A 365 Day Devotional Journal
Scripture: John 12; Jeremiah 6:10; Acts 7:51-52; Mathew 13:15-17; John 15:10; 1 John 1:6-7; Deuteronomy 29:29; 1 Corinthians 2:9.
Continued from Day 81…
The varying levels of hearing, sight, and heart reception mentioned in John 12 are all tied to receiving truth from God, who is Truth.
New Living Translation puts verse 48 like this: “But all who reject me and my message will be judged on the day of judgment by the truth I have spoken.”1
Elsewhere in Scripture reference is made to eyes being opened, to circumcision of the heart, and to circumcision of the ears. Take a look at this from Jeremiah:
To whom can I speak and give warning? Who will listen to me? Their ears are closed so they cannot hear. The word of the LORD is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it.2
The Hebrew word for “closed” here is ‘arel, עָרֵל [Strong’s H6189] and means “uncircumcised, having foreskin.”3 It comes from a primitive root word [Strong’s H6188] meaning “to remain uncircumcised” or “regard as uncircumcised.” Gesenius’s Lexicon calls this “profane, impure, and it is used in Hab. 2:16 of a drunken man who shamefully uncovers his nakedness.4
This Hebrew word is the same one used metaphorically in Exodus 6:12 by Moses when he asked God how would Pharaoh listen to him (since the sons of Israel did not listen to him), for he was unskilled (uncircumcised of lips) in speech and again in Exodus 6:30, when Moses refers to being unskilled (uncircumcised of lips) in speech. The primitive root of this word is used in Leviticus 19:23, when the Israelites are told that the land and the plants and fruit from the trees shall be considered forbidden (uncircumcised, profane, impure) for three years and shall not be eaten.
The Amplified Version is helpful here:
To whom shall I [Jeremiah] speak and give warning, that they may hear? Behold, their ears are uncircumcised [never brought into covenant with God or consecrated to His service], and they cannot hear or obey. Behold, the word of the Lord has become to them a reproach and the object of their scorn; they have no delight in it.5
It would be very easy for me to skim this verse then glibly say, “Well, Jeremiah was talking to a bunch a heathen, so that’s why their ears were stopped,” but Jeremiah was talking to God’s chosen people. They already were in covenant with God.
So how can a person’s ears not be in covenant? Wouldn’t they by virtue of being attached to the person in covenant with God also be so?
Glad you asked.
John Gill was an eighteenth century English Baptist theologian who wrote an extensive commentary on the Bible. His Exposition of the Old and New Testament, widely considered to be his magnum opus, was originally published in nine volumes over a period of seventeen years. Of Jeremiah 6:10, he says
“To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear?…. These are the words of the prophet, despairing of any success by his ministry; suggesting that the people were so universally depraved, that there were none that would hear him; that speaking to them was only beating the air, and that all expostulations, warnings, remonstrances, and testimonies, would signify nothing:
“behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken; their ears were stopped with the filth of sin naturally, and they wilfully stopped their ears like the adder; and so being unsanctified, they neither could hear nor desired to hear the word of the Lord, as to understand it; see Acts 7:51,
“…they have no delight in it; they see no beauty nor glory in it; they taste nothing of the sweetness of it; its doctrines are insipid things to them, they having never felt the power of it in their hearts; whereas such who are the true circumcision, who are circumcised in heart and ears, who are born again, these desire the sincere milk of the word; it is to them more than their necessary food; and, with this Prophet Jeremiah, they find it, and eat it, and it is the joy and rejoicing of their hearts, Jeremiah 15:16.”6
John Wesley, who experienced the Holy Spirit fall on people in his meetings in ways that elicit visions of more recent moves of God, wrote in his Notes on the Bible, of Jeremiah 6:10, that
An uncircumcised ear signifies the rejecting of instruction; an uncircumcised heart, an obstinate and rebellious will. They cannot – They had brought themselves under that incapacity by their obstinacy and wilfulness. A reproach – They laugh at it, and scorn it.7
The Hebrew word in Jeremiah 6:10 for “closed” also is the same Hebrew word used in Leviticus 26:41 in reference to their uncircumcised heart becoming humbled so that they then will make amends for their iniquity and in Jeremiah 9:26 referring to all the house of Israel having an uncircumcised heart (though their flesh was circumcised.)
