What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were given the oracles of God.
Sometimes as Christians we look upon the Old Testament as something which is out of date. We see our new covenant relationship with God as something far superior. Both of these things are true. However, the new would never have come forward without the old. There are two images which are given to us to show the relationship we have with God. The first one is of a building being put together by God that has as its foundation Jesus and the apostles. This is the new spiritual temple which God is at work building today. The other image is of a plant. Jesus is the vine upon which all the branches are attached. We get our strength and our life through our connection to the vine and again that vine is Jesus. The image does not stop there. What is the vine connected to? The vine is connected to the root, and that root is the Old Testament faith, it is the covenant that God gave to Moses for the children of Israel. I would like to point out that this root itself started from a seed, a seed of faith, that was found in the heart of Abraham. Each of these relationships has their own distinct relationship with God, is based on promises given to the individuals of their respective group, as well as responsibilities. All are based on faith.
Prior to Mount Sinai the children of Israel were walking under the covenant relationship that was passed down from Abraham through to the children of Israel. Part of the promise, if it can be called a promise, is the enslavement of the children of Israel in the house of Egypt. This is a part of the covenant relationship that God had with Abraham. But it does not end there. For the promise is that God would visit his people and would take them out of the house of bondage and lead them to a land flowing with milk and honey. In between these two events of bondage in Egypt and freedom in a new land, came the creation of a new covenant. Israel was at the foot of Mount Sinai. Moses went up onto the mountain and into the cloud glory. He came out with a new relationship between God and man.
What did the Jew gain? A list of basic commands. A list of new laws and precepts. The tabernacle and furniture within to offer sacrifices to God. A priesthood to stand between God and man and offer sacrifices, tithes and offerings.
Why were they given this law? So that when they entered the promised land, God's special place on the earth, that they would not commit the sins and errors of the people who were living there at the time. The original inhabitants of the land were under God's judgment and their fate was to be destroyed. God was going to use the Jewish people to bring about this judgment. But if the Jewish people were going to live the same lifestyle, in God's holy land, they too would feel the judgment of God. There is a standard of holiness that God is looking for. That standard of holiness is found in written law of God as handed to Moses. As long as Israel would follow the law they would be blessed. If they began to transgress the law, little by little the Lord would begin to bring judgment upon the children of Israel so that they may repent. If they repented the promises of God would be theirs again. If they refused and continued to walk contrary to law then a harsher judgment would come upon them. The law was given for the protection of the nation and the land.
Why were they given this law? So that the individual people who made up the house of Israel could walk in a covenant relationship, a personal relationship, with God. God's promises, protection, correction and judgment was also extended to the individual. Those individuals who follow God and his rule of law would be blessed. In obedience to the law there was life. If you obeyed the law you would live.
The oracles of God were given so that individuals could have long life and that the nation could live long in the land. One would think that with the New Testament now in effect that the Old Testament has been done away. In some ways that is true. Yet one must understand that the law, the oracles of God, were given to those who lived on the land. The Old Testament is a set of laws that is to govern the children of Israel in the promised land. With the New Testament we follow the spirit of the law that is to govern and lead the born again believer in the heavenly Kingdom.
Even we who walk under the new covenant can learn valuable lessons by looking upon the relationship God had with Israel and seeing how they interacted one with the other. Paul later writes that the Old Testament are examples for us today about how God relates to his people. What advantage did the Jew have? The oracles of God described the relationship one can have with God individually and as a nation. How an individual and the nation can be blessed and have a long and prosperous life in this special covenant. These oracles were meant to be a beacon of light that would draw all men to the throne of God. These were given to the house of Israel!
What about circumcision?
Let me just say at this time that those who wanted to enter into that special relationship, all the males, must be circumcised. It was the sign given by God to Abraham and through him to all Israel, that they were under the blessing of God. That this blessing was contained in a covenant. And that covenant would be the light of the world for their time.
Note: The Oracles of God were more than a list of law and commandments, statutes and precepts. They also included all the words of the prophets who spoke God's words.
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