Circumcision of the heart


Joshua 5:9: And the LORD said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” And so the name of that place is called Gilgal to this day.

It was forty years since the people of Israel left Egypt (Joshua 5). In that time a generation had been lost in the wilderness, and there has been a change in the demography of the nation.

The nation had been under judgment of God forty years earlier after certain spies brought a bad report from the land of Canaan shortly after they left Egypt (Numbers 13-14). And because the people reacted with murmurings against the plan of God to take them to the land of promise, God committed himself to make the people wandering in the wilderness for forty years till all who were 20+ had died until forty years later.

Forty years after, the oldest among them would be 60 years of age. Joshua and Caleb, two of the twelve spies sent to Canaan, who did not bring a bad report, were spared by God from the death sentence passed on those who were twenty years or older. If they were more than twenty years then, that means they would be the oldest people in Israel. It is confirmed that Caleb was 40 years when he went to spy out Canaan (Joshua 14:7-10).

The children of Israel wandered in the wilderness because they did not have the faith that God was able to give them the Promised Land regardless of the giants in the land. They refused to put in mind that their God was more than all giants put together, and more real too.

Over those forty years Israel was going round in a circle. They were stagnant. That generation did not make progress in the purpose of God. They lost out of the inheritance that God had for them. The younger people who were spared death in the wilderness, however moved about aimlessly for a big part of their lives (forty years). From that bitter lesson, they learnt that you either do the will of God or you die and they would plunge ahead without looking back when the task of taking over the Promised Land begun in earnest under the leadership of Joshua.

Before the, God saw it fit that the people should be circumcised, having not done so throughout their time in the wilderness. With the circumcision, they reaffirmed their identity as God’s covenant people, unique among all nations. They reconnected to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, through the covenant rite of circumcision (Genesis 17:10-14).

The circumcision was a mark of a new beginning in their relationship with God, in actualising the purpose of God and the obtaining of their inheritance as promised to Abraham Isaac and Jacob their forebears.

For Christians, the circumcision rite of cutting off the foreskin was no longer valid as a means of relating with God, i.e. coming into covenant relationship with Him. But we have a kind of circumcision which is of the heart, that marks our movement into the Promised Land of righteousness by faith (Romans 4), rolling away the reproach of our Egypt (bondage to sin).

Our relationship with God is a heart relationship, thus our circumcision is of the heart. Our heart of stone was changed to that of heart of flesh when we met Christ (Ezekiel 11:19).

To prepare our heart as God’s dwelling place, the blood of Jesus had to be its cleansing instrument (Hebrews 9:13-14). Without the blood of Jesus, it would have been impossible to clean the heart. It had to be none other than the blood of God, the blood of Jesus Christ (Acts 20:28).

That is what purges our hearts from sin consciousness. Now what we are conscious of is the presence of God, the hand of God on our lives, not the works of the flesh. We should recognise that there is a change in the dynamics of our relationship with God; we should have an emphasis of the individual experience of God and not a collective experience. We have to know God for ourselves.

So the idea of having a religion for a nation is really off the mark. You cannot legislate Christianity. What we have is an individualistic experience of God in the dimensions of his wisdom. It is the call of the church, the representative of the kingdom of God on the earth, to manifest the manifold wisdom of God to the principalities and powers (Ephesians 3:10). Individuals will manifest the different dimensions of God.

There is a uniqueness of God that you need to manifest that is different from mine. I should celebrate your difference and find ways to accept you and not just tolerate you, but celebrate you, seeing in you a uniqueness of the expression of the grace of God. Paul said that we are different as parts of the body, because we are members of the body of Christ, and individual carry a uniqueness of the grace of God (Romans 12:1-7).

Peter said that as each has received grace we should manifest it either in speaking or in physical expression of service (1Peter 4:10-11). Paul said that we are unique as parts of the body of Christ and we are different as different parts of the body, we can only discover and explore the purpose of God in our placement and the expression of the grace of God in that body, and not try to force ourselves into another person’s mode.

The circumcision of our heart prepares it to connect us to the purpose of God; this is because God is now in us through the Holy Spirit. Our inside is conducive now to have God dwell there.

The Holy Spirit connects us with the purpose of Jesus. Jesus said that when the Spirit of truth comes (and He has come) he would guide us into all truth and help us to focus on Him (John 16:13). He (the Holy Spirit) would not glorify himself, He would glorify Jesus.

In Christ, because of the circumcision of our heart, our lot was changed. We are changed in the core of our being. We are made priests and kings (Revelation 5:10), made new creatures (2Corinthians 5:17), made partakers of the life of God.


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