Circumcision, New Names, New Identities…
Journey In Genesis: Selected Passages 5
Genesis 17:1-16: Please click HERE.
Two main items to focus on: circumcision and new names,
and how they are important for us Christians in the New Covenant.
Physical circumcision: an outward sign
- of God choosing His people, setting them apart
from the other people/cultures around them and
- of Abraham’s internal faith in the LORD.
But the outward sign of circumcision, as important as it was,
pointed to the even more important inner necessity of a change of heart:
Deuteronomy 10:14-19:“To the Lord your God belong the heavens,
even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it.
15 Yet the Lord set his affection on your ancestors and loved them,
and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations—as it is today.
16 Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer.
17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords,
the great God, mighty and awesome,
who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.
18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow,
and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.
19 And you are to love those who are foreigners,
for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.”
Deuteronomy 30:6: “The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts
and the hearts of your descendants,
so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.”
Jeremiah 4:1-4: “If you, Israel, will return, then return to me,” declares the Lord.
“If you put your detestable idols out of my sight and no longer go astray,
2 and if in a truthful, just and righteous way you swear, ‘As surely as the Lord lives,’
then the nations will invoke blessings by him and in him they will boast.”
3 This is what the Lord says to the people of Judah and to Jerusalem:
“Break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns.
4 Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, circumcise your hearts,
you people of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem,
or my wrath will flare up and burn like fire because of the evil you have done—
burn with no one to quench it.”
We need a new inner heart, not just an external mark.
How does this circumcision affect us in the New Covenant;
do we see this in the New Testament?
Matthew 16:17-20: “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth
goes into the stomach and then out of the body?
18But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart,
and these defile them. 19For out of the heart come evil thoughts—
murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.
20These are what defile a person…”
Romans 4:11: “And he [Abraham] received circumcision as a sign,
a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised.
So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised,
in order that righteousness might be credited to them.”
Colossians 2:10-12: “…and in Christ you have been brought to fullness.
He is the head over every power and authority.
11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off [peeled back]
when you were circumcised by Christ,
12 having been buried with him in baptism,
in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God,
who raised him from the dead.”
[As Christians, sin/selfishness no longer holds the leash/is our master;
Christ has set us free, made us new & become our new Master;
We follow & obey Him freely & joyfully without an external leash;
We “heel” at Christ’s feet with the internal leash/yoke of desiring to honor Him.]
“But in the Bible a name is much more than an identifier as it tends to be in our culture. Personal names (and even place names) were formed from words that had their own meaning. Thus, the people of the Bible…believed there was a vital connection between the name and the person it identified. A name somehow represented the nature of the person” (Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible, Lockyer, 1986, p. 744).
“In the giving or taking of new names, often a crucial turning point in the person’s life has been reached…The connection between a name and the reality it signified is nowhere more important than in the names referring to God…According to Exodus 34:5-6, when the Lord ‘proclaimed the name of the Lord,’ He added words that described His character. The name of the Lord was virtually synonymous with His presence (Psalm 75:1), to know the name of God is thus to know God Himself (Psalm 91:14)” (ibid, p. 745).
Abram means exalted father. Abraham probably means father of many.
Sarai means princess. Sarah could mean “Yahweh’s princess.”
Genesis 11:1-2, 4: “Now the whole world had one language and a common speech.
2 As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there…
4Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower
that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves;…”
That is humanity’s root sin in a nutshell: climbing high to make our name great
instead of bowing low to acknowledge & celebrate that His name is great(est).
Philippians 2:8-11: “And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and
gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.”
Again, we don’t climb high to make our name great,
we bow low to recognize that His name is great(est).
It isn’t a coincidence that in the very next chapter (Genesis 12)
the LORD shows us the proper order—God’s name is greatest,
and to any extent that our name becomes great,
it must be because of Him & His work,
not us & our work, for His glory, not ours:
Genesis 12:1-2:“The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country,
your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
2 “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you;
I will make your name great…”
So how does this name change affect us in the New Covenant?
Do we see this in the NT?
We must understand what the Bible teaches about what happens
when a person surrenders to the Lord Jesus as Savior & King. Yes, we believe, we respond intellectually & in our hearts (feelings, emotions, will) by faith.
But much more happens!
Becoming a Christian is not adding a really special ornament to a Christmas tree.
The tree’s appearance is externally improved, yes—but the tree is still dead!
The tree hasnt had an internal change.
Many treat Christ this way, simply as an ornament to help them in a season of life,
or as a hobby or decoration. But when that season is over,
the jesus ornament is boxed up & put away until next year,
or the jesus ornament is replaced with a different one when life gets hard &
we aren’t getting the same “results”/feeling we used to get from the jesus ornament.
No, that is not Christianity. When a person surrenders to the Lord Jesus Christ
as our Savior, King & Master, we’re made alive spiritually (Ephesians 2),
we’re internally changed (circumcision–Colossians 2),
we’re given a new nature (Romans 7) & name, a new identity in Christ:
- no longer guilty/condemned, but declared righteous (Romans 3:21-26),
innocent (Ephesians 1:4 & 5:27), acquitted, free (Romans 6);
- no longer known as a rebel against God, but known as son/daughter of God
(though of course we do rebel still in different ways,
that isn’t our primary identity);
- no longer a dead stick but a branch ingrafted/transplanted into the Vine,
Jesus Christ (Romans 11:17-24);
- no longer known by what we’ve done, but by what He has done thru the cross;
- no longer known by what we’ve earned by our grit,
but by what we’ve been given by His grace.
Isaiah 43:1, 3a, 6b-7: “But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine…
3 For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;…
Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth—
7 everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”
[The LORD summons His people by our name, saves us, & gives us His name—
new name, new identity, new status, new relationship. Entirely new!
That is salvation.]
Acts 15:16-18:““After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent.
Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it,
17 that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord,
even all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things’
[Amos 9:11-12]—18 things known from long ago.”
1 Peter 4:15-16: “If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief
or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.
16However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed,
but praise God that you bear that name.”
Revelation 3:12: “The one who is victorious I will make a pillar
in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it.
I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God,
the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God;
and I will also write on them my new name.”
Revelation 14:1:“Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb,
standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000
who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.”
Revelation 22:3-4:“No longer will there be any curse.
The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city,
and his servants will serve him.
4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.”
Dear friends, have you collected Jesus for decoration,
or cried out to Him for salvation?
Are you building/climbing high for your own name,
or have you bowed low in repentance & faith
to acknowledge & receive His name?
Do you want Jesus to improve part of you externally,
or circumcise your entire heart internally?