“These boots were made for walking” proclaimed the lyric of the old song, which could well have applied to Abram! For having been wandering around Canaan for nearly a quarter of a century as well as closing in on his hundredth birthday, Abram receives a visitation from “God Almighty” (v 1) the purpose being to confirm his ”everlasting” covenant that was based on two promises:-
1 – Lineage.
Abram would be – “the father of many nations” (v 3), the Jewish nation by flesh, and the Gentile nations by faith. Through him the nations would ultimately be blessed by Jesus (Matthew 1 v 1) and God’s treatment of the nations (to bless or curse – Genesis 12 v 3) would depend on their attitude towards his covenant people. Along with the new covenant came a new name – “Your name will be Abraham for I have made you a father of many nations” (v 5.)
It is worth remembering that when Abraham received this promise of lineage that he and his wife were childless and well past child bearing age (Hebrews 11 v 12.) It stretched his faith to breaking point (Genesis 15 v 6), but Abraham clung on to the unshakable word of God, and Isaac the child of the promise was eventually born (Genesis 21 v 1 – 6.)
2 – Land.
Here an earlier promise is now repeated – “the whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendents after you” (v 8.) The covenant was now being made tangible by way of the gift of a country, which at this point it is worth remembering that Abraham did not, and never would own! His descendents would eventually conquer it, be exiled from it on two occasions, and gradually return to it, a process that continues to this day.
What was the sign of the covenant?
For Noah it had been a rainbow; for Abraham it was something more personal and painful, namely circumcision (v 11.) This was the sign of having been chosen by God; of belonging to his people; and of being committed to obeying his word, with the New Testament equivalent being that of believer’s baptism (Colossians 2 v 11 – 12.)
What was the purpose of this covenant?
That God might have a chosen people on earth to mediate his blessings to the nations. Unfortunately rebellious and disobedient Israel failed miserably in this area and so the task now falls to the New Israel of the church. The church now needs to be what Israel was meant to be – “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2 v 9.) yet with all those privileges comes the huge responsibility of declaring the excellencies of God and of radiating his light in a world dominated by spiritual darkness.
Challenge – Are you a channel of God’s many blessings to those who live in spiritual darkness?
Theme: “Selected to be special!”
Reading: Genesis 17 v 1 -16
Preacher: Chris Hughes
Led by: Richard Sills