So Abraham took Ishmael his son, all who were born in his house and all who were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house, and circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very same day, as God had said to him. Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. And Ishmael his son, was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. That very same day Abraham was circumcised, and his son Ishmael; and all the men of his house, born in the house or bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him. (Genesis 17:23-27)
Willing Obedience In The Face Of Great Pain
At the age of seventy-five, Abraham had been called by God to leave his family and go to a land shown to him by God that he would never possess. The Lord promised to make Abraham a great nation, and he would never see its fulfillment. Like a vagabond wandering the earth, Abraham moved from place to place, never having a permanent home for his family. Twenty-four years after God called him, Abraham was faced with a command from God. The Lord’s covenant with Abraham involves great pain for himself and his family. Thirteen years earlier, he had a son by his wife’s handmaiden. Now God requires Abraham to circumcise himself, Ishmael, and all the males in his tribe, including servants. Abraham had been through a lot in obedience to the Lord for the past twenty-four years. The promise of a son by Sarah seemed remote and impossible at best. Abraham had given up so much for his faith in God, and now he must physically injure himself and all in his family to serve the Lord.
The promise of a son through Sarah caused Abraham to laugh because he would be one hundred years of age and Sarah ninety. He thought Ishmael would be a suitable answer to the promise of God. The Lord affirmed to Abraham that Sarah would have a son and that the covenant would be established through Isaac. God promised Abraham that all He had said would come true. A ninety-year-old woman couldn’t have a child as it was equally impossible for a man of one hundred to impregnate a woman. Everything God told Abraham was impossible! There was nothing to base his decision on but the faith he had in the promises of God. What the Lord demanded of Abraham was a very painful surgery and would take time to heal with great discomfort. His thirteen-year-old son would also have to suffer under the knife. Every male in his household would need to be circumcised. Why would God require such a cost for obedience? In human wisdom, it was a high price to pay for faith.
After God left Abraham, there was no hesitation to obey the word of the Lord. At the age of ninety-nine, Abraham was circumcised. Ishmael and all who were born in the house of Abraham were circumcised. The faith of Abraham was on full display as an excruciating act was done in accordance with the word of the Lord. Abraham did not hesitate. He did not argue with God about the painful reality of cutting off the foreskin. No words were pleading for another way. Obedience did not come by faith alone. Abraham never argued with God to accept him as a good man and allow grace to be given without the painful consequence of circumcision. The word of the Lord required circumcision, and Abraham did not hesitate.
It is fair to place the story of Abraham in a modern context with how people react to the word of God. If many people today are put in the situation of Abraham, they will refuse to obey. The word of the Lord requires baptism for salvation – a very pain-free act – yet so many people argue, fuss, debate, and deny the need. They decry baptism as a work and believe they can be saved through faith alone. It was clear in the mind of God that Abraham was a man of faith, but that would not save him. He was told to mutilate himself physically, and Abraham did not hesitate. The pain of circumcision did not dissuade Abraham. He obeyed God unconditionally. So many people today would have refused circumcision. The apostle Paul told the saints at Colosse that baptism is a spiritual circumcision, but the difference is baptism is painless; still, people refuse. Be honest with yourself. If you do not believe baptism is essential for salvation, it is clear you would have refused what God commanded Abraham. No circumcision – no covenant – no salvation. No baptism – no covenant – no salvation.