Circumcision - Trees and Us - RR172W42

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Professor: Rushdoony, Dr. R. J.
Title: Circumcision , Trees and Us
Course: Course - Leviticus; The Law of Holiness and Grace
Subject: Subject:Pentateuch
Lesson#: 42
Length: 0:36:15
TapeCode: RR172W42
Audio: Chalcedon Archive
Transcript: .docx Format
Leviticus The Law of Holiness and Grace.jpg

This transcript is unedited. It was:
Archived by the Mt. Olive Tape Library
Digitized, transcribed, and published by Christ Rules
Posted by with permission

Let us worship God. Arise, shine, for thy light is come and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. Let us pray.

Almighty God, we give thanks unto Thee, that Thou hast given Thine only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. We thank Thee for the gift of Thy Son, the gift of faith, the gift of Thy providential care, and the certainty of victory in Thee. Make us joyful in our wealth in Him. Make us faithful and strong in Thy service, and grant that we who have been called to server Thee may delight in Thy strength and in Thy salvation and be more than conquerors through Christ. In His name we pray, amen.

Our text this morning is Leviticus 19:23-25 and our subject, “Circumcision, Trees and Us.” Leviticus 19:23-25:

23 And when ye shall come into the land, and shall have planted all manner of trees for food, then ye shall count the fruit thereof as uncircumcised: three years shall it be as uncircumcised unto you: it shall not be eaten of.

24 But in the fourth year all the fruit thereof shall be holy to praise the Lord withal.

25 And in the fifth year shall ye eat of the fruit thereof, that it may yield unto you the increase thereof: I am the Lord your God.”

Now, everything in life is without question religious. All things having been made by God, all things being His handiwork, we cannot step outside the religious sphere in any area of life and thought. But we have to say about this text that it is more than another religious law, it has a theological implication—a very important one. And we neglect it to our own deprivation. [00:03:17]

The key to that fact is in the word ...

The key to that fact is in the word ‘uncircumcised,’ a theological term. What is on surface a simple law with the care of fruit trees is something far more. But it is also a law with regard to fruit trees. It requires stripping young trees of blossoms, or the barely-formed fruit. The promise is, and we know from experience, the tree then will have better growth. Its energy will not go to producing the fruit when it is immature, but towards growth—toward roots. Thus, in later years there are better harvests. This is an obvious fact. But there is more here—much that goes beyond good sound farming practices. It is the use of the word ‘uncircumcised.’ Only by keeping the tree from bearing fruit for three years is the tree then regarded as circumcised.

Now circumcised, as we know, is a religious term having reference to a covenant rite. It means that as a covenant rite, those who submitted themselves to circumcision (and in the Christian era, baptism), in effect die to hope in generation, hope in themselves, and express their hope in God’s work, in His regenerating power. Now the use of the word here is not accidental. Before God would allow Moses to begin his ministry, he had to circumcise his son. Before the Passover in Egypt and their deliverance, there had to be a circumcision of all Israelites including their servants who were members of their household. Again, before entering the Promised Land, all the uncircumcised were circumcised, and this was required before the Passover could be eaten. There is thus a very profound religious implication in using the term circumcision for trees. But before going into that very important aspect of this text, let us look again to its application to actual trees. [00:06:46]

For the first three years, the tree was to be regarded

For the first three years, the tree was to be regarded as a male infant in its first eight days before it was circumcised—as unconsecrated. There was no loss because of faithfulness to this. The reward was better trees in the long-run. Thus, from the planting of the trees to the harvest, all is to be done in terms of God’s Law. This is the law of holiness.

Now, Gordon J. Wenham, a particularly outstanding contemporary British scholar has commented on this text. “Holiness involves the total consecration of a man’s life and labor to God’s service. This was symbolized by the giving of one day in seven and a tithe of all produce and also in the dedication of the first fruits of agriculture. This principle covers not only crops but also animals and even children. By dedicating the first of everything to God, the man of the old covenant publically acknowledged that all he had was from God and he thanked Him for His blessings.” Thus, the garden fruit was to be sanctified to God. Now if the laws of holiness apply to trees, how much more so to man?

