Circumcision of the Heart

A bris in the heart!" Sounds strange. Maybe even a bit ridiculous to modern ears, doesn't it? Yet God Himself speaks of circumcision of the heart in the Jewish Scriptures. And strange as it may seem, it holds as deep a meaning for us today as it did when God first gave circumcision in Abraham's time.

To understand circumcision of the heart, we first must look at the rite of circumcision of the flesh.

The record begins in the 12th and 15th chapters of Genesis. God made unconditional promises to Abraham that his descendants would be more numerous than the stars in the sky; that through his descendants all the nations would be blessed; that Abraham's people would be given a great land to occupy and that all who blessed them would in turn be blessed.

Then, in the 17th chapter of Genesis, we read:

"This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised.

And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. And every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations, a servant who is born in the house or who is bought with money from any foreigner, who is not of your descendants.

A servant who is born in your house or who is bought with your money shall surely be circumcised; thus shall My covenant be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant."
-Genesis 17:10-13

The key here is that circumcision was to be a "sign of the covenant" that had already been given, with no strings attached, to Abraham.

The rite of circumcision was made a part of the Law of Moses several hundred years later when God gave instruction concerning the birth of a male: "And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised" (Leviticus 12:3).

This practice was continued generation after generation, but when the nation of Israel was forced to wander 40 years in the wilderness the rite of circumcision temporarily ceased.

Some authorities believe God demanded this generation die out because of their refusal to believe Him when He told them to enter the promised land (Numbers 14:32-35). And so a rejected generation no longer practiced circumcision.

The disobedient nation of Israel, roaming like lost sheep in the wilderness, were momentarily taken out of the covenant. They had refused to believe God's promise when He told them to take the land, and now they were paying for their rebellion.…

Yet with God's punishment comes God's love, for when the 40 year journey was ending, the covenant—and all its blessings—returned.

As soon as the nation of Israel crossed the Jordan into the land of milk and honey the Lord God immediately gave a command to Joshua: "At that time the Lord said to Joshua, 'Make for yourself flint knives and circumcise again the sons of Israel the second time.' " (Joshua 5:2.)

Now that they were in the land, back in the place of faith enjoying obedience and fellowship with God, the practice of circumcision was restored and the people of Israel were blessed by God.

Israel has always had a special place in the sight of God. He chose the nation to point the way to Himself and to spread His love among all the nations. Since circumcision was the sign of the covenant which involved this universal blessing, it had significance beyond its observance as a national rite.

Practically, we can't show the world we've been circumcised, but God's covenant extends further than just the physical realm. A way has been provided in which our words and actions can show the nations God has touched us. We read His promise in Deuteronomy 30:6:

"Moreover, the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live."

This type of circumcision, by definition a circumcision of the spirit and not the flesh, goes to the heart of a man, to his soul, his essence, his attitudes and relationship with God. Because this theme of an inner circumcision is so important, God repeats and stresses it, as in Deuteronomy 10:12-16:

"And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

And to keep the Lord's commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good?

Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it.

Yet on your fathers did the Lord set His affection to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all peoples, as it is this day.

Circumcise then your heart, and stiffen your neck no more."

Over and over again God probes the inner man, the real person. His discerning eyes won't allow us to hide behind social facades, adopted mannerisms or walls of materialism. Before God each man is seen just as he is. His innermost thoughts, thoughts he may wish to hide from the world, are exposed by the light of God.

God requires us to keep all His statutes and laws, and yet which one of us can possibly keep all of them all the days of our lives? The prophet writes:

"For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away."
-Isaiah 64:6

On one hand God tells us to keep all His statutes. On the other the prophet recognizes the human condition: we all fall short of perfection and therefore cannot possibly keep all the Law all the time.

Yet, as we read in Deuteronomy 30:6, God does not expect us to circumcise our own hearts. He says He will do that. But how? And what does He expect from us? Let's look at Leviticus 26:40-42:

"If they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their forefathers, in their unfaithfulness which they committed against Me, and also in their acting with hostility against Me—

I also was acting with hostility against them, to bring them into the land of their enemies—or if their uncircumcised heart becomes humbled so that they then make amends for their iniquity,

Then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and I will remember also My covenant with Isaac, and My covenant with Abraham as well, and I will remember the land."

