This chapter opens with God’s declaration that, “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.’ Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying: ‘As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God’” (Gen. 17:1-8).
As you begin to read Genesis 17, you realize that 13 years have passed since Ishmael had been born, and God still had not given Abram and Sarai their promised child (Gen. 16:16). After thirteen years of silence, and after Abram had tried to fulfill God’s promise in his own strength by marrying Hagar, God came to Abram again to reveal Himself, and made the same promise concerning the child He would give Abram and Sarai.
It is important to remember from our previous study, that God had made Abram wait for this child so he might see that his body was as good as dead, and that he might become convinced that it was impossible for him to fulfill God’s promise on his own (Heb. 11:12). From Abram’s own words, it is clear that he had become absolutely convinced that he could not father a child. Note how Abram responded to God’s promise in this chapter when he cries out, “Shall a child be born to a man who is one hundred years old? And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” (Gen. 17:17). From this verse it is clear that Abram had absolutely no hope that this child was ever going to come forth from him or his wife. Is this the reason why God waited so long to fulfill His promise? I believe it was! God often waits to fulfill His promises until our trust in our own self-sufficiency is completely removed, and we see that God alone has provided the answer. When Abram and Sarai had no hope in themselves, then God revealed His glory and His Almighty power by giving them this child. God has done this very same thing many times as recorded in Scripture. One of the best examples was Gideon. God removed almost his entire army and left him with only 300 soldiers, and then sent him out against tens of thousands of Midianites and Amalekites. God told Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me’” (Judges 7:2). God always wants you and everyone around you to know that His hand is the one that delivers, provides, and saves His people. This was the lesson of faith that Abram and Sarai had to learn. It is also a lesson that we all need to learn as well!
I am Almighty God! Vs. 1
When God declared these words to Abram, “I am Almighty God,” He was declaring His sovereign power and ability that He alone possessed to fulfill these promises. The Hebrew words for “Almighty God,” are El (God), and Shaddai (the Almighty and all Sufficient One). In other words, when God made these promises to Abram, He wanted him to get his eyes on the One who was all sufficient to fulfill these promises. This was the God of heaven who is able to perform whatever He declares, because He is the All-Sufficient-One for anything He wills. In chapter eighteen, God will again declare His sufficiency to Abraham and Sarah by asking a simple question, “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Gen. 18:14). In the New Testament, Paul explained to us that this was exactly what persuaded and convinced Abraham to believe God’s promise. Paul taught that Abraham became, “Fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform” (Rom. 4:21). Note also that this statement that Abraham became “fully convinced,” clearly indicates a process where God was persuading Abraham’s heart to believe.
In any struggle of faith, with any of us, fixing our eyes on God’s sufficiency is always the surest path to becoming fully convinced that what He has promised He is able to perform. This is also why Paul commanded every Christian to, “Fight the good fight of faith” (1 Tim. 6:12). This is the fight that we all must win, by choosing to trust what God has said, because He is Almighty in His power, and not to trust what we feel or think. It is the battle in our own minds where we fail, when we are tempted to try and figure out how God will fulfill His Word. Instead, we must settle it in our hearts and minds that if God promised to act on our behalf, He will! Therefore, we must simply trust Him and allow Him to fulfill His Word in His own way and in His own timing. Oh, what an important lesson this is to learn! If you are in the midst of this test right now, stop and focus your heart upon His Almighty power and faithfulness to His Word.
Walk before Me and be blameless. Vs. 1
God then gave to Abraham a very simple command to obey. He told him, “Walk before Me and be blameless.” What did God mean when He gave this command? Did He expect Abram to be perfect? Not at all. God could not have meant that he had to be perfect or flawless! Why? Because no human being could ever live perfectly or flawlessly in this life. The Bible is absolutely clear on this topic of human weakness when it declares, “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Rom. 3:10). Paul also adds, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). When you study this Hebrew word blameless, it means to be sincere, upright, and to keep yourself from defilement. To see this word in the context of Scripture is very important. Joshua commanded the people of Israel to, “Fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:14)! The word sincerity in this verse is the same Hebrew word as blameless in our text. David used this same word when he encouraged God’s people to walk uprightly with truth in their hearts when he said, “He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart” (Ps. 15:2). The word uprightly is the same Hebrew word blameless. Note that it is also defined in this verse as being one who works righteousness and who speaks truth in his heart. This is the kind of heart God wanted for Abram as he walked with the Lord. Another passage where this same Hebrew word is used is in Psalms 18:23. David declared, “I was also blameless before Him, and I kept myself from my iniquity.” Notice how David defined this word blameless. He said that as a blameless man he would keep himself from iniquity. Therefore, sincerity and blamelessness will always mean that we say no to sinful attitudes and behaviors. You are saying, “I don't want to do this.” But, do you cross that line and sin sometimes? Yes, absolutely we all do. But this is not the willful practice of iniquity. To willfully practice sin while professing to follow the Lord would be hypocrisy. But, when you are keeping yourself from iniquity and you fall into some sin, you will naturally go to God in prayer and ask for His forgiveness, and He will grant it. This confession and turning to God are also what proves that you are sincere and walking with the Lord in a blameless way.
