Genesis 068 – Greater ClarityGenesis 16:15‒17:8 • Dr. Andy Woods • January 30, 2022 • Genesis
Well, good morning everybody! If we could, take our Bibles and open them to the book of Genesis chapter 16. Genesis, 16, verse 15 (Gen 16:15). The title of our message this morning is “Greater Clarity”, greater clarity.
We continue our verse by verse study through the book of Genesis having already completed Genesis, 1 through 11 (part one of the book) which deals with four events: Creation, fall, flood, national dispersion, where a prophecy is being traced. There’s a Messiah coming, of course, that Messiah is Jesus Christ who will set things right and then we moved into chapters 12 through 50 (Gen 12-50) where now the issue is which nation will God use to bring forth this Messiah? God cannot use one of the existing nations and so He creates His own and that’s the significance of chapters 12 through 36 (Gen 12-36) as God deals now with three patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and then how He supernaturally protects that nation through the life of Joseph, chapters 37 through 50 (Gen 37-50). God is creating a nation here; and the character that God chose to create this nation, the nation of Israel from is this man Abram, whose name is about to be changed to Abraham. And so we have been tracking with great specificity, the early life and journeys of Abraham and we are almost finished with chapter 16…
where chapter 16, verses 1 through 6 (Gen 16:1-6), Abram and Sarai got tired of waiting on the Lord. Have you ever been there? I mean, God promised us innumerable descendants, Abraham says, through my body and so they came up with a human plan to help God, cause God is just taking too long; and from that union comes Hagar. Hagar becomes pregnant and she is about to give birth to Ishmael and that union caused consequences, which is what sin does… caused consequences which are still reverberating to this very day for the nation of Israel. It is a costly thing to not wait on the Lord and to take matters into one’s hands and to do things one’s own way and now, very end of chapter 16, we have the birth of this son. This son named Ishmael who comes not by waiting on God but he comes through the Abraham-Hagar-Ishmael line and that birth takes place in verses 15 and 16 (Gen 16:15-16) and you’ll notice first of all, there’s the birth of a son verse 15. 3:51
Notice verse 15 (Gen 16:15): So Hagar bore Abram a son… Now, that’s exactly what God said would happen. God back in verse 11 (Gen 16:11) named the gender of the child as the angel of the Lord dealt with Hagar, you remember? Says: …You will bear a son… It’s interesting that everything God says will happen, happens; and the name of this particular son, second part of verse 15 (Gen 16:15) is Ishmael, the child born of works and it says: So Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael… Now, God also earlier revealed the name of the son to Sarai and so it’s interesting here that Abram does the naming, not Sarai. So Abram must have believed the story given to her by the angel of the Lord earlier on this chapter; and then the chapter sort of concludes, verse 16 (Gen 16:16) with Abram’s age and of course, it’s verses like this we just rush over but, as I’ll show you in a minute, these type of chronological indicators are very important.
Look at verse 16 (Gen 16:16), it says: Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to him… So Abram is the ripe old age of eighty six years old. We know that his wife Sarai is seventy-six years old, how do we know that? Because Genesis, 17, the next chapter, verse 17 (Gen 17:17) puts ten years between the two; and it’s going to be another fourteen years, which is a long time when you think about it. When God is going to make good on his promise through the birth of Isaac. So this is an example of people just sort of getting impatient with the Lord, trying to hurry God along. The reality of the situation is, when you walk with the Lord, His timing is perfect. His timing is everything and so many times we get tired of waiting on God because we want our plans to be executed and we jump the gun and we experience all kinds of consequences which are going to come into the life of Israel because of this poor decision and yet, what we’re going to discover is all of this effort that they put forth to do things their own way was a waste of time, cause God is right on time all of the time. It’s just going to happen in an additional fourteen years. 6:50
This is why there’s so much in the Bible about waiting upon the Lord. I, to be frank with you, hate waiting upon the Lord. I hate it when the Lord puts something in my heart and then He says, trust me for its outcome and part of the problem is the world system I’ve been reared in which teaches that you can be rewarded for effort. You want the highest grade in the class, then study the most. You want to get ahead on the job, then put forth the most effort. We’re living in a society that rewards energy and effort and what you discover with God, is He doesn’t work according to the way the world works. Have you noticed that in your life? And He says, I want you to wait. That’s when I feel like praying that prayer, Lord give me patience and give it to me right now, sort of thing; and they’re getting a tremendous lesson here on waiting on the Lord and the mess that they can make of things and we could make of things when we fail to wait on the Lord, and so that’s the end of chapter 16 and you say, well good we’re finished then, right? No, not quite.