Ah, is that it? Must we confess our iniquity and rebellion against God? Fine, maybe we do this once a year at Yom Kippur. But, in addition to confession, our uncircumcised heart must become humble.

This appears to be a spiritual operation, but we sense within ourselves that we lack the divine power necessary to perform this—to change our own heart. Then we remember this is an operation God said He would perform.

But how?

King David knew the secret, for after he had sinned against God by taking Bathsheba, he pleaded, in Psalm 51:10-12:

"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Thy presence, and do not take Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation, and sustain me with a willing spirit."

David said, "Do not take Thy Holy Spirit from me." The Holy Spirit, the Ruach Ha'kodesh of the ages is the renewing force. It was the Holy Spirit of God which brought peace, comfort and joy to David. He knew what it was like to live both with and without God's Spirit dwelling within him.

It's this very Spirit which David called upon to create a clean heart within him—to renew him. In other words, it is the Holy Spirit of God which performs the circumcision of the heart.

From Abraham to David to you, the inner circumcision continues.

Today we have a promise from God, a promise He always keeps. He has promised for every person who places his trust in the Messiah, in the Anointed One of Israel, this Holy Spirit will indwell him and circumcise his heart, making it right with God.

At some point we all face God as uncircumcised, unrenewed searchers after truth. We stand as animated beings of flesh without God's Spirit inside us. We seek our own truth and walk our own paths.

Perhaps you've searched and walked and questioned without finding the heart-changing, spiritual answers you've known are there but have never discovered.

Maybe now God is telling you that by placing your faith in Messiah Jesus His Spirit will circumcise your heart and refresh you today and forever.

As you confess Messiah Jesus as Lord and Savior, the One promised by the ancient prophets of Israel, the sacrificed Lamb of God, you too will be able to stand with other believers in Him and fully appreciate the words of Saul of Tarsus. Saul, an ancient scholar of Israel who became the apostle Paul, writes of an eternal circumcision of the heart:

"See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Messiah.

For in Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form.

And in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Messiah.

Having been buried with Him in baptism (of the Spirit), in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions.

Having cancelled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross."
-Colossians 2:8-9, 11-14 New Testament

We pray you, too, will seek, find and be refreshed by His Spirit.

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Comments

-11

Mordechai

What a finish! Maybe it should have said "Maybe now God is telling you that by placing your faith in tuna His Spirit will circumcise..." because that makes as much sense. And by the way, it may not be possible to keep all the laws, as some were temporarily abolished with the destruction of the Temple, but God doesn't require you to complete the task; HE requires to try your hardest. You are not free to withdraw from the task at hand. Any kid could tell you that, as it a mishna in Avot (2:21).
+2

Jeff

Jesus loves you my friend. He and he alone can forgive your sins. He offered his body as the perfect sacrifice on your behalf. Today, will you renounce sin forever and follow the Risen Savior on the narrow road to heaven?
+1

Ispeakincolor

Hello. I've been walking with Jesus for 20 years. When I first started out, I didn't know very much about the Bible, but as I read and studied more and more, I saw and learned about so many scriptures in the Old Testiment that pointed to the truth of the New Testiment. As I learned more and more, it became more and more apparent to me that Jesus is the Messiah, because there are just way too many things that line up perfectly! Because of this, at times, I've wondered how someone could deny that the New Testiment is truth. I promise you that if you search for the truth with an open mind, you'll see it, and be blessed by it. (I'm not Jewish, so I hope that I haven't said anything, without realizing it, that might have offended you, but I do hope that you are blessed someday with the truth. Not my truth, or your's, but His.)
+11

Jonny

How good is good enough? How do you know when you've tried your hardest? The Law is great at identifying how we should live and defining what sin is...but it falls short in providing a solution to our disobedience. We need changed hearts, we need Jesus.
+10

