“Then what’s the advantage of being a Jew? Is there any value in the ceremony of circumcision? Yes, there are great benefits! First of all, the Jews were entrusted with the whole revelation of God.”
Romans 3:1-2 NLT
Chapter Three of Romans starts with the question, “what’s the advantage of being a Jew? By now, the Jewish Christians must have been feeling totally demoralised, having had their religious rug pulled out from under their feet. They were bruised and battered, trying to develop a new paradigm for their faith, and perhaps feeling that nothing made sense any more. Having decided that they might just as well have never bothered to be circumcised (not that they would remember anything about it because it always happened by the time they were eight days old, and then only to the male child), Paul then told them that there were great benefits. I can hear them thinking that it’s about time he made his mind up. But what are the benefits of circumcision?
God made it clear in the Old Testament that there were two forms of circumcision. We know about the outward form, but, more importantly, there is an internal circumcision. We read in Deuteronomy 30:6, “The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live”. The New Living Translation replaces “circumcise your hearts” with “change your hearts”, perhaps making the meaning more understandable. Through the “ceremony of circumcision”the Jews were entrusted with something precious, the knowledge about God and what He required of human beings. Deuteronomy 30 sets out the positives of knowing God and following Him in obedience, and the negative result in not doing so. The “Jews were entrusted with the whole revelation of God” and they knew very clearly what that meant. Great benefits of course. But great responsibilities as well.
That’s the problem with knowledge – it comes with a responsibility. As an example, the discovery of penicillin would have been no good at all on its own. But the inventor shared his research with others and as a consequence, the way bacterial diseases were treated was transformed. God revealed Himself to His chosen people the Jews. Initially, that knowledge was to be applied to them as a nation, and the Old Testament is full of stories of the struggle they had in trying to adhere to what God required. That struggle would still be going on except for one fact – Jesus. God in His mercy sent His Son to establish a new Covenant between God and man. We pilgrims are very aware of that – I’m writing this on Christmas Eve and in my spirit I can feel a sense of excitement building up. Tomorrow we remember that day long ago when Jesus was born. Emmanuel, God with us.
Just as the Jews “were entrusted with the whole revelation of God”, so too are we New Covenant pilgrims entrusted with the revelation of Jesus. With that knowledge comes the responsibility of sharing it with those around us. And the time could not be more appropriate. The Western society around us has lost its way spiritually. A quote from a newspaper this morning about the increasingly “woke” nature of our society. “In cultures which reject or forget metaphysical belief systems, the desire for belief does not disappear, but becomes ungrounded. You have beliefs, but you no longer know their shape and foundations“. We pilgrims have an opportunity and an obligation to put society’s feet back on the ground, the true “ground” of a belief in the one true God who has all the answers to man’s confusion. We have a mission to reconnect people who have lost their way with our wonderful Heavenly Father. And there is no better way than to introduce them to Jesus.
Dear Lord. Thank You for Your grace and mercy, for the love that has cut across all the world’s sin and wickedness with an offer too good to be true. But true it is. We pray for the opportunities to connect those in our families and communities with the one true God. In Jesus’ name. Amen.