Scripture Reading: Genesis 17:1-14; Leviticus 12:3; Deuteronomy 10:12-20
By Chapter 17, Abraham was 99 years old. God had called him out of Ur twenty-four years earlier, making His covenant with the patriarch which we examined in Genesis 12:1-3. Remember that a covenant was basically a contract or agreement between two parties. God’s covenant with men in Scripture was His revealing of Himself, and His promise of favor and faithfulness to man. The covenant God made with Abraham had promised that he would be blessed by becoming the father of a great nation, and that through him all nations of the earth would be blessed. It included the promise of an earthly possession of a land that would become Abraham’s and his descendants after him.
The word translated “covenant” in the Old Testament is the Hebrew word, “berith” which means “cutting,” referring to a custom of the day. When an agreement or contract between two was reached, that agreement was sealed by the cutting into two parts of an animal, and the contracting parties walking between them as a sign of their agreement or covenant together. God had covenanted with Abraham and his children after him, but was here requiring a responsibility on their part concerning that covenant. That responsibility was circumcision. It was a sign of the covenant between them and God, an outward sign of God’s promised blessings and their faith in His promises. That sign was to be an outward testimony of an inward reality of faith and love for God. For that cause, God appealed to them to circumcise their hearts, meaning that He wanted His covenant people to have a genuine, loving relationship with Him rather than just an outward show. See Romans 2:28-29.