This sermon is based on Genesis 17: 1-14. Click here to read the text.
At the age of ninety-nine Abram was blessed to have the LORD appear to him and confirm the covenant that He had previously made with him. At His appearing the LORD identified Himself as God Almighty (El Shaddai) and He called Abram to “walk before Me, and be blameless.” At hearing this name and command, Abram fell on his face. This is an appropriate posture for a servant to display before a supreme King, so it is more than appropriate for the people of God to fall on our faces – in body, mind, and heart – in reverence before Him. God is the Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth. He is holy, holy, holy. Who can stand before Him? Do we display a similar “posture” before God in worship and daily living? Do we heed His calls to believe in Christ and to obey His commands? If not, is it in part because we do not ascribe to Him the glory due to God Almighty?
There is power in a name. God Almighty was a name used of God over forty times in the OT. Many of those occasions (over 30 of them) are found in Job. Several of them are found in Genesis in connection with the patriarchs (17:1; 28:3; 35:11; 43:14; 48:3; 49:25; and Exodus 6:3). The omnipotence of God that is signified in this name shows itself in God’s authority over Sarah’s barren womb and over the land of Canaan. As Creator and Sustainer of all things, God has the unique and supreme authority to give and take away. By His word, He assures Abram that He will indeed give and takeaway as He promised earlier. God’s name is not the only one that bears significance on this occasion. In confirming the covenant (see Genesis 12:1-3; 15:1-21) God give Abram a new name – Abraham. Abram meant “exalted father”. Abraham bears the meaning of “exalted father of many nations”. In the previous thirteen years it would seem that Abram had grown somewhat content with thinking that Ishmael was the promised son (17:18ff). But God was showing Abraham that He was blessing Him with far more than he had hoped or imagined. Previously, God had commanded Adam and then Noah to be fruitful and multiply. Here He told Abraham that He would make him “exceedingly fruitful” (v. 6). It was God who by grace took the initiative to do in and through Abraham what Adam and Noah were unable to do in themselves. Abraham would be not just the father of Ishmael, nor just the father of a nation, but rather the father of many nations. This covenant promise would ultimately be traced through Isaac, not through Ishmael. More than that the covenant promise would find its ultimate fulfillment Abraham’s distant descendant, Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the offspring of Abraham through whom people from all nations would – by grace through faith – be made “heirs according to promise,” (see Romans 4:18ff and Galatians 3:26ff for the NT context).
The confirmation of the covenant carried with it a sign that Abraham and his descendants were to bear – the sign of circumcision. This sign would be a reminder to Abraham and all his people (both his descendants and all of his household – servants, etc.) that they were dependent upon God for life. The covenant was an everlasting covenant so the stakes were nothing short of eternal life. It was God Almighty who had called them to this commitment and it was He would fulfill all of His covenant promises to them. The sign of circumcision also signified that they were God’s at the price of blood. Ultimately it wasn’t the blood of their foreskins, nor the blood of animal sacrifices, that paid the price for their sins but rather the blood of Christ. It was the “circumcision of Jesus” (Colossians 2:11) in His body of flesh on the cross that fulfilled this sign of the covenant. He was cut off from the people of God that we might be made holy. We have received the benefits of His sacrifice by our burial with Him in baptism and our being made alive together with Him in His resurrection so that we might walk with Him, blameless in the eyes of God by grace through faith (Colossians 2:12ff).
Discuss and Pray – Genesis 17
- In what ways do you live out a humble posture of reverence before God, displaying His supreme power and authority over you?
- How is this posture not only a display of His almighty nature but His grace and mercy toward you as well?
- How does the fulfillment in Christ of God’s promise to Abraham (father of many nations) encourage you to think, pray, and act with regard to personal evangelism and missions to people of every nation, tribe, and tongue?
- What hope in the face of hardships and trials do you have by faith knowing that in Christ you are a son or daughter of God, an heir according to promise?