Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: The promise of a son

Genesis 17:1-27

John Shearhart

December 12, 2010

Last week we saw that Abram tried to rush God by having a son through Hagar. Thirteen years pass by and he’s given up any hope of his 90 year old wife giving him a son, so he considers Ishmael to be the son of the promise (:18).

But God has other plans:

Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am God Almighty; walk before Me, and be blameless.

So God appears as “God Almighty.” He’s the God of power who can supply all our needs and He’s about to do something Abram thinks is impossible:

2"I will establish My covenant between Me and you,

Take your pen and circle the words “I will.” As we go through these verses I want you to circle those two words every time we come across them.

It isn’t “we will” or “you will,” but “I will.”

God establishes His covenant with Abraham according to His own will. It’s not the other way around—Abram didn’t seek out God to make a covenant with Him (which would have been a covenant of works); it’s God who seeks out Abram and wills to covenant with him. Look at the promise:

and I will multiply you exceedingly."

Again, circle the words “I will.” God will give Abram many descendants.

He’s already had one son through Hagar, and he has six more later through a woman named Keturah (25:1-2), but it’s Isaac who’s considered the son of the promise.

Although he has several children, Isaac is called his only son (22:2). That’s because God says “through Isaac your descendants shall be named” (Gen. 21:12).

This promise of descendants isn’t just some generic promise that Abraham will have lots of kids and grandkids; it’s a follow-up from the initial promise in chapter 12 that “in you all the families in the earth will be blessed.”

These descendants are defined by Paul in Romans four when he says the promise…

…is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, 17(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. 18Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be (Rom. 4:16-18).

In other words, to be multiplied exceedingly isn’t in a natural sense but a spiritual one. Abram is the father of all who believe—“to those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead” (Rom. 4:24).

3Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying, 4"As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you will be the father of a multitude of nations.

Take your pen and circle “as for Me” and “My covenant.” If you’ll remember, God is the One who walked the blood path, so it’s His covenant which is kept only by His faithfulness.

God promises him that he’ll be the father of many nations. It’s interesting that the Jews in Jesus’ day put so much stock in being the sons of Abraham when their own Scriptures declare that a multitude of nations can claim the same thing. But it’s not nationality that matters to God—it’s faith!

So God says to him,

5"No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. 6"I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings will come forth from you.

The name God gives him shows that He’s keeping His promise—Abraham means “father of nations.”

7"I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you.

God’s covenant is with the sons of the promise, and it’s an everlasting one because it’s based solely on His faithfulness.

8"I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God."

God did take the people into the land of Canaan, but they were later exiled because of their unfaithfulness. Some people look at this and say that God has failed because it wasn’t their everlasting possession.

But remember, the descendants of Abraham are those who walk in his footsteps of faith (Rom. 4:12). It’s key to note that God will be called “their God”—that is, the God of those who reside in the everlasting possession.

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