A Circumcised Heart

The Lord gave Moses and Aaron further instructions in regard to strangers and servants desiring to keep the Passover, that all males must be circumcised. Circumcision was a hot topic in the early church with regard to expectations placed upon Gentile believers.

Exodus 12:48.  And when a stranger dwells with you and wants to keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as a native of the land. For no uncircumcised person shall eat it.

Paul resolved the issue:    

Romans 2:28 & 29.  For he is not a Jew which is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew which is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit and not in the letter, whose praise is not of men, but of God.     

Note the clear symmetry between the two verses right up to “in the spirit and not in the letter”.  But then Paul adds this final clarification; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

When our heart is circumcised, we can say like Paul: 

Galatians 1:10.  For do I now persuade men or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.

 1 Thessalonians 2:4.  But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men but God, which tries our hearts.

Some translations change this to “God, who tries our hearts.” Granted, He certainly does try us, but the point Paul is making is that the test of a circumcised heart is to put ourselves to this question: am I pleasing men or God.  This is the issue which tries our hearts.

Twice Paul makes an interesting statement in 1 Co 1:31 and 2 Co 10:17, “let them that glory, glory in the Lord.”  The statement suggests that he is quoting a verse from the Old Testament. In actuality, he is paraphrasing a passage from the prophet Jeremiah. Paul is attempting to remind them of instructions he gave while he was with them. 

Paul’s stay in Corinth is chronicled in Acts 18.  He reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks…then he continued there for 18 months! “teaching the Word of God among them”.   v.11.   

So let’s look at the text from Jeremiah that Paul would have been teaching from to apply this paraphrase he uses “to glory in the Lord.”

Jeremiah 9:23 & 24.  Thus saith the Lord, let not the wise glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty glory in his might, let not the rich glory in his riches: but let him that glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord which exercises loving-kindness, judgment and righteousness in the earth; for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.                     

Now let’s jump back over to 1 Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 1:26-29.  for you see your calling brethren how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty, and base things of the world and things which are despised God has chosen, yes and the things which are not to bring to naught things that are; that no flesh shall glory in His presence.

Try to set aside the obvious inference that the church is made up of foolish, weak, base and despised members and hear the echo of Jeremiah 9 in this passage. So what was Paul teaching on by using Jeremiah 9 as his text?   Let’s continue through the final two verses:

Jeremiah 9:25&26.  Behold, the days come says the Lord, that I will punish all of them which are circumcised with the uncircumcised, and all that are in the utmost corners, that dwell in the wilderness: for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart.   

In the time of Jeremiah, all the people of Israel had become blind to God’s Word.  Even as Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

Corinthians 3:15-17.  For unto this day when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it (the heart) shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.         

The blindness of the uncircumcised heart is a paramount issue. For the Lord has set a day when the veil will be lifted from the hearts of Israel. This is an opportunity to look at the first of the mysteries of God revealed in Christ that Paul speaks of:

1 Corinthians 4:1&2.  Let a man so account of us as ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful.

In order to be a faithful steward, a saint must know what these mysteries are of which Paul speaks.

Romans 11:25.  For I would not brethren that you should be ignorant of this mystery, less you should be wise in your own conceits, that blindness in part has happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.   

Compare to this verse, and consider the time: 

Luke 21:24.  And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

God Assessment

Job 10:12.  You have granted me life and favor, and your visitation has preserved my spirit.       

The word visitation-pekuddah (H6486) from pakad (H6485)-to visit, provides a basis for understanding the nature of covenant promises and the hope of prophecy. The Israelites for 400 years in Egypt clung to this prophetic word from Joseph:

Genesis 50:25.  And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel saying God will surely visit you and you shall carry up my bones from here.                                 

This covenant oath and promise between Joseph and his descendants continued as a memorial and became the words used by God to introduce Moses as their deliverer. The fulfillment of this promise becomes a remembrance of God and is prominent in the narrative.

