Monday, October 5, 2009

The Grace That Cuts Away

Circumcision sketch

It's been a while since I participated in any writing "Memes," but today's writing prompt at "Monday Manna" was too good to resist, and it ties in very well with our current series on grace.  We were prompted to write something on this verse:

Deuteronomy 30:6

And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

That's one of my very favorite verses, and it's so rich in theology, so rich in assurance, so rich in JOY that there's no way to cover it all in one little blog post.  But here's the angle that the Lord is prompting me to take today.

Why in the world did the Lord use the term "Circumcision" to describe what He does to our hearts?  And for that matter, why did He ordain the act of male circumcision in the first place?  Isn't it rather bizarre?  Some would even say it's a brutal thing to do to an unsuspecting infant who cannot possibly give consent.  What's the meaning of it all?

I've usually heard the whole idea of circumcision presented as a theological "negative."  Something is cut away to remind us to get rid of the filth of sin in our lives.  And that's definitely part of it (Col 2:11).  It makes sense why a certain body part would be chosen for such a procedure, doesn't it?  If a young man decides to go astray, we can be pretty certain of at least one type of sin he's guaranteed to choose.  Enough said?

Sin needs to be cut away, so circumcision is primarily a lesson in self-denial and loss, isn't it?

What if it's more than that?

Today's verse hints at a much deeper and more joyous meaning.  Look at it again.

And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God…

Love is not a negative.  This verse begs us to look at the positive, at the yearnings of our heart.  Everyone longs to love, unless they've hardened their hearts so much that they've denied even that most fundamental desire.

"But wait a minute," you may protest.  "If an 8-day-old baby were capable of speech, do you think he'd cry 'I love you' to the Mohel who just circumcised him?"

Nope.  I don't.  And when God began the process of circumcising my heart, it didn't exactly bring me into poetic ecstasies of love for Him, either.  (I believe my words to Him were, "I hate You!")

But the purpose of God still stands.

And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God…

God cuts away, and He commands us to cut away.  In physical circumcision, what gets cut is…how shall I say this delicately?  A major pleasure center?  And in heart circumcision, He cuts away at the center of our being, at the place where pleasures and pains go deeper than the merely physical.

Why??  Why all of this loss and sacrifice and blood (or at least emotional bleeding)?

so that you will love the LORD your God…

Oh, how prone we humans are to focus on loss, and lose sight of gain!  Yes, a bit of flesh is lost in physical circumcision, and there is pain.  But what is gained?  A lifetime as a member of a covenant community.  God's covenant community.  And, of course, plenty more flesh remains than what was lost, with lots of potential for future enjoyment.

The pain is quickly forgotten.

Now, think about the focus of so much of Scripture.  We are to be wholly given to the Lord.  We are to delight in Him, take pleasure in Him, value Him above all else, rejoice in Him (Deut 6:5, Jos 23:11, Matt 22:37-38, Psa 37:4, Php 4:4, just to name a few examples). 

He is to be our "pleasure center."

What if that's the lesson?  What if injury must be done to the sources of some of our human pleasures, in order to remind us that we can know deeper pleasures than the ones mere flesh can bring?  What if the ultimate goal isn't losing something, but gaining something?

For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ…(Php 3:8)

No physical circumcision can save anyone's soul, but it can serve as a vivid reminder that our physical pleasures are to be submitted to the One who is the source of all pleasure (Jas 1:17).

And the miraculous work of the Spirit, which God describes here as circumcision of the heart, does save souls.

And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

Heart circumcision cuts away at our loves…our idols…so that we can be brought to love the only One who is truly worthy of our heart's whole commitment and devotion.  The process is often painful, but take it from one who has gone from hating God to loving Him…it is so worth it all!  And think how quickly the pain will be forgotten when we enter Eternity!

Always remember, true salvation is accompanied by an ever growing love for God.  The inability to love God is part of the curse of sin, and those who will not come to love God through Christ will be accursed (1 Co 16:22, John 3:19).  Head knowledge without love for God is not saving faith.  That's the kind of knowledge that demons have…call it "demon faith."

If you do not love God through Christ as you wish you did (and none of us loves him perfectly), pray for this wonderful "circumcision made without hands."

Dear Lord,

Thank You for Your sacrificial death for me on Calvary.  Please forgive me for my sinful lack of love for You.  Please, oh LORD my God, circumcise my heart so that I will love You with all my heart and with all my soul, so that I may live!  Cut away my idols, and teach me to find my deepest pleasure and joy and hope and love in You!

No request could please Him more!


To read other participants' blog entries on this verse, please visit Joanne Sher's blog, "An Open Book," here.


Joanne Sher said...

Oh, Betsy - this is SOO incredibly powerful. What a fabulous lesson and word. I'm gonna remember this for a while. (and I'm tweeting it!)

Laury said...

This is very good, Betsy, and you treaded where few of us didn't dare:) Good thoughts here. Am so glad you shared.

Kat said...

Wow! I came over here because Zemanta had this post linked as a suggestion for me, and I'm so glad I came to check it out!

Very powerful stuff, and *ping!* I've gt you on my RSS feed now ;-)

-- Kat

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