Genesis 18:16-33 For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it

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(Read Genesis 18:16-33)

In the first part of Genesis 18 the Lord and His two angelic messengers from heaven tended to the first part of their business, that of blessing Abraham and Sarah. Here in the second part of Genesis 18 we see that they’re on to the second part of their business. The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. (Psalm 145:8) It’s true that He is full of grace and quick to bless. But He is also to be feared. God will never wink at sin. His holiness, His purity, and His perfection require that He deal with sin, like a doctor responds to an infection. Revelation 19:2 tells us that true and just are his judgments. 

So we pick up our story where the two angels and the Lord leave Abraham’s camp and head toward Sodom. And Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way. (v. 16) Walk with the wise and become wise God tells us in Proverbs 13:20. At the fire department where I work each firefighter lives in the station house with his crew for twenty-four hours at a time. I can remember early in my career living with some, shall we say, not so wise personalities on occasion. Fortunately that was years ago and the group of firefighters we have now are of an amazingly high character, almost to the man. But my wife would always share with me that I’d begin to take on the qualities of whatever crew I was assigned with. Now that could be bad or that could be good depending on the crew. Even as a firefighter begins to take on the attributes of his crew mates, you will take on the attributes of who you hang with. So walk with the wise and become wise. Walk with the godly and become godly. Or as Jesus told the disciples, “…whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, enquire who in it is worthy; and there abide….” (Matthew 10:11) Abraham’s decision to walk with the Lord and His angelic escorts will prove Proverbs 13:20 and Matthew 10:11 to be true as we’ll see.

Then the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.” (v.17-19)

The beginning of verse nineteen says that Abraham is chosen by Him. All nations of the earth will be blessed by Abraham because Messiah will come through Him. Abraham is chosen by God for Messiah to come through him, you and I are chosen by God because we have accepted Messiah from Him, Him with a capital ‘H.’ As a believer in Jesus Christ you and I are in the same position as Abraham — by His grace we are chosen by Him, not by our own merit. This is one of the reasons God chooses to share intimate revelation with Abraham and with you and I as well.

In the next part of verse nineteen we see another reason. God speaks of Abraham’s propensity to share God’s revelation with His family when He says, he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD. (v. 19) That’s how it is with you and with me. God doesn’t share revelation according to how well we take notes during Bible study, but rather God shares revelation according to how much we share God with our spouses, and our children. Abraham had a heart to share God’s word with His family, even with an eye toward posterity, toward his future generations. For that reason God shared His plans with Abraham.

God will share with you what He’s doing, where He’s going, and His inspiration after He sees you pouring out to your family what He is pouring into you.

Then the LORD said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.” (v. 20-21)

Verse 21 makes me wonder what kind of outcry God hears from our world today. Sodom and Gomorrah were perverse but isn’t our current culture also fraught with sin? Pornography, drugs, alcoholism, sex slavery, gang violence — we see it in the news every day. But many don’t recognize it for what it is. In Glasgow, Scotland, in the spring of 2010 a U.S. preacher was fined and thrown in jail overnight for calling homosexuality a sin. (Christian Post) I don’t know anything about the guy. Maybe he was obnoxious about it. It’s interesting that some of us have no problem showing God’s love to those who sin by practicing sex outside of marriage, but some of the same respond to homosexuals with hostility. We should show God’s love to all sinners and that includes, you, me, people involved in extramarital sex, and people with an alternative sexual orientation. As we’ll soon see, Abraham pleads with God to have mercy on Sodom and Gomorrah. That being said, it doesn’t make homosexuality any less of a sin. Our culture today celebrates homosexuality as well as other sinful practices. I just wonder what kind of outcry has reached God lately. Have mercy on us oh Lord.

At the end of verse 21 the Lord shares that he will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry. Obviously the Lord is all knowing and all seeing and doesn’t need to go down to confirm that the outcry matches the reality. This is similar to when Jesus prayed out loud that God the Father would raise Lazarus from the dead. Jesus said, “I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here.” (John 11:42) God’s presence on earth with Abraham provided an opportunity for Abraham to receive God’s blessing, to learn of God’s plan, and to interact with God in prayer.

