Q&A: Circumcision of the Heart

Circumcision of the Heart

Why did the prophets so frequently call Israel to "circumcize their hearts" to the Lord?

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Answer

A marvelous thing in God's relationship with the ancient people is the Ten Commandments, but we also see that Scripture gives another side of God, which does not exist in other religions or in common human thought. It talks about the "circumcision of the heart." This means that, even at the time God gave the Ten Commandments, there was another dimension, the circumcision of the heart. In other words, it is the need for the heart to be changed. For instance, if we read in Deuteronomy – which is the conclusion of what Moses did with the people and how he revealed God and the Ten Commandments – Moses conveys, in Deuteronomy 30:6, this promise from God: The Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring (Deuteronomy 30:6). It means that God is working. The Lord will perform surgery on your heart. In the New Testament, we call this "regeneration." And why? So that you will love the Lord your God, And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live (Deuteronomy 30:6). This is the same language that Jeremiah used when he said that God would write the law on our hearts. It is no longer just written on stones but written on hearts. This is the circumcision of the heart. This means that here, in the midst of God's words concerning the required commands that require complete obedience, God says, "You are incapable of doing this if I don't change your heart." This means that the human need is not to have more knowledge. Our need is not to know the law more and the laws of "do's" and "do not's"; we know these. Our problem is that we need a new nature, and this is the circumcision of the heart. That is why the command says to circumcise your heart. In other words, confess that you are incapable, that you need the work of God in your heart. When I say, "circumcise your heart," it means that you need to go to someone else to do it for you. You can't do it by yourself. Of course, this happens; this is the foundation of the message of the gospel, through the cross of Christ.

Answer by Dr. Imad Shehadeh

Imad Shehadeh is the president and founder of Jordan Evangelical Theological Seminary in Amman, Jordan where he also serves as a professor of Theology.