God can also see our hearts as we walk with him. The Lord searches and knows each of our hearts and can see if we are sincerely following Him or not. Just as God knew that Abram had been wavering in his faith over the promise of this child, He knows each of our hearts too. As God saw Abram’s compromise by marrying Hagar to obtain a child by her, He also knows if we are compromising in our behavior. God wanted Abram to sincerely trust Him for this child that was yet to be born, just as He wants our sincere trust. May we each choose to sincerely follow the Lord, keeping a good conscience before Him. Paul declared that a sincere conscience was what was most important to him when he said, “For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you” (2 Cor. 1:12). May God give each of us this testimony of a sincere conscience before Him!
God again renews His covenant promise to Abram. Vs. 2
In this encounter with God, He repeats His covenant promise to Abram, and adds a few new points to His promise. The original covenant promise had been given to Abram in Genesis 12, and again in Genesis 15. As God begins to speak to Abram, he falls on his face before the Lord in awe and total humility. I love this fact, that with any true encounter with God, an awestruck reverence overwhelms any person. Exactly how the Lord revealed Himself to Abram, we are not told. God has manifested His presence to men in many different ways throughout the Scripture. He may have come in a cloud, or a burning bush, or in a vision of light, but however God revealed Himself it was obvious to Abram that this was Almighty God. One day when we each enter into the presence of God in heaven, we also will fall face down before Him as we cry out “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lamb” (Rev. 5:11-14).
I will multiply you exceedingly, and make you the father of many nations.
God again proclaims that Abram’s descendants will be multiplied exceedingly, and now adds the fact that he will become the father of many nations, and that kings shall come from him. In addition, God tells Abram, “No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you” (Gen. 17:5-7). Note that God changed Abram’s name to match the fulfillment of His promise, before anything had happened that Abram could see. The name Abraham literally means the father of a multitude, yet at this point Abraham only had one child through the bondwoman Hagar. I love the fact that God calls this man by a name that reflects what God knew would come to pass. This is why Paul the Apostle declared that our sovereign God, “Gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did” (Rom. 4:17). In other words, God speaks of future events as though they had already been accomplished. How can God do this? Because He dwells in eternity and sees all things from beginning to end. Therefore, when God speaks a promise, it will be done just as He has declared, you can count on it. He simply wants you to believe that it will!
One thing you should note in this chapter is that God declares, “I will,” as the declaration of His faithfulness. He uses this terminology thirteen times in this one chapter. God asserts, “I will,” not “I’m thinking about it,” or “I might do this or that.” No, God declares that He will do what He has promised! These words are declaring His absolute faithfulness to do what He has promised. This assurance is exactly what God was attempting to give to Abraham so that he would believe this covenant promise. These words were also what God used to persuade Abraham in his faith, and convince him it would occur.
I would encourage you, that when you see God using these words I will in Scripture, that you would mark them in your Bible, and allow your heart to be encouraged too. Then focus your thoughts on the One who is able to, “Do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20). This is why God first revealed Himself to Abraham in this chapter as, “Almighty God,” because He wanted Abraham to know who was promising to work on his behalf (Gen. 17:1). If He is Almighty God, then He is able to do anything that He wills. So, when you begin your prayer time, first focus on His ability, and Who you are talking to when you begin to pray. He is the God who created the heavens and the universe, and all that is in them. God declared that He holds all of the trillions of galaxies in the universe in the span of His hand, which is the space between your thumb and your little finger (Is. 40:12). That means that He is a very big God! This means you are talking to someone who can do anything He chooses to do. May your faith be encouraged that when He promises that He will work and fulfill His promises to you, He will do just that.