And on the topic of prayer: The most effective prayers don’t start with us but they start with God. When we base our prayers on His promise, or His warning, or His conviction that’s when we see things happen. When we read God’s word, praying in response to certain scriptures as the Holy Spirit leads us to, we’ll see more in the way of results than when we pray in a vacuum, much more. As Matthew Henry says, “God’s word then does us good when it furnishes us with matter for prayer and excites us to it.” Such was the case for Abraham in our story. The word that the Lord shared with Abraham concerning Sodom inspired Abraham to approach the Lord in prayer.

Then Abraham approached him… (v. 23) I once heard a personal trainer share that the key to working out regularly is to show up at the gym with your gear on. Once you’re in the gym with your gear on, you’re sure to do at least some exercise. That’s good advice for praying regularly as well. We see Abraham walk with the Lord in verse sixteen, stand before the Lord in verse twenty-two, and then approach the Lord in verse twenty-three. Abraham’s part was to find ways to be in the presence of the Lord. That’s your part as well. Find ways to be in the Lord’s presence. Fellowship with Him in church. Read His word. Pray. Take communion. Worship Him in song.

Abraham then begins his prayer, “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? (v. 23-24) Here Abraham exercises a basic principal of communication, he recognizes a defining core quality of the person he’s communicating with and then appeals to that quality. Not surprisingly, in the Lord’s case, it’s mercy. Abraham appeals to the Lord’s mercy. Even if there are only fifty righteous, Abraham says, will you destroy the city? We see something of Abraham’s heart toward sinners here too, as he doesn’t pray that just the righteous are spared but he prays for the Lord to spare the whole city, righteous and the sinners alike. It’s a great reminder that while sin is to be hated, sinners are to be loved and prayed for.

The LORD said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” (v. 26) True to His nature, God agrees to spare the city if there’s fifty righteous.

Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes…” (v. 27) Here Abraham demonstrates how you and I should approach our Lord in prayer — with humility. We must remember that the Father created us from dirt. We must recognize, as Abraham did, that you, I, and even the greatest humans among us are but dust and ashes. Some of the name it and claim it crowd, I think in an effort press into God’s presence, seem to approach God as though he were a genie in a bottle waiting for their command. This ought not to be. If you want to be heard, remember that God shows favor to the humble. (Proverbs 3:34)

Abraham is persistent in his prayer as he continues:

…what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five people?”

“If I find forty-five there,” he said, “I will not destroy it.”

Once again he spoke to him, “What if only forty are found there?”

He said, “For the sake of forty, I will not do it.”

Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?”

He answered, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”

Abraham said, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?”

He said, “For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.”

Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?”

He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”

When the LORD had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.

Genesis 18:28-33

Abraham was wise to appeal to God’s merciful nature. During this conversational prayer God seems to be looking for the slightest excuse to show His mercy. Notice that God doesn’t stop His flow of mercy until Abraham stops asking for it.

This is the first intercessory prayer found in the scriptures. It’s a great reminder that the Lord would have you to in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:3-4) Abraham is looking to his nephew Lot’s interest. In chapter fourteen Abraham rescued Lot by the sword. Here in chapter 18 we see Abraham attempting to rescue Lot by intercessory prayer. Abraham stops interceding at ten, perhaps thinking that Lot’s family numbered eight, and surely two other righteous will be found in the city.

But God didn’t stop at ten. In the next chapter we’ll see that God went all the way down to four.

We pray Lord that you’d bless us by inspiring us to share Your word with our families as Abraham did. Lord, Your word tells us that the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:16) We pray that You’d bless us by making us effective in prayer. Help us to, like Abraham, be wise enough to walk with You, to stand in Your presence, and to approach You in prayer. Help us to, like Abraham, approach You in humility, recognizing that we’re but dust and ashes. Help us, like Abraham, to be interceding on behalf of others.

In Jesus name,

Amen

Genesis 18:16-33

When the men got up to leave, they looked down toward Sodom, and Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way. Then the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”

Then the LORD said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”

The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the LORD. Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

The LORD said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five people?”

“If I find forty-five there,” he said, “I will not destroy it.”

Once again he spoke to him, “What if only forty are found there?”