As we move now into chapter 17, which deals with circumcision, which is the token of the Covenant that God had given to Abram. The Covenant is secured, now we’re learning about a ritual which is a token of the Covenant. It’s interesting how God many times will give a symbol of a token of a Covenant that He’s just made. Noah of course was given the sign of the rainbow for the Noahic Covenant. We in the church age as we participate in the New Covenant are given a sign. That sign is the ritual of communion which by the way, we’re going to be taking it at this church next week. We do it on a monthly basis here; and the sign or the token of the Abrahamic Covenant is something called circumcision and the religionist confuses the token with the Covenant. They do it all the time. People do this with baptism. What is water baptism? It’s an outward symbol of an inward reality. Water baptism doesn’t save anyone. It is a token or a ritual that we go through in the church age as a testimony to our salvation and what people all the time do is they want to make baptism some sort of condition for salvation. The Pharisees were doing this kind of thing with Paul, where they were trying to take circumcision and actually make it some sort of condition for the Abrahamic Covenant and you’re rescued from that by studying the Bible in order. That’s why we teach the Bible here verse by verse in the order God gave it, because when you see the order, you see very clearly that the covenant is entered into Genesis, 15, and as that covenant is already established, we have Genesis, 17, 17 comes after 15, can I get an amen on that? So therefore what’s happening in 17 has nothing to do with the creation of the Covenant that already existed. Well, why do we have this chapter of circumcision? It’s a token or a ritual or a testimony to the Covenant but it is not the Covenant itself. 10:46
So as we venture into chapter 17, we can divide it into these parts: The covenant that God gave Abram is restated verse 1 through 8 (Gen 17:1-8). Then you have the covenant token of circumcision verse 9 through 14 (Gen 17:9-14) and then, God changes Sarai’s name to Sarah verses 15 through 21 (Gen 17:15-21 just as like He will change Abram’s name to Abraham chapter 17, verses 1 through 8 (Gen 17:1-8) and then the whole chapter ends, verses 22 through 27 (Gen 17:22-27) with Abram, now Abraham, being obedient to what God told him to do which is always a very good move, amen? So notice here verses 1 through 8 (Gen 17:1-8) where the covenant is restated and we probably won’t even get through verses 1 through 8 today but at least you just kind of see the lay of the land.
We have timing, we have a divine disclosure, we have a response from Abram and then, what God does, is He takes the promises given to Abram and He amplifies them. That’s why I’ve entitled this message “Greater Clarity”. What God has spoken already in the Covenant terms become more detailed. The details don’t subtract from the original promise but they certainly add greater clarity to the original promise. 12:31
So notice first of all, the timing and that’s why the ages of these individuals are so interesting and are given. Notice if you will Genesis, 17 and notice if you will verse 1 (Gen 17:1): Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old… That’s pretty old, that means Sarah was how old? Eighty-nine years old, that means there have been twenty four years since God originally made the promises to Abram going back to Genesis, 12. So given that length of time, it’s no wonder they got impatient, it’s no wonder they got tired of waiting upon the Lord, it’s no wonder that they took matters into their own hands. That’s how human nature is and there probably are thirteen years between the end of chapter 16, the birth of Ishmael and the unfolding of this chapter here; and we move on from there to a divine disclosure and you see that second half of verse 1 into verse 2. Notice what it says there, Genesis, 17 verse 1 (Gen 17:1): …the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless… So, this is an actual appearance by God to Abram, this occurs seven times in the book of Genesis. Abram was one of the most blessed people that have ever lived and one of the reasons he was blessed was not only because of the promises but because of the fact that the Lord personally appeared to him seven times. If my count is right, this is the fifth appearance that God has made to this man Abram and it’s been twenty three years since the last appearance, Genesis, 15. So we read through this and we’re tempted to think God was talking all of the time but that’s not true. There were large increments of time in between these disclosures and so if you’re in a season in your life where, you know, you haven’t really felt the nudging of God or somehow God hasn’t really put anything on your heart or God hasn’t changed your circumstances and a length of time is passed, don’t automatically conclude from that that, Oh, I’ve must be outside of God’s will, because when you pay attention to these numbers you see that God is not always communicating to Abram over and over again. It reads that way, but that’s why those numbers are given, to show us the lapses in between. There have been many times in my life where God has done from what I can tell, absolutely nothing and I was stuck in the same spot with no new insights about anything, just waiting upon the Lord and that’s when we get frustrated and we try to take things into our own hands and God says, no, you have to learn the discipline of waiting on me; and so now, God after He appears to Abram gives him two commands.
