When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.” Genesis 17:1-2
Romans 12:1 – Present your bodies as a living sacrifice.
Genesis 13-23, key verse 17:1
Timeline, about 2000 BC. During Abraham’s life, the areas were ruled by Egypt and the Pharaohs, the Sphinx and great Pyramids are built, and the Bronze Age is in high gear.
Key personalities: God, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and a Promise Land.
Abraham pitches his tent to demonstrate that he follows God. God fulfilled this promise while, at the same time, Abram had to learn patience, faith, and trust in God.
Look to the stars. God gave Abram a call and purpose, an improbable paradox, but without the goods to make it so, or as it seemed. So he had to learn, grow, trust and obey God before the fulfillment of this promise, to be a great nation and the ‘seed’ of faith for Jews and Christians. Problem? He had no children and his wife Sarai was barren. Yet, it is by faith that Abraham was honored and used to build nations; he obeyed and trusted in God when told to leave his homeland and venture to an alien land that became an inheritance to his descendants (Gal. 3:7-9, 29).
- Credited as righteousness, Abraham was saved by faith, not works, a prelude to God’s grace before he was circumcised. As faith, not works, provides righteousness, faith, not ritual or religion, nor is it wages we earn that we can brag about (Gen 15:6; Gal. 3:11; Rom. 4:1-25; 7:18; James 2:21-26).
God changes Abram’s name (ironically meaning “exalted father”) to Abraham, meaning “multitude”–the father of many nations, and Sarai (that meant “contentious”) to Sarah, meaning “princess”, mother of nations. Sarai had to learn God’s providence, trust in His provision and to temper her anger.
- Faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness, at least 14 years before he was circumcised; having taken place before Ishmael’s birth, at which time he was 86 years old, and the other when Ishmael was 13 years of age, and Abraham 99 (Gen. 15:5, 6; 16; 16:1-3; 17:1; 10, 23-27; John 1:40-42; Acts 10:47; Rom. 2:25-29; 1 Cor. 7:18- 19; Gal. 5:6; 6:15).
Birth of Isaac, the promise begins to be fulfilled! Isaac meant “laughter” of great joy. Then, the big test: God told Abram to do something unthinkable, as previously He changed his name to Abraham, meaning one who will have many children. He is called to offer up his son Isaac to God. Isaac grew up to love and honor God with confidence, because he knew what God was yet to do. His promise was secure. His son Jacob also lived a life of faith and kept the blessing of God flowing to his son Joseph, whose descendants would come back to inherit and take over the promise land. Each of these people demonstrated a life of faith lived out (John 8:56; Rom. 15:13).
- Offered up Isaac. This was the ultimate test of faith that models what God would do for us to come-offer His Son. Abraham waited a lifetime to have children and when he finally had one, God asked for him. As he was in the act of the sacrifice, God interrupted and intervened to save the son, just as He intervenes to offer His Son for us. He did this to see if Abraham’s faith was real or just pretentious, and if his confidence was in God or just in what He had provided. Perhaps, Abraham was confident that God would raise Isaac from the dead. God does not tempt us to see us fail; He seeks to see if we are real. This is why He is the prototypical man of faith for all to emulate. This place, ‘Moriah,’ becomes the place Solomon is to build the Temple and outside where Jesus teaches and is crucified (Gen. 15:2; 17:20-21; 22:1-18; 2 Chron. 3:1; John 3:16; Rom 8:32; Heb. 13:20).
OT the promise was by faith and not of works. This points us to a crucial Christian theological point: justification is by faith alone, by grace alone. This is illustrated and even proved logically by using the example of Abraham.
Key Takeaway: This passage shows us the importance of our spiritual growth set in the context of the power of God and His Word and as heirs to the Promise. Let us look to the faith of Noah and Abraham and how we can be that faithful in the midst of cultural hatred toward us, and not buy into pride or prejudice! (Psalm 8; 1 Cor. 4:2; Gal. 26-29)
- When God changed Abram’s name to Abraham, it meant he was a great father, yet he had no children. How would you feel, what would you do if this happened to you?
- How did Abraham’s faith showed confidence in God, His provision, and promise?
- What do these passages teach us about trusting in God’s timing?
- How does patience and faith go together? What do you need to learn in this?
© 2012 R. J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org