If you've read the story of Joshua and the Israelites coming into the Promised Land, you may have noticed this detail. (We worked through this story not quite a year ago at Central.) When Joshua and the Israelites cross the Jordan River via God's miraculous provision, they enter a land where the inhabitants know they're coming and know they're coming to conquer. So Israel is trying to be as ready as possible for a fight. "Vigilance" is a good word to capture this mood.
What does God tell them to do in that precarious moment? He commands Joshua to circumcise the Israelites a second time. Every male in the nation -- all the warriors -- are to be circumcised. What is God thinking? This is going to make the Israelites SO VULNERABLE! If you're wondering whether they thought about this vulnerability, go check out Genesis 34. This story was part of their folklore. They knew about the consequences of being sore.
Fact is, whatever deep theological significance lies behind this circumcision -- and there's plenty -- the immediate problem is that this is going to slow the Israelites down. God calls the Israelites to submit, and he says "I am going to cut you at the point of your pride, your power, your productivity, and your pleasure."
Still want to be one of the Chosen People?
Being chosen means that God isn't content to let you skate by and have a pretty good life. He wants to slow you down, to cut you, in order to begin ever so slowly to pour his life into your life. What we think of as life is just existing, and God wants so much more than that for us. But he has to strike us and slow us down first. He has to get our focus off our own pride, power, productivity, and pleasure. Once we let go of these self-focused pursuits, God can begin to have his way with us. Then he can begin to give us real life, not the imitations we've been spending ourselves to gain.
Fact is, the life of faith is hard because God won't let you have your illusions for long. He longs for you to know him, to know the truth of his presence, his love, his holiness. He wants to take you into the Promised Land of his fullness. So he'll cut off what keeps you from knowing him.