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June 30, 2013 Last week we saw that Abraham tried to rush God by having a son through Hagar. Thirteen years pass and he’s given up any hope of his 90 year old wife giving him a son, so he considers Ishmael to be the son of the promise (:18). But God has other plans: And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; El Shaddai may mean “Almighty God” 1 or it might come from a word which means “breasts.” The idea is that God is the one who nourishes and is sufficient. 2 Regardless, Abraham will need the might and provision of God to obey this next command: walk before me, and be thou perfect. These two things go together. El Shaddai has determined to make Abraham perfect:
And I will make my covenant between me and thee,
Take your pen and circle the words “I will.” As we go through these verses I want you to circle those two words every time we come across them. It isn’t “we will” or “you will,” but “I will.” God’s covenant is according to His own will; it’s not the other way around. Had Abraham sought God this would be a covenant of works, but God is doing all this according to His own will and promise: and will multiply thee exceedingly. Again, circle the words “I will.” God will give Abraham many descendants. He’s already had one son through Hagar, and he has six more later through a woman named Keturah (25:1-2), but it’s Isaac who’s considered the son of the promise. Although he has several children, Isaac is called his only son (22:2). That’s because God says “through Isaac your descendants shall be named” (Gen. 21:12). This promise of descendants isn’t just some generic promise that Abraham will have
lots of kids and grandkids; it’s a follow-up from the initial promise in chapter 12 that “in you all the families in the earth will be blessed.” These descendants are defined by Paul in Romans four when he says the promise: Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, 17(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. 18 Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be (Rom. 4:16-18). In other words, to be multiplied exceedingly isn’t in a natural sense but a spiritual one. Abraham is the father of all who believe—“if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead” (Rom. 4:24).
And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, 4As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Take your pen and circle “as for Me” and “My covenant.” If you’ll remember, God is the One who walked the blood path, so it’s His covenant which is kept only by His faithfulness. God promises him that he’ll be the father of many nations. It’s interesting that the Jews in Jesus’ day put so much stock in being the sons of Abraham when their own Scriptures declare that a multitude of nations can claim the same thing. But it’s not nationality that matters to God—it’s faith! So God says to him,
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. 6And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. The name God gives him shows that He’s keeping His promise—Abraham means “father of nations.”
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. God’s covenant is with the sons of the promise, and it’s an everlasting one because it’s based solely on His faithfulness.
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. God did take the people into the land of Canaan, but they were later exiled because of their unfaithfulness. Some people look at this and say that God has failed because it wasn’t their everlasting possession. But remember, the descendants of Abraham are those who walk in his footsteps of faith (Rom. 4:12). It’s key to note that God will be called “their God”—that is, the God of those who reside in the everlasting possession. This isn’t talking about the physical nation of Israel—most of them don’t acknowledge Him as their God. Look at what the New Testament tells us: For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. 9There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. 10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. 11Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. 12For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. 14Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. 15For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:8-16). Abraham wasn’t looking for that patch of land between the Nile and the Euphrates; he was looking for the city built by God where the descendants of the promise will live and worship! God will be their God and they will be His people.
And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. 10This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. 11And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. 12And 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. 13He 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. 14And 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. So, circumcision is the symbol of the covenant. But why circumcision? Surely He could have told Abraham to get a tattoo, or wear his hair differently, or anything might have been better. But I believe God has a great reason, and the symbolism is significant. Abraham has lived a lot of his life by the flesh, but once he cuts that foreskin off, he’s permanently altered, and every time he sees himself he’s reminded of the covenant which is by God’s faithfulness. He’s reminded to walk before Him and to be blameless.
And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. 16And 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. “Sarai” means “my princess” or “princesses.” Sarah means “princess.” Now, she’s not just a princess among many, and she’s not just Abraham’s princess, she’s a princess (or a mother) to all the people of the promise. We’re not sons of Hagar the bondmaid; we’re sons of Sarah the free woman.
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? 18And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee! Here, we see that Abraham still wants to operate by the flesh. God’s proposal sounds crazy, and Abraham can think of a more feasible solution.
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. Here, again, we find election in the Scriptures. Neither Ishmael nor Isaac is credited with anything good or bad, but God has chosen Isaac and rejected Ishmael. We also see that God causes these things to occur according to His will. Isaac is born because God declares it to happen; the covenant is established because God declares it.
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.
So God answers Abraham’s prayer and agrees to bless Ishmael. He makes him fruitful, and as we see later (Gen. 25:13-16) that He makes him the father of 12 princes. But don’t miss the next words:
But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year. The covenant of grace is promised to the son of the promise. Blessings are given to Ishmael, but the covenant is given to Isaac.
And he left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham. 23And 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. 24And Abraham was ninety years old and nine, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 25And 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. 27And all the men of his house, born in the house, and bought with money of the stranger, were circumcised with him. Let’s close: #1- Our hope in salvation is based on God’s faithfulness and not our own. That’s why we can trust that He will accomplish (and has accomplished) what He set out to do. He walked the blood path alone, and we can’t do anything to add to it. We don’t have to feel guilty before God because He said, “It is finished.” All our sin debt is paid by the Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world. God isn’t our Judge; He’s our Father, and He always has been. His faithfulness establishes His covenant with us! #2- Sharing in faith makes us part of the same family. We’re the descendants of Abraham if we walk according to his faith. This is why we call each other brother, and this is why we ought to love each other so much. If you’re having a hard time forgiving someone or loving him, just remember that his Father is God in heaven, and God loves him so much that He sent His Son to die for him. John tells us that if we hate our brothers, then we’re murderers and we still walk in darkness (I Jn. 2:11; 3:15). Jesus tells us that the world will know we’re His disciples by our love for each other (Jn. 13:35). #3- Our sign of “circumcision” is a changed heart that walks by faith.
For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: 29But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God (Rom. 2:28-29). The result for us ought to be that we walk blamelessly before Him. We’ve been altered by God so that we now walk by faith, and our lives ought to show it. #4- This place is not our home. We shouldn’t spend too much time chasing after the things this world calls valuable. We know this place is going to burn up, and we know that our hope is in a city built by God. Because of this we also don’t have to fear death. In fact, we welcome death knowing that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord! My prayer for you is that you’ll walk in a manner worthy of your calling—that your circumcision will be evident to all as you glorify the One who called you out of this world to follow Him to the good land He’s promised to show us. newgracebaptistchurch.wordpress.com
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