Questions for Littles: How old was Abram in 16:26? How old is he in 17:1? What does God call Himself in 17:1? What does He tell Abram to do? What does God promise to make with Abram in 17:2? What does God change Abram’s name to in v5? What does it mean? What does God promise about the number and greatness of Abraham’s descendants in v6-7? What does He promise that they will possess in v8? What does God command as the sign of the covenant in v9-13? What penalty does God command for refusing the sign of the covenant in v14? Who else gets a name change in v15? What does God promise to give to Abraham by her (v16)? What does Abraham fall on his face and do in his joy (v17, cf. Rom 4:19-21)? For whom else does Abraham pray in v18? Does this change God’s plan about Sarah (v19)? How, then, does God answer Abraham’s prayer for Ishmael (v20)? When God finishes talking with him, what does Abraham do (v23-27)?In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, a long silence is broken. Can you imagine living with your greatest mistake for 13 years, and no word from God (that we know of)? By the time chapter 17 comes around, Ishmael is coming into his manhood, and all of the wildness and difficulty that God had prophesied about him was surely displaying itself.
So after 13 years of becoming more and more acquainted with the effects of his sin, God suddenly appears to Abraham, with this opening line: I AM GOD ALMIGHTY!!!
Now there’s good cause for a heart attack. If you’ve spent the last more than a decade living in the mess you made with your sin, the last thing that you want to hear is, “I am God Almighty!”
But the next line is wonderful, “Walk before Me, and be blameless.”
Do you see what God did there? Abraham is well aware that he cannot walk before God and be blameless by the power of Abraham. So, God invites Abraham to do so by the power of God.
Some things seem too good to believe. So, what does God do? He enters into a covenant marked by a sign that announces that those who are fathered by men need that connection cut away, and to be made alive instead by the power of God.
The sign isn’t for God—He already believes Himself, so much as it is for us. But God is deadly serious about that sign! He will respond to it. And He will respond to the lack of it.
We know from Romans 4 that Abraham’s laughing in this chapter is not like the unbelieving laughter of Sarah in chapter 18. Instead, it is the laughter of someone who has come into such good news that he is bursting out laughing with joyful astonishment!
Still, Abraham has been a father for 13 years already. His heart is rightfully attached to his son Ishmael. Behold the mercy of God—that although the plan of God for the covenant must be carried out, He still incorporates a blessing upon Ishmael for Abraham’s sake.
For his part, Abraham is quick to obey. After 13 years, he doesn’t stew over his failure but diligently carries out the command that same day. With the promises that we have received, shouldn’t we obey like that too?
In what situation do you need to remember that repenting is by God’s strength?Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or HB144 “I Greet Thee Who My Sure Redeemer Art”