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Tuesday: The Sign of the Abrahamic Covenant — 21 Comments

  1. I would like to ask a slightly different question than the lesson asks at the end. What have you found helps you in your times of doubt and/or faith challenges? And perhaps, what have you found to be not helpful?

    • Phil, I got married, 6 months ago in October 2021. In December I had to resign from my job because of a supervisor that was spiteful toward me (Long story). My salary was the main source of income, and the rent was extremely high, even before that I suffered tremendous losses because of the hurricane that landed in September of the same year.

      The things I found that help me in my time of faith challenges were God has brought me through some very rough times and my only assurance was He can do it again! My wife prayed!

      I wish I could tell you that there was a celebratory moment, but for the 6 months with God's help He sees us through.

      What I've found to not be helpful is regretting that I resigned from the job and sinking into self-pity.

    • Good question. It gets easier as I get older. I just remember all the times that God has led my life in the past. There are some instances that are unmistakably His leading despite my ignorance or lack of faith at the time.

      For younger folks, pray and remain a good steward with what you have, even if it is meager and He will remember ( act ) you.

  2. We doubt because we think. And we think because we are alive. We are alive but we shall all die! Nevertheless, the price for being whom we chose to be was completely paid for the same God who created us! May we be thankful to Him and always choose His ways! Safer, better, eternal!

  3. What have I learnt so far about the relationship between the LORD and Abraham?

    The LORD reveals His will and thoughts and the future to Abraham. Wherever Abraham goes he builds an altar and "calls on the LORD" i.e. worships the LORD. Abraham does what the LORD tells him to do. Initially he believes the LORD will fulfil His promises but is worried by the delay and thinks he must do his part.

    Initially he worships the God Most High Possessor of heaven and earth and then in Gen 17 we see that there is a special relationship, the LORD says : I will be your God and you will be My people!

    The good news is that although sometimes Abraham relies on his own strength the LORD does not forsake him and Abraham continues to worship and serve the LORD.

  4. I found it fascinating to learn the scientific basis of the 8th day for circumcision. According to Christian and Kaote (2017) "It is of significant medical importance that male circumcision be carried out on the eighth day after birth since the level of vitamin K is highest on this day and vitamin K plays a pivotal role in regulation and control of the important clotting factors in the coagulation pathway that helps in stopping bleeding." Other interesting Bible medical nuggets can be found in Dr McMillan's book "None of These Diseases: The Bible's Health Secrets for the 21st Century".

    While many ancient cultures practised circumcision, medically speaking, only the Jews had the optimum day for the procedure spot on because God had specifically told them when to circumcise. Isn't God amazing?!

    • Thanks for this, Jocelyn. I wondered why the eighth day was chosen. My thought before reading this was that it may have had to do with survival, that if a child survived to the eighth day, they were likely to continue to survive.

  5. That‘s an interesting point Jocelyn, which I wasn’t aware of before.
    My question to this lesson would be: What is God’s covenant with me based on?
    Since physical circumcision has no more spiritual value to us Christians, women were excluded anyway, I do view baptism in a way to be a sign of our covenant relationship with God.
    Philippians 3:3 emphasizes that:
    „For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by the Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh.“

    • There is a lot of discussion in the New Testament about the spiritual sign that replaces the physical sign given to the children of Israel. Both circumcision and baptism are physical signs of a spiritual commitment.
      Here are a few clues to discover the answer:
      Jesus said: By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. John 13:35
      Peter said: Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38
      Paul said: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Rom 12:2

      • Amen to this, Shirley Debeer, and the Apostle Paul was even clearer in Colossians 2:12,13; that water baptism in Jesus takes the place of the Old Testament physical genital male circumcision because of Jesus' own circumcision when he was a male child and this was imposed on Him when He was 8 days old. And Jesus circumcision also applies to Women also with water baptism in Jesus and mainly "By Faith," just like for men too. Now, did any Old Testament male that was circumcised ever "Re-circumcised?" It was impossible to do this physically. And so now, we should just have people who feel they need to be Re-baptized to just do what 1 john 1:9 says to do there and then just attend a communion service and re-committ to follow Jesus again.

