Before I start today I just want to make an announcement: Yesterday I ran my first half-marathon and asked a girl to marry me at the finish line. She said yes. And that is some seriously good news! Ok, back to work.
Well, my friends, today we whip out what can certainly be described as the most awkward chapter of the Bible so far. Let’s see how long it can hold the title. Genesis 17 is about the physical manifestation of God’s covenant with Abram: circumcision. Hooray! There are a couple of other significant things that happen here and I will get to them but there is no way to talk about chapter 17 without acknowledging the fact that is is primarily about cutting the foreskin off a penis.
Yes, that’s right. I wrote the word “penis” in a blog about the Bible. Don’t worry, there are four more hidden in this post. See if you can spot them! And suddenly I can feel myself slipping into Jr. High all over again.
A Day That Will Live in Infamy
God once again reminds Abram of his covenant. He continues to add details and specifics and now He requires something of Abram (Abraham from now on). God says that Abraham, his son Ishmael, all his future descendants, and all of his slaves are to be circumcised. Every single male in Abraham’s household needs to do this.
To which I would have responded, “Um, no. That is gross.”
But Abraham, against all innate self-interest and perhaps common sense, made sure it happened that very day. Can you imagine what that was like? Was there a line? Did they know what they were getting themselves into? Did they see the other dudes who had just gone under the knife? How many deserted Abraham that day? I know I would have! What was life like on the next day? Was Sarah laughing her head off the whole time? Speaking of Sarah . . .
We Have Confirmation!
What we have long suspected is true: Sarah is a key part of the covenant. She will be blessed. She will give birth to Isaac. Nations and kings will come from her. She is in. Why? Because God says so. But it is such a crazy thing that Abraham still can’t bring himself to believe it.
And luckily for Sarah, she doesn’t have to . . . um . . . take a knife to her genitals to get it.
So, Why Do We Have To Do This?
Why is the sign of the covenant circumcision? Why do all the men need to have this “operation” performed? There may be many reasons and I will probably learn more as I continue my study. But one idea came to mind today:
Consider for a moment how many times the penis has been used as a tool of oppression and violence. Remember the horny sons of God in Genesis 6? Think about rape. Think about kings with huge harems. Think about sex-trafficking. Think about ancient fertility cults and how the penis was a sign of power.
Not so with God’s people.
Now, whenever a man looks at himself naked, whenever he relieves himself, and perhaps most importantly, whenever he has sex he will see not a sign of his own power and dominance, but a sign of his submission to God.
His penis is now a reminder how he was powerless and weak and how God has made him great.
And that may be the strangest sentence I have ever written.
Stay tuned. Tomorrow, the awkwardness continues . . .