Sunday, July 11, 2021

Genesis 17 Devotional Bible Study by Steve Wilson

Genesis 17

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty[a]; 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[b]; your name will be Abraham,[c] 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.”

 

Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 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. 13 Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

 

15 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”

 

17 Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”

 

19 Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac.[d] I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. 20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. 21 But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.” 22 When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.

 

23 On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him. 24 Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised, 25 and his son Ishmael was thirteen; 26 Abraham and his son Ishmael were both circumcised on that very day. 27 And every male in Abraham’s household, including those born in his household or bought from a foreigner, was circumcised with him.

 

Footnotes

  1. Genesis 17:1 Hebrew El-Shaddai
  2. Genesis 17:5 Abram means exalted father.
  3. Genesis 17:5 Abraham probably means father of many.
  4. Genesis 17:19 Isaac means he laughs.

 

 

Who He Is

Genesis 17:1-2

“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.”

 

Why should we walk faithfully and be blameless before God? Because He’s God Almighty. It’s that simple. That’s all the claim to our allegiance and our obedience He needs. We obey Him because He’s our God, our Creator. It is His right to command us.

 

But what I love about Him is the fact that He also rewards obedience. He doesn’t have to. He could simply demand our loyalty and unswerving obedience to His rules and offer us nothing in return.

 

But He doesn’t do that. He never does that. He is a giving God. When we obey Him, He rewards us with more than our faithfulness deserves. In Genesis 17, He gives Abraham Himself when He offers to enter into a covenant with Him. He also enters into a covenant with us, and rather than giving us the promise of many descendants, He promises us eternal life.

 

Is your obedience worth eternal life? Is it worth being in a covenant, a relationship, with God Almighty? I know my obedience isn’t worth all that, but God gives it to me anyway.

 

Take some time today to thank Him for His generosity toward you. And remember, He deserves your loyalty simply because of who He is, but He also rewards you for it, because that’s who He is.

 

 

An Offer You Can’t Refuse

Genesis 17:7

“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.”

 

Isn’t it strange that God offers to be Abraham’s God? Isn’t He everyone’s God? Yet part of the covenant He makes with Abraham is to be his God and the God of his descendants after him.

 

I think this points to the personal nature of the relationship God wants to have with us. Yes, He is everyone’s God, but not everyone acknowledges Him. And if they do, not everyone invests in having a relationship with Him.

 

But when we enter into a covenant with Him, as Abraham did, we enter into a relationship. He becomes our God, not simply the general God of the universe. And the fact that God offers to be our God, to have a personal relationship with us, shows how much He loves each one of us.


What can you do today to invest in your covenant relationship with Him? How can you help make sure that your descendants or the generation after you maintains that covenant?

 

 

Who’s the Leader?

Genesis 17:10-11

“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.”


Circumcision? Really, God?

 

Why did God choose circumcision? Why choose to make the sign of His covenant something that only males could participate in? And why make something that only the individual would see most of the time? Shouldn’t the sign have been something that was a witness to other people?

 

Male only: God was confirming that men are the leaders of their households. If the men are following God’s covenant, they should have enough influence over the women in their lives that they will also follow God’s covenant.

 

Circumcision: By choosing to mark a male’s manhood, He was showing him that just as he is the leader of his household, so God is his leader. God has so much authority over him that he can even demand this mark in the sign of his manhood.

 

Private: This sign was something that only the individual man would see most of the time because his relationship with God is to be a personal matter. He must follow the covenant himself, not simply as a member of a community. If he’s doing so, his life will be an example to others.

 

Whereas God doesn’t require circumcision under our new covenant in Christ, all of these concepts are still valid in the Christian life. Think today about how you can lead your family in this new covenant. How can you acknowledge God as being your leader? Are you following Him personally, or going along with the rest of your church community?

 

 

Cut Off

Genesis 17:14

“Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

 

I see three things in this verse: an action, a consequence, and a reason. The person refused to be circumcised, so he was cut off from the people for breaking God’s covenant.

 

First, we need to understand that after God made this part of His covenant with Abram, Jewish males would have been circumcised as children. They wouldn’t have had a choice in the matter. So, we’re not talking about native-born Jews. We’re talking about grown men who wanted to convert to Judaism.

 

If a male wasn’t circumcised but wanted to join the community of God’s people, it would be easy enough for him to undergo the rite of the covenant. Abraham did it as an old man, Ishmael as an adolescent. Refusing to be circumcised shows that the man is not willing to obey God by taking the mark in his flesh, and that’s where we can draw the parallel to our lives.

 

If we want to be a part of God’s people, we have to show our obedience to God on the outside. It has to result in a changed life, exhibited by changed behavior. We can’t say we’re a Christian and keep living the same way, just like a convert to Judaism couldn’t join the people and keep everything the same.

 

If we don’t make that outward change in our behavior, what happens? The consequence for the false Jew was to be cut off from his people. He couldn’t be a part of the community without really being a part of the community. It’s the same way with us. We can’t be a part of a church or a family of believers if we don’t exhibit true faith through a changed life.

 

The Church Universal and the church local has every right to recognize a false brother or sister among them and cast them out. Maybe doing so will move that person to take God’s covenant seriously.

 



 

Negotiating for Less?

Genesis 17:17-18

Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”

 

Why does Abraham laugh? It is it because he’s overwhelmed with joy or because he’s overwhelmed with the thought of having to raise a child as a 100-year-old man? Does he think what God is promising is too good to be true? Does he think God is joking?

 

He doesn’t seem to believe God; he tries to negotiate down from the great miracle God wants to do for him in giving him a son by his wife to blessing the son he already has. It would be like if God offered us eternal life, and we say, “How about instead of that, You just give me a really good 80 years or so in this life?”

 

It doesn’t make sense to try to talk God out of something He wants to do for us, does it? Why would we want to settle for less than He wants to give?

 

God wants to do great things in and through and for you. Don’t get overwhelmed. Don’t doubt. Don’t try to negotiate down. Take God at His word and see what miracles He’ll do for you.

 

 

Two-Sided Relationship

Genesis 17:20-21

“And as for Ishmael, I have heard you…But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.”

 

After Abraham tries to negotiate God down from giving him another son to simply blessing the son he already has, God does both! That’s how gracious God is. He listens to Abraham’s request but still does what He originally planned.

 

Do you believe that God listens to and answers your prayers too?


Even when we can’t see how God is working all things for our good, and we pray something less than what God wants to do, He still takes our requests into serious consideration. He’s a loving and generous Father who shows that He wants to be in a genuine relationship with us by hearing our prayers and acting on them.

 

What sort of relationship would we have with God if we prayed to Him but He ignored us and simply went on with His plan?

 

That’s not the sort of self-absorbed Person He is. He doesn’t want a one-sided relationship. He respects you enough to listen to you and take your requests seriously.

 

 

The Realistic Christian Life

Genesis 17:23

On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him.


You know what I’m going to say about this verse, don’t you?

 

“On that very day…” There’s no hesitation, no consideration, no weighing his options. It’s instant obedience.

 

Even though he has doubts.

 

Remember how Abraham laughed when God said He would give him a son through his 90-year-old wife?

 

This obedience is the picture of living out your faith, continuing to trust even when you have questions, even when you’re not sure. You have doubts – maybe you’re not sure about some things – but you keep going with God.

 

AND… you bring others along with you. Abraham brought everyone he had influence over into the covenant. His family, the people who worked for him.

 

This is what the realistic faithful life looks like: dealing with questions in a trustful and obedient attitude and inviting others into the covenant with you.

 

 

 

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