Thursday, March 31, 2011

Genesis 17:1-14

HAPPY “LABOR DAY!” As I write this, Emmy, Nathan, Beau, and Aunt Molly are on their way to the airport to fly to Salt Lake City. The plan was that they would meet the birth mom at dinner tonight, then tomorrow the doctor would induce the birth of our new granddaughter, Penelope. I guess Penelope did not want to be an April Fool, because Emmy called me at 11:15 p.m. last night to tell me that the birth mom’s water had broken! So, we’re reminded, once again, that our plans are not always God’s - and His are never thwarted! Please pray for the birth mom as she labors, then releases this baby. Pray that God will use this in her life to draw her closer to Him, and bless her for choosing life for this little girl. May she, like Hagar, see the One who sees her! Which brings me back to our study...

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”

Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.” (vs 1-8)

Here God basically affirms the promises made in Genesis 12 and 15. Note that the one principle that surrounds this covenant is grace. This is all about what God will do for Abram and his descendants. In fact, God says, “....this is my covenant...”

This covenant, is an everlasting covenant. Even though the Jews were scattered from the area in 70 AD, God promised this land would still be theirs. In Ezekial 11:17 He promised, “I will gather you from the nations and bring you back from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you back the land of Israel again.” Certainly, this regathering beginning in 1948, when the state of Israel was declared in modern times. However, they still do not fully possess the whole land of Canaan, the entire 300,000 square miles God promised them here in verse 8. One day they will, because God has declared it.

Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. (vs. 9-12)

Okay, this is painful to read. I’m sure men cringe when they read it! Why did God choose circumcision as the symbol of this covenant? Wasn’t there an easier way to demonstrate this covenant? Why not a pierced nose or the cutting off of an earlobe? Why not a tattoo??? Why the foreskin? And why at eight days instead of 13 years, which is when many cultures recognize the coming into manhood? I love Beth Moore’s take on this. God is not squeamish about the subject of circumcision, but He is, in fact, deliberate. This symbol of the covenant was NOT about coming into manhood or self-sufficiency. It was about complete reliance on our covenant-keeping God, and pointed to the blessing of the promise: offspring and lineage. This mark was not a publicly seen mark - it was, as Beth says, a private “reminder to the man himself that he belonged to God and that his strength, virility, and abliity to bear much fruit rested in the blessing of God Almighty.”

Indeed, when we receive Christ as our LORD and Savior, there is no visible stamping of a cross on our foreheads - it is our HEARTS that are circumcised (Rom 4:9-12, and Gal 2:15-21). The only outward sign to the world that we belong to God is our changed lives. And the ability to change our lives and bear much fruit rests completely in God. It is by grace from first to last!

Tomorrow we’ll look at the changes that begin from this point for Abram and Sarai. Good things are coming!

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