Encountering God – Part 10: Seeing God
We had been looking at encountering God in worship, and are now moving to real-life examples from the bible of what happened when certain men encountered God. Last week we looked at Abram’s first encounter with God, and this week, we will look at another encounter he has with God.
Genesis 17:1-8 NLT: When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, "I am God Almighty; serve me faithfully and live a blameless life. 2I will make a covenant with you, by which I will guarantee to make you into a mighty nation." 3At this, Abram fell face down in the dust. Then God said to him, 4"This is my covenant with you: I will make you the father of not just one nation, but a multitude of nations! 5What’s more, I am changing your name. It will no longer be Abram; now you will be known as Abraham, for you will be the father of many nations. 6 I will give you millions of descendants who will represent many nations. Kings will be among them! 7"I will continue this everlasting covenant between us, generation after generation. It will continue between me and your offspring forever. And I will always be your God and the God of your descendants after you. 8Yes, I will give all this land of Canaan to you and to your offspring forever. And I will be their God.
This is Abraham’s 4th documented encounter with God.
During his first encounter, (which we talked about last week) he hears God’s voice in some manner, and he obeys. He obeys God’s call to leave his old life behind, all he knew, all he built his life upon, and followed God to a land he didn’t know, a future he didn’t’ know, a provision he didn’t know. And, he receives a great promise to be blessed and to become a blessing to the entire world.
He has several subsequent encounters with God’s voice (that I will not describe in detail today) that I will refer back to that include:
Genesis 13:14-18 Where God tells him he can inherit everything he walks upon. Genesis 15:1-6 God promises him a son that will be a real descendent.
By the time of this passage of Gen. 17, at least 14 years have elapsed in Abram’s life since God was last recorded as speaking with him.
During that time, Abram figured that maybe he needed to give God some help in creating a son, so he lays with his wife’s slave Hagar. The resulting son, Ishmael, is a boy of 13 by this time. Abram and Sarah had grown to the age of 99 and 89 which made them to old to hope for a child of their own.
The covenant promises of over a decade ago had faded considerably in Abram’s mind and especially those about Abram and Sarah having a son.
Not only that, but this period of silence was the longest pause in God speaking to Abram since Abram had arrived in the land of Canaan.
Let’s look at V1: “Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram…”
Now, at this encounter he doesn’t just hear God, but he sees God in some form or fashion.
Up till now, Abram’s encounters with God have been limited to simply hearing this Voice that told him what to do and where to go .
But this time, he sees some visible manifestation of the divine presence, most likely the Shekinah or radiant glory of God.
The Glory of God Revisited:
I want to briefly revisit the principles of the visible manifestation of God that I taught about a 6 weeks ago…for those who weren’t here as well as for those who may not have fully comprehended it the first time I mentioned it.
The Glory of God, as we understand it, is the visible manifestation of the Divine Presence – God, who is invisible Spirit becomes visible in some majestic manner as He intrudes into our material world of time and space.
I shared some weeks ago about how the glory of God and the presence of God are two ends of a spectrum of God’s revelation of Himself to us. (chart).
If you are a Christian, the bible says that you have God’s presence, every time two or more gather in the Name of Jesus.
If you are not a Christian, you still have a very limited experience of God’s presence, because the total absence of God’s presence would be “hell” itself.
Moving along the spectrum, God’s presence, which is intangible, felt and subjective, can be increasingly intense, including hearing His voice.
At some point, God’s presence moves from being merely subjective to being objective, and we call that the visible Glory of God. The visible Glory of God occurs when God steps into our space and time and often involves an interruption of the laws of nature that He Himself has set up.
An example of the glory of God being manifested and seen by people could be the verifiable miraculous healing of someone from a disease. That’s the low end of the visible scale of Glory.
Another example of the glory of God being manifested would be Jesus at His resurrection. He was visibly seen by over 600 people.
Yet another example would be the phenomena known as Pentecost. Everyone heard the mighty rushing wind, everyone saw the tongues of fire, the disciples all experienced the power of God in their lives and the crowd all heard them speaking in their own language.
For Abraham (and later Moses), he caught sight of the glorious presence of God in a physical, material manner.
Do you know how I can be sure of this? Not just because the bible says so, but because of his reaction to what he saw!
