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After observing Abram for another fourteen years, the Lord made a deeper, more detailed commitment by converting his covenant to an everlasting covenant and, to emphasize his promise, changing Abram’s name to Abraham. Abram means “Exalted Father” while Abraham means “Father of a Multitude.”
The enhanced covenant required Abraham and all his male descendents to be circumcised. Why circumcision? Rabbi Telushkin can only say that the Torah never gives a rationale for it (1). Bruce Waltke suggests circumcision was “performed on the organ of procreation because the covenant pertained to descendants set apart to God.”(2)
Regardless, circumcision was the initiation ceremony for entry into the people of God. This corresponds to baptism today, under the new covenant of Jesus Christ.
Abraham’s test was whether or not he would irreversibly commit to identifying himself as belonging to God. If he did, he was binding himself to God’s covenant, to living God’s way, and to accepting the Lord as his king. As we’ll read tomorrow, Abraham circumsized all the males the same day as God announced the requirement.
You and I face this same test with the same degree of binding, but to the new covenant rather than the old covenant, and through baptism rather than circumcision. Will we commit to publicly identifying ourselves as belonging to Christ? Jesus said his followers are to stand out like salt in food, a city on a hill, or a lamp on a lampstand. When people know we are followers of Christ and see our good works, they will praise God (Matthew 5:13-16).
So if family, friends and workmates don’t know of your faith, find an appropriate way to tell them. And the next time you are tempted to be silent or passive when something should be said or done, be bold.
(1) Telushkin, Joseph. Jewish Literacy. William Morrow & Co.: New York City. 1991. P 671
(2) Waltke, Bruce. Genesis: A Commentary. Zondervan: Grand Rapids. 2001. P. 264
Lord Jesus, you are the Light of the World who gave me new life by taking my shame upon yourself for everyone to see, suffering their jeers and scoffing. Embolden me to live a public life of faith that will glorify our Father. In your name, Amen.