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Sunday, December 1st, 2019

posted Dec 1, 2019, 9:11 PM by Site Administrator



Genesis 17:1-27

Key Verse 17:4


As for me, this is my covenant: You will be the father of many nations.


First, You will be the Father of many nations (1-8).Look at verse 1. When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. So far, in Abram’s life of faith, God never rebuked him even though Abram had made many mistakes such as telling lies or having Hagar as concubine. But this time, when God appeared to him, He rebuked him, saying, Walk before me and be blameless. Why? What terrible crime did Abram commit that God had to appear to him to rebuke him? Actually, when we check out the passage, we see that Abram had not done anything particularly sinful or wicked; instead, we see that he had struggled to be an exalted father for his son Ishmael. It was his dream to have a son; maybe, that’s the very reason why he started his life of faith, and now when he finally had a son, he was content; he was just happy to watch his son growing, and he had all he needed. What about his relationship with God? Of course, he thanked God, attending worship service every Sunday, doing some good things such as, tossing some coins to the beggars on the street, but without any passion or zeal for God’s purpose. He was just going through the motion, without passion and zeal for God’s will, being complacent; his whole focus was his son, and his whole struggle was to take care of him well, protect him well, educate him well and grow him well. In human eyes, he was just living as a sound citizen, exalted father for his son. But in God’s eyes, it was terrible; living that kind of a small citizen’s life, just going through the motion was terrible. So, God appeared to him and rebuked him, saying, “Walk before me and be blameless.” Such life was full of blame in God’s eyes. Abram should not walk before his son, but before God; he should not live to take care of his son as a good father, but he must live to please God as God’s covenant person.


When people live as Sunday Christians, when they just go through the motion, they still have their heart’s consolation,saying, “At least, I go to church. Or, they say, “At least, I don’t do any evil.” But that kind of tasteless life itself is terrible in God’s eyes. God rebukes such people, saying, “Walk before me and be blameless.” Jesus says in Revelation, “So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Rev 3:16) We must not be cold to Jesus, so there is only one way to go, that is, to be hot before him; never be lukewarm; never console yourself that at least you go to church. Instead, be hot for Jesus Christ; pursue his kingdom with all your heart. Burn for him!


In verse 2, God says, I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers. The reason God appeared to Abram was to confirm his covenant with him. In the covenant, two parties are related, and the covenant is only valid when both parties keep their end of the deal. In verses 4 through 8, God talks about his end of the covenant, saying, As for me,… Here, we see God confirming his promises to Abram, using the phrase, I will… repeatedly. I will make you very fruitful I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant.These were what God would do for Abram. By the will of God, God’s promises would be fulfilled according to the terms and conditions of the covenant between God and Abram. What was God’s part of the deal? Look at verses 4 and 5. Let’s read these verses together:


As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.


You will be the father of many nations! This was the vision God had for Abram. God’s vision was that He would establish many nations through Abram- godly, holy and glorious nations through Abram. And God was working to fulfill this. And even God said, For I have made you a father of many nations. Here, God uses the present perfect tense, saying, have made, indicating that in God's eyes, God had already made Abram a father of many nations. It meant that God had planned thoroughly of how he was going to establish Abram as the father of many nations; everything was completely planned and arranged that in God's eyes, it was already a done deal - it was just a matter of time; as the time passed by, things would go as God had already planned and then, Abram would turn out to be the father of many nations. But then, while God was proceeding his plan for Abram, a problem popped up - when Abram had a son, he was content and lost his interest in this covenant with God. He did not live as God’s covenant person any longer. That would be the breach of the covenant, and God's vision for Abram could not be fulfilled. It was a serious problem. So, God visited him to reaffirm this covenant with Abram.


You will be the father of many nations. This was God's vision for Abram. This was God's will for him. In God's eyes, Abram was a material for the father of many nations; Abram had such great potential. And God was proceeding all his plans to make this vision, this potential of Abram come true. Abram’s life shouldn’t be wasted away for a small thing like a small citizen’s life, but it should produce glorious fruit as God planned, as his life capacity really was. God was going to bring out all his potential, and through him, God would establish many nations of people who loved God and served His purpose wholeheartedly. Abram should have dreamed about establishing many kingdoms and taking care of them, instead of playing around his son.


