Genesis 17:1-14 A Cut Above
Abram is required to do something VERY painful in our reading today. But with obedience that pain becomes an eternal promise.
This requirement from God is not something He could have initially asked of Abram and expected him to submit to. Abram had a few “holes” to stumble into before he was ready for this call. He was not ready yet to “be blameless” before God. He had lessons to learn and needed time to grow his faith first. God didn’t call Abram up to account for all his past sins. God was ready to move forward and let the past lie. But Abram would have to “step it up” for this next portion of God’s promise. Also the consequences of his past sins would still come back to haunt him.
The first thing He did was give Abram a new name. This new name would reflect a change a status change and a directional change. No longer “high father” but “father of nations” instead. Did you notice that God changed Abram’s name to Abraham BEFORE he carried out His command? God had seen the faithfulness of Abram too. I’m wondering if God changed Abram’s name to Abraham BEFORE telling him what was required as an incentive and enticement. Most people, when shown faith in their new role want to step it up to prove their worthiness for the confidence placed in them. Abraham was no different in that respect.
The next thing God promised was that Abraham’s descendants would possess the land he had been traveling in. This beautiful, lush, bountiful land would belong to his children. The FULL significance of the name change previously mentioned didn’t register with Abraham. He was expecting all this land to belong to Ishmael and his descendants. He imagined the “nations” would come from Ishmael’s children later on, not from his own body. “This will be a nice place for my son and his children and grandchildren to live.”
Now God gets down to Abraham’s part of this agreement. All the other requirements God had called Abram to engage in were external behaviors. They were actions that could be undone or relegated to the past. The first one was to leave his homeland. Abram could have said, and did, “This new land is too tough. I think I’ll try it over here for a while.” The second was the sacrifice Abram completed after being told how many descendants he would have. That one stuck in his heart and mind but didn’t bring the patience from his family that was required. And when Sarai lost patience he gave in to her lack of faith. She didn’t see his promise as personal to her; only to him.
This requirement would be different. This would be one that was EXTREMELY personal and could NOT be undone. He would be reminded of this commitment EVERY DAY. The pain would subside but the evidence would never go away.
EVERY male, eight days old or older, would be required to submit to this requirement to participate in this commitment. I wonder what happened if someone said “No” to Abraham. The only males in Abraham’s family were him and Ishmael. The rest of the males would be his servants and slaves. Would they be released if they refused or would they have to comply anyway? I doubt Ishmael would have balked because he was treated as the promised heir since his birth. Anyone not submitting would be cut off from God. Abraham would NOT let that happen to his heir! Abraham would also be reminded of his commitment each time a new man entered his family, by birth or purchase. Each one would join him in this lifelong requirement for admittance to God’s promise.
Something that just occurred to me was that Abraham’s never again used Hagar as his “wife” after returning her to Sarai as her servant. If he had he probably would have had other children by her during this thirteen year period. Anyway, just a side thought.
Father God, thank You for taking me step by step. Thank You that You don’t show me all the “requirements” for my WHOLE life up front. I would probably run away screaming! But You grow me each step of the way to be able to handle what will come next. You also don’t abandon me along the way because I mess up. And I DO mess up! There is no doubt about that. Instead, You use my mistakes to help me learn and prepare me for future lessons; You redeem them. No lesson is a waste of time or pointless. I may not see the purpose right away but it IS in there, just waiting for the right moment to be revealed.
Thank You for my daily “promise reminders.” Through little things placed about in my life, You remind me daily of the promises I have made to You and that You have made to me. Mine are not as personal as Abraham’s but they speak to me anyway. Every time I open my Kindle to play a game or my computer to surf the net, I’m reminded of the commitment I made to You regarding our time together. Some days it’s harder to fulfill that alone time because of the day’s requirements, but I am reminded to spend even a few extra seconds with You regardless. Sometimes it is in song or prayer instead. ALL are appreciated! ANY time with You is valuable!