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

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


Read Genesis 17

My nephew Kody and his friend Eric, who he served with in Iraq, stayed with us for a few days this week. During their stay I marveled at how close they are to each other.

There’s a bonding that occurs between men in combat that others can’t understand. It comes from fighting together, shoulder to shoulder. It comes from surviving together in the face of a life threatening enemy. The bond is especially strong toward one who gives everything he has for his fellow soldiers. This is a story about such a man.

For the last several years he gave everything he had to his comrades. He helped them endure through great battles. He helped them to overcome many great challenges. They survived many attacks from the enemy together. They accomplished great things together. They had bonded the way soldiers bond. They were friends on a level others couldn’t understand. Yet here came one of them, one of his friends, to expose him to the enemy — for money.

Realizing he was about to be betrayed, his heart sank, he felt sick at the thought. Betrayed by a friend. As his friend approached the man gave him one last chance to change his mind.

Must you betray me? he asked.

His friend didn’t reply but just signaled the enemy forces, revealing him, exposing him.

He could have escaped right then. There was a window of opportunity when he could have run. But he sensed that this was a way he could complete his mission. So he purposed in his heart to go. He was determined to be faithful to complete his mission.

He was carried off by the authorities. Once in their control, they attempted to trick him into a confession, they lied about him, they spit on him. But he persevered. He was determined to be faithful to complete his mission.

They asked him questions, insinuating questions. They mocked him, they ridiculed him. But he endured. He was determined to be faithful to complete his mission.

More questions, more insinuations. They beat him, they punched him. Finally, desperate to break him, they beat him to a bloody pulp. But he would not break, he would not give up! He was determined to be faithful to complete his mission.

He was determined to die because dying was the only way. So he carried his cross and allowed them to nail him to it. He hung there in shame, in pain, while people mocked and ridiculed him.

He hung there, God’s own Son, the very last person who deserved to be nailed to that cross. The only truly innocent one. The only one who walked before God faithfully and blamelessly would die in order to complete His mission.

Finally he said the words, “It is finished.” (John 19:30)

Mission accomplished.


As you look over Genesis 17 notice how everything that God says to Abraham is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. God’s approach is right out of Philippians 4:8! His words are nothing but good and full of blessing. He says to Abraham, “Walk before me faithfully and be blameless…” “You will be the father of many nations.” “I will make you very fruitful…” “kings will come from you…” (Genesis 17:1, 4, 6)

Concerning Sarah God says, “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.” (Genesis 17:16)

But the one paragraph where Abraham opens his mouth he laughs at God’s promises and he whines about God’s distribution of blessings: …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!” (Genesis 17:17-18) Now we have to keep in mind that Romans 4:20 says of Abraham that he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God. So it may be that Abraham was laughing with delight at the great promise that God gave him. I have to confess that most of the Bible teachers I follow and respect ascribe to this thought. But I can’t help but wonder if God, as He so often does, isn’t demonstrating His grace toward Abraham in Romans 4:20, in a similar way to how He showed His grace to Sarah when He included her in the hall of faith. (Hebrews 11:11) I suppose we won’t know the answer until we’re over on the other side.

Either way, God responds with grace toward Abraham. He displays yet more faithfulness toward Abraham…

“…your wife Sarah will bear you a son.” and “as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him…” (Genesis 17:19, 20)

Here’s the reality: God is faithful but people are not. God is faithful but people are not. God is faithful but people are not. Abraham and his children fell short in keeping their end of the covenant. They didn’t walk before God faithfully. They didn’t lead a blameless life.

But God was faithful anyway.

God was faithful to Abraham, to Sarah, to Isaac, and to Ishmael in spite of their shortcomings.

And God is faithful to you and to me in the same way.

Jesus was and is faithful to you. He was faithful to die on the cross for your sins. In spite of the betrayals, the lies, the mocking, and the beatings, Jesus was faithful to complete His mission for you and for me.

He was faithful to you. He died so you could experience eternal life. He had to die on your behalf because the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23 KJV)

That should have been me up there on that cross, that should have been you. But Jesus took your place.

He laid down his life for you.

Listen to your heart right now! You know what you need to do. You need to come to him, to Jesus Christ, and ask him into your life, into your heart.

So do it right now! Ask Him in. Pray along these lines, “Jesus, thank You for dying for my sins. I believe in You. Please be my God, my Savior, my King, and my Friend. Amen.”

It’s oh so much more about God’s faithfulness than it is about your faith.

The bottom line is that He is faithful, He loves you, He will save you.

You have but to ask.