Andrew

This article was a huge blessing for me to read. I have endured the pursuit of philosophy, intellect, and an understanding based strictly on knowledge of statutes. I am so thankful for the emptiness and brokeness that resulted. When all was lost I cried out for Jesus and He came, taking me lovingly from my desert wandering into the Promised Land of His Love. Halleljah!
+6

Jamel Lucky Robinson

The Holy Spirit is God, not a force or divine influence. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit make up the Blessed Trinity.
Grace to you. (Jude 1:2)

tsisageya

Hallelujah! Thank you for this.
+1

Smitty Sparrow

Faith without works is dead! Please stop cherry picking people. You need both faith and works even though it is by faith and works cannot save. James was the brother of Yeshua(Jesus), he came from the same womb and was raised by the same parents. Read what he says about faith and works, and please realize you're all making it too complicated.

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=James+2%3A14-26&version=NASB
+3

Joseph Skinner

The Holy Spirit and the Truth is what circumcises our hearts. It's not just the Spirit. The Spirit uses the Truth to cut away the flesh of our heart. This is why Jesus said " the Spirit of Truth" Jesus did not say you shall know the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit shall make your free, He said "You shall know the Truth and the Truth shall make you free." The Truth is the sharp knife in the hand of the Holy Spirit that cuts away the flesh of our hearts.

Jeff

Jesus actually said, "if you obey me, then you will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free."

Jordan

Mordichai brings up a wonderful objection with avot 2:21. The church will be condemed if she rests on Christs laurels as He called us to a life of obedience. As for the tuna.. You might take a look at Hebrews 1 thru 5
+2

Talitha

Were there not sacrifices for the sins of the people? These sacrifices cannot make perfect. The sacrifice of Christ is not a substitute for your obedience but an upward call to a greater depth of obedience. Setting us free from the lawlessness or sin that continues to entangle us. Paying the ultimate price to restore our relationship with God and empowering us by the grace (unmerited favor) of God to OBEY. Jesus said to look at a woman to lust after her means you have already committed adultery in your hearts. The standard is much higher (pure hearts and thoughts). Cleaning the outside does not clean the inside. Obedience is in fact required, not only required, but thoroughly required. If we give not ourselves over to the empowerment of the Holy Spirit through our faith in Christ so that we may the thoroughly cleansed and prepared for every good work then will will surely perish. Those who love the law, love righteousness, love God will keep His commands, in Christ.

Dapo Benzoe

According to Colossians 2:11-12, in Christ we are already circumcised and this is the fulfilment of the circumcision of the flesh practised in the old testament. To confirm this, the Holy Spirit has revealed that in Christ, we are a new creation and old things have passed away. Romans 8:9 says we are not in the flesh but in the Spirit. To experience all these, we have to live by faith for ''the just shall live by faith''. Because Christ died, we died; because Chriist resurrected and ascended to God, we resurrected in Him and ascended to God in Him - Look and meditate on Romans 6:2-14

John Higgins

It is not wise to quote a man who preached his own gospel, built his own foundation, refused instructions from the Twelve, changed the mode of salvation, and who claimed to receive secret revelations from the ascended Christ. No, I am not talking about Joseph Smith, Jr. - I'm talking about Saul of Tarsus. Our Heavenly Father never mentioned him, Christ never chose him and the Twelve did not receive him, so why do you quote him?!

Matt Sieger

Have you never read the book of Acts? For example, Acts 9:11: "And the Lord said to him, 'Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying . . .' "

Martin

Jesus Christ called Saul of Tarsus A chosen vessel.

Vega Joe

Your either Jew or Gentile,There's one important factor and it remains in the word,The Lord returns for twelve tribes that came from Jacob and they are numerous as the word speaks of,so if you have believed.and accepted christ in your heart then the circumsision has been given by the spirit of God and you are a Jew whether black,brown,or white God predestined us from the beginning....blessin gs to you brothers and sisters in christ our Lord..Vega
+1

sandra

thank you for the article, answered some questions that i had. God Bless you brother

traveler

Paul laid out "who really is a Jew" in Romans. He evidently did not realize that according to his own train of thought he was not a Jew, until after his change of heart. The nation of Israel constituted the old builders as Jesus called the organization. Jesus said that the Kingdom among you will be taken from you and given to a nation producing its fruit. Kingdom means range of influence. So Jesus recognized that only those who were under God's influence were Jews, or in other words, circumcised of heart and ear. These persons were in fact the ONLY Jews, and left with Jesus and the apostles. The people who were later grafted in also became true Jews. The Christian name applies only to these true past, and present Jews. I hope this helps in your search for truth.
Your brother, traveler.

