Genesis 17

Genesis 17: What’s in a Name?

“ Name it and claim it” – usually refers to a type of preaching or teaching that is associated with prosperity teaching and can be misleading if not an outright perversion of God’s word. However- there is only one name by which mean are saved- Jesus. As we study God’s word we learn that God reveals Himself with different names that describe a facet of God. We may know these names and what they mean- but until you have experienced that particular facet of God personally you more than likely cannot claim it. Here is a principle in the walk of faith- we need to discover as much about God as He wants to reveal to us. When we discover a new truth about God- that truth can set us free from what has been hindering our walk of faith with God.

In biblical times, a name represented a person’s character. God’s names represent His character, His nature and His attributes. Within the names of God you can find strength, comfort, and provision. Your walk,as Abraham’s walk, can be transformed when you discover the limitless power of His name. I promise you based on the Word of God, the more you know Him, the more you will love Him and the more you love Him, the more you will keep His commandments.

“The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run into it and are safe.” Proverbs 18:10.

“ Some boast in chariots, and some horses; but we will boast in the name of the Lord, Our God.” Psalm 20:7.

Do you know what ‘to boast in’ means? It means to have confidence in. We have confidence in God’s name.

In the first three verses we see a new name for God added to two names already revealed. The new name is God Almighty, El Shaddai in Hebrew. Lord or Jehovah in verse 1 and  God- Elohim in verse 3.  This new name and use of the two other names is significant.

Jehovah of the Old Testament is Jesus of the New Testament; El Shaddai is the Satisfier, the many-breasted All Sufficent One who pours Himself into the believer’s life to produce fruit- the Holy Spirit; and God is Elohim or God in the ultimate sense. So we see the Holy Trinity involved in this covenant- God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

In verse 1 we are told Abram is now 99 years old. This means it has been 13 years since God has appeared to Abram or anything of note has occurred spiritually in the life of Abram. Abram and Sarah had decided that God needed their help and their input in accomplishing His will. God will allow us to assert our will over His- but it will come at a cost. Abram had been learning the insufficiency of his own efforts for 13 years with this incident with Hagar and Ishmael.

God will allow us to execute our own will over His will- but will send leanness into our souls. We cannot serve two masters- for we will forever be wavering between them. The two masters we almost always waver between as Christians are self and God.

Abram is learning it is not in running but resting. It is not in trying but in trusting. So when we can’t understand, when we can’t see His plan, when we can’t trace His hand, Trust His Name- for His Names represent who He is – His very Heart.

Now it is a physical impossibility that Abraham and Sarah can produce a child of their own. Their reproductive organs are well past the age of reproduction. In Romans 4 Paul writes of the deadness of Sarah’s womb and Abram’s body now dead.  Only Almighty God can bring life into that which is dead.

Abram and Sarah had grown impatient- doubting the word of God and resorting to using the world’s method to accomplish God’s will. After all, they thought, we have been waiting 10 years and we are running out of time. Patience is a necessary ingredient to mature our faith- to make it whole, to purify it  and enlarge it. By doubting God’s word, or methods- Sarah and Abram began to waver and as a result became double-minded and unstable in all their ways.
This may well explain why God reveals His name of Almighty God – to underscore His Omnipotence- the One and Only who can meet all our needs. It is always a mistake to try and hasten the work of God. God has His own reasons for His seeming delays. Abram and Sarah could not wait. As a result of their impatience there followed a silence of 13 long years, in which Abram received no word from God. It was like  returning to kindergarten of faith and starting over and now 13 years later- Abram is ready to graduate to the next level of faith.

God reveals Himself as El Shaddai. The Omnipotent One who pours Himself into us- His creation. When Abram understood what this name meant- there was only one response- he fell on his face.This is a picture of submission, which is where our walk with God begins. The Christian life is based upon the principle of complete dependence on the Lord. Apart from  Him we can do nothing- but we can do all things through Christ. Faithful is He who calls you – who will also do it. Our walk must be preceded by submission to Him- resting in Him. Drawing our strength from Him. “ Blessed are those whose strength is in You.” ( Psalms 84:5)

If anyone needed to know God as El Shaddai- it was Abram. He was 99 years old, Sarah was 89 years old and still they were childless. Yet God promised them they would have a child of  their own.  I wonder do you know God as your El Shaddai? He is the Almighty God who nourishes us, satisfies us, supplies us and pours out His blessing on us. Nothing is impossible for El Shaddai.