        • Interesting point on re-baptism, Pete! I hadn't thought of it like that. In my case, I chose to get re-baptized when I became a Seventh Day Adventist at 25. I was first baptized as a teen in a Baptist church. I made the choice to be re-baptized because I felt I had learned too much to ever go back to Sunday worship. I'm curious what your thoughts are on my situation. (By the way, I have now been a part of the SDA family for over 20 years, and I still believe it was the best choice I've ever made.)

          • Interesting point, normally circumcision is a choice by the parents, while baptism is an individual choice/commitment.

  6. Today’s lesson asks about the significance of circumcision. Some have wondered why in the world God wanted the penis involved in a sign of loyalty. Some atheists have made fun of Christianity and the Bible over this topic.

    What we need to understand is, the penis was the part of the body Abraham was trusting instead of God’s promise. Confidence in the flesh had to be cut out so all Abraham believed in was God’s promise. In the New Testament Jesus went to the cross and crucified all of our flesh, so that we could live by faith in His promises and not in our self confidence.

    For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:3-4 NKJV

    In baptism we crucify all of our flesh with Christ. Romans 6:3-7. Like circumcision of old, baptism is a sign casting away the confidence of the flesh and trusting God’s promises to make us a new creation, God’s own recreation.

    The Scriptures say that Abraham had two sons, one from his slave wife and one from his freeborn wife. The son of the slave wife was born in a human attempt to bring about the fulfillment of God’s promise. But the son of the freeborn wife was born as God’s own fulfillment of his promise. These two women serve as an illustration of God’s two covenants. Galatians 4:22-24 NLT

    God had made a covenant with Abraham and promised him a son. All God needed Abraham to do was believe the promise. Abraham saw that his wife was old and not even menstruating any more, so instead of trusting in God’s promise, he took Sarah’s much younger handmaid, Hagar, and worked things out on his own. Together they had a son. This represents the old covenant, which is man keeping the commandments in his own power, instead of trusting God to write them on our hearts. The old covenant is legalism, or the works of the flesh. It’s a me-plus-Christ mentality instead of “Not I But Christ” (See Galatians 2:20), the motif Paul shared as the crux of the gospel.

    So God gave Abraham circumcision as a reminder to trust Him, rather than trying to solve His own problems.

    Then God said to Abraham, “Your responsibility is to obey the terms of the covenant. You and all your descendants have this continual responsibility. This is the covenant that you and your descendants must keep: Each male among you must be circumcised. You must cut off the flesh of your foreskin as a sign of the covenant between me and you. From generation to generation, every male child must be circumcised on the eighth day after his birth. This applies not only to members of your family but also to the servants born in your household and the foreign-born servants whom you have purchased. All must be circumcised. Your bodies will bear the mark of my everlasting covenant. Any male who fails to be circumcised will be cut off from the covenant family for breaking the covenant.” Genesis 17:9-14 NLT

    Abraham’s part in the covenant was to keep himself from doing those things God had promised. Because Abraham trusted in his flesh to work things out, God had Abraham circumcise the part of his flesh that he was trusting, so he would realize that he could do nothing to fulfill His promises. He had to leave it all to God.

    For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort… Philippians 3:3 NLT

    … like the birth of the child of Abraham, and that of Mary, was to teach a great spiritual truth, a truth that we are slow to learn and ready to forget. In ourselves we are incapable of doing any good thing; but that which we cannot do will be wrought by the power of God in every submissive and believing soul. It was through faith that the child of promise was given. It is through faith that spiritual life is begotten, and we are enabled to do the works of righteousness. –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 98

    Now, instead of circumcision, we have baptism as a sign that we are casting away self-confidence, as we go under the water, symbolically dying to self, we rise up to a new life, not trusting in self, but trusting in Jesus.

