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This chapter is rendered the more memorable, in that it contains the substance of the Covenant of Grace, which, though here represented as made between God and Abram, yet in reality, forms the outline of that everlasting Covenant made with the Lord Jesus Christ, for all the spiritual seed of Abram. In this Chapter, God's appearance to Abram is taken notice of: the effect induced by it on the mind of the patriarch: the names of Abram and Sarai are changed; the rite of circumcision appointed as an outward visible sign or seal of the Covenant, and the Patriarch's obedience to the divine command.
Genesis 17:1 And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.
If the Reader will be at the pains to calculate the distance between the former revelations of the Lord to Abram, and the one mentioned in this verse, he will find it to amount to thirteen years! No doubt, Abram kept up the remembrance of the Lord, by ordinances and family worship. And the Lord, no doubt, manifested his remembrance of the Patriarch in many a kind providence! Let every exercised believer remember this: and in his dark seasons call to mind how the great father of the faithful was exercised. Let him remember also, that the communications of divine love, are precious things; and learn to prize them accordingly! Proverbs 6:22 ; John 14:26 ; Genesis 35:11 . El Shaddai, means God All-sufficient. Sweet thought! The Christian's God is indeed All-sufficient, according to Covenant-promises, for all we want, and for all our joys. Sufficient in himself: sufficient for us: sufficient to us. And all that he is, as relating to the work of redemption, he is for his people. Reader! examine yourself by that standard, Psalms 16:2-5 . And then see whether you can adopt that language, Psalms 73:25 .
As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.
Charming view of Abram's faith and humility. So, depend upon it more or less, are all Abram's spiritual children. See Daniel 8:17 - Daniel 10:15 ; Revelation 1:17 .
Reader! do not overlook the expression. God calls it his Covenant. Yes! a Covenant ordered in all things, and sure, must be God's. And it is the happiness of his people, that He who hath made it, undertakes for its accomplishment. Jeremiah 32:40 ; Isaiah 54:10 . Under this verse, it may not be amiss to remark, that Abram had more children naturally considered, than any other of the Patriarchs; and spiritually, who shall number them? Romans 4:10 ; Revelation 7:9 .
Neither shall thy name anymore be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.
The name Abram signifies a great Father: and Abraham, the Father of a multitude. It is pleasing to observe, that the Gospel Church when married to the Bridegroom hath her name changed: See Isaiah 62:2-4 . And is not every individual believer the same? See Revelation 2:17 .
And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.
Reader! pause over that very precious word in this place, everlasting, and then read it afresh; and beg the Holy Ghost to write it on your heart. An everlasting Covenant founded in divine love, established in divine mercy, and secured in everlasting faithfulness. Oh! how delightful to the view of a poor perishing sinner. See Isaiah 54:10 .
Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?
It is profitable to observe, how God's purposes are accomplished, concerning the fulfilment of this promise. As this child was a child of promise, Sarah shall be left past the period allowed to child-bearing, that God's grace in the gift, might more illustriously appear. Surely that song of the Church, sung in after ages, was peculiarly sweet here. Isaiah 54:1 ; Galatians 4:27 - And is not the verse following delightful? Yes! if you and I can personally adopt it. Galatians 4:28
And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!
Oh! that all parents had Abraham's spirit, and used this prayer!
And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.
How condescending are the repetitions of promises! Hebrews 6:18 . The-name of Isaac, signifies laughter: Romans 9:8 .
And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham's house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him.
Abraham made haste and delayed not. See Psalms 119:60 .
My Christian Brother! Are you included in this blessed Covenant? Have you the marks and characters of it? Can you say as Paul did, We are the true circumcision, which worship God in spirit; rejoice in Christ Jesus; and have no confidence in the flesh. Pause over the question! And oh! that a gracious God may grant you an answer of peace. If this be your portion, then need you nothing more to make you happy. For God saith to you as to the Patriarch; I will give you the land wherein you are a stranger. And where is that, but heaven? Dearest Jesus! hast thou not taken possession of it in the name of thy people? and hast thou not promised, that thou wilt come again and receive them to thyself, that where thou art, there they shall be also.
Poor timorous, doubting Believer! Did God say to Abraham that he would bless him, and in confirmation of it, reveal himself by this glorious name-the Almighty God; beg of him then for grace to convert this promise into a prayer: and plead, that the same God may be to thee and thine, the God all-sufficient. And oh! that every gracious soul may find grace us the Patriarch did, to intreat God for the Ishmael's of his household, the unawakened and careless around him. And may the Lord's answer be as gracious. I have heard thee.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Genesis 17". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17