Summary: The Patriarchs God Almighty and the Covenant of Circumcision Genesis 17:9-17:27 David Taylor May 8, 2016
God Almighty and the Covenant of Circumcision
May 8, 2016
Last week we saw that God comes to Abram identifying himself with a new name, God Almighty, and tells Abram to walk before him and be blameless, both of which are connected to God’s mission, Abraham and his offspring were to be a light to the nations around them. We also saw that the promise of offspring is ultimately fulfilled in one offspring, Jesus Christ, so that through his work on the cross, Abraham becomes the spiritual father to a multitude of nations. The Abrahamic Covenant then, centers around God’s mission to reverse the curse of sin and rescue humanity.
Now verse nine says, “as for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations.” Keeping covenant means that all the males of his household must be circumcised, which is the sign of the covenant. Circumcision was a physical and permanent reminder of the covenant. Circumcision was a sign that first, they are members of Abraham’s family who are in covenant relationship with God. The God of the universe chose them and cut a covenant with them to be God to them! This is so significant that those who did not circumcise themselves were cut off from the covenantal community. He is referring to males who were not circumcised as infants who come of age and choose not to be circumcised. They are to be cut off from the blessing of the covenantal community because their actions demonstrate that they are rejecting the covenant. Circumcision was also a sign that distinguished them from the nations around them. As God’s people, they were part of God’s mission to reverse the curse of sin among the nations and so were called to be distinct from the nations. And circumcision was most importantly, a sign that had great spiritual significance. First, it was a sign that the promises of the covenant can only be fulfilled by God. In chapter sixteen, Abraham and Sarah took matters into their own hands. It had been many years since God promised them an offspring and in a weak moment where Sarah’s faith was faltering, she chose to act rather than trust God. So God capitalizes on the very part of the body they used to circumvent Him to teach them that the promised offspring will not come by natural means but by God Almighty. God’s Covenant and God’s kingdom can never be fulfilled by human strength or ingenuity. God is teaching Abraham and Sarah that his covenant is not dependent upon human initiative, human willpower, or human scheming, but is dependent upon God Almighty. God’s promises will only come about by God Almighty, the infinitely powerful one, who spoke the world into existence and who will create life in a shriveled up womb. So circumcision was a sign that they are to trust God, not human effort for the promised offspring. Circumcision also pointed to the need for a circumcised heart, a work of God in the human heart. In this way, it points to the fulfillment of the New Covenant so that those who put their faith in the offspring of Abraham, Jesus Christ, are children of Abraham, the true circumcision and physical circumcision is no longer necessary. This has two implications for us. First, there is a danger to rely on religious acts to you right with God. Or you may have been raised in the church but never put your faith in Christ yourself.
Then God changes Sarai’s name to Sarah and promises that she will give birth to a son and nations and kings. Abraham is 99 and Sarah is 89; Abraham is like a tree with no sap and Sarah is like a wilted flower. What God is promising is humanly impossible. Abraham knows this so he falls to the ground and laughs, saying to himself, “shall a child be born to a man who is a 100; shall Sarah bear a child at 90?” Now a laugh can mean many things. It can be sarcastic, “yah right” or joy, like the birth of a child or an amazing play in a game, or the laughter of someone unconvinced, “no way.” I think he laughs because he sees no way it can possibly happen. So the logical solution in his mind is to ask if Ishmael can be the son of promise. But impossible is not in God’s dictionary. Do you believe God Almighty, the infinitely powerful God who spoke the world into existence is powerful enough to act on your behalf? Abraham is struggling to believe here but he is on the journey. His faith is growing. What about you? Are you on the journey or have you gotten off the bus and are just going through the motions. You have all the external appearances of the journey but there is no internal life. You are living life as if God does not matter or exist or interact with you let alone act on your behalf. Maybe you have so insulated yourself that you no longer take risks so you do not have to trust God. You do not invite that friend to church because you do not think they will come or you fear their response. You don’t share the gospel with your coworker because you do not think they are open or again, you fear their reaction. You don’t pray for the sick because you do not think God will heal them or you don’t have the elders pray for you as Scripture tells you because you don’t think God will heal you. You do not bring in a case of food because you don’t think God will provide for you or you don’t care. You don’t trust that God is God Almighty. This is where theology, how you think about God, impacts how you live your life. You disdain theology but your faith is so anemic that you are on life support.