Funny how God works
God introduces Himself as 'El Shaddai, Almighty God. It is interesting that the places in Genesis where the name Shaddai appears are in the context of birth, blessings and fertility (Genesis 17:1; 28:3; 35:11; 43:14; 48:3; 49:25). Moses mentions this in Exodus 6:3 giving us the idea that God had appeared to the patriarchs as 'El Shaddai, the God of promise, while now in the time of fulfillment of the promise He has made Himself known as YHWH, the God of history. (Doukhan, Jacques. Genesis. Nampa, ID, Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2016. p236)
Another interesting fact about the name 'El Shaddai is that it appears very often in the book of Job (31 times!) as compared to the rest of the Old Testament (17 times). Even though in the book of Job the denominative 'El is missing, meaning Almighty, as opposed to God Almighty, which for all practical reasons still mean the same thing. I mention this detail because it supports a connection of this name/tittle of God with a theology of hope in a state of hopelessness, a longing for God to fulfill His promise. (ibid.)
Walk before Me and be blameless.
When God tells Abram to walk before Him the verb used is the same used in Genesis 12:1 when God calls Abram to "go" (get out) from his country, family etc. Even though the verb used here (Genesis 17:1) is the same as the one used when God first called Abram (Genesis 12:1) the verb form is different. The verb "halak" can be translated as "go" or "walk" (or traverse, bring, carry, lead, etc. depending on the form), and the form used on Genesis 17 is the same as the one used with reference to Enoch (Genesis 5:24) and Noah (Genesis 6:9) who are both described as having "walked with God." Genesis 17:1 is similar to Genesis 6:9 because both passages also have the word "tamiym" (perfect, blameless, complete, undefiled, etc.).
Noah, like Enoch, walks "with God," however Abram is told to "walk before" God. With Enoch and Noah we have the mental picture of God walking by their side, while with Abram we imagine the invisible God behind him, like a shepherd guiding his sheep (Genesis 48:15).
God makes a promise to Abram using language that echoes the promise made in Genesis 15:1 (i.e. multiply, exceedingly), upon hearing this Abram falls on his face as a physical expression of profound reverence before God. The promise God makes to Abram refers to the future, God will make him exceedingly fruitful, and God changes his name to indicate this.
No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations. ~ God (Genesis 17:5)
According to Dr. Doukhan, the promise expands into a covenant that has stylistic connections to the first messianic prophecy (Genesis 3:15) suggesting that the covenant with Abram concerns more than a promise of numerous offspring, it includes a spiritual promise of salvation for all the peoples of the world. (ibid.)
There is a lot that has been written about circumcision. I do not want to go too deeply into this topic so I will summarize my personal understanding of it.
Circumcision was not invented at this point, it already existed in the Ancient Near East ( in Egypt, and among the Canaanites, and Arabs). Here God gives circumcision a new meaning and the text suggests some connection to the sacrificial system and even the Passover.
However, what I wish to highlight is that whenever an Israelite circumcised a child it reflected the parents' faith in God's promise, as well as a commitment to partner with God in effecting His plan of salvation for the world. Meaning, they believed that one day the Messiah would be born! The circumcision reminded them that the Savior would be born from among them. Childbearing was not about just numbers but about a mission, a partnership with God to bless the world.
Abraham received a new name, he had an "h" added to his name, but he is not the only one who is getting a new name, Sarai also gets an "h" added to her name.
As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. ~God (Genesis 17:15b)
Abraham was not ready for Sarah to play a key role in God's promise. Personally I see Abraham struggling with the value God places on his wife. Abraham seems willing to let his wife be taken by the Pharaoh, (Genesis 12:10-20), and even Sarah fails to fully grasp God's plan when she offers her maidservant to Abraham as a wife (Genesis 16:2-3).
God valued Sarah and her marriage to Abraham's then they realized. All of God's promises were made with Abraham and Sarah in mind, neither one was more important than the other, both were needed for God's plan, both were extremely valuable. Many today still fail to fully grasp the sacredness of marriage, if only we could see it as God sees it.
Upon hearing God's promise regarding Sarah Abraham fell on his face again, but this time he laughed. This is the very first record of laughter in the Holy Scriptures. The meaning of Abraham's laughter is not indicated, but given the context it could be an indication of skepticism on Abraham's part.
Has God ever surprised you with a turn of events? When God acts there is usually a sense of wonder, and even skepticism on our part. How often we doubt God's power, His love, His claims, His plans? How often are we tempted to laugh at what God intends to do in our lives?
When you realize that God wants to use you to impact those around you for His kingdom, does it make you want to laugh? Do you have a hard time believing God's plan for your life? Do you struggle with what God is calling you to do?
Abraham laughed and needed to clarify things with God. Apparently he was not ready to take in what God had just presented to him.
And Abraham said to God, “Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!” (Genesis 17:18)
Have we read something similar earlier?
But Abram said, “Lord God, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” Then Abram said, “Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!” (Genesis 15:2-3)
When our faith is weak we reinterpret God's word to fit with our worldview, our understanding of reality, our understanding of what God can and cannot do. Unwittingly, perhaps, we change God's word to fit our preconceived notion of who God is. We must be extremely careful not to interpret the Bible, especially God's promises, in light of our limitations, or the limitation of our faith and understanding.
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen ~Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20 emphasis mine)
The great commission is for all of Christ's followers. How it applies to your life depends on your spiritual gifts and your specific circumstance, but no one is exempt from Jesus' command to make disciples.
Do you know what God is calling you to do?
Or a better way to phrase that same question is
Do you know how God is calling you to make disciples?
Because if you believe in Jesus and have accepted Him as Lord and Savior then He is calling you to make disciples.
The only remaining question becomes how will you make disciples? And that is for you to figure out, between you and God.
Pray about it, make some lists.
- What are your gifts?
- What do you enjoy doing?
- What have you done in the past?
- What can you see yourself doing in the near future?
Start praying about it, make yourself available to God, and try not to laugh when God shares His plan for you with you.
So Abraham took Ishmael his son, all who were born in his house and all who were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house, and circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very same day, as God had said to him. (Genesis 17:23)
Abraham may have been skeptical, he may have laughed regarding God's plans, but Abraham followed through immediately. Doing his part Abraham left the rest of it in God's hands.
Whatever way God is calling you to make disciples for Him, do your part, start now, and leave the results to Him. Your faith may be weak, you may feel like laughing at the possibility of what God has promised, but do your part and leave the rest to Him. It is his plan after all, and it can only be accomplished by His might. The more unlikely the outcome, the more glory God receives when His plan does come through.
So I invite you to partner with God.
Do your part.
And watch God do His.