Scriptures

Genesis 17

Introduction

‘When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.’ Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, ‘As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.’ Genesis 17:1-8

Abram is now 99 years old, and 25 years have passed from the first promise. God tells him who He is, ‘I am God almighty’, ‘El-Shaddai’. God tells him what he wants of him, ‘Walk before me’, Genesis 5:24 / Genesis 6:9, the word, ‘faithfully’ simply means to try ones best to keep in step with God and His commands.

The word ‘blameless’ doesn’t mean sinless, it means to do what is required to keep right with God. Abram made mistakes on the way to the promise but now he is becoming a man of faith.

The covenant is reaffirmed, and Abram’s name is changed to Abraham. The name Abram means father of many, but the name Abraham means father of many nations. There are many people in the Bible who’ve had their named changed, a name change usually signifies a change in character. Jacob’s name is changed to Israel, Genesis 32:28, as Christians we are now called saints, sons of God etc.

Notice that Abram ‘fell face down’, this is what anyone would do under the circumstances, especially when they realise, they were in the presence of God. We see God repeating the promises time and time again, here we’re reminded that there was a time limit was involved in this covenant, it was until the generations of Israel ended, which they did in Christ, Galatians 3:26-29.

In other words, the ‘everlasting covenant’ meant until it was fulfilled, it didn’t mean and doesn’t mean without end. Since the old covenant has now given way to the new, Hebrews 8, then the promises connected with the old covenant have also given way to the promises of the new covenant.

‘Then God said to Abraham, ‘As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.’ Genesis 17:9-14

Here we see that Abraham has something to do this time, circumcision. The reason for this as a covenant is simply to learn not to trust in the flesh but to trust in God. The ceremony of circumcision was to be a sign of the covenant and so, everyone who was circumcised actually shared in this covenant.

It seems that even Abraham’s servants were to partake of the promises of the covenant, because they too had to be circumcised which obviously meant of anyone didn’t want to be circumcised, they could be partakers of the covenant.

Notice that God knew things back then which scientists today have not long discovered. God commands that those who were 8 days old were to be circumcised, why 8 days?

Because this was the earliest safe day to be circumcised because the blood was full of vitamin K, which helps with blood clotting.

As time went on some people rejected the covenant because they didn’t understand it was the act of faith. Some trusted the sign rather than the covenant. When we move into the New Testament, we see the real value in circumcision, Galatians 5:6 tells us that it had no benefit, it’s faith that counts. Colossians 2:11-12 tells us that
baptism is a sign of the new covenant and if someone refuses to be baptised, they’re effectively refusing the new covenant.

‘God also said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.’ Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, ‘Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?’ And Abraham said to God, ‘If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!’ Then God said, ‘Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.’ When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.’ Genesis 17:15-22

Just as Abram had a name change so did Sarai, Sarai’s name is changed to Sarah. The name Sarai means princess of many and the name Sarah means queen of a multitude, she will give birth at the age of 90.

When Abraham laughed, it wasn’t so much because of doubt but because of joy, it was laughter of rejoicing, the name Isaac means laughter. It’s clear that Abraham didn’t fully understand, Romans 4:17-21 but the son of promise is Isaac, and this would remind Abraham when he laughed when he was told by God. Abraham and Sarah needed to understand that the promise was to be the work of God, not man, Romans 9:6-13.

Understandably Abraham was still thinking in human terms, because he suggests that Ishmael would be the heir of the promise, but God had other plans. Isaac would be the child of promise. Though Abraham at first suggested that Ishmael be the heir of the promises, God reassured him that the promises would be fulfilled through his own son.

Notice how God was still going to bless Ishmael, yes, he wouldn’t have a part in the covenant promises, but he would be the father of twelve princes and a great nation.

‘On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him. Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised, and his son Ishmael was thirteen; Abraham and his son Ishmael were both circumcised on that very day. And every male in Abraham’s household, including those born in his household or bought from a foreigner, was circumcised with him.’ Genesis 17:23-27

It was now time to put into practice what God commanded concerning circumcision and so, Abraham circumcises everyone in his household, even those who were bought as slaves, and so, everyone in his household is a part of God’s covenant He made with Abraham. God said it and Abraham did it, in other words, what we believe will be shown in our actions. Abraham’s obedience is now growing.

Go To Genesis 18

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."

Matthew 5:16

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