In the fourth year, the tree could be picked of its fruit or the vine of its grapes, but you gave the equivalent amount to the Lord so that the Lord gained thereby. And then, in the fifth year, a man could profit from the tree or the vine. God must be served before we are. Now this law, like all God’s laws has benefits in every direction. We glorify God in obedience, the trees are stronger, there is a better harvest in due time, and there is more in the meaning of this text. Holiness is a total concept. It extends to all the earth, to all things. There is no sphere of creation which must not be holy unto the Lord. By Him were all things made and without Him was not anything made that was made. [00:09:54]

The purpose of this law, we are told in verse ...

The purpose of this law, we are told in verse 24, is to praise the Lord. Now, the word translated as ‘praise’ is a part of our word ‘hallelujah.’ “Hallel” (praise or jubilate; rejoice in), and “jah” (God). So, Hallelujah means “Praise the Lord.” So that we are told the purpose of this law is, in effect, Hallelujah! It’s a way of saying hallelujah, of jubilating, because God’s law is for our welfare and our prosperity.

But why is an agricultural fact described in covenantal terms with a theological word? The answer is very important. When you circumcise a tree, and the practice of picking the fruit also involved pruning it; you strengthen it. You prepare it to be fruitful.

Now, what does it mean as applied to man? Because circumcision, and then baptism involved the same kind of thing. It means that we are made holy to God. We are therefore to be prepared to bear fruit subsequently. There must be a pruning, a disciplining process in the meantime, that when we are made holy to the Lord, it means we are deprived of certain things, if we see them as deprivation; but the purpose is to strengthen us for His service, to make us more fruitful; so that we are to prosper. We are to be more useful. [00:12:40]

Both circumcision and baptism are indicators of the

Both circumcision and baptism are indicators of the culminating act of God in history—the resurrection. Circumcision means death as it were, to the organ of generation, symbolically. Baptism means in effect that we die, but are washed and made new. They point to the resurrection, and this is why the term circumcision is used here. What it tells us is that when we are in Christ, there is a pruning, there is a circumcising, there is a change that comes about from the perspective of the world, a deprivation. But it means victory over sin and death. It means a triumph. It means that because the tree is circumcised and because we are circumcised, we have the pruning process. We become a part of the resurrection world—the world of life!

The scriptures make clear that faithfulness to the Lord is the way of life, whereas unfaithfulness and unbelief is the way of death. That marvelous verse in Proverbs 8:36 declares, “He that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul. All they that hate me love death.” And so, when we do not accept the chastening of the Lord, the chastening, the circumcising, it’s because we love death. It is not accidental that a simple act of farming which is productive of better trees and a richer harvest is given an unusual name: circumcision. There were other names for it that Moses could have used and that God could have required him to use. But God gave him this sentence with a theological term.

Nor is it accidental that faithfulness to the Lord is blessed by a deferred but a richer harvest. The people of the circumcision, of baptism are the people of the Passover and of the resurrection. We are thereby prepared to yield a richer and enduring harvest to the Lord. We are not called to be fruitless to Christ. If we are in Christ, the vine, we are the branches who are to bear fruit abundantly, and Christ declares that the branch that will not bear fruit will be cut off and thrown into the fire. Circumcision is a spiritual death, as is baptism also, and a mark of a supernatural life, a supernatural power and meaning. It leads to the Passover, to the resurrection, and then to the making of all things new. Again and again in scripture, things natural are used as analogies of things supernatural. And this is a clear-cut example of one such thing. [00:17:00]

We are told very clearly by Paul that whom the Lord

We are told very clearly by Paul that whom the Lord loves, He chastens. And if there is no chastening in our lives, then we are not sons, but bastards. So that we are to see the pruning, the circumcising, the disciplining in terms of the fact that we are by adoption the children of God, the people of the resurrection. Those who reject that process are rejecting life in Christ, life in the resurrection.