He says there, end of verse 1 and into verse 2 (Gen 17:1-2): the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, I am God Almighty… Command number one… Walk before Me… Command number two… be blameless… First command, walk before Me. Now, don’t skip over too fast, this title that God gives to Himself “God Almighty”. The Hebrew for God Almighty is “El Shaddai”, that’s the first time as far as I know that that name has ever been used of God thus far in the book of Genesis. It’s going to be used many, many times as you go through the book of Genesis, but this is the first usage. El Shaddai refers to God’s power. God has many names and typically he will showcase, if I can use that expression, the name based on the circumstances of the people that they were under at the time. He reveals something about His nature to people in specific circumstances who needed to understand that attribute of God and in this case, Abram and Sarai really needed to know about God’s power, because God had made them a promise which looked impossible. In fact, it looked so impossible that they tried to work around it and find a human way to fulfill it and they need to be reminded of the fact that God is El Shaddai, He is all powerful. Genesis, 18, is going to tell us, is there anything too hard for the Lord? The answer is: Nothing is too hard for the Lord, because of His name. His name is El Shaddai. He therefore, is the God of all strength, He is the God of all power and because He is that way He has the ability to supply strength, because we in the Christian life can get very fatigued and very tired and we need to be reminded who God is exactly. He is El Shaddai. He will give you the exact strength that you need for whatever predicament or for whatever circumstance you’re in and if He’s laid something on your heart that hasn’t materialized yet, you just have to rest in the fact that He is in fact El Shaddai, all powerful. He will execute what He said He would do. We forget that because His timing is not ours and we start to think, well maybe God isn’t big enough to pull this off. Oh yes He is, because of this very name El Shaddai and so we have a couple of commands, walk before Me and be perfect and it’s important that we don’t misread this. This is why we go slowly, chronologically through books of the Bible because many people will just start with Genesis, 17, and they’ll make it sound as if Abram had to do A and B to get the Covenant, but that obviously isn’t true because the Covenant, Genesis, 15, has already been given. In fact, as we’ve studied that section very carefully, I think we spend maybe five weeks in Genesis, 15, we learned that Abram was asleep when God entered into the Covenant. This has nothing to do with the performance of Abram. This has nothing to do with Abram, you’d better do A and B and if you don’t execute, you don’t get the Covenant. That’s an impossible interpretation when you understand that chapter 15 comes before chapter 17. 19:58
By the way, when Paul in Romans, 4, was talking about people that thought they were saved by works, circumcision, the Pharisees, the religionists, Paul argued the exact same way in Romans, 14. He said: Abram’s salvation (chapter 15) came before he was circumcised (chapter 17) and what he is saying is, you need to go back and you need to read the Bible in order. If you read the Bible in order, you’re saved from so much works oriented nonsense; and that’s why we emphasize these kinds of things here. So this Covenant is not conditional. The Covenant is already established. All God is saying in these two commands is, look here’s how you’re to live as the recipient of My Covenant. Here’s how you are to act. He is not saying, if you fail you don’t get the Covenant anymore. He couldn’t be saying that cause Abram just failed, did he not? In Genesis 16? Did that break the Covenant? All God is saying is, because you are the Covenant people, that should change the way you live, why? Because your identity is different. It works the same way in salvation. We receive Christ as personal savior. We are made new creations in Christ and you start to read in the Bible of all of the things that are now different about your position, you are Holy in God’s eyes. Well, if that’s true maybe my lifestyle should better mirror holiness. Well, if it doesn’t mirror holiness, does that mean God snatched the carpet out from under me and I’m no longer saved? That’s not what it means. What it means is, you’re living outside of your identity. You are living outside of your purpose and you can’t be fulfilled as a Christian, living outside of your purpose; and this is the point that God is making with Abram. Look at who you are, look at what you have received, look at this unconditional Covenant that I have given you in chapter 15, it’s eternally yours, I’m not going to rip the carpet out from under you but the knowledge of what you have should change the way you think about yourself, it should change the way you live. Not that we’re sinless but we ought to sin less, when we understand who we are in Christ. It’s a very different way of Christian education, I’ll tell you that much, because what most people are hearing today in their churches is, you’d better be good or maybe you weren’t a Christian to begin with, or maybe you lost your salvation. 23:05
