God’s Perfect Timing: Abrahamic Covenant, Genesis 17:1-8

Thirteen years passed since Ishmael was born. Although Abram seemed to be doing well financially and Ishmael was growing into young manhood, Scripture is silent during this time. It would be easy for Abram to give up hope of having a son through Sarai and forget God’s covenant promise.

But God—who is not bound to our time table or expectations—didn’t forget. He would carry out His plan in His perfect timing.

And His time was ripe.

Although God had spoken His covenant to Abram four different times (Gen. 12:1-3; 12:7; 13:14-17; 15:5-21) and used the term “covenant” (Hebrew berith) once defining the boundaries of the promised land (Gen. 15:18), God sharpens the focus by using the term “covenant” thirteen times in chapter 17.

The adjectives attached to the word (covenant) are significant. Nine times it is called “my covenant,” three times it is called “an everlasting covenant,” and once it is called “the covenant betwixt me and you.” – Henry Morris (The Genesis Record)

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This post covers Genesis 17:1-8. But you may read the entire chapter here: Bible Gateway.

When God appears again, Abram is 99 years-old. He and Sarai are well beyond child bearing age. In response to God’s powerful and glorious presence Abram falls face down.

I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.” 

"The LORD will have compassion on Jacob; once again He will choose Israel and will settle them in their own land. Aliens will join them and unite the house of Jacob," Gen. 14:1. God intended for the world to be blessed through His faithful people (Gen. 12:3). Through King David's family line, the entire world would have opportunity to be saved through faith in Jesus Christ.

“The LORD will have compassion on Jacob; once again He will choose Israel and will settle them in their own land. Aliens will join them and unite the house of Jacob,” Isaiah 14:1.
God intended for the world to be blessed through His faithful people (Gen. 12:3). Through King David’s family line, the entire world would have opportunity to be saved through faith in Jesus Christ.

God’s admonishment to be blameless is not conditional to His covenant. Rather, it is a command.

God sharpens His promise: 1) He would give Abram many descendants. 2) Many nations would descend from Abram. God changed Abram’s name to Abraham “father of a multitude”. 3) God would keep His covenant with Abraham’s descendants. 4) God would give the land of Canaan to Abraham’s descendants.

Only God’s strong arm would accomplish all of this in His perfect timing.

Morris writes: “No action on the part of Abraham’s descendants can ever permanently sever the land from them . . . . ‘I will be their God’: Though many have gone astray, and the history of Abraham’s seed has been long and sad, there has always been at least a remnant in every generation that continues to worship and obey the God of Abraham. . . . This promise no doubt applied primarily to those who are his seed according to the flesh, but also encompassed the spiritual seed of Abraham, who is the father of all them that believe.”

Reflect

God’s command to Abram, “Walk before me and be blameless” still applies to us today. My NIV Study Bible sums it up: “We are to obey the Lord in every respect because He is God – that is reason enough. If [we] don’t think the benefits of obedience are worth it, consider who God is – the only One with the power and ability to meet [our] every need.”

Next week we’ll look at the covenant terms God gave Abraham (Gen. 17:9-27). Have a great week!

God Renews His Promise to Give Abram the Land: Part 1, Genesis 15:7-11

I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.” – Genesis 15:7

This is my third post from Genesis 15 on the Abrahamic Covenant. You may read the first two posts here: The Word of the Lord; God Renews His Promise to Abram.

In summary (Genesis 15:1-6):

  • God’s word came to Abram in a vision. He told Abram to not be afraid, for He would be his shield and very great reward (15:1-2).
  • Abram questioned God: “What can you give me since I remain childless?”
  • As God’s vision to Abram continued, He told Abram that his son would come from his own body. Once again, God renewed His promise to give Abram many descendants. This time He told him to count the stars—if indeed he could count them—“So shall your offspring be,” (15:4-5).
  • Abram believed God, and God credited (imputed) it to him as righteousness (15:6).

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This post covers Genesis 15:7-11. You may read it here: Bible Gateway.

God renews His promise to give Abram the land, (Part 1).

Unlike us, Abram didn’t have access to a Bible for guidance. We know that Abram believed God’s words (Gen. 15:6). So Abram’s questions were more of an inquiry, seeking confirmation of details and assurance, rather than an expression of doubt:

O Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I will gain possession of it [the land of Canaan]?” – vs. 8

God’s answer ends in an unforgettable ceremony. But first, God gives Abram specific instructions.

Abram’s Sacrifice

God tells Abram to bring: a heifer, a goat and a ram, (each three years old), along with a dove and a young pigeon.

