Summary: The real SIGN OF THE COVENANT that God made with Abraham is not found in the stars. It was another kind of sign entirely, a sign which probably stunned Abram at first.
Part 3 - Genesis 17:1-27 - COULD YOU CHOOSE A DIFFERENT SIGN? PLEASE!
On facebook I have noticed that you have the opportunity of reading your HOROSCOPE for some kind of guidance each day. Apparently it was Empedocles, a fifth century BCE Greek philosopher, who started it all off when he originated the terms FIRE, EARTH, AIR, AND WATER associating them with a persons character. They are the key elements used in witchcraft today and each star sign is associated with one of the classical elements (water, fire, earth and air.) Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius are associated with the FIRE ELEMENTS: Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn are associated with the EARTH ELEMENTS: Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius are associated with the AIR ELEMENTS: Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces are associated with the WATER ELEMENTS. All the signs are now associated with WITCHCRAFT. I don't know about you, but I don't want my life ruled by star signs.
When Abraham looked up at the stars he wasn't looking for guidance. God used them to demonstrate to him how many descendants he would have. The real SIGN OF THE COVENANT that God made with Abraham is not found in the stars. It was another kind of sign entirely, a sign which probably stunned Abram at first. This sign of the covenant probably TOOK EVERYBODY BY SURPRISE.
EVERYTHING WAS GOING ALONG SMOOTHLY and when God told Abraham once again that he would have many descendants, Abraham laughs in amazement. It occurs to him all of a sudden that he is 100 years old and Sarah is 90 - improbable that they would have a child at this age. So he says "Don't worry about doing all this through Sarah - it's a bit late now. BLESS ISMAEL INSTEAD! Just do what you have been saying through the son I already have." God says "No! The covenant will be come through the child you have with Sarah. His name will be Isaac", which incidently means "laughter". God continues and says in effect "I'll also bless Ishmael as requested. Ishmael will have 12 princes among his descendants" (They are listed in Genesis 25:12-16). THE NEWS IS ALL GOOD. From Ishmael will come one great nation, not many. And Abram will also have a son through Sarah!
When will Sarah conceive and have a child? God says "Next year!"
YOU CAN'T GET BETTER THAN THIS - wealth, name change, descendants from whom the world will be blessed. Apparently each generation will have the covenant reaffirmed, forever. And if that wasn't enough they had A LAND PACKAGE thrown in with the deal. It was a permanent covenant concerning this land so nothing Israel or any other nation can do will ever take it from them. God gave it to them, permanently throughout their generations, forever. The promise is still true today and causing quite a bit of trouble.
JUST WHEN EVERYTHING SOUNDS GREAT, God throws a curve ball! He chooses a sign for the covenant, one which was a little unusual to say the least. SOMETIMES GOD'S PLANS ARE NOT ALL THAT EASY TO FOLLOW. You have to be really sure that God spoke before you act on this one - each male has to be CIRCUMCISED for generations to come. That was the SIGN OF THE COVENANT, even for Abraham's servants. This was the mark of the everlasting covenant. At around about this time I would have been saying to God, "CAN YOU CHOOSE A DIFFERENT SIGN? PLEASE!"
Abram doesn't waste time. The first thing Abraham does when God has finished speaking is circumcise Ishmael and every other male around the place, even himself.
I don't know about you but I would not have liked having this ENFORCED on me. You would have to have a very convincing argument to get me to agree to this as an adult. Abraham obviously had a lot of authority and respect. Still, I wonder how he broke the news to all the males in his household? Ishmael was 13 years old. Did he get circumcised willingly? Nothing is said about this.
Were they forced to do so or given a choice to leave? If you refused, God said you would be "cut off" from the promises to Israel. That could mean exile or even the DEATH PENALTY. The death penalty would be quite a convincing argument and incentive to agree I guess.
WHY CIRCUMCISION? Why not a tattoo on the arm or something similar? Circumcision was a hidden sign. It seems to me it has something to do with the promise of Abraham having many descendants, being fruitful and multiplying. The sign reaffirms God's promise right at the very place where the sexual act takes place. It marks the sexual act as set apart for God's purposes. It reminds me that God has authority over me even in the most private aspects of my life. He designed me and set me apart for sex within the context of my marriage, with my wife alone.