This teaching is our 17th session in our verse-by-verse study of the Book of Genesis by pastor Barry – given as part of our family service on 18th June 2017.
In this session, we continue to look at the life and walk of Abraham, and consider some of the trials he experienced. As with us, so many of the problems Abraham wrestled with were of his own making, because he acted independently of God’s will for his life. In short, he walked by sight on a number of occasions and not by faith. In chapter 17 God will call Abraham to ‘be perfect’ – that is, not without sin, but perfect in his intentions, in his desire to seek and serve God above all else – including his own natural inclinations! We see Abraham going through the journey of Grace, starting by 1) Believing that God can do it. Then, by faith, 2) believing that God will do it. Finally Abraham will come to the place where 3) he will realise that God has done it! God is a God who calls things that are not as though they are! God is outside of time, and already knows tomorrow. He will provide Grace for tomorrow as well as Grace for today. If we grasp this is it should change the way we handle problems. We need to know that when we get to a trial (just as Abraham did when Sarah proposed raising up offspring though Hagar in Ch.16), God is already there. We sometimes have this notion that God is journeying with us, and that when we arrive at a cross-road, trial or problem, God arrives with us at the same time. If God doesn’t seem to immediately act, we take it upon ourselves to ‘lend God a helping hand’! The truth is, of course, God was there before we arrived. He already knows the solution to our problem, and it is always “not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit says the LORD” (Zech 4:6).
In chapter 17 the narrative seems to take another turn, but in reality both of these chapters are dealing with the same work of God in our lives, viz. ‘cutting away the flesh’. God wants us to walk by faith, not by sight. Circumcision for Abraham would have been physically painful, but it was to be a powerful object lesson. God would have us take a knife to those things in our life from which we may have derived pleasure, but that do not represent God’s best for us. After chapter 16 (Hager) and 17 (Circumcision), Abraham would have a continual reminder that the natural solution was not God’s best, that God’s real blessing was to come by faith. “The good is the enemy of the best” (Oswald Chambers). Circumcision is a sensitive subject (no pun intended), but God is looking for that willingness in each of us to cut away the things of this world that maybe bring us pleasure, in favour of a walk with Him where we can know His blessings and favour in a way we have never known in the past.
In Chapter 17 God reminds Abraham that He is the one who has established His covenant, and He will perform it. God may have wondered if God would ever use him again after the incident with Hagar, but God’s promises are sure and He is faithful. God changes Abraham’s and Sarah’s name by adding a ‘heh’ (the 5th letter of the Hebrew Alphabet – 5 speaking of grace). God literally pours His grace into their lives. The ‘heh’ has the idea of the breath of the Spirit. Once again, it is “not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit says the LORD”.
You can listen to the audio on this web page, or save it for listening to later. We have also made available the Powerpoint slides (in PDF format) that outline the key points of this study.
We hope and pray this teaching will bless you and encourage you to undertake your own personal study and adventure in God’s Word!