Faith, Love and… Circumcision?

HAFTARAH: ISAIAH 40:27-41:16

In this week’s parasha, we learn of yet another new beginning: the life of Abram. Abram, who became Abraham, the father of many nations in Genesis 17:5, was called to leave everything that he knew, his entire life, family and friends at the age of 75 and follow God. Clearly, that required a great amount of faith. Indeed, Abram is one of the greatest men of faith that we find in God’s Word, a man whose faith was considered to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6).

As I was studying this parasha, I realized that one of the things we tend to miss about Abraham is what motivated him. This, we find in the haftarah portion of this week’s reading. While this portion of the haftarah from Isaiah was written as words of encouragement to Israel in their time of despair, which included a reminder of God’s unconditional covenant with them, I believe there is a statement here which can be missed; in fact, some English translations even mistranslate the Hebrew:

But you, Israel, My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, Seed of Abraham, the one who loved me.
Isaiah 41:8 (my translation directly from the Hebrew, emphasis mine)

As we can see from this verse in the book of Isaiah, Abraham loved God and that is the key to his great faith, which in turn, led to his obedience!

Abraham knew God and loved Him; his faith translated into action. Not only did he leave his birthplace and his father’s household for an unknown land, but Scripture also shows us that Abraham was vocal about his faith in the One true God as we read in Genesis 12:5, “Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions which they had acquired, and the souls which they made (meaning, they had won) in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan; thus they came to the land of Canaan” (Translation and emphasis mine). It is amazing that Abraham “made souls”, which I believe can be understood from the Hebrew scriptures, as people who became followers of the one true God.

Abraham’s love and faith in His God was the reason that he allowed Lot to choose which piece of land he wanted and he (Abraham) trusted God with the rest; his love and faith in God motivated him to go and rescue Lot, and not to accept anything from Malchizedek; his love and faith in God allowed him to believe His promises, as outrageous and impossible as they may have seemed; lastly, his love and faith were the reasons he willingly obeyed God’s command to be circumcised as an elderly man.

I find it very interesting that in this Scripture portion about faith, we also find the concept of circumcision and covenant:

And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you.
Genesis 17:11

Isn’t it interesting that an eternal covenant that God made here requires the flesh of men? That reminds me of a greater covenant to come, a new covenant, which God would make between us and His Son, only that for this covenant, God would provide the flesh:

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14

The circumcision found in Genesis occurs in a very private and hidden part of the man’s body. The Bible speaks of yet another hidden part of the body that would also require circumcision — the heart:

Moreover 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, so that you may live.
Deuteronomy 30:6

My dear brothers and sisters, a requirement to love God in the way that He desires us to is the circumcision of the heart! God is calling us to remove the “foreskins” of our heart — to cut out all that is unnecessary — and to devote ourselves fully to Him just like Abraham did. But we cannot give our hearts to God on our own. Only faith in Messiah Yeshua transforms our heart of stone to a heart of flesh, which can then be “circumcised” and fully devoted to God.

In closing, I have on my heart a word that someone reading this needs to hear. God is calling you to return to Him; it will require a sacrifice, but that sacrifice is worth it. Just like Abraham, it will require that you stop following and worshiping idols, and follow the one and only true God! Don’t lose hope, press on in times of despair and hardships, and remember these beautiful words of encouragement from our haftarah:

Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.
Isaiah 40:31

This article originally appeared on Hope for Israel and is reposted with permission.