NEW NAMES, NEW FAITH, NEW BEGINNINGS, NEW JOY!
"When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, "I am God Almighty (El-shaddai); walk before me and be blameless. I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers." This is the fourth time the Lord appeared to Abraham after he was in the land and thirteen years after he fathered Ishmael. Though some say he may have thought Ishmael was the promised seed (for it is not recorded that the son must come though Sarah until this chapter), it seems clear from Gen. 16:11-12 that Abraham would know that Ishmael was not the promised seed. Maybe the on-going delay was a discipline for his and Sarah's impatience and human solution ("using Hagar") and it certainly magnifies His power even more at their late age.
We see three new names in this chapter and the first is El-shaddai – a Name for God that has not been used to this point. Though the exact meaning of this Name for God is not certain it relates to both the word for mountain and for breast and together may imply the God of abundant supply or the all-sufficient One. Scripture assures us of this many times over; that He makes up every lack and is able to meet our deepest desires both now and forever. (Psalm 23; 73:25-26; 2 Cor. 12:7-10) It is in knowing that He is our all in all that enables us to "walk before Him and be blameless" for we find our joy and pleasure in Him and not in sinful pleasures. (Heb. 11:25)
"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." Abram means exalted father and refers to his lineage (looking back) whereas Abraham means father of many nations as God calls him by faith to look to the future. Through both Isaac and Ishmael and later through his children with Keturah (after Sarah died) Abraham was truly the father of many nations.
"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. Then God said to Abraham, "As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants. Every male among you shall be circumcised." Abraham's temporal participation in God's blessing was conditioned on his faithfulness and obedience to God's commands; he believed and obeyed and that very day circumcised every male in his household and his servants who had come to faith. (v. 23- Wow!) Likewise for New Covenant believers; we are saved by grace but God blesses and rewards obedience both now and for eternity. (John 8:31-32; 14:21-23; Gal. 6:7-9; Phil. 2:12-13) Grace is opposed to earning but not opposed to effort.
Circumcision was an outward sign of being in covenant with God (belonging to God – He owns us) but both the Old and New Testament emphasize that inward circumcision of the heart is what joins us to God. Circumcision stood for a thorough commitment to God and the apostle Paul demands that the heart be circumcised to God. (Deut. 10:12-22; Rom. 2:25-29) Some say it is a sign that shows the impurity of nature (original sin) at the very source of life (sexual reproduction) and the need to depend on God for life itself (conception – as shown through the miracle of birth in the aged Abraham and Sarah) and a life purified and owned by God (the new birth). God wants godly seeds (children) both physical and spiritual. (See Malachi 2:13-16)
"As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 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." Sarai to Sarah's change of name seems more subtle; both names mean "princess or queen" but the former may imply a princess to her parents and the latter a princess of kings, and many descendants. As God inspires Abraham's faith to bear children in this chapter (see Rom. 4:16-22), He inspires Sarah's faith to reproduce in the next chapter with these words: "Is anything too hard for God? I'll be back about this time next year and Sarah will have a baby." (Gen. 18:13-14; The Message; Heb. 11:11)
"Abraham fell facedown; he laughed."(Isaac means laughter – v.19) Some believe he laughed in doubt but from the commentary from Scripture (Rom. 4:16-22) it seems he rejoiced in the power of God and the sure blessing of a child through Sarah (within the year, per God's promise- v. 21) who would bear the promised seed (Isaac) and through which the Messiah would come. In fact, every time he hears people call him by his new name, "Abraham, father of many nations", with only one son and him from a servant not his wife, it builds his faith in God's promise to him to have descendents as many as the stars in the heavens. (Gen 15:5) "Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring-not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written: "I have made you a father of many nations." He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed-the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were. Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be." Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead-since he was about a hundred years old-and that Sarah's womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised." (Rom. 4:16-21)
"Note, If God's promises be our joy, his mercies promised shall in due time be our exceeding joy. Christ will be laughter to those that look for him; those that now rejoice in hope shall shortly rejoice in having that which they hope for: this is laughter that is not mad." (Matthew Henry) Peter says by faith we, like Abraham, can rejoice now with joy inexpressible and full of glory: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls."(1 Peter 1:3-9)
Discussion Questions FOR APPLICATION OF GOD'S WORD
El-shaddai – God of abundant supply or the all-sufficient One. Scripture assures us of this many times over; that God makes up every lack and is able to meet our deepest desires both now and forever. (Psalm 23; 73:25-26; 2 Cor. 12:7-10) It is in knowing that He is our all in all that enables us to "walk before Him and be blameless" for we find our joy and pleasure in Him and not in sinful pleasures. (Heb. 11:25) Paul realized this in his greatest weakness and affirmed that His "grace is sufficient." (See 2 Cor. 12:7-10) Where do you need to believe this truth for your life?
Abraham's faith grows through faith and obedience. Notice the reciprocal relationship between obedience to God and revelation of God: "So Jesus said to those Jews who had believed in Him, If you abide in My word [hold fast to My teachings and live in accordance with them], you are truly My disciples. And you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free." (John 8:31-32 Amp.; also see John 14:21-23; Gal. 6:7-9; Phil. 2:12-13) Where is God calling you to obedience and thus a greater revelation of Him?
"Abraham fell facedown; he laughed."(Isaac means laughter – v.19) "Yet he (Abraham) did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised." (See Rom. 4:16-21) Peter says by faith we, like Abraham, can rejoice now with joy inexpressible and full of glory because of the promise of salvation -of heaven. But we are not to love heaven more than God Himself and we have Him now – by faith. "And though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls."(1 Peter 1:3-9) Where can your strong faith in the goodness and power of God bring glory to Him right now?
Scripture memory verse: "And though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls." (1 Peter 1:3-9)