Cutting Meat

I recently attended a Jewish bris (circumcision), a ceremony to memorialize both Yahweh’s eternal covenant with His people and His particular covenant with Izzy’s tiny Jewish baby, waiting in his mother’s arms.

When I arrived at my friend’s home, the mohel was laying out his preparations. A bottle of wine was placed nearby, to prepare the 8-day-old infant for what was to come. Everyone could see Izzy’s wife was clearly conflicted. As she held her son, her knee bounced rapidly up and down, her worried eyes exposing the gravity of the moment.

In Hebrew, the word, “covenant” means to cut meat. As described in Genesis, the ancient ceremony of covenant making consisted of slaughtering several animals and laying out the severed pieces in two parallel lines. Each participant in the covenant then walked between the bloody pieces, signifying “if I break this covenant, let the same thing happen to me.” The circumcision of every Jewish baby boy reconfirms this agreement with his Creator. This night, I had come to watch the Living God renew His vows with His beloved bride.

As we all watched, the infant’s father held him down. Then the mohel began his work, cutting into the child’s penis. One thing is certain, circumcision is intimate, it is painful, and it is violent. So is circumcision of the heart.

Paul writes, without the circumcision of the heart, there can be no intimacy with God. This is true for both Jewish and Gentile Believers. Walking in intimacy with God is painful. Like a scalpel, the Spirit of God cuts away the defenses, which harden the hearts of men, removing everything, which protects us from the hand of Yahweh.

Lovingly, our deepest fears are uncovered and handled by the Word of Life. But love in a burn unit is a painful thing. Wounds must be debrided. To make matters worse, many of our deepest injuries are at the hands of those we most look to for love. The hardened scabs covering our scars must be excised. Our souls, broken and wounded by the enemy and the world, are then left with nothing but hope and faith to sustain them.

There is a reason Messiah is compared to a hailstorm. Letting someone touch our most intimate places can be daunting. Facing truth is more akin to facing a firing squad than it is to meeting an old friend. Yet, it is only when we trust enough to uncover ourselves that we have real intimacy. Our Groom desires complete vulnerability, if we are to be His bride.

Covenant is a serious business. Consider the consequences of breaking covenant with God for the Jewish people. Deuteronomy promised we would inherit the sicknesses of the Egyptians, be consumed with boils and destroy the ones we love most.

The good news is, only Yahweh walked between those lines of butchered meat. Abraham did not. The penalty for turning our backs on our Creator fell solely on God. Slaughtered on the cross, Jesus fulfilled Yahweh’s ancient covenant in bearing our grief and carrying our sorrows. When He was wounded and bruised for our transgressions and our iniquities, peace came to those who love the Father. Nothing missing, nothing broken and nothing out of place.

As I listened to the shrieks of Izzy’s child, I thought of new beginnings. The precious promises of the ancient Jewish prophets birthed the hope we hold so fiercely, as we willingly endure the pain, which leads us to our exceedingly great reward: Yahweh Himself, fully alive in our hearts and transforming our nature in the fullness of time.