Exodus 3:16.  Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say unto them….”I have surely visited you and that which is done to you in Egypt.”

Exodus 4:31And the people believed and when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel and that he had looked upon their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshiped.  

 Exodus 13:19.  And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him for he had placed the children of Israel under solemn oath saying “God will surely visit you and you shall carry up my bones from here with you.”                       

A deeper understanding of this word is necessary to grasp the statement “your visitation has preserved my spirit” in Job 10:12.

Pakad appears 90 times in the book Numbers, and is the basis for the title. The first four chapters of Numbers recounts a series of censuses that God commanded Moses and Aaron to make of the congregation of Israel.

Numbers 1:2 & 3.   Take the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel after their families, by the house of their fathers, with the number of names, every male by their polls. From twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war in Israel you and Aaron shall number them by their armies.         

Verse two describes a numerical count (take the sum) and means a head count; “by their polls” literally means “by their skulls”. Verse three uses the word pakad “number them by their armies”.

So what is the relationship between “to visit” and “to number” when the word pakad appears? Pakad actually means to make an assessment, to observe to determine your physical, mental and spiritual state.

The key here is the phrase “that are able to go forth to war”. This is more than a head count, but also an assessment. And so in Exodus 4:31 “He looked upon their affliction”, the visitation is concerned with the state of being.

This correct understanding of “to number or to visit” forms the basis for both ministry and fellowship.

James 1:27.   Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction to remain unspotted from the world.    

This verse doesn’t limit ministry to widows and orphans, the emphasis is upon all who are afflicted with these two as prominent examples. Visitation also defines the role of leadership in the church.

Matthew 24:45.    Who then is a faithful and wise servant whom his lord has made ruler (more correct is caretaker) over his household (congregation) to give them meat [spiritual sustenance– “I have meat you know not of… -John 4:32-34] in due season. (as the need arises) 

Ministering to the saints is a visitation to preserve the spirit of the church.

FALSE PROPHETS

People often speak of “war and rumors of war”, as well as global disasters as being signs of the end time. I would ask you today to look with fresh eyes and consider the Lord’s heart in this regard.

Matthew 24:1.  And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to Him to show him the buildings of the temple.

At the end of a busy day,  Jesus and his disciples find a quiet place, and they simply comment on the view of the temple mount. The Lord surprises them with a very precise and shocking prophecy.

Mt. 24:2.  And Jesus said unto them,  See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.         

Jesus has mentioned a few times that He would face rejection and death in Jerusalem, but now He speaks of God’s soon judgment on the city and they immediately make a jump in their own minds that this pertains to the end of the age.

Mt. 24:3.  And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?     

We know that most of the Lord’s followers would have lived to see the destruction of the temple, this event was not a herald of the end times. While the questions reveal what was on their hearts, only the Lord’s answers can show us His priorities.

Mt. 24:4.  And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you 

Now if we pause here in the discourse and ask the question, “what do you think was the Lord’s primary concern regarding the subject of signs and the end of the age? Your answer should be that He was concerned with deceptive teachings that would come forth in this regard. Did He not once say this concerning signs:

Matthew 16:4.    A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign.

He continues the discourse by elaborating on the subject of deceptions, not signs.

Mt. 24:5.  For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.

To be clear here, the Lord is not talking about anyone claiming to be the Messiah. Anyone who comes “in His name”, are claiming to be legitimate ambassadors speaking on His behalf.  The claim “I am Christ”, should be translated: “I am anointed”, because christos means anointed, and this is a claim that every false teacher, preacher and prophet is making these days. This is more than a sign of the end times, this is a caution for the wise follower to avoid being deceived.

Mt. 24:5.  And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 

These words “the end is not yet” should be enough to convince you that quoting “wars and rumors of wars” as if to imply that the end of the age is upon us is to greatly discredit your understanding.

Mt. 24:7.  For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
Yada, yada, yada….
Mt:24:8.  All these are the beginning of sorrows.  