Have you experienced Him as your El Shaddai?  The word has the connotation of the “ Pourer-Forth”. God poured Himself out for us at Calvary- at salvation He pours Himself in us. He tells us to open our mouths wide and He will fill them. He is the God who is enough- He is the all sufficient One. His Grace is always sufficient and His power is perfected in weakness. God calls those things which are not as though they were. ( Romans 4:17).

God gives Himself to Abram and Abram in turn gives himself to God. Almighty God is the source from which Abram and you and I will receive everything. This is the principle of mutual submission.

When two people pledge to put the other first, that is the relationship that is best. So if you are hesitant about surrendering all to God- think about this:  Before you and I were born, God Almighty submitted Himself to us. On a cross 2000 years ago, God sacrificed His best on your behalf. God Almighty put you ahead of Himself. “ You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good  man someone might possibly die. But God demonstrates His love for us in this: while were yet still sinners, Christ died for us.” ( Romans 5:6-8)

Understand this- God Almighty demonstrated His love for us- a love that withheld nothing back. We are called into a relationship just as Abram was called into a relationship- a relationship of mutual submission. And guess what- God Almighty took the risk and went first.

Will you fall on your face as Abram did and decide to believe His Word and obey Him?

God tells Abram to walk before Him and be blameless. God wants to fellowship with us- His children. He has poured His life out for us and into us- now He wants to enjoy the relationship that He has invested so much in. Walk with me and be perfect- or blameless a word that actually means whole. Remember what James says to those who doubt and waver- they become double-minded. God wanted Abram to be whole- not divided. His plans are to give us a future and a hope not calamity- but we must search with whole hearts. Half-hearted efforts are the deeds of double-minded doubters- unstable in all their ways. When Abram comprehended who God was- he no longer wavered.

This covenant is an unconditional covenant. The command to walk before me and be perfect or whole is not a condition- it is a commandment not a condition for fulfillment of the covenant.
In verse 2- God tells Abram He is here to implement the covenant- notice it God calls it ‘my covenant.’ Look at the wording of this covenant: ‘ I will confirm; I will establish; I will increase; I will make; I will give… this is a covenant that God has pledged Himself- El Shaddai to fulfill- every jot and tittle.

Abram has seen God in a new way and receives a new name to remind Abram of this new way God has revealed Himself to Abram. Remember when we are born we have the nature of our earthly father in us and that is why we bear his name. Now God Almighty adds something to Abram’s name. God adds the Hebrew letter ‘He’ which is the chief letter of His own name Jehovah. His name shall now be Abraham.(the father of many) God Almighty has poured part of His nature into Abram by giving Abram something of His own nature- for His name denotes His nature. Although our human names might denote our family name- God’s name denote His very nature and stand for the many qualities of His character. We often say of someone- ‘he has a good name’. Meaning- he has a good reputation. As Christians we bear His name- the question is do we honor His name with our lives and reputation?

The time has now come for Isaac to be born. But before that can happen, faith had to be exercised. God makes a new revelation of Himself to Abram to give faith its opportunity to believe.

God proceeds to lay out the covenant- we call the Abrahamic Covenant. This covenant is one of the most important in history, it rules the future with an iron hand. It is the basis of blessings of God for not only the nation of Israel but for Christians throughout the ages. We are witnessing the outworking of clauses of this covenant today as we watch events unfold on a daily basis around the world and in the Mid East.

For years many believers and students of the Bible wondered and speculated about the promises made the Jewish people concerning the land and country of Israel. They were a people who had been dispersed into all the nations for centuries.  It was believed these promises must have been spiritual rather than actual. Until May 14,1948, when Israel became a nation in one day as prophesized.

