|Genesis 17I love the “simple” tasks God gives us. He came before Abram when Abram was 99 years old and said, “I am the Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless.” (Also the word perfect is in some translations) What does that mean? We know that Abram was not perfect, that none of us are perfect. We have to go back to Romans 4:3 “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” To be righteous in God’s eyes, we have to believe God. This chapter will be a covenant that God will give to Abram – but it is important to note that Abram was considered righteous BEFORE the covenant of circumcision. So it is not the act of circumcision that makes Abram righteous, it is not that work that does it, it is believing God.
God reminds Abram of the promise he has made, verse 2-8 That God will multiply him exceedingly. Now to this date, Abram has had one child, Ishmael, and will not have another for many years. God will do something that he does periodically in the Bible – changes a person’s name.
Genesis 17: 4-8 “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be there God.”
What an incredible covenant! There are a few things to note here. Notice, God says, “I WILL” It is God who will do these things. Also note that God tells Abram I HAVE (past tense) made you a father of many nations. To the physical eye, one son the father of many nations doesn’t make. But God has spoken that this will come to pass, and it will – in God’s timing. Just because Abram doesn’t see it in the physical doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened in the spiritual.
God will do something he does many other times in the Bible – change a person’s name, and here we see an incredible name change. Abram which means exalted father, is being changed to Abraham which means “father of a multitude” or “chief of multitude”. Can you imagine Abraham going up to a stranger, having to introduce himself as Abraham, so the person asks how many children do you have, one by my maid. It is as if God is having Abraham speak the words, so that as he speaks his name, he is speaking into existence God’s promise to him. You have to realize the incredible faith that Abraham has, for until now, it has been many years since he has heard from God. God is teaching him to walk not by sight, but by faith and to hang onto his word.
For this Abrahamic covenant, It is God’s “I will” that will keep it, he knows humans cannot keep their promises. This promise covers Abraham and all of his seed – remember we are grafted into Abraham’s seed by our belief. And the time period for the covenant: EVERLASTING. How comforting that is, there is no expiration date. And the people will be given the land of Canaan. This promise has not yet been fully fulfilled.
Abraham and his seed, as their part of the covenant will circumcise every male child. This is to be done when the child is 8 days old. (Pastor Don has told us that at that particular time there is a blood chemical in the child that numbs the pain – it is the ideal time to do this rite). It is a covenant in the flesh. (Remember that Paul has a problem with the believing Jews in the New Testament who insist that Gentile believers must also circumcise themselves, but that is not necessary. Once Jesus came into our lives, instead of a body part circumcised, our hearts are circumcised, made tender and receptive to Jesus).
Not only does God change Abraham’s name, but he also changes Sarai’s name to Sarah which means princess. And he promises her a son – and she will be a MOTHER OF NATIONS, KINGS, OF PEOPLES SHALL BE FROM HER. verse 16.
Abraham laughs, it is not a disrespectful laugh, but one of delight as he says in verse 17, “Shall a child be born to a man who is one hundred years old? And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old bear a child? It does seem impossible, but with God all things are possible.
Now, here comes part of Abraham’s heart – the fact that he considers Ishmael his first born, and has a great love for Ishmael. He decided to “help” God, and this has posed a problem, that will ultimately not go away. He says that he wished that Ishmael might live before God. (or in other words asks God to bless his mistake). God says in verse 18, “No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall begat twelve princes, and I will make him a great nations. But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this set time next year.” God was blind to Abram’s deed in the flesh with Hagar, and focuses on the spirit with Sarah and Abraham. Ishmael is 13 at this time.
Remember that Hagar was considered Abram’s wife, but God reminds him that Sarah is his wife, and it is through her that God will establish his covenant. But there is some interesting facts here. Ishmael will be fruitful, and will have twelve princes – so he too will have twelve sons, like the twelve tribes of Israel. These tribes will ultimately strive with Israel. We also find out that in a year Sarah will birth Isaac which means laughter – and we will see that laughter comes into this family, for Sarah will also laugh.
There is obedience here, for Sarah and Abraham had to act out in faith to produce a child. Also we will see how far reaching this rejuvenation is because Abraham will have other children after Isaac.
What is interesting is that in verse 23 we see that Abraham immediately circumcised the men, the very same day. Oh that we would be so obedient. I know that often I spent time thinking about, contemplating, and at times out-and-out avoiding obedience in some areas.
A few thoughts cross my mind, 13 years of silence, does not mean that God was inactive. In Beth Moore’s study, The Patriarchs she talks about the new name of Abraham. It is the sound “ha” which is a breath (also ha, ha, ha is how we represent laugh – but I am certain that is not biblical). And she said that if you think about Adam – God breathed life into him, so with the extra breath sound – God breathed life into Abraham’s dead flesh. She pointed out that when we accept Christ, God breaths life into us.
She also points out that other tribes also circumcised their members, but that for Abraham and his seed, this was a very personal reminder of the covenant. One that they would observe daily.
Beth says on page 43, “Before circumcision, Abraham was unable to produce anything except by human planning and manipulation. After circumcision, Abraham experienced the divine miracle.” For us, when we circumcise our heart, we become fruitful with the fruits of the spirit.
Beth also points out that Abraham needed to stop seeing Sarai as a hang up, so by changing her name to Sarah, God helps Abraham to see her as a How this would happen.
Can a covenant be EVERLASTING, if there is a way to break it? No, so when God wants to make sure we can’t break a covenant, he makes it without our participation. We know that God holds His word above Himself, and He does not lie, so if He makes a covenant it will stick.
There are various ways to walk with God, We can Walk BEFORE as here, we can walk AFTER – as a servant, We can walk WITH – like Enoch, or we can walk IN – as in union, walk in Christ.
I am hoping to keep up my walk with God, but sometimes there is a sense of adventure that is frightening for me.
Hoping your Saturday is going well. I have to go and pick up my kids from a birthday party. Have a blessed day.
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