Verse 3 says, “Abram fell on his face,”
Worship, especially prostrate worship, is universally and eternally the one and only appropriate response we can make to the visible manifestation of God in our midst.
Now we have spent a number of weeks talking about our response to and our desire for God’s glory to be manifested to us.
But I want you to hear what God says to Abram that was important enough for God to appear before Abram.
V1-2: When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, "I am God Almighty (El Shaddai); serve me faithfully and live a blameless life. I will make a covenant with you, by which I will guarantee to make you into a mighty nation."
First, God identifies Himself to Abram. He tells Abram that He is El Shaddai.
The word El means ’God’
But if El means mighty, powerful etc in itself, why couple it with a word, ’Shaddai’?
Shaddai is generally translated ’almighty’, but the root of the word (shad) is translated ’breast!’
This has implications, because the word means that God is the One who is the Source of nourishment and supply.
In the same way that a mother’s breast is "all-sufficient" for her newborn baby’s nourishment, God is "all-sufficient" for His people.
This is a revelation of God’s strength and sufficiency.
God has enough. God is enough - no matter what the situation or circumstances.
We could say it this way… “El Shaddai” is the name of “the all-powerful and all-sufficient God who can do anything and meet any need.”
God’s Name and Character of “all sufficient, all mighty” is revealed in the context of Abram’s weakness, frailty! (age 99).
Recall Abram is 99 years old, his wife at 89 is well past menopause. Abram has no children through Sarai. And now, God doesn’t just speak up but SHOWS up and says, ’I am God the almighty provider and nourisher! And I am going to make you the father of a mighty nation.
This is an incredibly bold statement to believe because there is a major obstacle to Abram believing God.
I think it was the fact that 24 years earlier a promise had been made and it still had not yet been fulfilled.
Abram had to be wondering, was he being taken for a ride here?
Why didn’t God give him a son when his wife and himself were still capable of bearing children?
Now God literally SHOWS UP and tells him its going to happen. What’s wrong with this picture?
What’s wrong is that God is telling Abram that He isn’t going to do the possible, the difficult or even the unordinary…but rather, the impossible!
It is such a ludicrous statement that in verse 17 we see Abram laughing in disbelief that God was still contending that he could bear a child and in 18:12 Sarah has a fit of giggles as well.
It in this context of impossibility that God reveals himself, and calls Himself the All Sufficient One.
What God is saying by revealing this characteristic of His nature and name is, “don’t worry about what you have or haven’t yet received. I am all you need and will supply you with all you need.”
The Name El Shaddai is a revelation of a characteristic of God that we call OMNIPOTENCE.
The omnipotence of God means that he does whatever he pleases.
Psalm 115:3, says "Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases." In Isaiah 46:9-10 God says, "I am God and there is none like me …
He can do whatever he pleases.
Ultimately the only thing that determines what God will accomplish and what he won’t is his own will. That is what it means to be almighty or omnipotent.
If it was El Shaddai’s will to give Abram and Sarah a baby – nothing could stop him, not age or disbelief – because he is almighty.
The omnipotence of God means that his power is superior to all other powers.
He is high above all others…so why do we put our trust in other gods which fail.
For us, we are probably not tempted to go and worship Baal, Budda or one of the million Hindu gods.
We are more likely to place our trust and hope in our talents, our money, our career or education.
You’ve likely heard that God helps those who help themselves –is that in the bible? (Nope, its found in Aesop’s Fables).
That not biblical, that’s just plain wrong!.
God helps those who are helpless to help themselves.
When you have nothing left but God, then you become aware that God is enough. - Maude Royden
Don’t be fooled our talents, our abilities, our career, our money…can be gods which rule our lives and drive our ambitions.
El Shaddai, however, is the Almighty God who is more powerful than any other.
Abram had heard the promise and figured since his wife couldn’t have a baby, maybe by his wife’s slave he could. So with 2 wives, life is miserable. Oops, that didn’t work. (ever done that…try things YOUR way?).
Now God comes to him after a 13 year period of silence and says, “well, have you learned your lesson yet?”
He was saying to Abraham, “You have been learning for thirteen years the total inadequacy of your own efforts, through Ishmael. Now learn a new thing about me. I am El Shaddai.
In Fact, God literally waits until it is impossible for Abram to do something on his own…so that Abram will know that he knows that he knows that it was God who done did it!
