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FOUNDATION (Genesis 17)

GENESIS 17:5-8, 15-19
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Abram was ninety-nine years old when God appeared to him with an announcement that would powerfully impact his future:

 

 Genesis 17:5-8, 15-19
“As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations.  I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”

And God said to Abraham: “As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.”

Then God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. And I will bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her.”

Tissot_God_Renews_His_Promises_to_Abraham_t

God Renews His Promises to Abraham.

Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Shall a child be born to a man who is one hundred years old? And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child? And Abraham said to God, “Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!”

Then God said: “No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him.”

 

Abram had been in the Promised Land for twenty-four years when God again appeared to him. Referring to Himself as El Shaddai, God revealed that He is the all-sufficient and all-powerful One—the One responsible for fulfilling His promises to Abraham.

In this paramount encounter, God changed Abram’s name of “exalted father” to Abraham, the “father of multitudes.”  God also gave Abraham the responsibility for modifying his wife’s name from Sarai (my princess) to Sarah (princess). (1)

Their new names reflected a reaffirmation of God’s promises with the beginning of a new chapter in their lives.

In conjunction with new names, new revelation concerning God’s covenantal relationship with Abraham was given.  God said, “I will make my covenant between Me and you . . .” (Gen. 17:2).  It was not a new covenant, but an expansion of the unilateral covenant God had already confirmed with Abraham—the one God alone takes responsibility to fulfill (Gen. 12:3).  Now, God instigated the plan that would guarantee the fulfillment of His promises for not only a land, but more specifically for a promised descendant.

In His announcement to Abraham, God confirmed that the Abrahamic Covenant would be an, “everlasting covenant,” promising, “all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession” (Gen. 17:7-8).  This reiteration of the covenant also affirmed that the promised son would be born through Sarah.

When he heard the astonishingly good news, Abraham fell on his face and laughed for joy.  Under normal conditions, he and his 90-year old wife could never expect to conceive a son.  Abraham believed God; and, a year before the child was even born, God had already pre-named their son, Isaac.

There was to be no mistake about the identity of the son of the covenant. 

The promised son was Isaac, the son of Abraham and Sarah.  Ishmael—the son born through Abram’s misguided relationship with Hagar was not the true heir.

In the context of the promised descendant through Sarah, God now revealed a sign that would be uniquely associated with the Abrahamic Covenant—the circumcision of all the males in Abraham’s household. 

Abraham’s response demonstrated extreme faith.  Abraham obeyed; the very same day, he and every male in his household were circumcised.  The cost of obedience included the logistics of having every male in Abraham’s household undergo the procedure and the inconvenience of all of the male servants incapacitated during recovery.

Circumcision is the physical sign of the eternal covenant between God and Abraham performed on the eighth day after the birth of every male since that time.

God promised Abraham He would do the impossible. And, Abraham believed God!  God prescribed circumcision as an act of faith.  And, Abraham obeyed!  An amazingly unique people group was about to become a reality!

ENDNOTES:
1) Emil G. Hirsch, Wilhelm Bacher, Jacob Zallel Lauterbach, Joseph Jacobs, Mary Montgomery, “SARAH (SARAI)”, Jewish Encyclopedia.com <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13194-sarah-sarai&gt;.

IMAGES:
1) Bible opened to Isaiah. By, Ken Horn, [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios
2) God Renews His Promises to Abraham. James Tissot [PD-US, PD-Art], via Wikimedia Commons – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios

© Charles E. McCracken 2016, devotional comments only.  Repost/Reprint with permission from the author.  Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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