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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

September 23, 2015

Genesis 17:1-8

  1. Verse 1. The text skips thirteen years since Abram and Sarah took matters into their own hands and Abram slept with Hagar and conceived a son. After these silent years, Abram must have been greatly encouraged by this encounter with God. In this revelation, the Lord manifested Himself more fully in terms of His character and attributes. God referred to Himself as "God Almighty" (El Shaddai). So far, the primary name by which the Lord has revealed Himself is Elohim, meaning the God who creates and sustains nature. El Shaddai, on the other hand, refers to the God who constrains nature, the One who actually causes nature to do what is against itself. In other words, God is capable of working miracles. He created natural laws; He can violate natural laws. El Shaddai is a designation, which emphasizes God’s infinite power (Exod 6:3). Interestingly, the word El means ”the strong one," while the word Shadd refers to the bosom of a nursing mother. This suggests that God is the One from whom Abram was to draw strength and nourishment. By a most tender image, God seems to be saying that we are empowered to live out our responsibilities in the covenant by feeding on Him, just as a child grows by feeding on the milk of its mother. This is a timely word. Abram had spent-the last thirteen years living with the strife and turmoil that his sinful decision had produced in Ishmael. Now Abram was about to learn that God's promises are fulfilled not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord Almighty (Zech 4:6). It would be El Shaddai who would accomplish His will in Abram's life! God is able, whatever the circumstance and whatever the difficulty (Eph 3:20). Do you believe this? Is there anything too difficult for God to accomplish in your life? Can He restore your marriage? Can He transform your wayward child? Can He redeem your job? If He truly is a supernatural God, then He can. Will you put your trust in Him to work in your life? This almighty God says to Abram, "Walk before Me, and be blameless” (17:1b). As Enoch and Noah had walked with God (5:21-24; 6:9) so now Abram is commanded to "walk before God.” He is not commanded to jog, run, or make a mad dash, he is commanded to walk. God also states that Abram is to "be blameless.” The word “blameless” means “complete, whole, having integrity." Abram was to conduct himself as if always being in God's presence. What a challenge for Abram and for us. It is easy to be blameless on Sunday morning but it is far more difficult to live a blameless life Monday through Saturday. God wants His disciples to be people of integrity, not hypocrisy.

  2. Verse 2-3. Two times in this verse, God says, "l will..." The promises of this covenant are from God (cf. 15:18). He takes the initiative. The word translated "establish” means” to set in motion." At this time, the Lord is going to begin to fulfill His promises to Abram. The word ”covenant” (berith) is central to this narrative. The phrase "My covenant" occurs nine times. The word "covenant" appears another four times. The use of the word “everlasting” captures God's firm resolution to establish a people through Abram. What an encouragement this must have been to Abram. In spite of his ill-advised encounter with Hagar (16:3-4), God was going to honor His covenant with him. Even when we are faithless, God remains faithful (2 Tim 2:13). Regardless of what you have done, God wants to extend His grace to you. Have you sinned against God? Have you failed Him in your marriage vows, in your relationship with your children, in your work performance? Today, He says to you: Return to Me, I want to restore you. I want to bless you. Upon hearing these words, “Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him" (17:3). Abram responds physically and demonstratively. Why? Because He met with God who is gracious and merciful! In the Bible, when men and women meet with God, there is some form of physical expression. It is very difficult to worship God without being expressive. The idea of worshipping God within 0ne’s heart is a western phenomenon that is not practiced by the rest of the world and will not be in the eternal state (Rev 4-5). When you meet with God, l encourage you to express yourself to Him.

  3. Verses 4-5. Abram is to be the father of other nations besides Israel. "Nations" is a key word that is repeated three times in 17:4-6. This serves as a reminder that God’s program includes all people: "every tribe, tongue, people, and nation" (Rev 5:9; 7:9). In these verses, God also changes Abram’s name. "Abram" means "exalted father." Now God changes Abram’s name to "Abraham," which means ”father of a multitude." As believers in Jesus Christ, we have also been given a new name and a new identity. Thus, we seek to live according to who we are. God's drama continues, and it is for our benefit that He writes the script. He delights us with an age-old theme of just an ordinary man doing the extraordinary—a simple, humble man chosen to become the father of a great nation. Isn't it wondrous that God takes insignificant people like you and me and uses us beyond our greatest expectations (Ps 113:5-9; Eph 3:20)?

  4. Verse 6-8. "I will" occurs five times in 17:6-8. (1)"I will make you exceedingly fruitful." God promises Abraham many descendants. This has been God's plan from the beginning (e.g., Adam, Noah). (2) ”I will make nations of you, and kings will come forth from you.” Not only would nations come from Abraham but even kings, eventually culminating in Jesus—”the King of Kings.” (3) ”I will establish my covenant between Me and you and your descendants." We worship God individually, but we also want to have a legacy of unbroken family members trusting in Christ. (4)"I will give you and your descendants the land as an everlasting possession." God will give not only descendants, but land as well. (5)”I will be their God.” This last phrase is significant. God wants to be our God. He wants our relationship with Him to change our lives! This makes sense when you think about it. After all, you wouldn't expect to get married without it modifying your life at all. Imagine someone saying, "Oh yes, I’m married, but I don't let it affect my life. I do what I want with my money and my time. No, I don't spend time with my wife. Yes, I talk with her occasionally, but only when I really need something from her." You would think that was a pretty strange way to behave; yet people think that they can behave that way with God.

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