Summary: A look at God’s covenant with Abraham
Mt. Diablo is only about 3,500 feet, but it is very noticeable as it sits all alone in the Concord, California valley. Before I called them "God sightings" I found myself caught up in an "aha" moment as I looked at the cloud covered Mt. Diablo. I couldn’t help but think that if someone took off from Buchannan Field and didn’t know the mountain was they would be in for a rude awakening. Some of you know that I lived in denial about the existence of Mt. Rainer. I’d seen only a cloud cover where there was suppose to be a huge mountain. Had I piloted a plane through those clouds, it wouldn’t matter how much I believed there was no mountain I would be dead wrong. Just because one doesn’t see the mountain doesn’t mean it’s not there.
We’re walking with Christ toward His death on Good Friday and His vindication on Easter. Jesus didn’t do this because He thought it would be a nice moral lesson for us. He didn’t do it as an example of how to pour our lives out for a cause greater than ourselves. He did it because it was the only way that humans could finally stand before their creator.
Two words jump out at us from Romans, "righteous" and "faith". The promise of Abraham, the fulfillment of the covenant of the land, God’s choosing of his people etc. all came about because Abraham believed God. What’s more there was nothing Abraham or Sarah could do to earn this. The promises they received flowed out of God’s immense and totally perfect love—His grace.
To be "righteous" is to have one living as friends rather than as enemies. Righteous people are living at peace with God not at war with Him. They know their place and they recognize God’s supremacy. Our tendency to desiring to "be like God" starts is recognized quickly and forgiveness is sought. "Faith", to believe is active not passive. Abraham knew situations were not in his favor when it came to God’s promise. He and his wife were past the age of having children. Faith comes about when they acted in agreement with what God promised.
Let me share some ideas that may help us grow in a biblically sound faith.
First, believe in the God of scripture not a god of our imagination. God, Almighty El Shaddai is the name given here by God to Abram. He is the God who can make a 90 year old woman pregnant. He is the God who can split a sea in half so His people can cross on dry land. He is the God who can cure the ill, make the blind see and raise the dead. He is the God who is able to lay down His life for those whom the Father has given Him and take it up again. Is this the God we follow? I’m not talking about crossing our fingers and hoping or wishing things would be different.
Faith is seeing God’s word coming out in the world and getting on board with it even though it doesn’t make any sense given the situation. It is being generous in a time of sacristy because God tells us to welcome the stranger in our midst and to give freely. It is telling someone about our own encounter with Christ even though it’s not politically correct to do so. It is stating the truth about life, responsibility and issues in one’s community when most of that same community prefers to remain shrouded in their sound bites, mistakes and lies.
Eight times God tells Abraham "I will" and all of them were inconceivable. God would make Abraham father a child and from that child nations. He makes the same promise later of Abraham’s wife Sarah. God would confirm and establish the promise he’d made with Abraham to be His God. This took place in a multi-religious, multi-cultural setting we can only imagine. God also promises to give the land on which Abraham and his family are currently wandering. God almighty would do this.
Abraham’s part was quite simple. He was to subject himself and all the other males to the sign of God’s covenant. It was an act of faith not penance. It was an act of trust not sacrifice. It was an active step that told God, I am Yours and I believe. We need to live out an active, ongoing and Spirit directed belief in El Shaddai. And this includes those times when the situations say we can’t.
Second, accept God’s new name for you. One commentator wrote,
In traditional societies, and particularly in the OT, names were much more important than they are today. If for us personal names are little more than labels, in the OT they express a person’s character and destiny...we have God himself dictating a name change in midlife. This makes the name ...a divinely guaranteed statement about Abraham’s identity and future destiny. His very name guarantees that he will father many nations.