You will be the father of many nations. This is what God sees in us, because He created us in his image and in his likeness. And God really can make this vision come true for each of us. Because of our lack of faith in God, we, often, do not see how great things we can do in God, so we only think about survival, or paying the bills, or at best, being exalted fathers or mothers or faithful husbands or wives. But God knows how wonderfully and greatly He made us, and He sees our great potential that we can be the fathers of many nations, mothers of many nations, that we can establish many kingdoms of people who love God and serve God’s purpose wholeheartedly. Only when we remain in his covenant, He will make all our potential come true, and He will establish 50 churches in California through us, and all students in California will have the chance to study the word of God and grow as powerful servants of God. Actually, it is a small thing for us to bring the lost people back to God in California. Through us, many great kingdoms will be established in California, in America, and in the world. God says, As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. God says that this is what He must do for us. This is the vision of God for us. This is God’s promise for us, and it will be done if we remain in the covenant relationship with him. This is what God will do for us.


With this, God changed Abram's name, saying, No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. The name, Abrammeans exalted father, whereas the new name, Abrahammeans father of many nations. It was Abram’s dream to be an exalted father, taking care of his son Ishmael very well, establishing him as a good man successfully, thus, receiving good reputation as a father. He was happy when his son received the honor-roll award at the elementary school. He was living for this. But now God changed his name to Abraham. And thereby, the old man who was pursuing his own desire, named Abram did not exist on the earth, but a new man, named Abraham who was living according to God's vision and purpose existed. God said to him, No longer will you be called Abram… No longer…Instead, God gave him the new name, Abraham, so that he would never forget God’s vision for his life. Whenever someone called him, Abraham, he would remember God’s great vision for his life and live for it. 


There was a young Christian boy who thought that his life would be worthwhile if his life was used to bring his girlfriend to heaven. So, he decided to dedicate himself to serving his girlfriend in hope to bring her to heaven. But his Bible teacher told him, God’s vision for you is greater than that. We all have the desire to be Abram, exalted father, good mother, or faithful husband, lovely wife, or faithful employee. Being Abram is not necessarily bad; even it is not easy to become an exalted father – it requires a lot of struggles, hanging out with his son, helping him with his homework, trying to understand him, and showing him the right path to go patiently. Frankly speaking, we rarely find a good father in this wicked and adulterous generation. But because of this dream of being an exalted or good or noble father, ultimately, many people end up rejecting God’s vision for their life. That's why in God's eyes, when He aims to establish his people, this small citizen's dream is nothing but an obstacle, which He has to overcome; so, by any means, He challenges them to get rid of it, get rid of that small citizen's desires and dreams from their hearts and life, so that they can accept God's grand covenant vision for their life. About this, Jesus says, Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (Mat 10:37) As long as we try to live as an Abram, an exalted father, we cannot live as God’s covenant people. We must let go of our dream to be an exalted father, so that we can have God’s dream for us to be the father of many nations. God says, No longer will you be called Abram… No longer will you be called a noble husband…No longer will you be called a cute girl… No longer will you be called a faithful employee… Your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.


Look at verse 6. Let’s read this verse together: 


I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.


These promises of God are really intriguing and inspiring. Kings will come from you. So many great people will come from you. So many powerful world class spiritual leaders will come from you. Great disciples will be established through you. Great churches will be established through you. These things are what God wants to do with you. Then, how silly will it be that you reject this will of God so that you can take care of your son very well? It’s almost wickedness before God. If your life goes that way, then, it is nothing but a total waste! It’s great sin before God. God says to you, “I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.”


Look at verse 7. Let’s read this verse together:


I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.


