[Today: Genesis 17] A Name Change and a Renewed Covenant. After the affair that produced Ishmael time passes as Abram and Sarai continue to age. As this chapter opens we find Abram at 99 years old when the Father shows up to affirm regardless of natural circumstances, Abram will indeed have a son.
[Gen 17:1-27 KJV] 1 And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I [am] the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. 2 And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. 3 And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, 4 As for me, behold, my covenant [is] with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. 5 Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. 6 And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. 8 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. 9 And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. 10 This [is] my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. 11 And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. 12 And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which [is] not of thy seed. 13 He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. 14 And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant. 15 And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah [shall] her name [be]. 16 And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be [a mother] of nations; kings of people shall be of her. 17 Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall [a child] be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? 18 And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee! 19 And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, [and] with his seed after him. 20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. 21 But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year. 22 And he left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham. 23 And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him. 24 And Abraham [was] ninety years old and nine, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 25 And Ishmael his son [was] thirteen years old, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 26 In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son. 27 And all the men of his house, born in the house, and bought with money of the stranger, were circumcised with him.
In v. 1 we see that God is no respecter of time. The biological clock running for Abram and Sarai means nothing to the fulfillment of God’s plan. I grew up in the 60’s when the war cry on the streets was “don’t trust anyone over 30.” Then the 70’s and 80’s came when if you didn’t make a million by the time you were 30 life was over. These are thoughts originating in human frailty and limitation. We find Abram is now 99 years old and he is just getting started in his adventure with God. I remember counseling an older lady as a pastor one day: she was feeling the pressure and to make an excuse she said “I’m just an old woman…” I countered, “No you are not! You are new creation in Christ Jesus! Old things have passed away and all things are become new!” Paul made that statement in the following passage:
[2Cr 5:15-17 KJV] 15 And [that] he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. 16 Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we [him] no more. 17 Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
We need to learn not to judge ourselves or take estimation of ourselves based on our own thinking concerning the constraints of age, ethnicity, social standing or economic prospects. You don’t appreciate it when someone judges you by the color of your skin or the car you drive or your age so DON’T YOU judge yourself or use these things as an excuse not to pursue God’s best and highest plan for your life. God’s purpose for you is your greatest happiness and His highest purpose. You have time. Because God has time you have time. Haggai was 90 years old when his ministry began and he made his mark on all mankind through the book of Haggai. Moses was 80 when he brought Israel out of Egypt. Caleb was 80 when he said “give me my mountain!” Elizabeth and Zecheriah were advanced in years when they conceived John the Baptist who ushered in the inauguration of Christ and changed the course of the entire human race. Do not allow limitation or any natural hindrance to cause you to write yourself out of your own story.
Again the Lord appears to Abram. In the beginning God spoke to Abram but consistently afterward God appeared to Abram. Everyone has a particular modality by which God will speak to them. Some hear, others sense and still others see. Abram was a seer – that is how God communicated with him, in visitation, apparition and vision.
God told Abram to “walk before Me and be perfect…” Gal 5:25 reads “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” There IS a different between the two. Living in the spirit has to do with BEING who God has caused you to be as a new creation in Christ. Walking in the Spirit involves process and progress. Walking defined is to “progress by steps…” At the age of 100 Abram is called by God into a maturing process. The dearth and plague on the older generation is typified in the maxim “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks…” Well Caleb was 80 years old and his name means “dog”. So Caleb’s testimony puts the lie to the excuse. I say to the older generation that CHANGE isn’t HARMFUL change is BENEFICIAL!
Even Jesus, born without sin was not allowed in his humanity to circumvent God’s process:
[Luk 2:40 KJV] 40 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.
Notice that God further told Abram to BE perfect. God wanted Abram to DO something and the BE something. This is the Old Covenant paradigm. Under the law you DID in order to BE. In the New Covenant the order is reversed. God causes us to BE so that we can DO. What does it mean to be perfect before God? The word PERFECT here means to be: “complete, whole, entire, sound; healthful; unimpaired, innocent, having integrity.” God wanted Abram to look at himself and to in essence “pull himself together.” No longer living in the past or struggling with fracture. There are issues in our lives that pull us down throughout our lifetime but there are opportunities that God gives us from time to time to get over things – to forgive, release, bless and move on to higher perspectives, to wholeness. God wanted this from Abram and was on hand to provide the exit ramp to that higher spiritual geography.
In v. 2 God requires maturity from Abram is willing to be in covenant with him to facilitate that happening. God wants some things from you. He wants you to GROW UP before you GROW OLD. What God wanted for Abram He wants for you because you are heirs of the promise of Abraham through Christ.
[Gal 3:29 KJV] 29 And if ye [be] Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Furthermore God reveals his plan for Abram and for you by saying “I will multiply you exceedingly…” It is not possible for God to have one plan for Abram and another plan for you because his covenant with Abram is the template of his covenant with every born again believer (OR we should tear out of our bibles Gal. 3:29).