He said, “For the sake of forty, I will not do it.”

Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?”

He answered, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”

Abraham said, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?”

He said, “For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.”

Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?”

He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”

When the LORD had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.

References:

Blue Letter Bible

Matthew Henry

Ray Stedman

Jon Courson

Image via Art4TheGlryOfGod by Sharon – Creative Commons

Genesis 18:9-15 Is anything too hard for the LORD?

Pray nothing too hard for GodRead Genesis 18:9-15

In verse nine the strangers asked Abraham, “Where is your wife Sarah?” Being strangers, how might they know Abraham’s wife’s name? Up until this point, for all Abraham knew, these three were just some nomads passing through. In his mind they were strangers that he would likely never see again. Yet he entertained them well. Abraham didn’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, and by so doing he showed hospitality to angels (and the Lord) without knowing it. (Hebrews 13:2)

“Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him. This may have been the first clue that these three were more than just strangers passing through.

“There in the tent,” he said in verse nine.

Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” (v. 10)

Jesus said in Matthew 10 that “Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” (Matthew 10:41-42)

So Abraham, having entertained angels and our Lord unawares, is now going to receiving blessings from the same. When they uttered this prophecy it must have, at this point, removed any doubt Abraham may have had regarding who his guests really were. These were no ordinary strangers. These were beings carrying God’s prophetic word from heaven!

Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?” (v. 10, 12)

In Genesis chapter 17 Abraham may have laughed in delight in response to hearing God’s promises. But without a doubt Sarah laughs out of doubt, and even out of cynicism toward God’s promise here in chapter 18.

Then the Lord asks what must have been to Him the most natural question in the universe, He asked, “Why?” “Why did Sarah laugh and say, Will I really have a child, now that I am old? Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (v. 13-14) He asked the latter question rhetorically of course. Then He answers the rhetorical question by saying in effect, “I have even set a date for this!” He says, “I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” (v. 14)

Now the picture painted in the scripture to me describes that Sarah was out of sight behind the flaps of the tent and that she laughed to herself. So initially Sarah may have thought that she was safe from discovery. Surprised that these supernatural guests knew of her laughter and her thoughts she became afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.” (v. 15) We often lie to avoid embarrassment but in reality when we try to cover up a mistake we only add iniquity to iniquity. God sees and hears what goes on behind the flaps of our tents. He knows our hearts. He knows our minds. There’s nothing hidden from Him. We’re transparent to Him. You might think that some things you do are done alone and in secret but in reality, you’re never alone.

Yet even though the Lord knows that Sarah laughed amiss and then lied about it, He shows great mercy when He doesn’t chastise Sarah but simply says, “Yes you did laugh.” (v. 15)

Sarah was looking at her circumstances and thinking, this is just too hard. But God’s response to Sarah was, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (v. 14)

You might be out of work right now and you might be finding it tough to land a job. It seems hard, maybe even impossible. And you’re right, it is hard. Times are tough. The economy is down. Jobs are scarce. It’s hard. It’s hard for you, but pray it through! Because nothing is too hard for the Lord.

A friend of mine lost her husband yesterday. He passed away after an eighteen year battle with cancer. You may have lost a loved one recently, perhaps he or she passed away, or perhaps you lost your loved one when your relationship ended. It’s heartbreaking. It’s devastating. You can feel it, even physically, I know. But the Lord will bring you through it because nothing is too hard for Him.

He created the earth and all that’s in it. He created the atom in it’s microscopic form, electrons flying around a nucleus and they somehow make up all matter.

He created the animals and the plants. He created the human body with all of its various systems: the circulatory system, the nervous system, the skeletal system, the digestive system, the muscular system, the respiratory system, and somehow all of these systems work in harmony to make up a physical living human being. And He did it using nothing but dirt.

He created VY Canis Majoris, the largest star in the known universe. It’s so big that you could fit 7,000,000,000,000,000 or 7 quadrillion earths inside of it.

He created a way for you and I to be saved from our sins, with His Son, Jesus, He provided the way.

