Faith & CircumcisionVolume 2, Number 5
Created Date: March 12, 2005
Posted Date: March 12, 2005
Vol 2 - No 5, March 12, 2005
Faith and Circumcision, Part 1 of 2:
At the burning bush on Mount Sinai God told Moses He was sending him to confront Pharaoh about releasing His people from Egypt and explained exactly what would take place. - Exodus 3. The Lord dealt with Moses' weak faith and questioning doubts with patience and even granted his request that his brother Aaron assist as helper and spokesman. This in spite of the fact God had assured Moses he would not need Aaron - Exodus 4: 1 - 17. Moses finally went to his father in law Jethro and asked for permission to return to his people in Egypt -. Assured by God that all who had sought to kill him in Egypt had died, , Moses took his wife and sons and started off with the rod of God in hand.
What follows, as Moses and his family traveled to Egypt, appears totally out of place and incongruous with what is previously recorded and is the subject of some debate among commentators. "And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me. So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision." -. Three (3) questions come to mind: 1) what happened that caused the Lord to seek to kill because a boy was not circumcised? 2) What was the significance of circumcision that made this so serious to God? 3) What does circumcision mean to members of the Body of Christ today?
As to the first question there's not a lot of detailed explanation included in this passage, which incidentally was written by Moses himself. The use of the personal pronoun "him" causes some confusion as to whose life was threatened but after comparing what is revealed here with other scripture it becomes apparent that one of Moses' two sons had not been circumcised in accordance with the covenant God made with Abraham requiring every male be circumcised on his eighth day. --22. God told Abraham and his progeny, i.e., the Children of Israel that (even though it was the parent who failed to perform the circumcision) it was the uncircumcised son who suffered the consequences, as we read: "And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant." - . Considering all that is known it becomes evident Moses and Zipporah had failed to circumcise their youngest son Eliezer.
From what she is quoted as saying in Exodus 4:24 - 26 it is obvious Zipporah lacked faith in God's Word and didn't buy into the covenant of circumcision regardless of what her husband Moses believed. The scenario leading to the confrontation at the inn may likely have been that Moses had insisted their first son Gershom be circumcised in obedience to the Abrahamic covenant, but that experience had shocked Zipporah's sensibilities. She objected and viewed her husband as "bloody," that is, forcing a painfully cruel and repugnant rite on her baby boy. Thus having made up her mind she refused to subject her second son Eliezer to the operation and as is the manner of many husbands Moses went along with his wife in order to maintain household tranquility.
We don't know Eliezer's age when this incident occurred but he was old enough to have been circumcised. The point is that Moses was now under commission by God to confront Pharaoh with God's Word demanding he let Israel go or suffer the death of all firstborn males. Pharaoh would demonstrate his lack of faith in God's Word by refusing and the death sentence would be carried out. God could abide no hypocrisy in Moses and was true to his Word: "the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people," Genesis 17:14. Moses had been set apart, which means he was sanctified for God's use and as such he had to be in full conformance with God's covenant. The text indicates Zipporah did not like it but nevertheless circumcised her son, cast it at Moses' feet and called him a bloody husband. At this, the boy was let go. - Exodus 4:24 - 26. His wife may not have been happy but Moses was now within the will of God and ready to do the job he had been given.
This brings us to our second question as to why the Lord would kill a young boy because his parents failed to circumcise him. As mentioned above the rite of circumcision started with the covenant God made with Abraham, as recorded in Genesis 17. A covenant is by definition an agreement or promise between two or more people for the performance of some action that will mutually benefit all concerned. We think of it today as a contract entered into by parties for such as the sale of real estate or other property. Marriage is also a covenant or contract. However, the covenant with Abraham was unique in that it was initiated unilaterally by God. Abraham had not sought God out but God in grace chose him and promised he would to be the father of many people and nations; that he and his progeny would forever possess all the land of Canaan and He would be their God forever.
And so it was that God had chosen Israel as His people and promised to bless them. The only thing He asked from them in return was the obedience of faith in His Word. (Faith in His Word is all that God has ever asked of mankind.) Some speculate that God required circumcision because it is a healthier lifestyle than the alternative and this may indeed be a by-product or result of the rite but was not the primary reason. According tocircumcision was a "token" of the covenant God made with Abraham. The Hebrew word translated "token" here means "a sign or signal, a distinguishing mark, a banner, a proof, a standard, etc." Therefore, circumcision was a sign or signal or proof that Israel was set apart as God's chosen people. In order to remain in covenant relationship every Israelite had to circumcise their male children by obedience of faith. In our last study we examined the fact God looked at and treated the Children of Israel as His son, as one corporate body, , and as such each and every individual had to be in accordance with God's Word in order for the Nation to receive His blessings. An uncircumcised male had to be cut off in order to maintain the integrity of God's son (the Children of Israel.)
What Israel was not aware of at the time was that the circumcision they practiced in the flesh was actually an object lesson for what Jesus Christ would accomplish in fact for it was Christ's death on the cross that cut off the sinful flesh of those that believe on Him, and left it dead. For it was Jesus Christ "Who was delivered from our offences, (our sinful flesh) and was raised again for our justification." -. Which leads us to the third question posed: what does circumcision mean to members of the Body of Christ today? This will be addressed in our next study.