Animal sacrifices in the Old Testament sound strange. But when Abram practiced God’s instructions, he knew that sin’s curse could only be removed by sacrifice in the shedding of blood.

Layman’s Bible Commentary notes: “The sacrifice that God instructs Abram to make involves the same ceremonially clean animals that are used later in the sacrificial system under the Law of Moses. The use of five different kinds of sacrificial animals underlines the solemnity of the occasion. The text implies that Abram is familiar with the ritual to take place, because God does not explicitly state what to do with the animals; he also sacrifices them and lays them out as an offering (15:9-10).”

God’s Timing

In His perfect timing, God would connect the sacrifice with His promise. When God finally responded, (which we will explore next week), Abram could only observe in an unforgettable, sensory enriched ceremony (vs. 12-21).

But after Abram prepared his sacrifice, God was silent.

Abram waited. . . . And he waited. . . . And he waited.

In the meanwhile, birds of prey swooped down on the carcasses. But Abram held his ground and successfully drove them away.

Why Did God Wait to Respond?

(Picture Source: bklynmed.tumbler.com) Henry Morris suggests: “The delay possibly symbolized the fact that, although God’s covenant would be sure, its accomplishment would take a long time. . . . This experience [having to drive off the birds of prey] no doubt symbolized the attempts of Satan to thwart the plans of God, plus the need for alertness in the believer in order that the enemy not succeed.”

Satan’s tactics include:
  • Doubt – of God and His Word
  • Discouragement – taking our focus off of God and onto our problems
  • Diversion – making the wrong things appear more attractive than the right things
  • Defeat – making you feel like you’ve failed, so why try?
  • Delay – convinces us to procrastinate, so we don’t act on the right choice

When you find yourself waiting on God, keep praying and hold tight to His promises (Eph. 6). Our all-knowing God will act in His perfect timing.

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Stay tuned . . .  Next week we’ll discover how God seals the deal concerning the land (Part 2, Genesis 15:12-21).  Have a great week!

In His Time

I love to water ski. Gliding across the water gives me a sense of adventurous freedom.

Kelli waterskiing_1Of course gliding only happens after mastering standing up, which is the most challenging part. But my Dad taught us kids a cool trick.

If we timed it right, we could step off the dock with our ski and presto—sail across the water atop our slalom ski. By holding a body’s length of rope in the left hand while holding the ski handle in the right, we’d wait. . . .

As the rope straightened between us and the boat, we stepped.

Of course the following usually occurred when stepping too soon: We dipped under the surface before flying over the ski; or the ski handle jerked out of our grasp; or both.

When we stepped too late, we jerked forward landing face first.

Timing

Thankfully, God—who marks the seasons—knows when we’re ready for the next step in our life journey.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”  – Ecclesiastes 3:11

Maybe you have availed yourself to God and are waiting for His direction. It takes courage, surrender, patient trust, and determination to step out in faith to follow Jesus to unknown places.

Maybe God has birthed dreams and desires in your heart, but your God sized dream sits dusty and defeated on the shelf.

If you are struggling and feel stuck, don’t give up. Keep seeking God. Be faithful in the daily responsibilities where God has planted you. Our sovereign God has a reason for our waiting seasons. Being loving and protective, He doesn’t want to send us into His service unprepared. He knows what we need and is intimately engaged with us in every step of our journey.

Just as God has marked the physical seasons, he also has marked our personal seasons.

All the days ordained for me were written in your [God’s] book before one of them came to be.”  Psalm 139:16

God’s timing often differs from ours (Isaiah 55:9). In my post, My Lifeboat, I share how I struggled through a waiting season during my college days. A more recent trial and waiting period is shared in Humpty, Hubby and Me.

When our God inspired dreams appear like a mirage and Satan flaunts our flaws, it’s the perfect time to be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10).

It’s also a good time to ask God for wisdom (James 1:5). He wants us to cast our cares on Him (1 Peter 5:7). He can handle all our frustrations and disappointments.

The great “I Am” intervenes in His perfect timing.

Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him. You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways.”  – Isaiah 64:4-5

When God says “go,” let’s step with Him. The water may be choppy at times, but He will enable us to cross the waves. He will be our shield and rampart (Psalm 91:4).

*Check out Justin Ng’s Timelapse of Mount Bromo in Indonesia that he filmed over a period of 10 days—an awesome reminder of God’s power and creativity. (Hint: if the video loads slowly, you can click the blue HD and bars at the lower right.)