Summary: God has called upon us to walk before him in holiness, and has revealed that he is powerful enough to make his promises come to pass.
Pastor’s note: I wanted to call this "A Cut above" but couldn’t bring myself to do it.
Passage: Genesis 17:1-27
In Genesis 15 God came to Abram and introduced repeated to him the Abrahamic covenant and it’s central tenant; that of God’s undeserved blessing to Abram. God took Abram outside the tent flap and promised him that he would have more offspring that God had made stars. And Genesis 15:6 records the life transforming faith of Abram as it says, "Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness. It’s vital that we get this chronology into our minds, because it’s not until long after that faith transformation that God would again come to Abram with the covenant of Circumcision.
As we open chapter 17: 1-27, know that it has been more than 13 years since God’s appearance in Chapter 15. It has been a long silence from God.
Isn’t it true, that during those long silences your faith is most tested? Abram was no different. The silence of God had caused him to want to rush down the road to make things happen at Abram’s speed instead of in God’s timing. As a result, Ishmael had been born. Now, Ishmael is 13 years old. Abram is 99 and His wife is now 90. Abram’s faith has been stretched and stressed, and God now makes one more physical appearance in front of Abram.
The story itself is straight forward. Abram is going about his day and suddenly God appears to him and declares himself. "I am God almighty! Walk before me and be blameless." What a command that is. Abram must surely have felt unequal to the task.
The command given to Abram is that he be blameless. What man can be blameless? Perfection and blamelessness is not possible apart from Jesus Christ. The word in the command is Tamim and it signifies completeness. How can any man apart from his creator be considered complete? While still yet 1800 years away from Christ’s atonement, even then God demanded perfection. Perfection that He alone gave and still gives.
Abram’s mind reeled as God took the initiative and the responsibility for a covenant as he continued: "I will establish my covenant between me and you.
FIRST: I’m going to cause you to have LOTS of descendants. And I’m going to change your name to Abraham as a sign of that.
And God continued with the SECOND CLAUSE...
Number two: I’m also going to covenant with you and your descendants to be Their God. What an enormous blessing! That not only Abraham would serve God but also his children would have the one true God as their God.
God continued with the THIRD CLAUSE: I will give you and your descendants this land forever.
Then God turned to Abraham and said. Your end of the bargain is that you and every male in your household must get circumcised as a sign that you are in covenant with me. If someone refuses, they are to be removed from the blessings of this family.
having stated Abraham’s single covenant responsibility, God now adds a FOURTH CLAUSE to his end of the deal.
He changes Sarai’s name to Sarah and promises that she will bear a son to be named Isaac. Sarah then will share the promised blessings given to Abraham as well. Abraham realizes that Ishmael isn’t going to receive the covenant blessing but he prays for him, and God states that he will also bless Ishmael for Abraham’s sake.
with the conversation ended, and the covenant proclaimed; God ascends, from Abraham’s presence. Abraham immediately keeps his end of the covenant. With his end fulfilled, All the "burden" now lays on God to fulfill his end of the covenant. And that he will do.
Chapter 17 is a momentous passage and it is functionally the second most important event in Abraham’s life. The first being in chapter 15, his conversion by faith. The circumcision in this chapter may in some levels be likened to the follow up to faith which we experience: Christian Baptism.
I would like to step in and review for a moment each of these covenant clauses.
The Prelude: "I will establish my covenant between me and you." Don’t pass over the fact that God has taken the initiative in coming to Abraham. God has revealed himself here as "God almighty" which highlights his ability to keep the covenant he is making. This, in and of itself is remarkable. But that’s how it works for us as well. God has called us to be in his family, and he has taken all the responsibility upon himself. He has selected us, He has saved us, and he will carry us home.
Remember the words of Jude which we looked into this morning. "To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy..." (Jude 1:24 NIV) The emphasis on duty and ability is God’s. Praise God that he is able to carry us home!