I will give the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession. Vs. 8
In addition, God promised Abraham, “I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God” (Gen. 17:8). The fact that the land of Canaan was to be an everlasting possession to Abraham and his descendants is very clear from this passage. This was an addition to the covenant promise to Abraham that he had never heard before. Later in this same chapter, God also told Sarah that the descendants He was referring to would be Abraham’s children specifically through the promised child Isaac (Gen 17:19). This should settle the issue concerning the land of Canaan and who it belongs to, which is such a contentious topic today. The Jewish people are not living on stolen land as Arab terrorists declare today. God has been absolutely clear that the land of Canaan, was to be an everlasting possession for the Jewish people. Today this territory is called the land of Israel. It is important to remember that even though the Jews have been dispersed from their land several times, this does not change the fact of what God has declared. The land of Israel is an “everlasting possession,” which means that the land of Canaan will always and forever be the Jewish homeland. This will never change!
The command of circumcision. Vs. 9-14
God declared to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you. He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not your descendant. He who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money must be circumcised, and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant” (Gen. 17:9-14).
What is the purpose of circumcision?
God made it absolutely clear that circumcision was a critical point of this covenant that He made with Abraham. This religious rite was to separate the Jews from all the rest of the people in the world. God’s covenant was specifically designed for Abraham and his descendants, to make them a special people on the earth (Ex. 19:5-6). Notice that God calls the rite of circumcision in verse 11, “A sign of the covenant between Me and you.” The Lord chose circumcision as a sign of remembrance, so the Jews would remember this covenant throughout all their generations.
This is why Paul the Apostle used this term “sign” to explain what circumcision was all about. In Romans 4:11, referring to Abraham he writes, “And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also.” Paul explained that circumcision was simply an outward sign and a seal of a man of faith. Circumcision was not something that could save or make someone righteous before Him, because God had already declared Abraham righteous before Him by his faith alone (Gen. 15:6). Thus, if he became righteous before God long before this rite of circumcision was instituted, then circumcision was simply a seal of his faith. The Greek word seal used in Romans 4:11 by Paul meant an identifying mark. This is a very important point, which is why Paul used this specific wording. Circumcision was given only as an identifying external mark of God’s covenant promise. It had nothing to do with the inward heart of faith in God. It was an outward sign of the inward commitment to God and His covenant. It was a sign and a picture of the cutting away of the flesh, so that a person could love God. God made this truth absolutely clear when Moses taught the Jewish people in Deuteronomy 30:6 when he said, “The Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart with all your soul, that you may live.” Therefore, the point of circumcision was to remind the people that they must reject the lust of the flesh, so that they might love God with all their heart. In fact, no one can truly love God unless that inward circumcision of the heart has taken place, and they have renounced the ways of this world that is governed by lust (2 Peter 1:4). This renunciation of the flesh must take place in every one of our lives!
Paul also affirms in the New Testament that circumcision was only an outward sign of an inward work of God. Notice in Romans 2:28-29 He writes, “For he is and not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, the circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.” Paul clearly understood that the rite of circumcision was an outward sign of something that had already gone on inside the heart of every Jewish believer, and in anyone who had come to faith in Christ.
In addition, Paul gave an even deeper meaning to circumcision, especially for all those who have come to faith in Jesus. In Colossians 2:11 Paul wrote, “In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off of the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ.” When you came to faith in Jesus Christ, God gave you the Holy Spirit to live inside you. The Spirit gave you a new nature which is how you were then enabled to live the Christian life. Your new nature is what enables you to obey the Lord by the putting off of the sins of the flesh. This transformation was immediate at the moment that you put your faith in Jesus, and is what caused you to take that radical turn away from sin and the ways of the world. True salvation will always bring about this radical change in any sinner’s behavior. I personally remember the following day after receiving Christ by faith how my thinking changed about all the sinful behavior that I was involved in at that time. I knew that I could not continue smoking marijuana, getting drunk, or partying anymore. This was all the result of the circumcision of Christ that had occurred in my life.