Fish Mooney

Paul wasn't saying he wasn't Jewish until he came to believe in Jesus, in fact elsewhere in Acts and his own letters he describes himself as Jewish even before he came to faith. And all those of his coreligionists who did not yet believe Jesus was the Messiah are described as Jews throughout the New Testament. Paul is saying in Romans that a Jewish person is authentically Jewish, that they live up to meaning of the name "Jew," when they turn to Jesus - because they are following God's will for their lives. This is in a section of Romans where Paul addresses his fellow Jews. Those Gentiles "grafted in" are never called Jews, but the "seed of Abraham." The title of "Jewish" is not something that passed on to all the non-Jewish Christians - for in Romans Paul also addresses non-Jewish believers as "you Gentiles."

traveler

Reply to Fish Mooney.

You are right about the misunderstanding about who really is a Jew. Many writers in the the Bible did not understand the full significance of what they had written. Even Paul evidently did not understand that within his consideration of who really is a Jew he established that only those who were in fact offspring of Abraham by circumcision of the heart and ear, were considered by God to be God's people. Before his change of heart, this did not include him.So being born into the nation of Israel did not make one a Jew. The promises that allowed for God's people to produce the Messiah also necessitated that God's people continue on the earth as Jews, and the 12 tribes described during the thousand year new age of Christ's rule over the earth are also described as the sons of Israel (no reference to the nation of Israel, but to a frame of mind embraced by circumcision of heart & ear), the offspring of Abraham.

Grace

Thanks for the article. As a Christian I have come to realize that circumcision of the heart is as critical to my new covenant life in Christ as the physical circumcision covenant given by God to Israel. Exodus 4:24-26 is still real, we are born freely through Christ's sacrifice on Calvary but we have to yield our hearts for spiritual circumcision and maintain obedience to the Holy Spirit against the pull of our flesh in the circumstances of our daily life.

teresa

Is the debt consisting of decrees against us the law of Moses?

AB

GOD bless Israel and thank you God for showing us through Israel how to lIve

Freddy

Circumcision, both male and female, is equally idiotic. Anyone who advocates either is an idiot.

Jimmy Brown

Enjoyed your understanding. To keep this short,I have thought and studied much about circumcision of the heart. It is very important to God. So first I would add, when the Roman solder stuck Jesus with the spear and out came blood and water. To me, the spear cut the sack which surrounds the heart and thereby circumcising the heart of the savior, the Lamb of God, Jesus. And from that moment on all that believe and trust in Jesus receives a circumcised heart, spiritually, and the Holy Spirit seals each, until the day of redemption. Each believer becomes part of God's family. Secondly-in the old covenant, the men, naturally, were circumcised, but through their belief in Jesus, the females are circumcised of the heart, and not depending on their father or husband,but their heart's decision. All, should hold circumcision of their heart with joy and comfort of their salvation. Thank also, the last blood Jesus gave from his sinless body, was from His heart.

Martin

Any true believer of our Lord Jesus Christ must necessarily go through circumcision of the heart(sanctification of the heart) by sincere desire and desperation and prayers. Without circumcision of the heart(sanctification of the heart) it is impossible to live the perfect Christian life.one major reason why people are giving up the Faith is because of lack of circumcision of the heart (sanctification of the heart), without it you can get easily offended both in Christ and and outside Christ. Without it the cares of this life and the deceitfulness of riches easily creeps in. Without it the crave for adultery/fornication will never die.
Do you really want to live and enjoy the perfect Christian living? Then get sanctify. It is the work of the Holy Spirit, and I called it the Divine blissfulness
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