If you want to be blessed and encouraged in your current circumstance, do a word search in scripture for the phrase “but God.” (Bible Gateway search for “but God”) You’ll learn how over and over, after human resources have reached their limit, God intervenes and changes everything. There are situations that are too hard for you and for me, but God…

Yes it’s hard right now, for you. But you’re problem isn’t too hard for God. Nothing’s too hard for God.

He’s there for you, you have access to Him.

Pray. Pray through the hard time.

You won’t regret it. I promise.

God has said,

   “Never will I leave you; 
   never will I forsake you.”

Hebrews 13:5

Genesis 18:9-15

“Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him.

“There, in the tent,” he said.

Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”

Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”

Then the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”

Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.”

But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”

[Image via Omar Infante-Ramos – Creative Commons]

References:

Bible Gateway

Blue Letter Bible

Matthew Henry

Ray Stedman

Jon Courson

Genesis 18:1-8 The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day

Abraham at the Trees of Mamre (courtesy of http://kevinsisraeltrip.blogspot.com)

Read Genesis 18:1-8

At the end of Genesis chapter 17 we saw Abraham and all the males of his household circumcised. Circumcision in the Old Testament is a picture of the circumcision spoken of in Colossians 2:11: Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ…

So here in chapter 18, as we observe Abraham after circumcision, we get a look at what life looks like after the Lord has circumcised a man.

Right off you the reader are told who the visitor is as it says in verse one that the Lord appeared to Abraham. But Abraham had no way of knowing. We see in verse two that to him the three appeared to be three men. Some have said that the three represent the three persons of the Trinity. My own belief is that this is a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ along with two angels. As Matthew Henry says, “the appearance of God to Abraham seems to have had in it more of freedom and familiarity, and less of grandeur and majesty, than those we have hitherto read of; and therefore more resembles that great visit which, in the fullness of time, the Son of God was to make to the world, when the Word would be flesh, and appear as one of us.”  Regardless, Abraham’s response to, what to him were three strangers, is very instructional.

To start with, it’s worth mentioning that the Lord appears to Abraham in the heat of the day. Most of the time, that seems to be the case in life. It’s when the heat is on in life, it’s when we’re in the midst of problems that the Lord seems to draw near. The deeper the trouble, the closer He seems to come. The hotter the fire, the nearer His presence. But it’s important to remember that we’re better off in the furnace with Him, than out of the furnace without Him. The heat that we experience in this life, is nothing compared to the heat you could experience in eternity, should you choose to live apart from Christ.

So the Lord draws near to Abraham in the heat of the day — appearing along with a couple of angels as three men, three travelers. I wonder if this was a test from the Lord. A test to see if Abraham was circumcised in his heart as well as in his flesh.

When I was in school I was a crammer. If I knew a test was coming ahead of time, I could study at the eleventh hour, even all night if necessary, and I could pass the test. Well, I’m still in school today but now I’m in God’s school, as are you. And God doesn’t seem to schedule or forewarn of His coming tests. The afternoon is beautiful, you’ve set some time aside to relax at the entrance of your tent, or at the park, or on the beach, or at the pool, and you’re interrupted. Your son or daughter wants to play, your wife needs a hand with something, or your phone rings and it’s a friend or family member who needs a listening ear. What will you do?

Let’s take a look at what Abraham did. Abraham, in the heat of the day and in spite of the heat of the day, which could be in the 120’s Fahrenheit in that part of the world, hurries to minister to these strangers. He hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground. (v. 2) He hurried to help and he presented himself in humility. Those who are truly great before God tend not to present themselves as great before men. “Christ Himself taught us to wash one another’s feet.” (Matthew Henry) Post circumcised Abraham demonstrates this principle of humility. Then he invites, even insists, that the strangers stay with him to rest and take refreshment. The strangers agree to stay and Abraham is off hurrying again. He hurries inside the tent and has Sarah quickly bake some fresh bread. He runs to the herd and selects the best calf and has one of his people prepare it. Then he brings the calf, the bread, some cottage cheese (curds), and some milk and sets them before his guests.

He didn’t offer a coke and a cookie. He didn’t offer a snack. It would be like what I’ve seen my wife Kathy do so many times for guests in our home. She’ll cook up some steaks and serve them with twice baked potatoes, some corn, some peas, some salad with what seems like twenty different vegetables in it, some fresh bread. There’s a choice of five or six different types of dressing. She’ll have a choice of five or six different types of drinks — juices, milk, sodas, lemonade, iced tea. All that is followed by a couple of choices of dessert.