Notice how Paul the Apostle sets up the book Ephesians chapters 1 through 3, without giving a single command in the book, in that section I should say. No commands, chapters 1 through 3. It’s just an explanation of who you are in Christ. Then you get to chapters 4 through 6, and it has the word “therefore” chapter 4, verse 1 (Eph 4:1) and when you see the word “therefore” in the Bible, you ask yourself what is the word “therefore” there for; and now that he has established our identity in Christ, now he says, Okay, here’s your position. Now, here’s how it should influence your behavior and in that second section he gives thirty eight commands. Not a single command in chapter 1 through 3, thirty eight in chapters 4 through 6, only after the proper doctrinal foundation has been laid and people understand who they are in Christ Jesus. Paul the apostle sets up the book of Romans in the exact same way. In Romans chapter 12 and verse 1 (Rom 12:1), he says: Therefore I urge you, brethren… Speaking to Christians… by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice to God, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship of service… Presenting your body to God as a Christian is only logical, it’s only reasonable if you understand this in light of these mercies. What mercies? Chapters 1 through 11, because it’s in chapters 1 through 11 that he tells us that we have been purchased from the slave market of sin, chapters 1 through 3. We have been justified, end of chapter 3 through chapter 5. We have the power for sanctification and growth within us, chapters 6 through 8. God always keeps His word, chapters 9 through 11. So in light of all of these mercies, offer your body as a living sacrifice. Christian education doesn’t function this way today very sadly. It’s a list of what you ought to do and what you shouldn’t do and that’s never the way the Bible explains holiness in daily life. It becomes an exercise first of understanding what you have received from God… Upon reflecting upon that, then that ought to change how we live. This is exactly what He’s doing with Abram. Abram back in chapter 16, you really weren’t walking before me in perfection and holiness at all and you’re really not acting like a guy that has received the Abrahamic Covenant; and that’s how to understand these commands. So since you have received this Covenant, walk before Me, in what? In service and devotion as unto the king, a king, because you have one now and then He says, second part of verse 1, not only does He say walk before Me, but be blameless. The Hebrew here for blameless is the same word that’s used in Exodus, 12, verse 5 (Exo 12:5) to describe the unblemished nature of the Passover lamb: Your lamb shall be unblemished… That’s our word here for blameless. I don’t think it’s saying perfection, cause that’s not possible this side of eternity, but it is saying that’s the direction that we should be moving in as Christians. Why not behave that way? Cause after all, look at what God has said about us. We are blameless and holy in the beloved. God looks upon me as if I’m just as pure as Jesus Christ, that’s my position; and if that’s what God said about me, goodness! Maybe laughing at the dirty joke, looking a little too long at the racy movie, maybe those things should be curtailed because they’re outside of who I am, they’re outside of my calling, they’re outside of my position; and after making an appearance to Abram, El Shaddai, after giving him these commands He makes him some promises and it’s not like these promises are brand new but as you start to move through these promises, God is giving clarity to what He already said earlier in the book. 28:08
Two promises, the promise of establishing a covenant, not making the covenant, establishing it, executing it and then there is the promise of multiplied seed, which we’ve seen before.
Look at verse 2 (Gen 17:2): I will establish My covenant between Me and you… The Covenant is everything to God. In fact, the word covenant, the Hebrew word Beriyth, is used in this chapter alone thirteen times. Why is the Covenant such a big deal to God? It’s a big deal to God and it should be a big deal to us and it should be a big deal to the Bible reader because now God has to move His hand into history to keep His obligations. If you understand the Covenant, you’ll understand exactly what God is doing in the rest of the Bible and even in modern times concerning Israel, making good on what He says He would do. You’ll notice that He doesn’t say, verse 2 (Gen 17:2) I will create My Covenant. Why doesn’t He say that? Cause the Covenant has already been created. I’m going to establish it. I’m going to execute it and that’s why this Covenant keeps getting reaffirmed over and over again in the book of Genesis. In fact, this is the fourth time that this Covenant has been reaffirmed; and you might also find this interesting, God here, just in these verses 1 through 8 (Gen 17:1-8), says seven times: I will. Kind of reminds us of the devil, doesn’t it? Have you ever read Isaiah 14:12 through 15 (Isa 14:12-15)? These are the thoughts that were going through Satan’s mind prior to his fall. Satan himself, in Isaiah 14:12 through 15 (Isa 14:12-15) said five times I will. This is the first time a creature has asserted its own will against God.
