Abrahamic Covenant

September 03 2019

By: Anthony Mathenia Scripture: Genesis Series: Genesis

Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 17)

Sermon Link (Live Stream Version)

Following the birth of Ishmael, Abram and Sarai had to endure thirteen years of silence from the Lord. This silence came as the Lord’s discipline for their attempt at a “Deity-Assistance-Plan” with Hagar. Sometimes, the Lord’s patience in bringing things about in our life results in us facilitating a similar “Deity-Assistance-Program” of our own. We do not like the patience of God that often characterizes His dealing with us. Instead, the ‘god’ that we would create in our own making would be one with high blood pressure, who is always moving and shaking, and who has instant microwavable instructions with his promises to make sure they happen on demand. But we shouldn’t despise the ordinary nature of the Christian life, the day of small things (Zech 4:10). If we cannot be content with routine days of walking with God, we will run into problems. If God does not send fireworks, we must be committed to not designing our own bottle-rockets of sorts!

Character of God (verses 1-8)

In the Lord’s promise to Abraham, He assures him of His incomprehensible plenitude of power (v. 1). He is all power, and anything that happens in the world happens by means of His power. Abraham is to “walk before” Him and “be blameless.” Our calling is to a life of fellowship, and there should be nothing and nobody that stands in between us and our God (c.f. 1 John 1:7, Exodus 20:3). Abraham’s life was to be above reproach before the Lord, characterized by wholeness and completeness in terms of His willing submission and surrender to God. His life was to be one without hypocrisy, one that reflects God’s character and values.

On God’s part, He will cause there to be certain fruitfulness in Abraham’s line. The promise of God is not just about Abraham and his son, but about bringing a blessing to His creation through his seed. Not only does God promise lineage to Abraham, but royalty (vv. 4-6). From his line would come the King of Kings!

In response to the promise, Abraham “fell on his face” (v. 3). Reverent submission is the only adequate response to God. The essence of true worship is self being brought low and God being recognized as everything. Out conscience is awakened by His presence, our minds instructed by His word, our hearts moved by His grace, and our wills surrendered to His purposes.

Conditions of the Covenant (verses 9-14)

Next, God gives Abraham the demands of the covenant (i.e. “Now as for you…”). Covenant promises have covenant obligations, which in the case of this covenant is circumcision. Failure to carry out the covenant obligation would mean a breaking of the covenant. The requirement of circumcision is not the covenant itself, but it is a sign of the covenant. The physical covenant sign was later spiritualized by Moses when he emphasized the need for the people to “circumcise your heart” (Deuteronomy 10:16; c.f. Deuteronomy 30:6). Even for us in the New Covenant, there is a danger for the covenant sign (i.e. baptism) to become an empty formality, without the reality of union to Christ.

Clarifying the Covenant (verses 15-22)

God makes clear that Abraham’s wife Sarah is a part of the promise. He has not covenanted with Abraham in a way that will leave her out of the picture or require Abraham to sin against His Law. Sarah would be the one through whom the promise is fulfilled by the birth of a child. Abraham fell on his face and laughed, probably out of a mixture of reverence, disbelief, and joy. Though Abraham attempts to convince God to bring about the promise through Ishmael, God chooses to deal with Isaac, having determined by divine election to everlastingly bless him and his posterity.

Carrying Out the Cutting (verses 23-27)

Abraham responds with obedience to the command. Faith is only evidenced in obedience. The couple is still barren, yet their trust in God is renewed and their resolve to obey is restored. This act of obedience is also in direct connection to the worship that we see on Abraham’s part (vv. 3, 17). The worship of God produces obedience to God—it is only from a heart of worship to God that true obedience can flow.

– The Old Covenant came with conditions and was breakable, and was therefore broken when the conditions were not kept. The New Covenant too comes with conditions, and those conditions have been kept perfectly by Christ, thereby making it an unconditional guarantee for all who trust wholly in Him for salvation. Are you hoping in Christ alone as the One who has kept the covenant in your place? Are you seeking to receive the promises of God in your own obedience, or have you turned from all confidence in yourself in order to fix your trust in its entirety on the completed work of Jesus Christ in your place? Is this faith evident in obedience in your life? Does it produce genuine worship?