That’s what it was like for Abraham except that he even had to have the cow slaughtered right there on the spot, and Sarah had to bake the bread from scratch! Wow! All that in the heat of the day. Abraham couldn’t have treated them better. He passed his test, he really did have a circumcised heart, living according to the Spirit and not after the flesh. Living for others.

Ray Stedman has told the story of a speaker at a conference who commented on the trend in our culture of increasing apathy toward those in need. This speaker said that he and a colleague were walking down the street and they came upon a drunken person, laying on the ground, half on the sidewalk and half on the street. They were appalled at how the people were walking over and around him, ignoring his plight. “And you know,” he said, “when we came back from lunch he was still there!”

But seriously, God wants us to live for others. This is the pure religion that God tells us about in James 1:27.

Serving others with a circumcised heart is what Jesus was talking about when He said that the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

   “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

   “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:34-40)

So the test for you and the test for me is the same as the test for Abraham. Our culture today pulls us inward. We’re more selfish than ever. We don’t want our Facebook time, or our TV time, or our video game time to be interrupted by three strangers or by anything else for that matter. But God says that we’re to answer when the three strangers approach us. We’re to open the door of our tent to the Lord. Jesus said, Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. (Revelation 3:20)

Christ is knocking. Open the door as Abraham did and let Him in. Live your life according to the Spirit with a heart that’s circumcised of the flesh.

Live for others.

Live for Christ.

Genesis 18:1-8

The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.

He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.”

“Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.”

So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs of the finest flour and knead it and bake some bread.”

Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.

References:

Bible Gateway

Blue Letter Bible

Matthew Henry

Ray Stedman

Jon Courson


Genesis 17 Part Two: I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you


Read Genesis 17

Yes, I know, we’re still in Genesis chapter 17, but it’s so rich that I can’t resist sharing more from this chapter.

Two weeks ago we talked about how Abram, the friend of God, didn’t hear from God for fifteen years. We covered how God sometimes builds our faith by putting us in situations where we don’t hear from Him in the way we anticipated, in the way we desired, or perhaps for a long period of time we seemingly won’t hear from Him in any way at all. We also looked at what we’re to do during those times between God’s speaking to us: how we’re to be faithful in our walk and in what God has set before us to accomplish at church, with our family, at work, etc. (see previous post on Genesis 17:1)

Last week we looked at Abraham’s verbal reply to God’s grace and how faithful God and Christ are to us. They never fail us but are faithful to fulfill their promises. God will always do what’s best for you — always. (see previous post: Genesis Chapter 17 Part One)

This week we’ll cover the story of Genesis chapter 17 in its entirety.

So when Abram’s ninety-nine years old God engages Him in a very powerful and direct manner. The first words out of God’s mouth are “I am God Almighty…” (El Shaddai in the Hebrew) God goes on to tell Abram that he’s to walk before Him faithfully and blamelessly. And He tells Abram again, as He did in Genesis chapter 15, that He will make a covenant with him.

Abram’s response? He falls face down. I like that. That’s how we should respond to God’s presence, with reverence for God and with humility for ourselves.

After that God imparts a more thorough understanding of His covenant to Abram as compared to what He said to Abram in chapter 15. He tells him that he will be “the father of many nations.” And He denotes the covenant by changing Abram’s name from Abram to Abraham, adding the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The number five is the number of grace in the Bible and God’s adding the fifth letter to Abram’s name speaks of God’s grace and faithfulness toward Abraham and his descendants. Over and over again we’ll hear powerful words of grace and blessing from God in this chapter. God tells Abraham that he’ll be the father of many nations and that kings will come from him. He shares that this covenant is an everlasting covenant with Abraham and with his descendants. This is interesting because many from the Muslim faith prefer to believe that God’s covenant with Israel is no longer valid. Personally, I think I’ll go with what God says rather than what men say. God goes on to say that this everlasting covenant means that God will be Abraham’s God and the God of Abraham’s descendants. Then he promises Abraham the whole land of Canaan as an everlasting possession to Abraham and his descendants.