Now this is something to consider. This expression of early birth pangs says a lot about being misinformed. Most people know that you don’t rush to the hospital with the first contractions of birth. Couples are coached to time contractions to be sure that labor has begun. However, there are still occasions where an expectant mother is rushed to a hospital, only to return later that evening saying; “false alarm”. A good possibility is that  greater awareness avoids reacting inappropriately to the beginning of sorrows.

Mt. 24:11  And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.  .

Again with the warnings and concerns over being deceived.

Mt. 24:12. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.

This verse uses the word agape for love and therefore cannot be interpreted as a state of the world we live. Only believers can know the agape love of God, and only believers can lose their “first love” and fall away due to lawlessness (iniquity) within the church.

2 Thessalonians 2:3  Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition.

This is why Jesus now says:

Mt. 24:13.   But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

There are two verses I will now post for consideration on this topic.

Luke 21:24.  And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until “the times of the Gentiles” are fulfilled.

Notice that this is the “the end of the age” for the Gentiles, and the sovereignty of Jerusalem is a legitimate point of inquiry.

Romans 11:25.  For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should  be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.

Again with the Gentiles in the age we now occupy. With a growing number of Jews in Israel who see the historical Jesus (Yeshua) as the Son of God and Messiah, we draw closer to a true remnant in the promised land. Another reality worthy of attention.

Matthew 24:24.  For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.

Let me speak frankly to younger readers. Years ago, few preachers claimed to be anointed or to have “the anointing”. Now, essentially everyone on television, radio or otherwise makes this claim. They are the same people who love to talk about “the signs of the end times” in Matthew 24, without realizing they are fulfilling prophecy in so stating.

Galatians 3:29.  And if you are Christ’s then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.

The text of Galatians 3:29 begins “de ei hymeis christos”, and the word christos means anointed, thus “if you are anointed” (or claim to be). Compare this to Matthew 24:5: For many shall come in my name saying I am anointed (christos) and shall deceive many.

This is why Jesus said, “you will know them by their fruit”, not who they claim to be as testimony of themselves. This is an antichrist spirit that had already manifested in the first century church.

1 John 2:18.  Little children it is the last time and as you have heard that antichrist shall come even now are there many antichrists whereby we know that is the last time.

Now please consider what Paul is saying:

2 Corinthians 10:7: Do you look on things after the outward appearance? If any man trust to himself that he is anointed let him of himself think this again, that as he is anointed even so are we anointed.

Among the first century church there already were many preaching “in that name” and claiming an anointing to do so, and yet they were contradicting what Paul and his companions were preaching!

I implore you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ:

1 John 4:1.   Beloved believe not every spirit but try the spirits whether they are of God because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

A Willing Heart

Exodus 35:21.  And they came, every one whose heart stirred him up, and every one whom his spirit made willing, and they brought the LORD’S offering to the work of the tabernacle of the congregation, and for all his service, and for the holy garments. 

Exodus 35:29.  The children of Israel brought a willing offering unto the LORD, every man and woman, whose heart made them willing to bring for all manner of work, which the LORD had commanded to be made by the hand of Moses.                                                 

1 Chronicles 29:9.  Then the people rejoiced, for that they offered willingly, because with perfect heart they offered willingly to the LORD: and David the king also rejoiced with great joy.                           

When the Holy Spirit fell on the day of Pentecost, a miracle occurred which had happened only briefly in the lives of God’s people in the past. The disciples numbered approximately 120 in the upper room that day. Immediately after they received the gift of the Holy Spirit corporately, there were added about 3,000 souls! Even more impressive than the numbers though, was the immediate change of heart.

Acts 2:44,45.  And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all, as every man had need.     

Acts 4:32.  And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.                                               

So we see the need of God’s Spirit to move for people to have a willing heart; to build the tabernacle in the wilderness, to prepare for Solomon to build a Temple, and for the saints to build a New House for God in the body of Christ.

In these last days, will our hearts be willing when God pours out His Spirit?

Psalm 110:3.  Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth.