“Circumcise yourselves to the Lord; remove the foreskin of your hearts, O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem; lest my wrath go forth like fire, and burn with none to quench it, because of the evil of your deeds.””
Jeremiah 4:4 ESV
Through the Bible: Jeremiah 4-6
The ancient Hebrews were not nearly as squeamish as we are (or at least as I am) when talking about our private parts (see Day 017: Guys, We Need to Talk About Genesis 17:23). As a result, sometimes we encounter metaphors that will make us cringe a little, like Jeremiah’s admonition that the men of Judah “remove the foreskin of their hearts.” If I were an English teacher grading a freshman poetry class, I would circle this phrase and write “awkward metaphor” in the margin. Hearts don’t have foreskins, after all, so eww.
But this isn’t 9th grade poetry; it is God’s inspired Word. So I just have to get over myself and seek to understand what the Lord is trying to say to me through this cringeworthy comparison. I see at least two things:
1. Circumcision as Covenant: When God made His covenant with His people, circumcision was the outward symbol of the covenant (see Genesis 17:10-14). Certainly, the physical act of circumcision was a pretty extreme step, especially for an adult. But what God has in mind is Jeremiah is even more extreme. Don’t just submit to an outward ritual.
2. Circumcision as Uncovering: This one is less comfortable to write about, but more meaningful to me personally. When a man is circumcised, he is having the covering removed from the most personal, private part of himself. He is leaving himself exposed and vulnerable in a process that cannot be reversed.
In that sense, “removing the foreskin of your heart” doesn’t get any less awkward, but it couldn’t be any more appropriate. God wants our hearts to be exposed and vulnerable before Him. Of course, Hebrews 4:12-13 tells us they are anyway:
12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
But I believe God would much rather have a heart that is willingly open to Him, as opposed to a heart that is forcibly exposed. We can’t hide from Him anyway– in His presence, we would be overdressed with even so much as a fig leaf.
In his original, unfallen state, Adam was naked and unashamed. It wasn’t until sin entered the picture that he became naked and afraid. A circumcised heart simply gets us back to the way God intended us to be: vulnerable, uncovered, and safe. God, in His judgment, will expose anything we try to cover. But God, in His love, will cover anything we willingly expose.
God, in His judgment, will expose anything we try to cover. But God, in His love, will cover anything we willingly expose.