I will… number one, I will ascend to heaven. I will… number two, I’ll raise my throne above the stars of God, stars being angels. I’ll run the angelic kingdom, not you God. I’ll do it. Number three, I’m going to sit enthroned on the mount of the assembly, that’s where Jesus is going to sit in the millennial kingdom, he’s asserting his authority over the kingdom one day. Number four, I will ascend above the tops of the clouds, clouds refer to God’s glory. He wanted to eclipse the glory of God and then the clincher there is I will… number five, I will make myself like the most high and that’s where sin entered God’s universe for the very first time. 31:18
One of the most frightening things that we have as image bearers of God is a will, which means I can make decisions, God has given me this freedom to make decisions contrary to what He wants. God said, I will seven times… Satan says, I will five times. I have the exact same power and if I’m going to exercise my will above and beyond God’s, there’s always consequences, but you know what? God will respect the choice. God in the end will win, it’s not a good choice, but the choice will be respected. If God didn’t respect the choice, He wouldn’t be respecting the way that we are created as image bearers. This is the problem with many theological systems that make it sound as if man is just sort of a puppet on a string and God controls everything where we don’t even have volition. God’s providence is so great that even when we execute our volition contrary to God, we’re carrying out His purposes. Ask me to explain that one, I can’t, but at the end of the time and the end of the ages, we’re just going to praise God for how He was able to execute a perfect plan in the midst of free will creatures that were in rebellion against Him. Only God can pull that off. You know, Judas made the decision to betray Christ for thirty pieces of silver and the moment He made that decision, he was actually fulfilling a prophecy written in the book of Zechariah five hundred years in advance. He was fulfilling a Psalm, Psalm, 41, and I guarantee you that Judas wasn’t thinking those ways at all. That his rebellion was executing God’s will. So if a human being wants to reject God and go to hell forever, yes God will convict, yes God will agitate but at the end, God will say, you can have your way, you don’t want a relationship with me, you don’t want eternity with me, you can go ahead and have what you want, which is one of the most frightening things that could ever happen to a person, when God gives us what we want and turns us over to our own devices. Not the most spiritual song in the world but that country western song that I heard on the radio the other day, not KHCB of course, (laughs) something to the effect of thank God for unanswered prayers where I was wanting this or wanting that and you look back in life and you say, Gosh! Lord, I’m glad you didn’t grant that one; and one of the most frightening things that can happen to a person is they get what they want. The smartest thing a human being can do with their will, it’s the smartest thing, is to give that will back to who? Back to God. Did not Jesus emulate that when He said in the Garden of Gethsemane, not my will be done by Thy will be done. The antichrist’s coming is very different. Daniel, 11, tells us: …who will execute his own will… Jesus, God in human flesh took His will and surrendered it to God the father, that’s the way to handle this monster, if I can put it that way. This potential for evil that’s in your lap called free will. Every decision you make, you just say, well the Lord, what’s the Lord’s will? And you make choices consistent with what God wants and that’s the pathway to growth. You see God saying seven times in this chapter, I will. 35:38
So He promises that He is going to execute His Covenant and then He promises also, end of verse 2 (Gen 17:2), that He is going to execute His promise of seed or descendants from Abram. He says, verse 2: I will establish My covenant between Me and you, And I will multiply you exceedingly… Now, we’ve already had promises of descendants. Earlier we learned that they will be as the sand of the sea shore, the dust of the earth, the stars of the sky innumerable and now God clarifies it further and says, you’re going to have descendants and not just descendants but descendants exceedingly; and what can Abram do at this point? As the Covenant is being restated after not hearing from God for what did we say? Twenty three years? He doesn’t know what else to do other than to praise the Lord. Look at verse 3 (Gen 17:3): Abram fell on his face.
There is a lot of traffic today and there’s a lot of noise in modern day evangelical Christianity about worship. Worship styles, worship wars, generational conflict within the church because one generation wants worship one way, the other generation wants worship a different way and man, you can start a civil war in any church over this subject and if you ask all of the combatants in this civil war: What is worship? Most of them can’t even give you a definition. They can talk about style, they can’t even define what worship is. I’ll define what worship is right now. I got this definition from my professor J. Dwight Pentecost. He got it from the Bible obviously. What is worship? Worship is a response to truth. That’s what it is. You hear the truth of God, you’re so in your heart overwhelmed by what you just read or what you just heard, the only thing you can do is try to respond to God someway. The response doesn’t give you the truth, it’s a reaction to the truth. I mean, you might respond to God with an organ, you might respond to God with a guitar, you might respond to God with no musical accompaniment at all and it might be, you know, acapella. Is that how you say that? You can tell I have a lot of experience with these things, I can’t even get the words pronounced right. You might make a joyful noise unto the Lord. Yeah, but that church over there, I don’t like their style and that church over there, I don’t like their style either. Are you kidding me? Do you don’t understand what God has just said to you? That He is your creator and He is your redeemer and you can’t wait to get into the presence of God’s people and explode into praise of God. Style? Do you want to argue style? When you don’t even understand what worship is? I understand that the songs need to reflect a Biblical basis, I get it, but so much of this back and forth today to me is becoming self-centered, it’s becoming narcissistic where the focus is us and our preferences. You’ll say, Oh no! Sugar Land Bible Church is getting ready for a big change in style of worship. No, we are not. If that’s what you’re afraid of? There’s no fear there. What I’m just saying is, let’s get a grip a little bit here. Let’s calm down, let’s take a few deep breaths and let’s step back for thirty seconds and ask ourselves what worship is before we start arguing about it and fighting about it. What you’re seeing here with this man Abram is true worship. I don’t even think music and tunes and notes is even mentioned here, is it? He just falls on his face before the Lord cause that’s all he knows to do because of what he just heard from God; and we move on from verse 3 (a) and into the second part of verse 3 (Gen 17:3) into verse 8 (Gen 17:8), where God starts to now take the Covenant promises and add detail, add clarity. 40:45
