When someone makes a promise to you, do you expect them to keep it? I certainly do, and after reading Genesis 17:1-7,15-16, we can expect God to keep His promises to Abraham. God was committed to the covenant He made with Abraham and his descendants. God declared Abraham righteous in Genesis 15 simply because Abraham believed, but this faith must never be separated from obedience that flows from faith.
In contrast, many of us have had the unhappy experience of making an agreement only to find that it benefitted us far less than we had hoped for and been led to expect. The more we learn about God’s promises, the richer the blessings they contain.
When God spoke, Abraham fell on his face. When God and man are in relationship, God must be the communicator and man must have a listening, obeying attitude. If men and women are not willing to assume a listening attitude, there will be no relationship with God.
The covenant was introduced with a revelation by God of His name. This might not be of great importance to us, but in Eastern thought to reveal a name was to reveal the person and to invite intimacy. Similarly, when God reveals Himself to us, He invites us to have an intimate relationship with Him.
When a promise or agreement is made, there is usually some tangible sign of the agreement. It could be a signed document or a handshake. In the case of God’s covenant with Abraham and subsequently the Israelites, it was the requirement that males be circumcised. It was a bodily mark that identified each male as belonging to God. God’s very words were carved into their flesh. Their deepest and truest identity was as God’s own people.
Similarly, we as Christians are marked and named in our flesh as God’s own. The difference is that instead of circumcision, our baptism is the physical sign. It gives us our true identities the moment it takes place. Our names are stated and written in the book of eternity.
When the covenant requirement to be blameless is applied to people, it means that their approach to God should be wholehearted. It does not mean sinless perfection. This wholeheartedness was demonstrated by Abraham and Sarai in their willingness to accept a change of name, which would have special significance for them.
Abraham and Sarah’s original names honoured pagan deities. Now that God had promised they would be the father and mother of nations, including the Hebrew people, God gave them new names that signified their relationship with the one true God. The Lord changed the name of Abram from “Exalted Father” to Abraham, which means “Father of Multitudes,” and changed Sarai’s name to Sarah. Both Sarai and Sarah mean “Princess,” but the new name has a new dimension: she would henceforth be a “Princess (of God).”
God’s covenant with Abraham means that all those who bless Abraham will be blessed and given the gift of the Promised Land. Similarly, all those who accept Jesus as their Saviour will be blessed. Through the waters of baptism, God has named us, claimed us and promised us the gifts of forgiveness and new life. Through Christ’s death and resurrection, God has defeated the powers of death and declared that we too will live.
This was an everlasting covenant-so even if Abraham’s descendants proved faithless, God would remain faithful in fulfilling His promises. God never wavered in His commitment to the covenant despite the repeated disobedience of the Israelites. God keeps His promises and rewards our obedient faith. Divine attestations of Abraham’s obedience were pronounced years after the formal establishment of His covenant. When He promises to direct our paths we can be confident He will carefully lead us.
We as Christians are a covenant people. Christianity is not a religion of the individual. It is a covenant between a community of faith (the church) and the God revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. That’s why we gather every week. We remember the covenant, especially during Lent. We remember that because of Christ’s death, true life can be given to everyone, and God will be our God and we will be God’s people.
God is the love that never leaves us alone, even when we would be content to settle for that which is more reasonable. God is the love that wakes us from our slumber and lets us know that we are loved and wanted. God’s promise endures in spite of life’s trials. No matter what we face, we are not alone. We walk with God, and we are claimed and called by the one who spoke creation into existence.
When God made the covenant with Abraham, everything in Abraham’s life changed. When Abraham said, “As for me, whatever God has said is true for me!”, God’s thoughts became settled and established in his way of thinking. When we make the same statement, God’s thoughts become settled and established in our own way of thinking. If we make the practice of doing the following five things we will start each day on the right course so it can be filled with God’s power and presence. We can turn our life around-one day at a time:
- Imagine the good things God wants for the day.
- Pray in faith and receive God’s blessing on the day.
- Plan a good day.
- Be grateful.
- Sow the right seeds. Our thoughts, words, attitudes and actions are all seeds that will set a course. The fruit of the spirit within will bring self-control to the surface and override our feelings, filling us with God’s joy and peace.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; pp. 25-26)
- Briscoe, D.S. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 1: Genesis (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1987; pp. 148-150)
- Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
- Lucado, M.: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson; 2010; pp. 21-22)
- David Wyrtzen, “Fruitfulness and the Demand for Integrity.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Kenneth L. Samuel, “Still on the Chase.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Paul Clark, “Genesis 17:1-7,15-16.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Jessie Gutgsell, “Bible Study: 2 Lent (B).” Retrieved from www.episcopaldigitalnetwork.com
- Pastor Dave Risendal, “Promise.” Retrieved from http://onelittleword.org?p=6790
- “Personal Life: Face Down Listening.” Retrieved from Biblegateway@e.biblegateway.com
- Vikki Burke, “As for Me.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Elizabeth Webb, “Commentary on Genesis 17:1-7,15-16.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1223
- Geoff McElroy, “Desert Scribbling: March 8, 2009.” Retrieved from https://gmcelroy.typepad.com/desertscribblings/2009/03/march-8-2009-second-sunday-in-lent
- “Grasping the Great Truth of God (Genesis 17:1-27).” Retrieved from https://bible.org/seriespage/18-grasping-great-truth-god-genesis-171-27