The last time Israel existed in that area as independent state was in 70AD. It was in that year the Romans destroyed the temple and dispersed the Jewish people throughout their empire and renamed the land- Palestine after the Jew’s enemy the Philistines.

Never before in history had a nation of people been so defeated and dispersed into the societies and cultures of the world for centuries and ever come back to regain their land and status as a people. It would be equivalent of the Indian tribes of the United States coming back to take over the USA as their own country again. But all through the centuries the Jewish people kept their culture, their language, their religion.

The rebirth of the nation of Israel in modern times, after centuries of nonexistence, is a significant sign that God Almighty is about to take up and fulfill His promises to Abraham and his seed.

In these verses 4-9, God pledges Himself to what He refers to as ‘my covenant with thee, Abraham.’ It involves a specific people- Abraham and his seed, his generations. In other words – the beneficiaries are Abraham and the Jewish people.

It involves a specific period- the generations that follow until the Lord returns and the covenant is eternal- everlasting.

The covenant agreement is focused on peculiar people, the Jewish people who are God’s people and it involves a specific place- Israel, all the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession. God had declared earlier the boundaries of that land would be the Nile  on the west and Euphrates on the east. The Jews, since 1948, have not occupied a tenth of that land of their inheritance but the day of the Lord is coming when they will occupy it all.

In the meanwhile, God has not cast away His people, as Paul informs us in Romans 11. God will complete His covenant with the nation of Israel – but it will not happen “ until the fullness of the Gentiles comes in.” A future time known only to God- but it appears that with Israel becoming a nation once again in 1948- God’s prophetic time clock is approaching the hour of His return. Paul tells us ‘even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace just as God reserved 7,000 men who did not bow to the image of Baal during the time of Elijah.

In fact, when Paul considers El Shaddai- he makes this statement regarding God: “ O the depth of riches both of his wisdom and knowledge of God, how unsearchable are his judgments and His ways past finding out.”

In Genesis 17:9-14 we see the seal of the promise- circumcision. The knife had to be taken to cut away the flesh, the foreskin.

Circumcision was both a sign and a seal. True circumcision is circumcision of the heart, the mind, the will and emotion. Circumcision was a picture of cutting away the flesh- the old nature. For no good thing dwells in the flesh and we cannot fulfill the will of God or receive the promises of God in the flesh. Also man was entering the covenant with God by offering part of his body as a seal of the covenant. This was a picture of the Lord Jesus at Calvary where He offered His body- broken for us – His blood shed for us to seal the New Covenant, the new way in which would enter into an everlasting covenant with God. And as God would be the God of Abraham and his descendants- God will our God. Or as Jesus said – I am going to my Father and your Father. The circumcision was a symbol of the cross of Christ cutting across all that was ours by natural birth.

For Abraham it would be a constant reminder that he was unable to produce by carnal means the kind of life God expects. It is only through Christ that we can bear fruit for God.

When a man and a woman get married it is customary to seal the marriage with a visible sign- the ring. This ring symbolizes and reminds each with a visible sign they have pledged to love and be faithful to one another. In  fact God the Father refers to Israel not only as His people- but as His wife.

God then clears up any confusion about how this child will be born to them in the next part of his monologue with Abraham. “ I will bless Sarah and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations, kings of people will come from her.” ( Genesis 17: 16)

Abraham’s reaction is to laugh with joy. He said to himself- will a son be born to a man 100 years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of 90?  Can you imagine the old apostle  Paul reading these very words from the scrolls and then taking pen and writing under the inspiration of God these words in his letter to the church at Rome. Romans 4: 19-21: “ 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 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.

No longer doubting, no longer wavering between two opinions, no longer double-minded- Abraham has a singleness of mind- a mind that is on God.

The life of faith is a life that in essence is a life of obedience to the known will of God.

It is interesting to note the wording of the declaration of Israel’s becoming a nation once again in 1948. In what is called Israel’s declaration of independence there is an interesting word used in the last phrase before the signatures. It states: “ Placing our trust in the Almighty, we affix our signatures…”  The Almighty God, El Shaddai is recognized even by a people who have been waiting centuries and centuries for the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham and his descendants.