God did not create us as robots.  He respects our personal choice and our independent volition.  He never forces Himself on anybody.  It has been said that the Holy Spirit is manifested as a dove to show us that He can be easily chased away if we do not welcome Him.

In Genesis chapter 15, Abram was called to play a very small part in the blood covenant.  He was put to sleep while the two forms of Deity walked through the blood covenant ditch.  However, in chapter 17, Abram is called upon to take a very active part in the covenant.  It is interesting that this takes place after Abram's episode in Genesis chapter 16, birthing Ishmael with Sarai's maidservant Hagar.  God uses this story to warn us about the dangers of the works of our flesh and thinking that we are helping God with His promises by acting presumptuously.  We can so easily create “Ishmaels” thinking that we are helping with God’s work.  To avoid this, we need to learn about God’s fruit program.  (See our book Grow or Die [1])

God’s covenant takes two parties even though He has done the great work.  There is still a work that we must perform and that is exercising our free choice to receive Him, to believe Him, to obey Him and to allow Him to do His sanctifying work in us.  These responses that we will be discussing in this chapter brings the power of His cross, His grace and His fruit into our realm of influence.


Our cross                  Covenant Power         His Cross



In Genesis chapter 17:1-14, God is refreshing His promises to Abram.

Genesis 17:1-8 says,

1 “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless.

2 And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.’

3 Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying:

4 ‘As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations.

5 No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations.

6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.

7 And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.

8 Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.’”


Now God asks Abraham to keep his end of the covenant.

Genesis 17:9-14 says,

9 And God said to Abraham: ‘As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations.

10 This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised;

11 and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.

12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not your descendant.

13 He who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money must be circumcised, and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.

14 And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.’”


How does this apply to our lives?

Abraham was blessed in order to be a blessing.  God did not bless him, nor does He bless us with the New Birth in order to have us return to our old nature, our old lifestyle, our old idols, and our self-seeking and selfish ways.  He blessed us to be a blessing to others.  He gave us His character, His Spirit, so that we could do His work on this earth.  However, He does not demand that from us.  He gives us free choice.

I cannot explain why some people seem to stop short with God and not allow Him to work everything He wants to do with and in us.  I do know that we always have choices and that my personal choices have always been out of love for Him.  Sure I am thankful daily for what He did for me, but I am more motivated by Who He is!  Romans chapter 2 states that the love of God leads us to repentance.  God prefers to draw us with His love rather than guilt and condemnation.  Yet some people do not respond.


One great example is in the Book of Hosea.

God tarried with Israel, who was depicted as a prostitute in that setting.  Yet He woos her with His love.  At the end of Hosea God uses the following prophecy for Israel and for you and me.

Hosea 14:4-8 says,

4 “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely, for My anger has turned away from him.

5 I will be like the dew to Israel; He shall grow like the lily, and lengthen his roots like Lebanon.

6 His branches shall spread; His beauty shall be like an olive tree, and his fragrance like Lebanon.

7 Those who dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall be revived like grain, and grow like a vine. Their scent shall be like the wine of Lebanon.

8 Ephraim shall say, ‘What have I to do anymore with idols?’ I have heard and observed him. I am like a green cypress tree; Your fruit is found in Me.”


God was saying, “Once they see Me, they will turn from their idols.” The First Testament points to the true circumcision, which is heart circumcision.  The New Testament confirms it.  This is how this subject applies to us.

Deuteronomy 30:6 says,

6 “And 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, that you may live.”


Notice that the purpose of this heart circumcision is so that you and your descendants may love the LORD with all your heart and soul, and that you may “live.”  Notice also that spiritual circumcision is in the foreskin of your heart, the spiritual procreation force.  Notice that it goes to your descendants as well as it did to Abraham's.


The New Testament explains spiritual circumcision.

Romans 2:29 says,

29 “[B]ut he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.”


Spiritual circumcision is simply the removal of our old nature replaced with the Holy Spirit.

The Word speaks to us in Colossians that our spiritual circumcision is also a tremendous gift from God.  Not only is it a gift, it says that it is past tense, something that happened at our New Birth.  While this is true, like Abram, we must confirm this great blood covenant by confirming our spiritual circumcision.  We must know for sure that this is a finished work.  God has circumcised our spirit, our heart, through the New Birth; however, our mind, the old nature, fights against this. We need to take our thoughts captive and bring them to the cross.  We discuss this in more detail on the following pages.  God told Abram that if he did not keep this rite, that the covenant would be broken.  That, on the surface, sounds like a paradox when compared to the bloody ditch in Genesis chapter 15 where God did all the work.

These Scriptures in Colossians indicate a tender balance between just recognizing the free gift and truly walking in it, receiving it, believing it, acting on it and giving ourselves to it.  If we don't do our part, we are forsaking the benefits of the covenant.  Many people find themselves in bondage feeling forsaken by God.  If we only knew how God, in His great love, is longing for us to receive, we would not doubt Him.


Notice all of the finished work listed in the following passage.

Colossians 1:9-22 says,

9 “For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;

10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;

11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy;

12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.

13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,

14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers.  All things were created through Him and for Him.

17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.

18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.

19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell,

20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.

21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled

22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight – ”


After all that almost unbelievable news, now look at the big if!

Colossians 1:23 says,

23 “if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.”


Here is our free choice again.

Colossians 2:6-10 says,

6 “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,

7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.

8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.

9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;

10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.”


This next verse states that our spiritual circumcision is a past tense work.

