new life. Older generations are obedient or not and whether they are obedient or not determines whether their children participate in the covenant. An obedient parent is assuring their children are included in this covenant. A disobedient parent is excluding their children potentially from this covenant. Because it is cross-generational. It’s about continuing a people group not about what happens in the life of a given person. Thirdly, the consequence of failing to keep the covenant is to be cut off from his people. So here again, cross-generational. The term for cut off, in Hebrew, literally means to be destroyed or killed. So the penalty for failing to observe this covenant is ceasing from being part of Israel and ultimately ceasing to exist.
Finally, we notice God says in verse 10 that circumcision is the covenant, He names it. But in the next verse, verse 11 God says it will be a sign of the covenant. How can it both be a covenant and be a sign of a covenant? The answer is God is establishing this new covenant and this new covenant is a sign of the other covenant. The Covenant of Circumcision is the sign of the Abrahamic Covenant. Abraham’s Tale of Two Covenants
What do all these details tell us? Remember since the fall in the Garden, in the story of Genesis, we’ve been following the seed promise, the promise to bring a Messiah to rectify the sin of Adam in the Garden. That’s been the promise He made in the Garden and the promise He has been at work fulfilling. Ultimately to be fulfilled in the Messiah. Through the first series of Genesis chapters that promise has moved from one person to the next, then to the next. From Seth down the line to all the way to Abraham. It has progressed from one son to another to another. Finally, it arrives at Abraham, son of Terah. In Abraham, the promise has taken form, now we understand it better because it has been revealed to Abraham in detail. There would be a people, there would be land. From these people will be a blessing to the nations of the world. That seed being Christ.
All nations will be blessed because of this people group. Next, it is going to be bestowed from Abraham to Isaac, from Isaac to Jacob. Still, one son, it’s still being moved through single individuals down this line. But what was going to happen after it gets to Jacob? I am making the assumption for the most part you know the storyline of Genesis. The point of Jacob is, it is no longer one to one. A father and one son. It goes to one father to twelve sons. And after that, the twelve become an uncountable number. Abraham’s Tale of Two Covenants
Who is going to participate in these blessings when they start to become many and not just one? What determines or not you are a part of those who are receiving the blessings of the Abrahamic promise. When it used to be just Isaac, then Jacob it was easy to know. It’s Isaac, not Ishmael. It’s Jacob, not Esau. What happens when it is millions of people? Who’s in and who is out of this Abrahamic promise? God says it will be those who carry the sign. Those who agree to participate through the taking of this sign will in of their bodies be counted part of the nation of Israel and as such the recipient of the Abrahamic promise. The Abrahamic promise is not conditional on anything. If you are in, you receive it. If you’re not in, you don’t receive it, but you don’t do anything to get it in terms of the actual promise itself. If you are part of the nation of Israel by the Covenant of Circumcision, your family, your blessings, they are all guaranteed as part of that covenant. As Paul taught us: Abraham’s Tale of Two Covenants
Romans 9:6-8 New King James Version (NKJV)
6 But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, 7 nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “In Isaac, your seed shall be called.” 8 That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed.
So, who will be counted among those who receive the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant? God says that the sign of that covenant will be the covenant of
circumcision. And those who descend from Abraham and who obey that command to be circumcised are counted as part of the first covenant. Those who do not, are cut off from that covenant.
Remember in Exodus, Moses’ experience when he left Midian to go into Egypt to take Israel out. As they are leaving Midian, he and his wife Zipporah, what happens along the way? It’s a little moment in the story of Moses some people may remember. and Exodus?
Exodus 4:24-26 (NKJV)
24 And it came to pass on the way, at the encampment, that the Lord met him and sought to kill him (Moses). 25 Then Zipporah took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son and cast it at Moses’ feet, and said, “Surely you are a husband of blood to me!” 26 So He (God) let him (Moses’) go. Then she said, “You are a husband (bridegroom) of blood!”—because of the circumcision.
Because Moses had not circumcised his son as God had commanded, yet he was about to go into Egypt and proclaim himself to be God’s representative to the nation of Israel, yet he himself was not letting his own next generation participate in the covenant. God met him on the road and was ready to kill him as was required. God wants His covenant with Abraham to a witness to the nations. And He demands that Israel keep the covenant of circumcision in order to be a part of it.
Some of you may be wondering in your mind right now. Where does salvation fit into this conversation? To be clear, chapter 17 isn’t teaching that obedience was required in order to have the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant. Because those were based on God’s faithfulness alone. But only that the entry into the covenant depended on obedience to the covenant of circumcision on a national level. Remember you are circumcising your child, it’s not the child himself is making the decision. It’s happening to them. It was an issue who would be in Israel versus who was not a part of Israel. It’s not a personal issue.
Once a person was a party to the Abrahamic Covenant, then the blessings were assured to them. But personal salvation is not the issue here.
Abraham was counted righteous, remember, by faith in God’s promises before he even knew the details for the most part of the covenant. Had he refused to take circumcision here, he still would have been saved by his same faith in the earlier covenant, nevertheless. He observed the second covenant to ensure the blessings continued on into the next generation for his family sake, for the nation of Israel’s sake.
“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”
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