Summary: Genesis verse-by-verse
[Daytimer, cell phone and wallet demonstration.]
You know what the main reason I need these things is? Because I’m human. God doesn’t need anything to remind Him of anything. He doesn’t need post-it notes. He doesn’t need a Palm Pilot. And He doesn’t need a secretary. He’s God. But us – we need constant reminders and instructors to help us through life.
We need these types of things in our spiritual lives as well. Reminders and instructors of who God is and that we need to live every moment for Him. Things like:
- Symbolism: cross, fish, baptism, communion
- Community: church, friends, teachers, pastors
- Instruction: God’s Word, Holy Spirit
These help us remember who God is and that we need to live for Him. And why do we need these reminders? Because we’re human.
Old Testament saints needed things like these as well. Guides and reminders of who God is and that they need to live for Him. And that’s exactly what we see in our passage tonight.
We pick back up the story of Abraham in Genesis seventeen which takes place thirteen years after the events that were recorded in Genesis sixteen. That’s the chapter that records how Abram had a child through Hagar instead of waiting for God to give him a child through his wife Sarai. Thirteen years have passed and God shows up to talk with Abram.
[Read Genesis 17:1.]
This is the first place in the Scripture where God is referred to as God Almighty, which in the Hebrew is El Shaddai. This is an important designation for God especially because of the context. God’s about to perform the impossible through Abram by bringing forth nations through him and his wife who is way beyond child-bearing years. But with God nothing is impossible and He wanted Abram to know that. El Shaddai – Almighty God!
He also wanted him to know that He expected him to trust Him and obey His commands. Yes the covenant’s fulfillment depended on God. But true faith in God results in obedience to God. Abram was responsible to live for Him.
So God shows up and wants Abram to know who He was – Almighty God, and what He expected from him – complete trust and obedience. And to help Abram, and his descendants along, God gives him several things to guide and remind.
1. God gives Abram His Word
[Read Genesis 17:2-8.]
This is the forth time God has talked with Abram about the covenant. He again lays out what would happen as a fulfillment of the covenant.
(And by the way, when these promises were fulfilled, they themselves stand as a
constant reminder of who God is and what He expects from His people.)
Abram had the Word of Almighty God. He even heard it with his own ears! There was no
doubting what God was going to do through him. He didn’t need an interpreter for God’s Word to him. He didn’t need an easier to read translation of God’s Word to him. He didn’t even need a teacher to help him understand what God really meant. He had heard it time and time again. God had spoken to him loud and clear.
When doubts would arise, this would be something that Abram could use to remind himself of who God is and what He expects of him. Along with giving Abram His Word:
2. God gives Abram a new name
[Read Genesis 17:5.]
Abram – “exalted father”
Abraham – “father of many”
Now Abram most likely got his name from his father Terah, whom we know was a pagan man from previous studies. It’s possible that Abram was from some sort of royalty or position of power with a name that mean “exalted father”.
But that’s not who Abram was any more. He was now a believer in the One True God and would be a father of many. So God gave him a name that was had everything to do with the future and nothing to do with the past. Abram’s new name would be a constant reminder of what God wanted to do through him moving forward in life.
Now this new name might have been a little embarrassing for a while. I mean, can you imagine him telling everyone that he would now be called a name that meant “father of many” when he, at 99 years old, only had one kid. But nevertheless, Abram’s new name would be a constant reminder to him and everyone else of what God wanted to do through him. And then when it happened, what an amazing thing it would be to recall how it was Almighty God who called attention to the covenant through Abram’s new name Abraham.