Colossians 2:11-15 says,

11 “In Him you were [past tense] also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,

12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,

14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us.  And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”


Then in chapter 3 Paul goes on to tell us to put to death our old nature and to put on the new nature. The word "put" is a personal verb.  It requires our choice and our action.

Colossians 3:5 says,

5 “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”


Colossians 3:12 says,

12 “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering.”

I submit that taking up our cross daily confirms and establishes our spiritual circumcision.  Even though it may be a past tense fact, we do not realize the benefits until we make the choice to deny our old nature.

I believe that there is a spiritual law that goes like this:  “The more you take up your cross, the more benefits of His cross you will receive.”  I believe that we can remain spiritually bankrupt just because we do not take up our crosses.  I am not sure what this will feel like when we get to Heaven, but I can tell you that I do not want to be guilty of rejecting the great blessings and gifts of God that He so painfully paid for.  Do you?

This “taking up our cross” can take various forms for different people.  It can also be a greatly misunderstood “religious” term that can be abused.  However, I believe that we can generalize it as follows:

1.  We respond to God’s great love and we have a great desire to love God back.  Therefore, we continue in His Word to communicate with Him.  While in His Word we see the pattern of holiness, the character of Jesus.

2.  We humble ourselves to use the Word as a mirror to detect those areas of our lives that do not resemble God's character. The Holy Spirit will actively work in us to bring those issues to the surface.

3.  We are simply honest.  We agree with God about our condition and confess it to Him.  The word “confess” carries with it the meaning “to agree with.”  I have personally seen horrible spiritual disasters in people who did not exercise gut level honesty!

4.  As we confess our sin, the circumcision is made complete experientially, or at least it is carried to the next step.

1 John 1:9 says,

9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”


The terms cleansing from all unrighteousness and forgiveness carries with them the root meaning of cutting way with a surgeon’s knife.  That is circumcision.  Yes, we are already spiritually circumcised, but with each process we are experientially circumcised.


What Abram did in the circumcision in his flesh is a type and shadow or our spiritual circumcision.

Genesis 17:24-27 says,

24 “Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.

25 And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.

26 That very same day Abraham was circumcised, and his son Ishmael;

27 and all the men of his house, born in the house or bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him.”


Watchman Nee writes:

To be a Christian without total dedication to God is an astonishing thing.  This is His right, not a favor we are showing Him.  I am not my own.  Dare I purloin [2] what is His? 1 Corinthians 6:19.


Henry Clay Trumbull, for most of his life, researched blood covenants in ancient cultures, including Bible cultures.  In his book, The Blood Covenant [3] he states:

The recognition of the covenant of blood in the rite of circumcision, throws light on an obscure passage in the life of Moses, as recorded in Exodus 4:20-26.  Moses, himself a child of the covenant, had neglected the circumcision of his own first-born; and so he had been unfaithful to the covenant of Abraham.  While on his way from the Wilderness of Sinai to Egypt with a message from God to Pharaoh, concerning the un-covenanted first-born of the Egyptians, Moses was met by a startling providence and came face to face with death – possible with a bloody death of some sort.  "The Lord met him, and sought to kill him," (Exodus 4:24) it is said.  It seems to have been perceived, both by Moses and his wife, that they were being cut off from a farther share in God's covenant plan for the descendants of Abraham, because of their failure to conform to their obligations in the covenant of Abraham.

"Then Zipporah took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son and cast it at Moses' feet, and said, 'Surely you are a husband of blood to me!'  So He let him go.  Then she said, 'You are a husband of blood!' --because of the circumcision" (Exodus 4:25-26).

So He, the Lord, let Moses alone, He spared him, as one newly true to the covenant of Abraham, and newly safe within its bounds.  Then Zipporah said again, "A bridegroom of blood (husband of blood) are thou, because of the circumcision."

The Hebrew word "khathan," here translated "bridegroom or husband of blood," has as its root idea, the binding through severing, the covenanting by blood; an idea that is in the marriage-rite, as the Orientals view it, and that is in the rite of circumcision, also.  Indeed, in the Arabic, the corresponding term (khatan) is applied interchangeably to one who is a relation by the way of one's wife, and to one who is circumcised.  Hence, the words of Zipporah would imply that, by this rite of circumcision, she and her child were brought into blood-covenant relations with the descendants of Abraham, and her husband also was now saved to that covenant; whereas before they were in danger of being covenanted to a bloody death.

It is as though Zipporah had said: "We are now newly covenanted to each other, and to God, by blood; whereas, but for this, we should have been covenanted to slaughter, or death by blood.


The bottom line.

God was in the bloody trench; He bore the Cross for us.  He did the work that only He could do.  That was a free gift. He told Abram in Genesis chapter 17 that he needed to do what he could do.  For us that means:

1.  Knowing that we have been “circumcised” spiritually with the New Birth.

2.  Confirming that circumcision by confessing our sin and refusing to let remnants of our old nature to control us.  That is also a free gift.  It is a miracle, but we need to cooperate, otherwise we could experience the “bloody death” that was on its way to Moses.

Be intense with God.  Be real with God.  Keep your “knife” handy!  The rewards are beyond comprehension.  We also have an opportunity to give God a “good day” and bless Him!  Looking at Moses and Zipporah, we can learn that we are in grave danger if we ignore this rite.

[1] http://www.isob-bible.org/openlessons.htm

[2] Purloin – to steal something especially when the theft breaks another's trust.

[3] H. Clay Trumbull. The Blood Covenant. Impact Books Inc. Kirkwood, MO., 1975, pages 221-223.


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