The word multiply here means: “to cause you to abound with muchness; to multiply with force; exceedingly abundant; to a great degree.” God is not a God of poverty. He is not a food stamp God. He is not the God of barely getting by He is the God who is more than enough. Contrary to the medieval foundations of Christian culture God places NO premium upon poverty or lack. We see this twisted attitude when congress convenes inquiries into prosperous ministries like Kenneth Copeland. Christians get offended when a minister or leader is super-abundantly blessed and call them all sorts of names and level accusation against them as though they should have taken a vow of poverty. Those same people however (most of the Christians) admire and champion the sports figures who make untold millions just for swinging a bat or throwing a football. It is time for believers to renounce the vow of poverty that is crippling their lives and robbing them of the trust perspective God has for their lives. God wants you to experience his MUCH-NESS, but until you are ready to accord that blessing to others you will never experience it for yourself.
In v. 3-6 we find that God’s promise was to make Abram the father of nations. In the natural there were eight nations that came out of Abram and they divided over time into many nations and tribes. God also brought KING JESUS out of Abram and by extension you and I who the New Testament states in four locations are kings and priests unto God (or as far as God is concerned). Kings have rule, territory, jurisdiction and authority. Christianity teaches that only Satan is a principality – but his authority is illegitimate. You are the legitimate principality and power in your own life. God put you in your life like he put Adam in the garden. You have jurisdiction and royal authority over your affairs.
In addition God changed Abram’s name to Abraham. When two parties would come into covenant in bible days they would share each other’s names much the way a wife takes a spouse’s name. The name Jehovah is the Latin form of the Hebrew Yehowah or Yahweh. This Hebrew expression is based on the Tetragrammaton of the unspeakable name of God.
The name of God is actually made of three consonants and the middle consonant is the most sacred and it is totally silent. This middle consonant is the part of God’s name that he gave to Abram. We can say then that God in changing Abram’s name put His silence in Abram. He is now Abraham. The “ha” is formed by an exhalation of the breath. The Hebrew word for breath is the same as the Hebrew word for the Spirit of God – the Ruach! So God in re-naming Abram is foreshadowing the time that He would put His Spirit in us.
Who were the parties to the covenant that God made with Abram (v. 7-9). The covenant was between God, Abraham and Abraham’s seed. We read this (and Jewish scholars read it this way too) that it means to the Jewish people in the lineage of Abram. They are not excluded but that is not what God is saying.
[Gal 3:16 KJV] 16 Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.
So God cut covenant with two people: Abraham and Christ. The descendant of Abram were given the name of Abraham to invoke the promise of God in their lives; we are given the name of Christ to invoke these same promises over our lives.
There were conditions in this covenant that Abraham was to live up to (v. 10-14). Abraham was to circumcise himself and every one of his descendants was to do likewise. Every covenant in those days was concluded with a cut intended to leave a scar as a reminder of the covenant. Usually this cut or scar was made in a visible place so that others knew that they were dealing with a covenant man. This cutting was an inward cut to remind man in his most intimate physicality that he was in covenant with God and also that a promised seed was coming. The circumcision was a prophesy of the SEED to come which was CHRIST.
God’s Covenant always dealings are not misogynistic in character (v. 15-16). Sarai is not left out in the covenant. She also receives the same unspeakable name of God incorporated into her own. Sarah is an equal partner in the covenant. This is a foreshadowing of what Paul declared in Galatians:
[Gal 3:28 KJV] 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
Christian culture is inherently misogynistic. As a man we must champion the equality of women in spiritual matters. Women are inherently more spiritual than men, they generally have more wisdom than men and hear God more readily than men. Sarah was a very patient person with her husband Abram. He did many things that put her in jeopardy and exposed her to ridicule. She may not have liked it but she maintained her faith in God. Peter spoke of this:
[1Pe 3:6 KJV] 6 Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.
As a wife your husband is your assignment. What does it mean that Sara called Abraham “Lord?” It meant that she spoke to the king in him. She spoke to the king in him when outwardly he was nothing more than a sniveling coward. Every man has a fool and a king inside them. If you speak to the king in him the fool will die.
In v. 17-20 God addresses the matter of Ishmael. God even makes your mistakes to prosper. Abraham was concerned for Ishmael. Ishmael should never have been born. Hagar should never have been Abram’s second wife. Yet God’s promise was to multiply Abram and bless all that he put his hand to. That included Ishmael. Remember this in your own life. We have a legalist view of God that He won’t bless us unless we get it right. Not true. God will bless what we do rightly and what we do wrongly. Religious minds reject this thinking as though it promotes promiscuity. Quite the opposite. When God prospered Ishmael it had implications right down to our day. When we truly understand the goodness of God and that there are few prayers he will not answer it will cause us to walk in humility and shamefaced fear knowing that our prayers often have unintended consequences.
God is gracious to Ishmael but the inheritance stands (v. 21-27). Isaac is the promised seed. Every time that God reasserted the covenant with Abram he immediately disobeyed. God told him to leave his kin behind and he brought Lot. He reaffirmed the covenant in the land of Canaan and Abram disobeys and goes to Egypt. Now God reasserts the covenant and for the first time Abram with his new name OBEYS for once, circumcising himself at 99 years of age and his son Ishmael. Abram shows his willingness to change and to mature. Let us make this our own purpose as well no matter what our age or circumstance of life is.
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