God is saying to Abram, “You have discovered by sad experience how futile your plans and efforts can be without me. Now learn how capable I am to do everything that I desire to do, whenever I desire to do it.”
How we need to discover this truth!
We need desperately to recover the reality of El Shaddai, the God who is sufficient for whatever we are going through right now!
This is what Abraham and Sarah learned in their encounter with God!
NOTE: After God reminded Abraham of WHO He was, He then told Abraham exactly what HE was going to do. Seven times God says, “I WILL”.
We each need to know God as the God who WILL and not just the God who IS.
Genesis 17:3-5 “…Then God said to him, "This is my covenant with you: I will make you the father of not just one nation, but a multitude of nations! What’s more, I am changing your name. It will no longer be Abram; now you will be known as Abraham, for you will be the father of many nations.”
God reiterates His promise and covenant with Abraham. He will make him the father of not just one nation but many nations. And then God changes Abram’s his name was changed from Abram, a high father, to Abraham, the father of a multitude.
In Eastern countries a change of name is an advertisement of some new circumstance in the history, rank, or religion of the individual who bears it.
“In Hebrew God added one letter to Abram’s name, the letter formed by breathing. In Hebrew, the name Jehovah is formed by the five vowels. I, E, O, U, A, with the twice repeated H. The word for spirit, which means breath, is ruach in Hebrew, which is pronounced by expelling air. God was adding His name to Abram.” (Donald Grey Barnhouse. Genesis: A Devotional Exposition. [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975] pp. 133-134.)
The best explanation is that God took part of his own name and added to Abraham and Sarah’s names
All believers have a new name, Revelation 2:17
Believers are named from Christ, Ephesians 3:15
When you come to Christ, you get a brand new start, a brand new nature and a brand new name.
So How about you?
Are you wondering if God is able to supply you with all you need? To meet that crisis in your life?
Are things looking hopeless, impossible and useless?
Have you exhausted all your resources and are you at your wit’s end?
Is it impossible for you?
Today, you need an encounter with El Shaddai, the All Sufficient One, the All Powerful One, the One who can do the impossible.
What is Your response to The God who is All Mighty, All Powerful, All Sufficient for your needs?
Fall before Him. Abram fell facedown.
When Abram heard from El Shaddai, Genesis 17:3 indicates that he dove for the dirt:
This is also what Ezekiel did when he caught a glimpse of the Almighty in Ezekiel 1:28: “I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking.”
Even when we don’t understand we can still worship.
Abram didn’t know HOW God would do what He said, but He still worshipped Him.
Run to Him.. Have you been running from God?
You can reach out and have a relationship with the God who is reaching out to you
Stop running away from Him and run to Him right now.
Trust Him when circumstances tell us not to.
Even when your circumstances stay “it is hopeless” God is still ABLE.
Eph. 3:20 “Unto Him who is able to do exceedingly and superabundantly above all we can ask or think…”
Trust Him. Don’t trust your intellect, your smarts, your instincts, your ability. "When we depend upon organizations, we get what organizations can do; when we depend upon education, we get what education can do; when we depend upon man, we get what man can do; but when we depend on God, we get what God can do." A.C. Dixon
Trust Him. You will be glad you did!
"In the summer of 1876, grasshoppers nearly destroyed the crops in Minnesota. SO in the spring of 1877, farmers were worried. They believed that the dreadful plague would once again visit them and again destroy the rich wheat crop, bringing ruin to thousands of people.
The situation was so serious that Governor John S. Pillsbury proclaimed April 26 as a day of prayer and fasting He urged every man, woman and child to ask God to prevent the terrible scourge. On that April day all schools, shops, stores and offices were closed. There was a reverent, quite hush over all the state.
The next day dawned bright and clear. Temperature soared to what they ordinary were in midsummer, which was very unusual for April. Minnesotans were devastated as they discovered billions of grasshopper larvae wiggling to life. For 3 days the unusual heat persisted, and the larvae hatched. It appeared that it wouldn’t be long before they started feeding and destroying the wheat crop.
On the fourth day, however the temperature suddenly dropped, and that night frost, covered the entire state. Result - it killed every one of those creeping, crawling pests as surely as if poison or fire had been used, It went down in the history of Minnesota as the day God answered the prayers of the people."
What prayer do you need answered?
Catch a vision, a glimpse of the God who is AllMIGHTY!
Song: Open our Eyes Lord…