One of the most amusing storied to me in the life of a very remarkable English artist, William Blake, was the fact that he did rebel against so much in scripture and was gnostic in his religious doctrine, and accordingly was hostile to the idea of discipline, of circumcision, of pruning, of chastising. And so, he had a vine by his cottage in the country, which he would allow no one to prune because it was a violation of the freedom of the vine. And what he got was an unproductive vine. And we see all around us people who will not submit to the meaning of life in Christ, of circumcision, ad of the resurrection, and who will have no disciplining, no pruning in their lives. And they may be very talented, highly intelligent, but they are useless. They are lovers of death, rather than lovers of life.

Thus, this law over the generations has had, when men have been ready to listen, a great deal of impact on society and culture. As men have recognized that authority in their lives under God, in Christ is for their greater usefulness, their greater productivity and fertility in Him. Men have recognized that there is a circumcising that is needed in the whole of our being, and of course again and again, the word circumcision is used in that sense in scripture. In fact, only a few times it is used with regard to literal circumcision and most of the time use of the word circumcision in the Bible has reference to what is set forth here in this text—something more: the working of God and of the Holy Spirit in our lives! “Circumcise therefore your hearts,” we are told again and again, to be circumcised in all our being, to put aside that which hinders our functioning in Christ. This is why some of the older theologians spoke of the life in Christ, the resurrection life as the circumcised life—and rightly so! We neglect that fact at our peril. [00:21:48]

We find people today who want to replace the chastening

We find people today who want to replace the chastening of God; the circumcision process with another religion which they claim is biblical: the Love bit. The Love religion, that Love is the answer to everything. I regularly hear that when people call me. And I’m beginning to lose all patience with such ‘love babies.’ And I’m speaking very sharply on occasion. They’re foolish. They’re Humanistic to the core! They’re anti-Christian and don’t know it. And it’s time they were told.

There must be chastening. All we have to do is to look at our life, and all that we’ve undergone, and when we submit to the chastening of the Lord, to His discipline, to His circumcising, then what happens? All that we did, God makes work together for good. So that what we may have thought was loss, what we may have thought was a terrible error and was, or a sin, now works together for good. God takes and uses everything because we’ve now submitted to His circumcising process. We are the people of the resurrection. God’s truth is the same, whether it applies to the grapevines or the fruit trees or to us. Hence, the summons of the New Testament is to be circumcised in our hearts, to be the people of the resurrection.

Let us pray. [00:24:20]

Thy Word, oh Lord is truth, and we praise Thee for

Thy Word, oh Lord is truth, and we praise Thee for Thy Word, and we pray Lord that men may submit to Thy chastening, lest they face the wrath of Thy judgment in due time. We thank Thee our Father that Thou hast chastened us, that Thou hast made us Thine. We thank Thee that Thy pruning process, Thy circumcising process has been at work in our lives and has made us stronger and more fruitful unto Thee. Thus, we can say with David, that Thy rod and Thy staff, they are now a comfort to us. Our God we thank Thee, in Christ’s name, amen.

Are there any questions now about our lesson?

[Audience] The wild ah, fruit, let’s say the wild grapes, um, they’re, they seem to be, they’re smaller than the, ah, other grapes because they haven’t been properly tended to, or circumcised, or pruned.

[Rushdoony] Yes

[Audience] Does that come from being taken out of or from the Garden of Eden since that time?

[Rushdoony] Wild grapes will bear, if they are along the stream or spring, and it’ll be very small fruit, very little production, and often no flavor; whereas, if they are elsewhere, they will really not bear at all. The lack of pruning is the key factor.


[Audience] Well, it’s true in writing, also.

[Rushdoony] Yes [laughs] Yes. Uh, a good example of that is Thomas Wolfe, a man who did not believe in pruning his writing. I found him totally unreadable, and I’m interested now that critics are recognizing that he did not need, ah, hold up very well because of that, even though his editor pruned vast portions of his books.

Any other questions or comments?

