< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: Genesis 17

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Genesis 17

Genesis 17:1-3 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. 2 Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”
3 Abram fell facedown,

This was 13 years later and apparently no further revelation from God had been made to Abraham. But now He shows up as God Himself. The God who can do anything. “God Almighty.” But every new revelation we receive carries with it an accompanying responsibility to believe it and to act upon it. God calls Abraham to “walk before me and be blameless.” Paul, in Ephesians, tells the Christians there; first what Christ is to the believer and then exhorts them to “live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”

And Abraham fell on his face. That seems to happen a lot in the presence of God! Profound reverence. Jesus and Paul both knelt to pray. John fell to the ground “like a dead man” Daniel lay down on the ground. Most Christians today treat God a lot more casually, don’t they?

Genesis 17:4-14 and God said to him, 4 “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5 No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. 6 I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. 7 I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. 8 The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”

9 Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. 13 Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

To seal the fact that God is now going to do a new thing in Abraham’s life, He gives him a new name. In Scripture a new God-given name often represents a new departure, a new nature, a new power. God also promised not only that Abraham should become the “father of many nations” but that “kings will come from you”. And the covenant was everlasting, not only between Abraham and God, but Abraham’s seed and God.

Verse 8 shows us that God gave Abraham the land of Canaan, presently speaking, the Israel of our day. Today we see the Jews as a nation in this same land promised to Abraham’s seed. In spite of their own sinning against God and His Christ, in spite of persecutions, organized massacres, migrations from one country to another over immense periods of history, Abraham’s physical seed – the Jews- still remain, as no other race, a distinct nation, a separate people, who returned to their land in 1948. They return in unbelief in Abraham’s greater Seed, the Messiah and will not know peace until they acknowledge Him. Nevertheless, their very return fulfills God’s prophecy.

The sign of the covenant would be circumcision. This had been practiced before, but now God ordained it as a recognized outward sign of “Old Covenant” the seal of obedience for all who belonged to Him. It was symbolical of a “cutting off” of the old life; of self effort, failure and sin. It symbolized purification of the heart. Paul later spoke of the spiritual meaning, that true circumcision is the outward sign representing a true inward love of God in trust and obedience.

Paul also mentions it in regard to the Christian. He states that since the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ for us, we no longer need the symbolism or “shadow of reality” of the rite of circumcision. Paul states that Jesus on the cross ‘cut off the body of sin” from us by the circumcision of the Cross. In other words as regarding our sins past and present, we look in faith to the Cross and see that God has removed them as a burden of guilt from us at the cross of Christ.

Genesis 17:15-17
15 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”
17 Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?”

The commentaries I read about this passage say Abraham wasn’t laughing in disbelief here, but in joyous amazement.

Genesis 17:18-22 8 And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”

19 Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. 20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. 21 But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.” 22 When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.

Abraham acknowledged his responsibility for Ishmael and God answers that He has a plan for him too. But He insists that in regard to the covenant and the seed which would eventually end in Messiah, the recognized line would be exclusively through Isaac. And He finally tells him when it will happen; “by this time next year.”

Genesis 17:23-27 On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him. 24 Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised, 25 and his son Ishmael was thirteen; 26 Abraham and his son Ishmael were both circumcised on that very day. 27 And every male in Abraham’s household, including those born in his household or bought from a foreigner, was circumcised with him.
He immediately and completely obeyed. Abraham was now ready to experience God’s miracle.

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