Summary: Genesis 17:1-27 shows us that God Almighty established with Abraham and his seed an everlasting covenant with the stipulation that they receive the sign of membership in God's covenant family.
Two Sundays ago, I started a new series of sermons on “The Life of Abraham.” We are examining only selected incidents from Abraham’s life.
Last time we examined God’s call to Abraham when he was still known as Abram and living in Ur of the Chaldeans. In obedience to God, Abram, at seventy-five years old, left family, clan, and land to follow God’s call to go to Canaan and claim the promises God made to him in Genesis 12:2–3, “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
However, a number of challenges threatened the promise to Abram. There was a famine, a trip to Egypt, the accumulation of wealth there, the return to the Promised Land, war between kings, and the rescue of his nephew Lot, to name just a few. After about ten years, God reaffirmed his promises to Abram in Genesis 15:1-21, and made a covenant with him that Abram would not be childless. At this point, however, Abram’s wife, Sarai, sought to resolve the problem of her barrenness and gave her maidservant Hagar to Abram to bear a child on her behalf. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram (Genesis 16:16).
Thirteen years later, when Abram was ninety-nine years old, God appeared to Abram and reaffirmed his covenant with him.
Let’s read about God’s covenant with Abraham in Genesis 17:1-27:
1 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, 2 that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” 3 Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, 4 “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. 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 you into nations, and kings shall come from you. 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”
9 And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. 10 This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, 13 both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”
15 And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16 I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” 17 Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” 19 God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. 20 As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. 21 But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.”