Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the Lord your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear. (Deuteronomy 10:14-20 ESV)
Circumcision was done upon every male when he was 8 days old as a sign of God’s promise to be their God and to have them as His chosen people. It was a visible sign reminding them of this promise. That promise worked itself in the great redemptive work of the exodus. Now, these people who have experienced this great redemption and are about to enter the land included in that earlier promise, are called to circumcise their hearts. Whereas circumcision identified the person as belonging God, circumcising the heart is a way of showing that your heart too belongs to God. Why was Israel to do this? They were to do this to show their willing submission to God’s commandments, which is really an exercise of faith in God’s ability to do what he has promised in bringing them into a land filled with giants and peoples in fortified cities armed to the teeth. It’s a way of saying, “Ok Lord, I’m hitching my wagon to you.” Even as the “circumcision of the heart” is a commitment the people would make, it comes only because of the faithfulness of God to his promise to their forefathers. Yes, it shows faith in God’s ability to take them into the Promised Land. But it is a faith built upon the promise God gave to them.
Baptism in the time of the New Testament paints a similar picture. It is something as parents we do for our children because we believe God’s promise to our spiritual forefathers is now being carried out in us and our children AND because we believe God, specifically Christ, has the power to overcome our guilt and our sin and carry us through death into the Promised Land of the new heavens and new earth, with God forever. As our children get older and come to the point of embracing this themselves, they “circumcise their hearts” too and strive, by God’s grace and power, to live as He calls us to live.
Lord, help us to remember your promise and your mighty works to save us in the past, that we might live in faith of what you will do in the future. Help us to to live in light of this promise and care for the oppressed and the sojourner, remembering that we were once oppressed (by our sin) and a sojourner.