Then God said to Abraham that in addition to walking before Him faithfully and blamelessly, Abraham, Abraham’s male descendants, any male born in Abraham’s household, and any male slave must be circumcised. And anyone not circumcised would be cut off from his people.

I’ll never forget the time when my two sons Gabe and Nate were circumcised. When they were born we were living in a community where the practice of circumcision was considered to be an old fashioned and unnecessary tradition. But after a few years and several unsuccessful battles with minor infections, it became obvious that there are good reasons for circumcision. So we had it done when Gabe was around three and Nate was around one. It was amazing. They were so brave. Afterwards their attitudes were great! They were both very cheerful but oh how carefully and gingerly they walked.

So Abraham’s household was to walk faithfully and blamelessly. And they were to walk awkwardly as well, at least for a day or two — after circumcision.

God then changes Sarai’s name to Sarah. Adding the same letter, the fifth letter, of the alphabet to her name as well. Again, thus emphasizing God’s grace in this exchange and in these promises. God goes on to share that Sarah will bear Abraham a son and will be the mother of nations. He says that kings will come from her!

At this point Abraham laughs at God’s promise to bless him with a son from Sarah. After all, at the time of birth he’ll be one hundred and she’ll be ninety! Romans 4:20 says that he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, so with that in mind, either Abraham laughed out of skepticism but God showed him grace in Romans 4:20, or, Abraham laughed with delight at God’s promise and indeed he did not waver at this point in our story. This is one of many questions I hope will be answered on the other side of heaven. After Abraham laughs he falls into the coulda, woulda, shoulda trap. He made a mess by taking Hagar and now he asks God to bless his mess. How much better off we are when, rather than asking God to do what WE want Him to do, we ask God to do what HE wants to do. It makes so much sense for He who with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens to make the call rather than a tiny speck of dust like me! (Isaiah 40:12) How much better it would have been for Abraham to pray, “Lord, I messed up. What do YOU want to do now?”

God is so gracious in response to Abraham. If I were God my attitude might have been, “laugh at Me will you?!” Then I might have sent a lightening bolt to earth within a few yards of Abraham’s location — just to get his attention. But God doesn’t do that. Instead He simply replies to Abraham, telling him that yes, indeed your wife Sarah will bear you a son and you’ll name him Isaac by the way. Then God says that He’ll establish His everlasting covenant with Isaac.

And He shows more grace by blessing Ishmael. He promises to make him fruitful. He promises that Ishmael will be the father of twelve rulers and that he will become a great nation. “But,” He says, “My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.” (Genesis 17:21)

And that was the end of the conversation. God went up from Abraham.

So Abraham does something very wise at this point. Disregarding that it would be painful, that to adults it was shameful, that his enemies might take advantage during those first few days of awkward walking after the deed was done, disregarding that it might prove offensive to the Canaanites Abraham goes for it. He doesn’t wait. He obeys immediately. On that very day he takes his son Ishmael and all the males, of his family, and of all those who were not family but a part of his household, and of all his slaves, and he circumcises them. There’s wisdom in obeying God’s commands immediately.

And Abraham doesn’t leave himself out even though he’s ninety-nine! Age and experience are often used as an excuse to remain on the sidelines. Not so with Abraham for he is circumcised along with everyone else. This is a great example for husbands and fathers. Your example is often the most powerful thing you have in leading your family.

In verse one the name God Almighty is El Shaddai in the Hebrew. This is the first time in the Bible that we see this particular name used to describe God. El refers to the right arm which speaks of God’s strength. As Psalm 18:2 tells us, The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Shaddai is derived from another word meaning breast which speaks of nourishment and nurturing. So we see that God is our strength and our protector as well as our loving nurturing provider.

And in His love, even as He provided Abraham with the promised land of Canaan, He provides all those who abide in Jesus with our own promised land, for Christ said,

My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:2-3)

“…rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20)

Genesis 17

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.”

 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.”

 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.

 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 Chapter 17

References:

Bible Gateway

Blue Letter Bible

Jon Couson’s Application Commentary, Volume 1

Matthew Henry Commentary