Paul also teaches that baptism is just the same as circumcision. Baptism should be an outward action that testifies of the inward work of faith, just as circumcision was to do. Paul declared that when you came to faith in Jesus you were at that moment, “Buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses” (Col. 2:12-13). What then is the purpose of water baptism if you were buried with Him, and you were raised again the moment your believed? Never forget that baptism is simply an outward and public testimony that you have put your faith in Jesus, that your sins have been buried with Him, and that you have been made alive in Christ. You must be clear on this fact that water baptism is just like the external rite of circumcision. Baptism is only an external testimony to the world that you have made an internal decision to put your trust in Jesus, and to follow Him. If you need further proof of this fact, remember the thief on the cross who put his faith in Jesus at the last moment of his life. He wasn’t baptized, but that same day he was with Jesus in paradise.
Those bought with money. Vs. 12-13
Many times, when people read this section of Scripture, they ask what it means when God refers to people bought with money. Is God condoning slavery? The Scripture in question declares, “He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not your descendant. He who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money must be circumcised, and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant” (Gen. 17:12-13).
To understand this passage, you must understand that there were three types of slavery that went on in Abraham’s day, and these types of slavery still go on even to this day. The first type of slavery that went on in Abraham’s time was the total subjugation of entire cities, cultures, and nations. This type of slavery is what took place here in our own country until 1865. It is important to also note that most of the Indian tribes who were here before the arrival of Columbus, also subjugated each other when they were conquered in war. This type of slavery has been going on in almost every culture from the beginning of time. Even though some countries today say that they have outlawed slavery, most human rights organizations report that China has over 3.8 million slaves, North Korea 2.5 million, Nigeria 1.3 million, and Iran has 1.2 million slaves. These are just a few of the reported 40 million slaves that are held today around the world.
The second type of slavery is that of indentured servitude, which was a type of labor contract that people made voluntarily, for a specific number of years without pay. Many used these contracts as method to come to Colonial America, and are even used today. It is estimated that between one-half and two-thirds of European immigrants to America between the 1630s and the American Revolution came here as indentures servants.
The third type of slavery were those who were indentured involuntarily as punishment for unpaid debts. This and many other forms of debt slavery have been practiced since the beginning of time. Israel allowed this form of servitude, but had a very important stipulation, that after 6 years of service the person would be released from his or her debt. Notice what God said. “If your brother, a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you and serves you six years, then in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you. And when you send him away free from you, you shall not let him go away empty-handed; you shall supply him liberally from your flock, from your threshing floor, and from your winepress. From what the LORD has blessed you with, you shall give to him. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this thing today” (Deut. 15:12-15). Notice that when the servant had fulfilled their debt, that the master of the house would give liberally from his flock and threshing floor. In other words, he would be liberally helped financially as he or she left his service. However, if this same servant loved his master and did not want to leave the home, he or she could become a hired servant. “And if it happens that he says to you, ‘I will not go away from you,’ because he loves you and your house, since he prospers with you, then you shall take an awl and thrust it through his ear to the door, and he shall be your servant forever. Also to your female servant you shall do likewise. It shall not seem hard to you when you send him away free from you; for he has been worth a double hired servant in serving you six years. Then the LORD your God will bless you in all that you do” (Deut. 15:16-18).
Therefore, the people that Abraham had bought with money were most likely indentured servants, or paid servants, or both. It is important to remember that in Genesis 14, Abraham had 318 trained servants who went with him to war in order to rescue Lot. Why is this important? Because these men were not forced slaves, but must have been paid or indentured servants.
Abraham’s unbelief. Vs. 15-22
One of the most interesting sections of Scripture is revealed here as God counsels Abraham and his response of unbelief toward the Lord. Scripture records, “Then God said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. And I will bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her.’ Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, ‘Shall a child be born to a man who is one hundred years old? And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?’ And Abraham said to God, ‘Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!’ Then God said: ‘No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall beget twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this set time next year.’ Then He finished talking with him, and God went up from Abraham” (Gen. 17:15-22).
Abraham laughs at God’s promise.
I think it is quite obvious that for Abraham to laugh at the promise of God, that he was in total unbelief. Abraham saw that there was no way possible for Sarai to have a child with him. Even though God told him that her name would be changed, and she would now be prophetically called Sarah, which means the princess or mother of nations, Abraham still laughs in unbelief. He even tries to convince God that Ishmael was the promised child, and there was no need for another child to be born. But God responded with an emphatic, No! He declared that Sarah would bear a son, and that Abraham was to call his name Isaac, which meant laughter. God told him that through Isaac this covenant would be established, and with his descendants alone. This was astounding unbelief on the part of Abraham, and incredible grace displayed on the part of God.