Now God extended his covenant with Abraham as an everlasting covenant. So, 4,000 years ago, Abraham enjoyed this covenant, and then died. After him, his descendants enjoyed this covenant and then, died. 2,000 years ago, some people enjoyed this covenant and died as God's covenant people. Now today, still this covenant is going on between God and his covenant people. This is an everlasting covenant. Why did God make his covenant with Abram an everlasting covenant? He shares his purpose, saying, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. Through this covenant, God became the God of Abraham; and in the same way, God would be the God of Abraham's descendants after him through the same covenant generation after generation. God is the God of those who have His covenant. Today, God wants to become our God, so He offers his covenant to us. Those who accept God's covenant vision and live for it become God's covenant people, and God becomes their God. This covenant, the same covenant given to Abraham in the book of Genesis, is available for Abraham's descendants. Then, who are Abraham's descendants? The Jewish people thought that they were Abraham's descendants, because they were Abraham's biological descendants. But that's not the case. Abraham had two biological sons - Ishmael and Isaac. But God does not consider Ishmael, his firstborn son, as Abraham's offspring; instead, God says that only through Isaac, his descendants will be reckoned. So, not all the biological descendants of Abraham are Abraham's descendants. About this, when the Jews claimed that they were Abraham's descendants, Jesus said that if they were so, they would do what Abraham did. So, Abraham's descendants are those who do what Abraham did. What did Abraham do? When God offered him His covenant, Abraham accepted it, by leaving his country, his people and his father's household and going to the land God showed him; and even though he had many weaknesses and difficulties, he lived for God holding onto God's covenant vision upon his life, sometimes weeping, and sometimes, laughing. Abraham's descendants are those who do the same thing Abraham did. The apostle Paul says that those who walk in the footsteps of Abraham are Abraham's children. Then, again, what about the Jews? When the Jews insisted that they were children of Abraham, Jesus told them that they were actually, children of the devil, doing what the devil wanted them to do. Again, today, this everlasting covenant between God and his people is going on. God offers us the same covenant given to Abraham so that He can be our God and we can be his people. God says, Leave your country, your people, and your father's household, and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you. You will be a blessing, and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. You will be the father of many nations. You will be the mother of many nations. Kings will come from you. Do you accept this great vision of God for your life? Do you respond to this calling of God by leaving your old life and starting a new life as God’s covenant person, pursuing God’s great vision for your life? When you do so, you enter into this covenant with God, and you will be the father of many nations – God will do it for you. 


SecondYou shall be circumcised (9-16). In verses 9 through 14, God talks about Abraham’s end of the deal, by saying, As for you, you must keep my covenant. Let’s shout this together. “As for you, you must keep your covenant.” People think that no matter what they do, God will do everything; or they do whatever they want to do, saying If it is not God’s will, He will let me know. They are greatly mistaken. Covenant is a contract – two parties are related, and there are terms and conditions, and both parties must keep their end of the deal. In your relationship with God, there are things you must do. Remember this! Do you want God to do great things for you? Then, God says, You must keep your covenant. What should Abraham do to keep the covenant? Look at verses 10 and 11. Let’s read these verses together: 


10This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male and you shall be circumcised. 11You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.


Since Abraham left his country and his people and his father’s household according to God’s calling, there was nothing else Abraham should do to fulfill the covenant, except one thing, that he would just remain in the covenant. As he started his covenant relationship with God in Genesis 12 by accepting God’s vision of being a source of blessing for all peoples on earth, he just needed to keep this vision of God in his heart all the time, then, God would fulfill his part of the deal. Right then, he was not keeping his covenant, because he gave his heart to something else – his desire to be a good father for his son Ishmael. So, God asked him to keep his covenant by cutting off that desire, so that, instead of pursuing a small citizen’s desire to be a good father for his son, he would pursue God’s great vision upon his life. Circumcision was the sign that he cut off his small’s citizen’s desire to be an exalted father for his son Ishmael and accept God’s great vision for him to be the father of many nations. In this way, with the circumcision, God wanted Abraham to be very practical and concrete in his decision to live as his covenant person. Simply, accept God’s vision, and make your decision very clear through circumcision. The circumcision would be the expression of his acceptance of God’s vision upon his life. How could he accept God's grand covenant vision for his life? By cutting off his small citizen's desire to be an exalted father for his son Ishmael! That's what circumcision is about - cutting off one's own small citizen's desire to live for God's grand covenant vision for his life. Without this circumcision (not just physical one, but real one), we are not God’s covenant people, and God says, Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant. The real stumbling block as we strive to live as God’s covenant people is not terrible persecution, or suffering, but our small citizen’s desire to be Abram, to be an exalted father, good mother, noble husband, lovely wife, or faithful employee. The Bible declares, Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. (Gal 5:24) Again, Jesus says, ““Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.


