Genesis 17 Part 1: A Promise Made by a Powerful God

Posted: February 8, 2011 in Devotionals

Genesis 17 picks up 13 years after the point where chapter 16 ends. The last thing we’re told in chapter 16 is that,

Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram.”        Genesis 16:16

 Now he’s 99 years old. Abe was old. Really old. And it’s at the ripe old age of 99, that Abe is visited by the LORD himself, yet again. The LORD shows up to Abe and announces his name. He let’s Abe know who he is. You see, Abe lived in a culture much like our own in this respect: People worshiped a bunch of different “gods”. The same thing is true today. If someone tells you they believe in god, you almost have to ask them which one. You cannot assume that they mean the same thing that you do when you refer to god.

So here, the LORD is distinguishing himself…identifying himself over against (in contrast to) other gods. The LORD announces himself to Abe as, “God Almighty” (verse 1). El Shaddai in Hebrew. In Hebrew, “el” means “God”, and “shaddai” or “shadday” means almighty or all-powerful. God, the all-powerful. The LORD is emphasizing his power here (which is key). He then tells Abe to do two things. walk before me and be blameless (verse 1)And think about it…who’s gonna argue with that? When God announces himself to you and let’s you know that He’s all-powerful, you probably want to do what he says!

Abe is told to “walk before” the LORD. In other words  he was to live his whole life before the LORD in close relationship. And he’s told to be “blameless”, that is…he’s to live in such a way that he doesn’t have any glaring moral flaws. No obvious sins. He’s to be above reproach (nobody should be able to accuse him or criticize him for doing anything morally wrong).

And notice what the LORD says he will do if Abe does this. If he meets these two conditions, the LORD will make a covenant with him and make him the father of a multitude of nations (verse 4). If….he walks before the LORD and is blameless.

Then Abe gets a name makeover. His name gets changed to the name most of us are probably more familiar with, Abraham, which means father of a multitude.  If you remember earlier in chapter 12, the LORD tells Abraham that all the families of the earth would be blessed through him (Genesis 12:3).  In other words, it wasn’t just that Abe was gonna have a bunch a kids, but more than that he was going to be he was going to be a vehicle of God’s blessing to multitudes of people. Even those who aren’t biologically related to him.

The LORD also promises in this covenant, to make Abraham “exceedingly fruitful” (verse 6). This echoes God’s original mandate to Adam and Eve in the garden. The LORD is determined to  fix up everything that was ruined by sin. Ultimately through this covenant that’s made with Abraham the effects of sin will be reversed.



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