The Gospel reading for this Sunday was that of the Prodigal Son which Br Luke touched on in his Reflections so I have chosen to look at the Old Testament and the Epistle in our Journey to Jerusalem.
Again we are looking into Covenants
Scripture writes that the Circumcision for the proto-Hebrew began with Abraham, it is however far older than this, practised by various tribes, including other semitic groups, multivarious reasons have been cited for its practice.
For its current usage in Judaism:
Talmud professor Daniel Boyarin offered two explanations for circumcision. One is that it is a literal inscription on the Jewish body of the name of God in the form of the letter “yud” (from “yesod”). The second is that the act of bleeding represents a feminization of Jewish men, significant in the sense that the covenant represents a marriage between Jews and (a symbolically male) God.
Scripturally it is written
9 Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant,you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. 13 Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”(Genesis 17:9-14)(NRSV)
Before future looked back into history to provide Theology the Covenant of Circumcision was a sign that set Abraham and his descendents apart to the Lord in an everlasting Covenant to the time when the Covenant became “My Covenant in my Flesh”, as we remember from two weeks ago.
Reading Joshua 5:2-12
Everything God promised to Abraham about his descendants had come to pass and now here they are , the next generation of those who left Egypt, to undergo the Second Circumcision. The reading tells us why. The place is very unromantically called the ‘hill of foreskins’ and just as when Abraham and his tribe were Circumcised into an everlasting Covenant with the Lord so the second generation of males who were born in the wilderness on the way to Canaan are cleansed by circumcision‘Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.’ And so that place is called Gilgal to this day.(9) ( Verb to roll, to place one’s trust in the Lord)1
Our Lenten Journey is one of cleansing too, when we have to turn to the Lord and confess to God our shortcomings and allow our hearts to be re-circumcised so that we are covenanted and cleansed. Each one of us comes to Gilgal at sometime and we all must roll into the arms of our loving God and know He is our Lord and Salvation; in His journey to Jerusalem that we follow each Lent he comes nearer and nearer to a Golgotha where all Israelite Covenants end and that of the New Covenant in his Blood begins.
16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 17So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (NRSV)
To comment on Paul would be superfluous since it speaks plainly – we notice that even throughout Jewish history when Covenants were broken and mended that God was in Christ Jesus reconciling the world to himself. Likewise our same Lord Most High was at work in the whole world bringing to salvation all those who would/will be saved.
Our Old Covenant/testament Scriptures are precious yet we must never forget that they were first given to a small Semitic tribe, isolated from vast parts of the globe where God was also working out salvation. ( Redaction and Chronology of Books aside)
Br Andrew Efo
84. Boyarin, Daniel. “`This We Know to Be the Carnal Israel’: Circumcision and the Erotic Life of God and Israel,” Critical Inquiry. (Spring, 1992), 474-506.
- The verb גלל (galal I) is all about rolling; it means to roll some object on, upon or away. In a figurative sense it is used in ideas like to whirl or dazzle and even to roll oneself onto the Lord, meaning to put one’s trust in Him (Psalm 22:8) or to commit oneself to Him (Psalm 37:5, Proverbs 16:3). When this verb is used for physically rolling something away or somewhere else, the object is usually stones (Genesis 29:3, Joshua 10:18).Source:A Meaning of Gilgal