The clarifications don’t change the original promise, that’s very important to understand. The progress of revelation is such that latter revelation will never undo what the former revelation says. If that could happen, then God is a liar. There are many theological systems today that will tell you that you interpret the Old Testament through the lens of Christ and somehow Christ, with a different grid is undoing what He said formerly. That is a false doctrine. If that doctrine were true, then everything that God said in Old Testament times is a lie and it’s impossible for God to lie. Yes but Pastor, should we interpret the Old Testament by what is said in the New Testament? Many groups today argue that. It’s called Supersessionism, Replacement Theology, this is one of the tactics that they use to rewrite the Old Testament and make it sound like God is not going to keep His promises to Israel. We do not interpret the Old Testament by some sort of change that Christ supposedly introduced in the New Testament, rather it’s the exact opposite. You interpret the New Testament by what has already been disclosed in the Old Testament. That’s why the Old Testament came before the New Testament. There are a lot of churches that will never touch the Old Testament. Why not? Because of their method of interpretation. Jesus ushered in some sort of change. No, Jesus did not usher in a change. Jesus came to fulfill what is spoken of in the Law and the prophets, not to change what was originally said. I was talking to a gentleman not long ago and found out that he was a Christian and I asked him what book of the Bible he was studying and I said, well what do you think about Genesis? He said, well I’m a New Testament Christian. So, everything God said in the book of Genesis in the Old Testament we just got rid of because of some interpretation you come up with concerning Jesus. That is a doctrine of abrogation which you do not find in the Bible. Do you know where you find it? You find it in Islam, because the Muslims, and I’ve said this before, when they are in the minority, quote one set of Quranic texts about peacemakers and love and once they get the majority in a host country, they start quoting the exact opposite texts of blood and war; and you say, what happened to the peace texts ten years ago? Oh, those have been abrogated. That’s the word they use. This idea that the New Testament throws out the Old, throws out Israel’s promises is not consistent with the God of the Bible who cannot lie. It’s more in common with the doctrines of Islam and this doctrine of abrogation. 44:23
So what is happening at the end of verse 3 into verse 8 (Gen 17:3-8) is clarification of what God originally said. Here is sort of the big picture, now let’s have some more details. Not a cancellation; and so, what is being amplified here?
Well, we have God’s disclosure, we have the Covenant reaffirmed, we have the seed promises reaffirmed and we have the land promises reaffirmed just with more details. You’ll notice there God’s disclosure, end of verse 3 (Gen 17:3): After Abram fell on his face… What does it say? …and God talked with him… Wow, no wonder Abram was blessed.
“This is the first of seven times that Abraham receives a direct revelation from God. In 12:1–3 is God’s initial call to Abram outside the Land of Canaan; in 12:7 is the first appearance to Abraham in the Land; in 13:14–17, Abraham encounters God after the separation of Lot; in 15:1–21, God signs and seals the Abrahamic Covenant; in 17:1–21, Abraham receives the token of the covenant; in 18:1–33, God speaks to him in conjunction with the destruction of Sodom; and in 22:1–2 and 22:11–18, God directs Abraham to offer Isaac.”
He actually had a conversation with God. I would love to have conversations with God. I would love a situation where I could hear God’s audible voice, that has never happened in my life. So my conversations work this way: God speaks to me through His word and I speak to Him through prayer and many times as I’m going through the week, God will bring to remembrance things I’ve studied in His word, that’s how He talks to me and then I talk to Him through prayer. Abram, without a completed canon of Scripture, obviously, the book of Genesis was just being compiled, is actually having visible, audible conversations with God Himself. In fact, if you go back to verse 1, it says: …the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him… This is why Abram is blessed. This actually, these disclosures that Abram had, actually happened…. actually happened about seven times in the book of Genesis as we’ve said earlier and what does God do? He reaffirms the existing Covenant. Look at verse 4 (Gen 17:4): As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you… The Covenant is not being made here, the Covenant has already been made in Genesis, 15, as we’ve carefully studied. What’s being said here is don’t forget about the Covenant because I’m going to execute it. I’m going to establish it. I’m going to work in human history so that every single detail of that Covenant is fulfilled and let me give you a little reminder of what I’ve told you in that Covenant with some more details added. 47:12
First of all, let’s talk about the seed. Second part of verse 4 (Gen 17:4) into verse 7 (Gen 17:4). Look at what it says, second part of verse 4: …And you will be the father of a multitude of nations… The seed promise hasn’t been canceled. Is just being crystallized.
It’s not Abram, that you’re going to be the father of a nation, the nation of Israel, you are going to be the father of nations, plural; and it is interesting that the nation of Israel was divided into two. Two is plural.