Just for fun, I ran a GoogleTM search on “circumcision of the heart” and came across a Yahoo!® Answers board discussion on the topic, ironically, from April Fool’s Day, 2009. Some of the remarks are hilarious, but the last one I quote here completely negated the humor for me by its brutal candor on how the world views the modern “Christian.”
The question asked by Gazoo was “How exactly would you go about circumcising your heart?”
Egypt, and Judah, and Edom, and the children of Ammon, and Moab, 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. ~ Jeremiah 9:26, KJV
Best answer chosen by Asker, who I am guessing was the moderator, was submitted by The Right Path: “It’s just a metaphor so don’t look too deeply into it” who then remarked “Yeah…metaphor. But it just sounds so horrible.”
Twenty five others responded to the discussion board question. I list some of them here in no particular order (or grammatical structure):
CABOOSE – “Sounds painful.”
NATE – “Carefully I would assume. Very carefully.”
SHINIGAMI (FAC) – “Cuts like a knife, but it feels so right…Bryan Adams.”
CASEY – “Ouch?”
CHIEKO – “With the Word, which is sharper than a double-edged sword…”
FERRISUL – “Metaphor. A very disturbing metaphor, might I add. Wasn’t meant to be taken literally. Ouch. I hope no one did. *.* Ah well, it would have been over pretty fast if they’d tried, wouldn’t it? ^^”
TAKE MY ADVICE, I DONT NEED IT – “My guess is you would take the foreskin and …. wait no.. maybe u uhm get a clamp and then, hmm nope that wouldnt work either.. I dont know. Its metaphorical, so I will venture out on a limb and say it is referring to leaving a piece of your heart that shouldnt be cut, or leaving a piece that should, depending on the context of the verse. And if the part should be cut out its probably referring to sinful desires of some sort. And if it shouldnt be cut, its probably referring to God himself as the foreskin of the heart.”
CELESTIAL TEAPOT – “Well thank goodness Christians don’t follow the bible exactly anymore.”8
Laughter is good for the soul, but Truth will make you free.
I am glad to report that a number of dedicated followers of Jesus did later submit some excellent responses about heart circumcision (click on the footnote link below to read).
Right before Stephen was stoned to death, he addressed the high priest and the religious rulers. Many translations use “stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears,” but I rather like the way The Message Bible puts it:
And you continue, so bullheaded! Calluses on your hearts, flaps on your ears! Deliberately ignoring the Holy Spirit, you’re just like your ancestors. Was there ever a prophet who didn’t get the same treatment? Your ancestors killed anyone who dared talk about the coming of the Just One. And you’ve kept up the family tradition—traitors and murderers, all of you. You had God’s Law handed to you by angels—gift-wrapped!—and you squandered it! 9
Paul spoke of the circumcision of the heart being the sign of the believer’s new covenant with God, sealed in the blood of Jesus (Romans 2:28-29.) Moses spoke of the covenant being sealed by circumcising the heart (Deuteronomy 10:16 and 30:6.)
Matthew wrote on this inability to see, hear, and understand:
For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them. But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.10
The reason for the new covenant with God through the blood of Jesus was not just so we could be forgiven and gain access to heaven. It was to restore our relationship with God. The purpose of heart circumcision is to be able to love God with all of our heart. But until we are willing to surrender that part of ourselves that comes between us and God by laying down all in our lives that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, we cannot truly love God. We show our love for God by obeying Him.