How could Abraham laugh at the promise of God? It is very simple. Abraham looked at the circumstances of his age, his wife’s age, and thought to himself, No way is it possible for Sarah and I to have a child! Looking at yourself and your own capabilities will always be the cause of unbelief. Abraham failed to consider the power of the very God who was speaking to him, and that had made this promise years before. God’s Word to him should have been enough. But Abraham also failed to consider all the miracles that God had done for him throughout his life, and how God had led him all the way from the land of Ur. This was the same God who had delivered and defeated the armies of five kings into his hand when Lot was taken captive. This same God had protected him over and over again!
But, don’t think it strange that Abraham would have fallen into unbelief. Why do I say this? Because we have all done the very same thing in our own lives. He has saved and delivered us from our sin, transformed us into men and women of God, and done mighty things in our lives revealing His power and provision for us. But when we put our eyes on some circumstance that overwhelms us, we fall immediately into unbelief and think, How will God handle this problem. This is most people’s natural response. Consider the Children of Israel. They saw incredible miracles before their eyes, such as the plagues God sent on Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, the provision of manna from heaven, but they continually fell into unbelief when they didn’t see how God was going to work out their new problems.
The solution to our common dilemma of unbelief in the midst of trials, must be to change our focus. We need to be looking to God and His power and ability, instead of our own. This is why we are commanded to continually be, “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). The word looking in this verse is in the present tense, which means that this is what we all need to be doing continually all through our day. Paul also told Timothy that he needed to, “Fight the good fight of faith,” which means that fixing your gaze on Jesus throughout the day is not easy (1 Tim. 6:12). This word fight is also in the present tense, which makes it clear that this fight is also something we all need to do continually. Why? Because there is a constant demonic influence that is going on around us every day. You also have a constant battle with your own fleshly desires that want you to compromise your faith. Everyone in the world will also be constantly moving in the opposite direction, and encouraging you to go with them.
Another real-life example of how to solve this struggle of unbelief is Job. When he was struggling with all of the trials in his life, notice how God dealt with him in Job 38:3-4. God challenged Job when He told him, “Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me if you have understanding.” Job had been talking a lot about God, and what he thought he knew about Him, but now God challenged him about the depth of his understanding about things he knew nothing about. In other words, God was trying to show Job that he really didn’t know anything of His ways and His means of working with men. As you continue to read chapters 38-42 you see God confronts Job with the reality of His great power and knowledge, which was far beyond his own. God’s point was to encourage Job to get his eyes on His power and knowledge, and stop trusting his own reasoning. God was showing Job that if He established the foundations of the earth, and took care of everyone and everything in this world, Job needed to put his trust in God’s sovereignty and plan, and not his own.
There is one more great example of how God deals with unbelief. This instruction is found in Isaiah 40:25-27. In this passage, God gives very similar encouragement to His struggling people. God challenges them with these words, “To whom then will you liken Me, or to whom shall I be equal?” says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these things, who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, by the greatness of His might and strength of his power; not one is missing. Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel; ‘My way is hidden from the Lord, and my just claim is passed over by my God’”? God here responds to the charge of His people that He was unjust, and that He did not see or know what their needs were. Notice again that God challenged His people to consider His strength and knowledge of everything that was going on in the universe. He told them that He had not lost one star in the heavens, and that He even called each one them by their name. God revealed the greatness of His might and the strength of His power and knowledge.
So, if you have ever questioned if God knows what is going on in your life, or charged Him with not answering your prayers, you need to consider who you are talking to. He is the God who by the greatness and might of His power has created all things and sustains every part of His universe. I may not understand what God is doing, but He absolutely does know. What has taken you by surprise, has not shocked or astonished Him. You need to trust that because of His great knowledge of all things that He is working all things out for your good (Rom. 8:28). He is doing this even when it appears to you that everything is in chaos. This is exactly what happened to Job, and to Israel when they questioned God’s care for them. Trust Him, because He knows what He is doing! Focus on His ability, wisdom, and power! Is this where your focus is today?
Abraham’s faith. Vs. 23-27
It is important to notice at this point in the story what Abraham does after God finishes speaking to him. The Scriptures record, “So Abraham took Ishmael his son, all who were born in his house and all who were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house, and circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very same day, as God had said to him. Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. That very same day Abraham was circumcised, and his son Ishmael; and all the men of his house, born in the house or bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him” (Gen. 17:23-27).