    Satan works hard to make us miss the whole point of this lesson by coming up with his own rituals, and then making male circumcision appear to be another cultural ritual similar to female circumcision, which has no Scriptural significance but is still widely practiced, even though it is harmful to women.

    It is worth noting that there is evidence to suggest that certain male health issues are less prevalent in communities where circumcision is widely practiced, and circumcision also appears to have benefits for the wives. Others suggest that the same benefits may be experienced by proper hygiene. Thus everyone considering circumcision needs to prayerfully consider the reasons for and against the practice today.

    Finally, some men who were circumcised as babies, and learning that circumcision is no longer morally necessary, have become quite bitter towards their parents for “mutilating” them. To those I would suggest, first of all, you have not endured anything that Jesus Himself has not endured. Jesus was circumcised too. See Luke 2:21. No matter how awkward or embarrassing an area of your life may be, Jesus has been there and experienced it for you. He understands everything! Second, most parents were simply doing the best they could with the information they had at the time. All parents have to make decisions about the treatment of their babies on a range of issues and most make those decisions with the best information available.

    Satan likes to make the Gospel look foolish and even crazy in human eyes, and because circumcision is a sensitive issue it is an easy target. I pray my brief attempt has helped you to see the gospel where before all you could see was a Jewish ritual

    • Thanks, William, for that great comment! I was just starting to write down similar thoughts, but now I can just affirm your comment.

      As for those feeling ill-used for having been circumcised as a child, I suggest considering the alternative. Some men find they need to be circumcised as adults for medical reasons. Someone close to me confirms that that is anything but pleasant!

      But the bottom line for biblical circumcision is that it was a reminder to trust God in all things, rather than trying to do things the human way.

  7. For me, Gen.17:7 - ”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.” - is the most important Scripture text in this lesson. This tells me all I need to know that the heavenly Father has a plan for mankind’s Salvation to remedy our fallen estate.

    Why read so much into things that are open to debate? Maybe God included physical signs into His Covenant because man needs physical signs to help him believe. It is more important for me to know that Abraham and Sarah are now fully invested in His covenant by faith. They have overcome the hurdles and obstacles at the beginning, now their 'walk by faith' is getting a bit easier.

    For us Christians, I understand that God only wants us to believe His Word and trust Him to be faithful to fulfill his Word - His Gospel as presented by His Son Christ Jesus. Why base our faith on signs of 'promises' fulfilled, why not just focus on maintaning our faith for the promise of Life eternal at the end of our life - the pearl of great price? Life’s timing - place, and circumstances - needs to be left up to him.

  8. I too, lost my job Sept 2021. I was devastated. I talked to God everyday all day about my situation. One day I said to myself, “Stop talking so much and start listening to what God has planned for me.” At that moment my prayers became prayers of gratitude, thanksgiving, praises to my Heavenly Father. I have come to realize God gave us two ears and one mouth. Two ears to listen more and one mouth to speak less, lol!! I’m back working and it’s all because of God!!! All God tells us just a mustard seed of faith.

  9. Circumcision was a visible sign that God’s people did not belong in the heathen temples where prostitutes were part of the worship services.

  10. Covenants are between 2 parties that agree to the offer. Gen 17:1-8 = to Abraham & his descendants who would accept the offer. PLEASE understand that "everlasting" is the Hebrew "olam," which means age-lasting. It does NOT mean unending. The Abrahamic covenant re land, many offspring, & circumcision does NOT APPLY TO US, nor does the Sinaitic covenant which was with those in the nation of Israel who would accept it. Hebrews tells us that WE HAVE THE NEW COVENANT, & that the old is OBSOLETE [8:13-9:15.]

    • John, when you say that the Abrahamic covenant "does not apply to us," I think it would depend on who you mean by "us." What does Paul mean when he writes, "And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise." (Gal. 3:29 ESV) What promise does he mean? And what did Yahweh mean when He told Abraham, "in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed"? (See Gen 28:14 and Gen. 12:3) Are we included in "all the families of the earth"?


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