If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.11If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7
But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.12
A person with circumcised lips speaks God’s thoughts, and this is a good start. But we all know how easy it is to say one thing and think another in our heart. So while our words are important and our actions matter, our heart matters first.
A person with circumcised eyes sees and understands God’s will.
A person with circumcised ears attends to, or listens carefully to God’s Words.
A person with a circumcised heart loves God over all things and from a heart of love obeys Him.
This leads us to life today as a believer, for nothing has changed, really, has it? How many times have we privately scorned God’s Word when it offended us?
Everything is laid out before us in the Spirit. It has always been there for us, but we must change the way we think. We must have our minds renewed.
The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.13
You know, the only difference between “hear” and “heart” is the letter t. “Ear” is embedded within both “hear” and “heart.” And the two e’s within “eye” remind this reader to spend twice as much time discerning what is before her. These are word games to be sure, and I am being somewhat facetious, but consider this:
My heart cannot be circumcised without listening carefully and attending to the Words of God.
My ears cannot be circumcised without seeing and understanding God’s will.
My eyes cannot be circumcised unless I am willing to hear and obey God.
I would be remiss if I did not also point out that the word “heart” concludes with the only letter in the English alphabet that resembles a Roman cross, the letter “t,” remarkable in that it is a reminder that only when my heart is surrendered will I experience lasting change. This is more than my salvation experience, for Paul said “I die daily.”
Where is my heart today?
What eye has not seen and ear has not heard and has not entered into the heart of man, [all that] God has prepared (made and keeps ready) for those who love Him [who hold Him in affectionate reverence, promptly obeying Him and gratefully recognizing the benefits He has bestowed].14
Read: John 12; Jeremiah 6:10; Acts 7:51-52; Mathew 13:15-17; John 15:10; 1 John 1:6-7; Deuteronomy 29:29; 1 Corinthians 2:9 Journal your private thoughts.
Lord, You’re beautiful. Your face is all I seek. For when Your eyes are on this child, Your Grace abounds to me.15 Let your Grace abound in all the ways I continually fall short each day, Jesus, for I have not forgotten my humble beginning. Shine Your light through me. Be strong in me. Open my eyes, unblock my ears, for my heart is Yours. Amen.
1John 12:48. Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. www.tyndale.com
2Jeremiah 6:10. THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. www.biblica.com
3Blue Letter Bible. “Dictionary and Word Search for `arel (Strong’s 6189)“. Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 4 Jun 2011. http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H6189&t=NASB
4Blue Letter Bible. “Dictionary and Word Search for `arel (Strong’s 6188)“. Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 4 Jun 2011. http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/Lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H6188&t=NASB
5Jeremiah 6:10. Bold emphasis mine. Scripture quotations taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.lockman.org
6Jeremiah 6:10. Exposition of the Entire Bible. John Gill [1746-63] Biblos Bible Study Tools: Bible Commentaries. Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive. http://gill.biblecommenter.com/jeremiah/6.htm (accessed June 4, 2011.)
7Jeremiah 6:10. Notes on the Bible. John Wesley. Biblos Bible Study Tools: Bible Commentaries. http://wes.biblecommenter.com/jeremiah/6.htm (accessed June 4, 2011.)
8“How exactly would you go about circumcising your heart?” Yahoo!® Answers. April 1, 2009. http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20090401222423AAyNK5R (accessed June 3, 2010.)
9Acts 7:51-52. Scripture taken from The Message. Copyright ©1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group. www.messagebible.com
10Matthew 13:15-17. THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. www.biblica.com
11John 15:10. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
121 John 1:6-7. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
13Deuteronomy 29:29. Bold emphasis mine. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
141 Corinthians 2:9. Scripture quotations taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.Lockman.org
15 First Stanza, “O Lord, You’re Beautiful”. Keith Green. ©1980 CCLI #14514. http://www.worshiparchive.com/song/oh-lord-youre-beautiful (accessed June 8, 2011.)
Copyright © 2011, Érin Elise