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And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”Genesis 17:9-14
I’ll admit, I wondered how to handle this particular part of the Abraham narrative. I know we’re all mature people. We don’t need to snicker in the corner when we talk about circumcision. But circumcision is no longer a requirement for God’s people – any more than observances of Old Testament rituals and laws (cf. Acts 15:28-29). Furthermore, this practice has been replaced – or better yet, subsumed – by baptism (Colossians 2:11-12).
Two words from Matthew Henry’s Commentary on this passage do strike me, however: “The covenant of grace is from everlasting in the counsels of it, and to everlasting in the consequences of it.” In other words, the idea of God’s grace is no new idea, originating even in the times of Abraham. It springs from eternity, from the heart and character of God. And this covenant of grace is eternal in its consequences: God’s grace impacts every aspect of our lives throughout all eternity.
The idea that God somehow had to start over when Adam and Eve sinned springs from a very short-sighted vision and human-limited understanding of God’s nature. God knows all things. There are no surprises with him. He saw it all coming. That means he knew Adam and Eve would sin. He knew he would call Abraham. He knew Isaac would be born. He also knew Jesus would be born. And live. And suffer. And die. And rise. And come again.
God has no Plan B when it comes to the eternal glory of his grace. It was part of his plan from before the beginning. And our eternity will be filled with praises to his glorious grace (cf. Ephesians 1:3-6). God is all about grace. It’s part of his character. And it’s what brings us to him and sustains us along the way.
It is so very encouraging to me also that this covenant extends not only to Abraham and his son Isaac who will be born to fulfill God’s initial promise to Abraham and Sarah. It also extends to Ishmael and all who are brought into Abraham’s family are part of it. This grace is broad. That might mean there is room in the grace of God for me! And if there is room for me, might there also be room for you?