I think most modern writers could do with a lot of pruning. It is one of the uh, characteristics of our age that most writers show the effects of unpruning.

[Audience] Well, especially in the Academy.

[Rushdoony] Yes, yes. Oh, the classic example of that, I think was John Dewey, of whom even one of his friendly critics said that he had ‘verbal diarrhea.’ He could take what would be an essay and make it a fat book. And as an essay I would be kind of thin. [00:28:58]

Yes, John.

[John] Perhaps someday you’ll do some addresses on the difference between chastisement and punishment.

[Rushdoony] Uh, huh… yes…

[John] We got a long time, oft times, a, a Christian’s confused with the difference, because of, ah, they take an example of, they’re not doing well financially or they’re not being successful in other areas, they say, ‘well, the Lord is chastising me,’ when in reality they are being punished for their disobedience to the Law.

[Rushdoony] Yes, uh, they’re…

[John] {?}

[Rushdoony] There are, uh, very serious problems among Christians, because first, they take the word ‘discipline’ and make it mean “chastisement,” and the word ‘discipline’ comes from “disciple.” It is a process of bringing someone into a pattern, educating, him, training him into the pattern. It does not mean whacking him across the knuckles. That’s chastisement of someone who is within a discipline and is not responding to it. So, we must never call discipline what is chastisement. The classroom procedure when all the children are faithfully listening and following is a discipline. If the child gets out of line, you chastise him. Punishment is when you take him out of the thing and say, ‘You’ve had it! We’re separating you from ourselves.’


[Audience] Something that’s often overlooked is that punishment should end the incident. There was a, a exchange student from Britain to the United States some years back and the British boy was pleased that nobody was caned over here. But, he said, when he misbehaved, everybody got cold and never warmed up again. And he wished he was back in Britain where he’d been punished and then things resumed a normal pattern.

[Rushdoony] One of the problems that has led to that is there is no longer any restitution. When there is restitution then the matter is ended. Ah, to give a simple illustration that, uh, I think highlights the problem.

Years ago, at a women’s meeting, I expressed to one of the women who was in the process of cleaning up things afterward, how outstanding how one of the other women was and how capable she was. And I noticed an immediate coolness in her as I said that. So, I pressed her on the matter and finally got it out of her that in one of the potlucks, she had broken a dish that, ah, she had brought; this other woman had broken her dish. And I asked her, “Well what did you tell her?”

“Oh, she was very upset, but I told her it’s nothing, it’s an old dish.”

“And was it?”

“No. It wasn’t.”

But she’d felt she had to say that, and she’d held it against her ever since. So I said, “The thing to do whenever anything like that happens hereafter is to make restitution, two-fold. If you can’t find the same kind of dish, take her two good ones that are better.”

And I’ve never found problems where people have made restitution. And when we abolish restitution, we either say nothing matters, or we have people holding grudges. And that’s one of the problems we have today. The lack of restitution means that there’s no end to an offense. It gets remembered, it gets harbored, whether it’s small or great. [00:33:46]

[Audience] Well, if there’s no punishment, it never

[Audience] Well, if there’s no punishment, it never ends. Because there’s no forgiveness

[Rushdoony] Yes…

[Audience] Punishment is a form of payment.

[Rushdoony] Yes, it can be one aspect, but where restitution can be made, it should be made. Uh, in, ah, Colonial and Early America, you made restitution or you underwent some kind of punishment, corporal punishment where restitution could not be made.

Any other questions or comments?

Well, if not, let us bow our heads in prayer.

All glory be to Thee, oh God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost, who hast made us Thine, beset us before and behind with Thy mercies, made us heirs of all creation, and given us the assurance that Thou wilt never leave us nor forsake us. We thank Thee for Thy blessings, for Thy chastenings, for all things, for all our yesterdays which Thou hast made work together for good for us. Great and marvelous art Thou, or Lord, and we praise Thee. And now, go in peace. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost bless you and keep you, guide and protect you this day and always. Amen. [00:35:51]

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