The northern kingdom and the southern kingdom and remembered what happened in chapter 16? How through the Abram-Hagar-Ishmael line would come the Arabic people groups of the earth and so through that line, Abram is the father of those nations as well. Well, Lord, what can you give me to reflect this new reality that I’m learning? Here’s what I’m going to do, I’m going to change your name. The name change is given right there in verse 5 (Gen 17:5): No longer shall your name be called Abram, But your name shall be Abraham… To reflect this new status that you’re learning about. I mean, it’s really not a new status. The generic promise of seed was given but now let’s amplify it to include nations. I’m going to change your name so that it means “the father of many nations”. Abram’s current name before it was changed, simply means “Exalted father” but now his name is changed to reflect this new reality where Abram is called the father of many nations. “Ab” father, “raham” multitudes. God gave Abram a new name to reflect this new spiritual clarification that he has just received from God. You know, it’s a fascinating study, God does this all the time with people. Old Testament, New Testament, book of Revelation talks about it, I’ll give you a new name, you’ll find in the book of Revelation. It’s what He did with Simon Peter. Peter had three names, Simon Hebrew name, Petros Greek name, Cephas Aramaic name and before Peter’s name was changed God said to Simon: I also say to you that you are Peter… Which means, little stone; and upon this rock, that means big stone, that’s not referring to Peter, that’s something different contrary to Roman Catholic Theology that tries to make Peter the first Pope… I say to you that you are Petros and upon this Petra I will build my church; and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it… Why did Jesus change Peter’s name here? Because Peter gave the right answer concerning who Jesus was. Who do men say that I am? You are the Christ, the son of the living God; and Jesus right then and there changed his name; and this is so encouraging to me because He changed it not according to what Peter was at the moment but according to what Peter would become, because the very name itself means stone, rock, stability and I guarantee you, this guy, Simon was not a stable guy. In fact, he is about to open his mouth. I call him the Apostle with foot shaped mouth, that’s why I identify with him so well I guess. He’s about to open his mouth and try to talk Jesus out of the cross and Jesus a split second later… says Get behind me Satan… This guy is not stable at all. In fact, this is the guy that’s going to deny the Lord three times, this is the guy that would walk out on the water and I don’t want to be too critical of him because at least he tried, the rest of them didn’t even try. Jesus summons Peter out into the water, he’s walking out in the water, his eyes get off the Lord, he sees the wind and the waves and he starts to sink. This man is not a profile of stability. He’s unstable and Jesus says, here’s your new name, rock, stability. I’m not naming you based on what you are, I’m naming you on what you’re going to become and did he ever…? You go through Acts, 1 through 10 and there’s no more important person to the life of the early church than the Apostle Peter. This is the man who opened his mouth and three thousand people were saved on the day of Pentecost. This is a man who according to tradition, if this tradition is accurate, was crucified upside down so as to glorify the Lord. He became what his name change meant. He became stability. God does that with you too. He gives you a new name. He gives you a new identity and the identity is not based on what you are, it’s based on what you’re going to be. 53:24
Abram had one child at this point through a wrong liaison. Ishmael hasn’t even been born yet and God changes his name based on Covenantal promise to “father of many nations”. It’s interesting here that in verse 5, Genesis, 17 (Gen 17:5) that the name for nations is “Goyim” meaning, not just the Jewish nation which was divided north and south but Abram is the father of Gentile nations as well, Goyim. Why is that? Because of what just happened with Abram-Hagar-Ishmael line. From that line is going to come a whole bunch of people groups and Abram is the father of them as well. The father of many nations. He goes on in verse 6 (Gen 17:6) and He says, kings are going to come from you. Now, that doesn’t change the original promise but it adds more clarity. Look at verse 6 (Gen 17:6), end of verse 5 (Gen 17:5): …For I will make you the father of a multitude of nations… That’s Goyim, verse 6 (Gen 17:6): I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you… We know that much so far, we just had to talk there on nations and then he added something else… and kings will come forth from you… The seed promise has just been amplified into nations, plural and also kings. Kings are going to come from him. Did that happen? Gosh, last time I checked there’s a book in our Old Testament called the book of 1st and 2nd Kings. Why is it called that? All these kings. The nation was divided after Solomon left the throne. We have the northern kingdom and the southern kingdom. The northern kingdom has nineteen kings and interestingly, not a single one of them was good. That’s 0 in 19, that’s not a great season. Southern kingdom wasn’t much better. They had twenty kings, eight of them were good. There’s always a little bit more grace for the southern kingdom than the northern kingdom because a special Messiah is going to come from which tribe? Judah, that’s why there’s probably a few more good kings than bad kings when you compare the south to the north. The southern kingdom lasted a little bit longer than the northern kingdom, but kings and kings and kings and kings and kings… In fact, you read through the book of 1st Kings and 2nd Kings and then you move from there into 1st Kings… 1st Chronicles and 2nd Chronicles and your head is just spinning. King after king after king after king, this one’s good, this one’s bad, this one’s bad, this one’s good. It’s like being one of those little silver balls there on a ping pong machine, you’re just being bounced everywhere. Why all these kings? Cause that’s what God said. That’s what verse 6 says. That’s what verse 7 says; and it’s not just Hebrew kings, it’s all of the kings that’s going to come forth from the Abram-Hagar-Ishmael line. The Goyim, Arabic kings as well. 57:16
You go to verse 7 (Gen 17:7) and God says: I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you… So, we have a Covenant with Abram and his seed which is transgenerational. This is not just something for Abram. This is transgenerational. Did you catch the word everlasting? Olam. This is concerning the covenant with Israel, Olam, forever. Essentially what that means is it has to be unconditional.
