In Genesis 12 God makes a promise to Abram and God is always faithful to keep his promises. God can and will accomplish what He promises regardless of the circumstances. In the case of Abram and Sarai we see that their circumstances seemed hopeless and in their hopelessness they decided God needs a helping hand in accomplishing what He has set out to do. We are not unlike them. We intervene and try to fix what we think God has broken or maybe even forgot about. Certainly Abram and Sarai felt the need to assist God in accomplishing his promise and as we saw; when humans begin to meddle with God’s plans things can go awry and become a big mess very quickly.
Vs 1 - 3: We are told in verse 1 that Abram is 99 years old. This is significant because it shows us (the reader) how amazing the promise of God is that He made to Abram many years prior. We are reminded that nothing is impossible with God… even at the ripe old age of 99 God is still going to keep his promise of a child to Abram no matter the circumstances. His age is also significant because it also informs us that thirteen years have passed between chapters 16 & 17. One can assume that Abram had not heard from God for 13 long years. Maybe Abram’s patience was wearing thin because it has been 24 years since God made the initial promise to him to bless him with a child and give him land. I wonder if Abram’s faith was shaken... Is it possible that he resigned himself to the fact that Ishmael was going to be the chosen son? God told him 13 years ago that Ishmael was not so it is possible he is beginning to wonder if God is going to pull through for him on this one. We are not told right now how Sarai is feeling during this time? Had she given up hope as well?
The Lord appears to Abram. In this encounter we see a sequence of events.
- First God declares, “I am God almighty” or the NET translation states, “I am the Sovereign Lord.” This is important because in God’s declaration He is stating who he is. The Hebrew word for God almighty is El Shaddai which basically means God (El) is mighty, powerful (Shaddai). In this declaration God states that he is the king of the world who gives, blesses and judges all. Nothing is out of his control. In a nutshell he declares that He is sovereign. The Bible speaks of God’s sovereignty over and over again in both the Old and the New Testaments. In Psalm 115:3 “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” God is not subject to any ruler or being because He is supreme and answers to no one. In Romans 11:36 Paul writes, "For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen." Everything exists because of Him and for Him. To say that God is sovereign is to say that God is the one and only all powerful God who does as he pleases and is pleased in all that he has created, done and will do for his glory and our blessing. It is important for us to understand and recognize that it is not only important for followers of Christ to acknowledge his sovereignty but to accept and believe he is sovereign as well. God declares himself sovereign to Abram thus he is saying He has all things under control. He knows Abram is still old and childless but that doesn’t change the conditions of his promise and covenant he made. Things may seem grim and hopeless for Abram but God reminds him that he is sovereign. May we need to be reminded of this today as well?
- God commands Abram to “Walk before me and be blameless.” The words “walk before me” could also be translated “Live your life before me.” Abram is called to live a moral and upright life (blameless) before. God is not telling Abram to be perfect he is simply telling him to live and conduct his life for God in all his ways.
- God confirms that if Abram is faithful in walking before and is blameless before God then He will give Abram a multitude of descendants.
- Abram’s response - worship. Abram’s encounter with God involves worship. Abram bows his head and falls to the ground in awe. This is a proper expression of worship, admiration and gratitude. This posture also signifies reverence, surrender and humility.
Vs 4 – 5: God’s covenant with Abram results in name change. Abram means “exalted father” but Abraham means “father of multitudes.” I have mentioned on occasion that names in the Bible have significance. In modern times names can be no more than two parents coming up with a name that they think no one else will come up with. In some cases a child may be named after a parent or relative. However in biblical times a name expresses the character or the perceived parental destiny of the child. Of course children are always named at birth and rarely would someone have a name change mid life and even more rare to change a name at this late stage of life. Thus this name change is more than a hopeful destiny of Abraham. His name change is a divine guarantee of Abraham’s future. The name change was not made by his human parents but by the divine Father. God basically says, “Your parents named you ‘exalted father’ but I am renaming you ‘Father of multitudes.’” His name change would serve as a reminder of God’s covenant. Every time Abraham spoke or heard his name He would be reminded of the promise of God to make him the Father of a multitude of people.