The first question people ask about this passage is, how can we be sure that Abraham had any faith at all after the way he responded to God? The answer is very simple. Abraham’s faith was seen by his instant obedience to God’s command. Notice that twice in this section of Scripture it is declared that Abraham obeyed, “That very same day.” This phrase reveals that his heart had surrendered to God’s direction for him, and therefore he immediately obeyed by doing exactly what God told him to do. Abraham heard and heeded God’s command. Hearing God’s Word is always where faith is conceived in any human heart. Scripture declares that, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17). So as Abraham heard God’s Word concerning the covenant, and the promise of the child that was to be born through Sarah, Abraham immediately obeyed God’s command by circumcising every male in his household.
Do you obey like this? Do you instantaneously jump up when God speaks to you and act upon His command or promise? Do you get up and make that phone call to reconcile with that person when God convicts you? When God speaks to you and reminds you about someone that is in great need, do you go to them or call them and give that word of encouragement? When you are asked to sacrificially help someone, do you willingly respond? These forms of obedience would clearly show your faith, just as it did with Abraham. The obedience of faith is one of the least understood concepts in the Christian life, but it is one of the most necessary aspects for growth and maturity. The Apostle James declared, “But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works’” (James 2:18). Paul also connected obedience and faith directly together in his epistle to the Romans when he wrote, “Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name” (Rom. 1:5). God will always give His grace so that His people can put their faith into action.
The opposite concept is also true. When you study the Scriptures on the subject of disobedience you will always see it is connected with unbelief. The psalmist wrote of the Children of Israel who, “Despised the pleasant land; they did not believe His word, but complained in their tents, and did not heed the voice of the LORD (Ps. 106:24-25). Notice that when the people did not believe they complained, and did not heed the voice of the LORD. Any disobedience to God’s direction in your life will always be rooted in unbelief. Any obedience to His direction will always be coupled with faith. Scripture declares, “By faith Abraham obeyed…” (Heb. 11:8). Therefore, always make the connection in your mind between faith and obedience. This is the testimony of Scripture.
Now granted, it is obvious that Abraham did not have a lot of faith at this point in his life, because he was simply focusing on his age and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. But he also took some action by faith, by his obedience to the command to circumcise all the males in his house. Taking these steps of faith will always be essential if you want your faith to grow. As you do, your faith will mature so you can fully obtain the promise of God. How can I be so sure of this fact? Consider the man who came to Jesus wanting Him to heal his demon-possessed son. Mark records, “And when He came to the disciples, He saw a great multitude around them, and scribes disputing with them. Immediately, when they saw Him, all the people were greatly amazed, and running to Him, greeted Him. And He asked the scribes, ‘What are you discussing with them?’ Then one of the crowd answered and said, ‘Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit. And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not.’ He answered him and said, ‘O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me.’ Then they brought him to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth. So He asked his father, ‘How long has this been happening to him?’ And he said, ‘From childhood. And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’ When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, ‘Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!’ Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, ‘He is dead.’ But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose” (Mark 9:14-27). The important issue to see in this story is the fact that this father did not have perfect faith, but he took a bold step that would build his faith. The father acknowledged this weakness when he confessed, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” Did Jesus accept this man’s little faith? Yes! Why? Because he declared, “Lord, I believe.” In other words, this man was saying to Jesus, “I am choosing to put my faith in you with the little faith I have, even though I have doubts.” This man didn’t sit and watch Jesus walk by and think, I have doubts, so I shouldn’t even bother the Master. No, he came with the faith that he had, and acknowledged in humility that he was struggling to believe. You must understand that faith is a choice to come to the Lord with your needs. This father made a choice to come with the faith that he had. We all must put our little faith into action and come to Jesus!
This is exactly what Abraham did as well. He took the one step that God had commanded him to take, which was to go circumcise every male in his house as a sign of his faith in the covenant of God. He did what he could do, and he trusted God to fulfill the rest of His promise. This is what each of us needs to do. If you wait for perfect faith, you will never grow or go forward in your faith. You need to take a step of faith in the direction that God is calling you to go. By doing so, you are acknowledging that you believe, and you are asking God to help your unbelief. This is the choice of faith. If you allow your unbelief to control your behavior, you will not take those initial steps of faith that are possible. By not taking the little steps of faith that are possible, you are only focusing on what you consider to be impossible. Abraham did what was possible for him to do, and he obeyed in faith. Where do you need to take your initial steps of faith and obedience today?