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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, 13 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. 14 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 17:12-14
It used to be on the side of the large five-drawer file cabinet. The file cabinet was in my office at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Arlington. It was obvious to anyone who came in. “I KNOW THE FUTURE…GOD WINS!” Black with white letters. The text grew from left to right. Beyond that it was fairly plain. And as much as it says, the message is pretty good.
But there is much more to say. For if God is gracious, this is good news. If God is merciful, this is good news. If God is angry with the whole world, this is not good news. If God is waiting to trounce on any who sin, this is very bad news. If God is just, well… This is the catch. For justice demands balanced scales. Justice demands sins be paid for. Justice demands that evil be requited.
God is just. His judgment of the world during the days of Noah show that. His banishment of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden demonstrate it. The whole Bible testifies to this: “The soul that sins will die” (Ezekiel 18:20). If God is going to punish sins, and see that righteousness prevails, Houston has a problem. And so does St. Louis, Rome, Moscow, New York City, Berlin, Beijing, Nairobi, and every other city in the world. And so does Cypress, Texas…and every other name place in the world. And so does 123 Main Street, and every other address in the world. And so do I, and every other person in the world.
Thankfully, however, God is not only just. He is also gracious and good, merciful and forgiving. All that will come into full view years later when God’s Son is born. Jesus will be all that every man, woman, and child was designed to be. Perfect righteousness, unwavering love, consistent faithfulness, and godly priorities will shape all he thinks, says, and does.
Sacrificial love will send Jesus to the cross for you and for me. He will be raised from the dead. He will come again at the end of time. This is God’s ultimate plan. Though it is not yet known to Abraham, it will come to pass. Abraham is looking forward to the birth of a son, Isaac. This was God’s promise to him. But the Son to be born – who himself will be a descendant of Abraham – is not to come for many centuries.
In the mean time, Isaac will be born. Abraham and Sarah will carry on with their lives. And people yet to be part of Abraham’s household will be brought into the covenant of God’s grace. Marked in those days with circumcision, even slaves yet to be bought, and children yet to be born will be welcomed into God’s Covenant of Grace. This is the plan of God. This is the future of God’s people.
My trite but true bumper sticker hints at something. There is a future hope. There is a plan. And it’s hinted at in the words, “Every male throughout your generations.” The New Testament gives witness to our place in God’s plan. We have been chosen before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4) to be part of God’s Covenant of Grace. Satan will do all he can to thwart that plan. Men and women will color outside all the lines of that plan. Temptation will seek to lure people from the path of faith and make shipwreck of their faith.
But God wins! No matter what. And those who long for his redemption can be certain that come Satan or shipwreck, stumble or sin, repentance puts us back into that covenant of grace. That’s a future hope for which I am deeply thankful. I hope you are too.