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Pastor Mike Leiter
Dice Wesleyan Church
Presented Wednesday 9-3-03 at 7:00 PM
Important Events In Genesis 17
1. God once again affirms his covenant with Abram.
2. God changes Abrams name to Abraham and Sariís to Sarah
A. Abram means "exalted father" while "Abraham" means father of many.
B. Sarai and Sarah both mean "princess" however the new name affirms the promise that she would be bearing a "new" life, thus the change.
3. The rite of circumcision was instituted.
Why is it important that we study about the covenant?
Today we are going to look at this subject at length because it is pivotal to understanding the Old Testament.
Circumcision was a vital part of Old Testament faith and practice. It was not optional - every male child had to be circumcised without exception.
In Exodus 4 we read of an episode in Mosesí life where he failed to obey Godís requirement of circumcision for his own child and God was about to take Mosesí life for failing to do so. His wife, Zipporah, quickly performs the rite and Mosesí life is spared.
Clearly this is not a marginal issue for the people of Israel. Now, the question is why?
1. The covenant of circumcision was symbolic of the work that God was wanting to do in their hearts.
Understand, in their ancient civilization, symbolism was extremely important; more valuable than it is today. Even the worship that Abraham had come out of was filled with symbolism.
In fact, the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia makes this comment "There is ever in the human mind a craving for visible forms to express religious conceptions"
We have forms of religious symbolism even in our day. Do you see anything on our walls here in the sanctuary that could be considered religious symbolism? (the lighted cross, the painting of Jesus, etc)
The rite of circumcision was the cutting away of the most intimate part of the human body.
This illustrates the reality that God wants to have access to the innermost areas of our hearts.
So, the Jewish people from Abraham would circumcise their sons on the eighth day. There were times when they fell away from the practice, but after a period of revival, they would reinstate it once again.
Now, one of the major battles in the first century church was, do Christians need to be circumcised? In Acts 15 we read about this controversy. The "old guard" was insisting that the followers of Christ be circumcised; however Peter had reported that there were uncircumcised people who had become filled with the Holy Spirit! James, the pastor of the Jerusalem church, reasoned with everyone that circumcision should not be required for Christians!
You see, the filling of the Holy Spirit was evidence that it was happening in their hearts.
2. Circumcision was also illustrative of the blood that would be shed for all people in the future.
This may sound graphic, but circumcision was a bloody ordeal. This rite would be symbolic of a type of shedding of blood that would occur at Golgotha.
Now, after Christís blood was shed at the cross, circumcision became obsolete - Christís blood was shed for all, no other blood was needed - animal or human.
Now, why was blood needed in the first place?
The scriptures give us plenty of examples of blood being spilled in conjunction with
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