Genesis 17 Introduction: In this chapter God restores Abram after years of dark struggle with sin, magnifying His grace in Abram’s life. Such grace must be central to all we do, including all our judgments and calculations of our past lives. As one preacher put it: ‘In the Kingdom of God and of Christ the standpoint is that of grace, and of grace alone; and it cuts across all other regulations. It is His grace that matters – ‘by the grace of God I am what I am’ (1 Corinthians 15:10). So stop looking at what you have not done and the years you have missed and realize that in His Kingdom it is His grace alone that matters.’ (Martin Lloyd-Jones, p. 89 ‘Spiritual Depression’)
Monday: read Genesis 16:13-17:3. All true stories of grace begin and end with God. For Hagar, this meant confessing in Genesis 16:13 that the Lord was ‘the God who saw her’ in her need. She therefore named the well of water where God saved her in the desert: ‘The Well of Him Who Lives and Sees Me.’ (Gen. 16:14) – as testimony to God’s faithfulness for generations to come.
Pray and Meditate: Hagar wanted the whole world to know of God’s readiness to ‘see’ her urgent need and to meet it. Do you believe that God not only ‘sees’ your trouble, but is determined to provide relief? This is where we often fall down: we do not believe God is either willing or able to really understand our situation or to help. Begin this week by challenging such unbelief in these words from Richard Baxter: ‘Away distrustful care! I have your promise, Lord: to banish all despair, I have your oath and word; and therefore I shall see your face and there your grace shall magnify.’ (Hymn # 18 in Red Trinity Hymnal)
Tuesday: read Genesis 16:16-17:3. Abram is 86 when Genesis 16 closes, and 99 years old at the start of Genesis 17. This period of silence stands for 13 years of human failure: 13 years of living with the conflict that would soon break out between Ishmael and the still-to-be-born son of promise Isaac; 13 years of tension from Sarah’s and Hagar’s competition as mothers of Abram’s children. Surely at times Abram must have wondered if he would ever hear from God again. Then, at just the right time, God breaks the silence: ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless.’ Abram responds with thankful worship as he falls on his face to the ground in Gen. 17:3.
Pray and Meditate: Like Abram laboring with the consequences of his sin for years, we live with the shadow and even scars of past failures. But can you share Abram’s joy, falling on his face before the God who was able to put his sins in the past and promise new blessings – even giving Abram the name ‘God Almighty’ to hold onto? You also must believe that God has the same restorative plans for your life. God says so: ‘I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten…and you will praise the name of the LORD your God.’ (Joel 2:25-26)
Wednesday: read Genesis 17:1-8. The first thing we need to know when we have backslidden for years as Abram appears to have done is that God’s ‘Almighty Grace’ is able to reverse the years of sinful failure by taking those years of shame on Himself . This is what the word ‘covenant’, defined as a blood-sealed oath, points to in Gen. 17:2. It reminds us of Gen. 15:17-18, where Abram watches in awe as God alone walks between the bloody pieces of the sacrifice, bringing upon Himself forever the curse of every transgression of the covenant. God was willing to pay the price whenever Abram broke the covenant, and so is able to forgive Abram’s wasted years, and set Abram again on the path of blessing – because He alone absorbs every punishment due to us for sin.
Pray and Meditate: Thank God that He is God ‘Almighty’, with ‘Almighty’ grace, able to suffer the actual punishment which we deserve – in the person of His Son. For the Son alone takes on human form and ‘walks’ in man’s place between the bloody, dismembered victims of our sin. Jesus committed Himself to taking the curse of Abram on Himself, so that men like Abram saw in the covenant ceremonies of their lives, the ‘day of Jesus’ and rejoiced in that day (John 8:56). Let us rejoice also in the words of Hymn # 242: ‘My soul looks back to see the burdens thou didst bear, when hanging on the cursed tree, and knows her guilt was there.’ (Isaac Watts)
Thursday: read Genesis 17:1-8 and Proverbs 18:10. God’s Name is never given out simply as a piece of information. It is given out in such a way as to inspire our trust in His covenant promises and to renew our hope in His forgiving grace. To know His Name is to know the way of salvation. We are to take refuge in His Name as the evidence of His gracious attitude towards us and the proof of our trust in Him – see Proverbs 18:10.
Pray and Meditate: Thank Jesus that His purpose in coming down to this earth was to ‘reveal God’s Name’ to us, as John 17:6 says. Do you meditate on the various Names God takes to Himself in the Bible? That is one way to use the Bible in your everyday life: take an index card and write down a list of the Great Names of God. Carry it with you and use these Names in prayer to the Father.
Friday: read Genesis 17:1-8 and Exodus 6:2-4. The world has a superstitious view of names in the Bible, encouraging ‘Hail Mary’s’ or ‘Our Fathers’ as a way to bring good fortune. Our use of God’s Name is to avoid all such magical spells and vain repetition, and instead focus on the reason WHY God reveals Himself through different Names at different periods of Bible History. Take the Name ‘God Almighty’ given to Abram at such a crucial time in his life. Why did God use it then? Well, think of pilgrims like Abram, wandering from place to place without a city to call their own (Hebrews 11:9-10). What did they need from God in such a helpless condition? To know that God had the ‘might’ or ‘power’ to provide all their needs in the desert. Abram and his family rested on the Name of God Almighty to meet all their needs for support in their wandering condition. It is a Name promising provision for pilgrims from an All-Sufficient God.
Pray and Meditate: Thank God now that He already has all that you need for all future trials – stored up for all future needs. Ask God to make you content in what He promises to give you as ‘God Almighty.’ No matter how hard things get ask for the contentment of Philippians 4:11-13.