A forever Covenant can only rest on the shoulders of a forever God. If this wasn’t unconditional but conditional it would have been vitiated in the last chapter through the disobedience of Abram and if all that weren’t enough, now He amplifies the land.
We’ll end with this, verse 8 (Gen 17:8): I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession… The land is for you Abram. Now, here’s what’s interesting. Abram, when he died, didn’t possess any of it, except the burial plot in Hebron for his wife Sarah. Which means, if God means what He says and says what He means, Abram must be resurrected to receive this promise. That’s an implied statement there of the future bodily resurrection for Abram, it’s for you and your descendants after you, it’s the land of your sojournings. Remember Abram took the first Holy Land tour? Oh, Holy Land tours, that’s not a biblical thing to do. Are you kidding me? That’s what God did with Abram. He said, walk around. Take a Holy Land Tour. Arise, Genesis 13:17, Arise, walk about in the land through its length and width; for I will give it to you… That’s why it mentions here the land of your sojournings. Did you catch this here, verse 8 (Gen 17:8)? All the land of Canaan. Folks, Israel has only received historically a small sliver of what it’s promised.
Oh, and did you catch this word here at the end? Everlasting? That’s Olam again. You’re going to possess this forever. Which means that there has to be a time in history where this is realized, called the millennial kingdom. 1:00:35
“…Abraham owned almost nothing of the Promised Land. While his seed has possessed much more of the Promised Land, they have not as yet in Jewish history possessed all the Promised Land. However, the promise here is clear: to have all the land of Canaan, all the Promised Land. This is yet future, to be fulfilled in the Messianic Kingdom.”
Arnold Fruchtenbaum writes: Abraham owned almost nothing of the Promised Land. While his seed has possessed much more of the Promised Land, they have not as yet in Jewish history possessed all the Promised Land. However, the promise here is clear: to have all the land of Canaan, all the Promised Land. This is yet future and it’s to be fulfilled in the Messianic Kingdom… Arnold, I love you for that. The doctrine of the millennial kingdom is starting right here in the book of Genesis. See, a lot of people go to Revelation and they want to find the doctrine of the millennial kingdom over there, in Revelation, 20, are you kidding me? Revelation, 20, is just kind of a summary. The real details of the millennial kingdom is right here in the book of Genesis and don’t forget this last line here: …I will be their God… That’s speaking of a nation that’s converted in their land that Jesus will rule through, the entire planet and by the way, when He says I will be their God, that’s the seventh “I will”. I haven’t been noting them but there are seven I will here, I will, I will, I will, seven times. This is the final one.
So, you might be wondering well, how can God be my God? God says, I’ll be their God. How can God be my God? And that’s very simple, it’s the Gospel. Gospel means “Good news”. It’s good news because Jesus stepped out of eternity into time to bridge a gap which men could not bridge on his own. Our condition in Adam’s sin is so far gone, we can’t fix ourselves. Jesus says, I’ll fix it. So He stepped out of eternity into time and He absorbed the wrath of God the Father in our place. He rose from the dead, which proves that He was who He claimed to be and He asks Adam’s fallen race to fulfill one condition which is to trust in what Jesus did. Becoming a Christian is not a five step process or a twelve step program. It’s a matter of privacy between a person and the Lord, where the Lord puts them under conviction and they respond in their heart of hearts by trusting in what Jesus did. The Lord persuades them that they can’t fix themselves, and once you understand that, that becomes the impetus for trusting in something outside of yourself. Why is it the Gospel? Cause Jesus did it all, we receive it as a gift. So we always like to conclude our services by inviting people, even where they are seated, to trust in the person of Jesus Christ. For God doesn’t want to just be the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He wants to be your God too and you can have your own relationship with Him. You can trust Christ now even as I’m speaking. 1:04:07
If it’s something that you need more explanation on, I’m available after the service to talk. Shall we pray? Father, we are grateful for this historical record of this work that you did in the life of this man Abram. We are encouraged that even though he was an ordinary person, you executed great things through him. You even gave him a new identity and maybe you’re not going to work exactly the same in our lives but it will be very similar. You want us to have a relationship with you and you want to do great things through us as we learn to trust in you and walk with you. Help us to do that this week, we pray. We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name and God’s people said, Amen.