God commanded Abraham to circumcise not only himself, but also his son, and all the males in his household. So, in his household, everyone would be circumcised, accepting God's covenant vision for Abraham’s life, and pursuing it; so, all the people in his household share the same vision, the same hope and the same value system and the same lifestyle; they are really one, having the same concern, hope vision and lifestyle. So, they can communicate with each other freely, and in one mind and heart, they can pursue God's grand covenant vision for Abrahamall together. This is the concept of the church - all the members being circumcised, living for God's purpose alone, and pursuing God's great vision for Abraham’s life all together in one mind and heart. Then, what about anyone who did not have the circumcision in Abraham's household? While others pursue God's great vision for their life together in one mind and heart, his vision, plan, hope and direction were all different from others; simply, he could not be one with them; eventually, such a person would be cut off from Abraham's household. This is what we have witnessed all this time – eventually, they refused to be one with us, and thereby, fell off. All of us must be circumcised - get rid of your small citizen's dream and live for God's great vision for your life that you will be the fathers and mothers of many nations. 


Look at verses 15 and 16. Let’s read these verses together:


15God also said to Abraham, As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16I will bless her 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.


The name Sarai means my princess, whereas the name “Sarah” means “mother of nations.” The expression, “my princess” shows princess’ mindset. A girl with princess mindset wants all people to center around her, gathering around her, admiring her beauty, her dress, her earrings, desiring to dance with her. Think about Sarai living as Sarai with princess mindset, while her husband was Abraham, father of many nations. It would be really painful for her to see her husband struggling with other people all the time, instead of focusing on her and admiring her - surely, there will be a lot of disappointment, arguments and fighting, and this kind of family cannot stand. She must not live as a self-centered princess any longer, but as the mother of many nations. This new name “Sarah” has the image of a mother who cares for so many children. She is so broad-minded that many children with different characters and life-background can find enough room to enjoy their life freely under her care. If husband is a father of many nations, then, wife should also be a mother of many nations. So God changed Sarai’s name into Sarah so that she would be a suitable helper for Abraham to live as the father of many nations. Husband and wife must share the same vision of God. Thus, God established God’s covenant family.


Third, But my covenant I will establish with Isaac(17-23). What was Abraham's response? Look at verses 17 and 18. Let’s read these verses together: 


Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?  18  And Abraham said to God, If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”“


Abraham fell facedown. In today's passage, we see this expression two times - verses 3 and 17. Whenever God talked to him, Abraham fell facedown, showing his respect to God. That's Abraham's basic attitude toward God. But the problem was that that was it - just basic respect to God, and nothing more. Instead, while falling facedown, he was entertaining all kinds of doubts; when God mentioned about Sarah giving birth to a son, and many kings of people coming from her, Abraham laughed, because he didn't believe that God would be able to do so; at God's promises of a son through Sarah, Abraham chuckled. Many people like Abraham, show basic respect toward God - on Sunday, at least they come to church; but the problem is that that's it - no more than that. Instead, while the worship service is going on, they keep checking out their watch because of their golf schedule, and they only wonder when the pastor will finish his sermon. When people do not have God's grand covenant vision for their life, they cannot really please God, and they don't know how they must live their life and what they must do with their life; simply, they cannot have a real meaningful relationship with God.