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

The Life of Jesus

A Days Journey by Jon Courson

Genesis 17:1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him

Full of Faith and Faithful - photo from CBS News

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him

Genesis 17:1

Andy Olson is a man’s man. He’s an Oregon State Representative now but in 2001 he was an Oregon State Police Lieutenant. At 6’3″ tall he’s a formidable figure. In the fall of 2001 Andy Olson and I traveled to New York City with a group of Christian firefighters, dispatchers, and law enforcement personnel. Our mission was simple. We wanted to see what we might be able to do to help in the aftermath of the attack on the twin towers.

During much of our time there the tone was somber (we attended more funerals than I can remember) but occasionally we did find time for some levity.

Most of our group entered into a contest of sorts, adopting the classic New Yorker greeting, “How-ya-doin?” with the goal of seeing who could pass as a Native New Yorker out on the street. But I noticed that Andy declined to participate.

One evening as a group of us arrived back at our hostel we overheard Andy practicing his “How-ya-doins,” alone in our room. Except that the “How-ya-doins” kept coming out “How’re you doing?” or “HOW are YOU doing?”

He sounded like Dick Solomon (John Lithgow) from the TV show Third Rock From the Sun. It was one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever heard. When Andy realized that we had overheard, the poor guy was mortified. It was at that time that a Fire Lieutenant from Corvallis named Steve Bowen took Andy under his wing and began to coach him on the nuances of how to deliver this classic New York greeting.

A few evenings later Andy and Steve were walking down the street in Times Square with Andy practicing his “How-ya-doins” when he finally nailed it. He sounded precisely like a native New Yorker. Just then a large African-American man who was a local approached.

“Do it!” Steve urged. “Greet him! You’ve got it. You can do it.”

“How’re you doing?” Andy sang out, reverting back to his Dick Solomon (Lithgow) delivery.

The native New Yorker laughed hysterically.

Back to Genesis: In Genesis 17 Abram is ninety-nine years old and it’s been fifteen years since he’s had a conversation with God. Why on earth would God not speak to the man who the scriptures tell us was God’s friend? (James 2:23)

Maybe that’s where you’re at right now. Perhaps you’ve been seeking the Lord and wondering why He doesn’t seem to respond in a way that causes you to experience His presence. Perhaps you’re feeling as though God is not with you in the way that you desire Him to be.

Take heart! Abram, God’s friend, had to wait fifteen years between conversations!

Remember, he’s not only called God’s friend, but Abram is also called the father of faith. God used the time between conversations to build Abram’s faith. And He’s using this time in your life when you’re not discerning His presence to build yours!

The Bible says that without faith it is impossible to please God. (Hebrews 11:6) So God, being far more concerned with our relationship with Him than He is with our current comfort, will do what He knows to be best for you and for me by putting us in situations that build faith.

Faith is the language of heaven. Fortunately for then OSP Lieutenant Andy Olson, it wasn’t important that he learn to speak the language of the native New Yorkers. But in heaven, few things will be more important than being fluent in the language of faith. Because your ability to communicate in the language of heaven which is faith, is one of the keys to your relationship with God Himself. (Hebrews 11:6)

But there’s more. There’s another aspect of faith. What are we to do during the fifteen years between conversations?

We’re to be faithful.

You may have seen in the news the tragic story of the Criado family in Medford, Oregon. According to the Mail Tribune, police suspect that the father and husband of the family, Jordan Criado, stabbed his wife, killing her, and set his house on fire killing their four children.

My fire department responded to this incident. My own role had to do with extinguishing the fire, but most of the firefighters and law enforcement personnel on duty that day had their hands on those patients. They had their hands on those kids. They did everything they could to save those lives. Sadly, the outcome was already decided before we arrived.

I spoke with many who were on the scene that day and more than one recognized that they were performing extraordinary life saving measures on patients who were already beyond help. But, even knowing this, they were faithful to continue those efforts.

I know many of the firefighters involved in that incident to be believers. Year after year they come to work each day, dedicated to doing their job with all their heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. (Colossians 3:23) They’re faithful in what the Lord has given them to do.

So what are you to do during the fifteen years between conversations? Be faithful. Be faithful in what the Lord has given you to do: at work, as a husband, as a father, as a member of your church, as a youth sports coach, as a volunteer at your local school.

Be faithful in all these things. The next conversation with God will be here before you know it.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men

Colossians 3:23

References:

www.leg.state.or.us/olson/

http://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/index.ssf/2011/07/medford_familys_domestic_disaster_envelops_firefighters.html

Mail Tribune: 10th Street Tragedy

Jon Courson