Even When No One is Watching
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When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.
23 On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him. 24 Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised,25 and his son Ishmael was thirteen;26 Abraham and his son Ishmael were both circumcised on that very day.27 And every male in Abraham’s household, including those born in his household or bought from a foreigner, was circumcised with him. – Genesis 17:22-27
The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching. – John Wooden
Commitment is doing what you said you would, long after the mood you said it in has left. – Various Sources
These two quotes are exemplified by Abraham’s actions once he and God had finished their conversation – or better yet, once God had finished his conversation with Abraham and left.
Abraham was alone. All he had was the word of God. And all he had of that was a repeated promise that he was yet to realize. God had spoken to him. God had made a promise of a son. God had even corrected him in regard to how that promise was to be fulfilled. Well and good. But God had also given him a command. Circumcise all the males in your household. This was to be the sign of the covenant. Personal. Private. Painful.
And God is gone. We don’t have a clear expression of God’s omniscience at this point in the biblical narrative. God has not revealed himself as redeemer. God has not necessarily even revealed his name. There is no threat either. No, “or else.” No, “if you don’t…” Just a promise and a command. You will have a son. Circumcise all the males of your family. Perhaps here we need to read “family” as “household,” a very extended grouping of people related to Abraham in any manner whatsoever.
What would move Abraham to do this? What kind of push-back might he receive? How would even the women in his extended family like this idea? Abraham had every reason to ignore God’s command. But he apparently also had a reason to obey it.
It wasn’t the threat. It wasn’t the fear. It wasn’t a sense of self-punishment. It. Was. Faith.
All Abraham had was the word of God. And faith. He believed God. He trusted God. It’s not clear that he feared God Though likely he did fear God, there is no obvious evidence that he did. He had the word of God. He had the promise of God. He had the covenant of God.
God has visited us when Jesus came to earth and dwelt among us. But Jesus has gone. He has given us two greats: The Great Commandment; Love God and love neighbor. The Great Commission: Make disciples of all nations. The only means by which we would do this is by faith. Believing God’s promises. Obeying his commands. Even when no one is watching.