Abraham suggested God, saying, If only Ishmael might live under your blessing! Abraham's understanding was that since God could not do anything for him because he was too old to produce children, God could do some great things with Ishmael because Ishmael was young and thereby, could have children. So, he politely rejected God's offer for him, and suggested God to continue his work with Ishmael. He was really bad. At the beginning of his life of faith, when he left his old life and cut family ties to live as God's covenant person, he was really great and powerful - he was simply unstoppable; when he sacrificed millions of dollars for the sake of rendering glory to God, he was really powerful; by faith, he acquired righteous standing before God. He was such a great man of God with many great exploits. But now in this passage, we see Abraham losing such passion and zeal and becoming so terribleWhen he pursued his small citizen's desire to be an exalted father for his son Ishmael, he lost his faith and became a strange person - just going through the motion, but no zeal or passion for God, and no faith at all. No wonder God rebuked him, saying, Walk before me and be blameless. It was never his intention to be like this; how happy he was when he first touched his son’s tiny foot! Maybe, he said, “Oh, my,…” Indeed, he never imagined that he would be so terrible before God when he first began struggling to be an exalted father. But that’s what happened to even a great man of God like AbrahamThis passage is a warning for all God’s people about giving into our small citizen’s dream. At first, having a small citizen’s dream looks harmless; even it is considered good, not only in the world, but also in the Bible – honor your father and mother; parents must take care of children very well; even it is God’s purpose in Jesus that through his sacrifice, fathers’ hearts will turn to their children; Jesus encourages us to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But make sure that your devotion to God is not hindered by that kind of desire. Otherwise, if your heart is given to such a desire, then, you will be like Abraham! Don’t pursue these things, but let these good things follow you, as you pursue God’s will and purpose wholeheartedly. Your testimony should not be: If only Ishmael might live under your blessing. Instead, your testimony should be: Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.


Look at verses 19 through 21. Let’s read these verses together:


Then God said, Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.  20  And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation.  21  But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.


God now mentioned about the name of the son Sarah would bear - Isaac, and told Abraham that He would establish his covenant with Isaac as an everlasting covenant. About Ishmael, God would bless him greatly because he as Abraham’s son; Ishmael would be a great nation; he would be the ruler of twelve tribes. But God made sure that He would give his covenant blessing only to Isaac, not Ishmael. 


Here, we see two different kinds of blessings - Blessings given to Ishmael-happy family, many children, successful life, richness, and children becoming influential leaders in the world; and God's covenant blessing given to Isaac. God made a clear distinction between these two that his covenant blessing was really a special blessing, and God would give this covenant blessing to only Isaac not Ishmael. It was because Ishmael was the product of unbelief, compromise, impatience, and fatalistic idea, whereas Isaac was the product of God's word of promise, the product of Abraham and Sarah's life of faith. It was not easy for Abraham and Sarah to hold onto God's promise; they wept and cried; they had a lot of pains and sorrows to hold onto God's promise. But overcoming all those challenges, they remained in God holding onto God's great covenant vision. And through their life of faith, finally, Isaac was born, and God was going to pour out his real blessing on Isaac. God's covenant blessing is real blessing; it is the special blessing. When we think about how Isaac was born, we see that our birth into God's family was really like Isaac's birth. We were born again by God's words, and through someone's wholehearted struggle of faith, such as our shepherds. And God's covenant is given to us, and we are enjoying it, pursuing God's great vision for us, saying, I will be the father of many nations; I will conquer the world. The covenant blessing we are enjoying is real blessing, special one, far greater than material blessings or happy family or career job. Some people exchange this covenant blessing for other things easily such as marriage, or a job offer. They despise God's covenant blessing just like Esau who sold his birthright for a bowl of lentil soup, and God despises them calling them as godless people.


Look at verse 22. When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him. God did not wait for Abraham’s response. After finishing his words, he went up. God trusted Abraham. What was Abraham’s response? Let's read verse 23 together:


On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him.


On that very day, Abraham accepted God’s vision to be the father of many nations, and made a decision to cut off his small citizen’s dream of being an exalted father for Ishmael. So far, he had pursued a son, but now he would live for God’s vision. It was a turning point in his life. Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised.


As we check out Abraham's life of faith so far, from Genesis 12 to 17, we see that Abraham was not perfect; instead, he had many weaknesses and made many mistakes. But despite all his weaknesses and mistakes, one great thing he had was that he was teachable. Even though sometimes he was frustrated, and even though he doubted, when God corrected him, Abraham accepted it and continued on his journey of faith. Because he was teachable, God could guide him into deeper spiritual world continually and establish him as a great man of God, fulfilling his purpose upon his life. Being teachable, this is what we all need for us to grow up in Jesus Christ. Otherwise, we end up remaining in our own understanding, in our own territory, never growing up, and we become just a source of burden. Today, God calls us to his covenant, saying, You will be the father of many nations. You will be the mother of many nations. What is your response? 


One Word:No Longer Abram, But Abraham, Father of Many Nations