circumcision of IsaacIn my personal devotional time I have been reading the book of Genesis. Today I was reading about the covenant of circumcision. I am particularly struck by the differences between the covenant of circumcision in Genesis 17 and the covenant God “cut” with Abram two chapters earlier, in chapter 15.

In the first covenant God instructed Abram to cut some animals in half and to arrange them on opposite sides of a rut in the ground. This was an ancient Middle Eastern practice of “cutting a covenant.” What would normally happen would be for both parties of the covenant to walk through the blood in the rut between the sacrificed animals. In doing so, they would end up with blood on their feet. The message was: ‘If I should break this covenant, may it be at the cost of my own blood (my own life); if you should break this covenant, may it be at the cost of your own blood (your own life).’ Interestingly, though, in Genesis 15 it is only God who walks through the blood, in the form of “a smoking oven and a flaming torch which passed between these pieces” (Genesis 15:17). What God reveals about Himself in this covenant is that God is the One who swears His love to us with the promise of His own blood (His own life). Indeed, when the covenant between us and God was broken by our sin it is God, in Jesus Christ, who gave His life for us to set things right between us and God.

The second covenant did not involve the promise of our lives but a ‘wounding’ of our skin. Indeed, it involves wounding a man at the point of his greatest vulnerability and greatest intimacy. In his book, The Rest of God, Mark Buchanan offers this insight: “To be circumcised is to permit, even invite, an act of violence—a sharp knife, a painful cut, a bloody removal—in that part of a man he otherwise most guards and hides. It is also the part he most intimately joins with a woman. Circumcision is being scarred in a place of deep identity, where a man understands himself to be a man” (p. 96). In this second covenant, God reveals us to be a people who, if we want to be in relationship with God, must face and acknowledge ourselves to be wounded at our place of greatest vulnerability and our place of greatest intimacy.

These two covenants reveal to us the vital foundation to our relationship with God. Our relationship with God depends upon His love that goes so far as to give His life to set things right between us, and it requires us to admit that we are people who are wounded at our point of greatest vulnerability and intimacy.


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