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“Miss!” asks the inquisitive Sunday School-er, “What’s circumcision?”  Miss turns the colour of an Englishman on Bondi.  “Don’t worry about that,” she flusters.  “That’s for grown-ups.”

But it’s not.  According to Genesis 17, circumcision is for 8-day-olds.  It was a “sign of the covenant” given to Abraham and his seed.  So from the earliest time, Israelite boys were to have the LORD’s covenant “in their flesh.” (Genesis 17:13)

There are two repeated words in the chapter that tell us the meaning of the ritual.  The first is the word “cut”.

When the Hebrews spoke of making a covenant, they wouldn’t say “make”, they’d say “cut”.  You “cut” a covenant.  And of course Abraham has had the cutting of the covenant powerfully dramatized for him.  Abraham had witnessed the LORD pass between the cut sacrifices as He proclaims His covenant vows.  Abraham knew that the promises were blood-oaths grounded in the LORD’s own future cutting off.

So naturally the “sign of the covenant” would be a “cutting” sign.  In fact the word for circumcision is the word “cutting off.”  And for those who wouldn’t own the sign of circumcision – they would be “cut off” from the community.  (Genesis 17:14)

Why?  Well that brings us to the other prominent word in this chapter: seed.

In fact it occurs 7 times in Genesis 17.  Abraham is reminded again and again that the promises of God are for his seed.

Well then, if the promises are to Abraham’s seed, doesn’t it seem a little dangerous to be cutting off the flesh… down there?  Aren’t the Israelites being commanded to do something perilously close to cutting off the seed??

Indeed they are.  But that’s the point.  The sign of the covenant will be a bloody pre-enactment of the cutting off of The Seed – Jesus Christ.  Abrahamites will wear in their bodies a symbol of the cross – the true cutting off.  For when the LORD Christ is cut off we are spared the same.

So then Old Testament believer, The covenant’s been cut foretelling the Seed’s cutting off.  So own the sign and trust the Reality.  Cut off or be cut off.

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