Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 17:23, 26

23 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.

26 In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son.

When the Lord said that every male in Abraham’s house needed to be circumcised to become a part of the covenant, Abraham did not hesitate to follow. Notice that verses 23 and 26 both stress that Abraham followed through on these instructions in the selfsame day.

There have been times where I have received spiritual guidance and decided to “get to work on that…soon.” Which of course meant not doing anything to follow it right away, just sort of letting it stew around in the back of my mind until I forgot about it and never followed through. And it wasn’t that I meant to disobey, but I wasn’t prioritizing it, which proved to be a very slippery slope.

Procrastination is often the first step towards disobedience, and promptness the first towards faithfulness.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 17:17-21

17 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?

18 And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!

19 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.

20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.

21 But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.

Abraham was incredulous when God pronounced that he and Sarah would have a child in their old age, and he suggested that God establish His covenants with Ishmael instead. God acknowledges the request, explaining that he has a separate covenant made for Ishmael, but He also stresses that Sarah will indeed bear a son. He even gives a very precise deadline for the event, foretelling that Isaac will be born at this same time one year from now.

Many times we hold out hope for God’s promises, and then feel crushed when we perceive them as being unfulfillable. In our natural lives things expire, what was possible becomes impossible, and that which is not accomplished in the right season won’t be accomplished at all. Abraham had heard before this promise that he and Sarah would have a son, but he had perceived that opportunity as being expired, due to their old age.

But God does not operate under the same constraints as the rest of us. At times it might seem “too late,” or “physically impossible” for Him to fulfill His promises to us. But no matter, He’ll do it anyway!

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 17:15-16

15 And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be.

16 And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her.

Earlier Abram received his new name and became Abraham. Now it is Sarai’s turn, and her new name, Sarah, means “Princess,” which is explained in the statement “kings of people shall be of her.” Abraham’s new name signified that he would be the patriarch of many nations, Sarah’s new name signified that those nations would be populated with heroes and royalty, figures both mighty and important.

Just consider a few examples of the progeny that would come through this “princess:” Joseph the prince of Egypt, Moses the liberator, Joshua the conqueror, Gideon the miracle fighter, Samuel the counselor to kings, David the warrior-poet, Solomon the wise monarch, Samson the strong, Daniel the faithful, Elijah the caller-down of fire, Esther the bold queen, and of course Jesus the savior of the world.

Abraham and Sarah were going to be the foundation for something great and powerful, and now they had names to reflect that. I do wonder what sort of insight they might have had as to the caliber of their future family. Did they ever have visions of the mighty sons and daughters that would look back and revere them?

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 17:7, 9-10, 14

7 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.

9 And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.

10 This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.

14 And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.

The promises that God had for Abraham were not for Abraham only. In order for the promises to come true, they would need to be reiterated to all of Abraham’s willing descendants. Abraham wasn’t going to have a nation of children immediately in the next generation, so his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and beyond would all have to be included in the promise of raising a great nation and possessing the land of Canaan.

This is a very special sort of perpetual blessing. Usually when I think of a promise from God what comes to mind is a personal thing. I receive my promises from God and you receive yours, and just because God gives one person one thing does not mean He is likely to give the same thing to someone else. But, evidently, sometimes a promise from God is made to a group, or even to an entire line of posterity.

And this is a foreshadowing of the New Testament covenants that Jesus would later introduce. Covenants that would be offered even more liberally, to the entire human race instead of just one family line!

Though not necessarily all of Abraham’s descendants were going to be part of his covenant, and not necessarily all of humanity will be part of the New Testament covenants either. All of Abraham’s descendants could be, but it would depend upon them showing God a specific sign, which was being circumcised, and following a specific law. And the New Testament covenants are also fully entered into by showing God certain signs, such as baptism, and by following Jesus’s higher law.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 17:1-6

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. 

2 And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.

3 And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,

4 As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.

5 Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.

6 And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.

It has really stood out to me in this study just how many times God reiterates His promises to Abram, and each time He does so it seems to be more earnest and intimate, drawing Abram closer and closer. The last time He led him through a solemn ritual covenant, and this time He is giving Abram a new name.

Receiving a new name is a very significant and privately sacred event. Each of us is assigned a name when we are born. Sometimes this is a reference to someone that our parents respect, but who may not be anything like us. We might receive a nickname from friends later in life, based off of a single character trait or a memorable event, but this also falls short of defining who we really are. But what if we could be given a name by someone who understood us perfectly, someone who had made us, and knew the very purpose for which He had done so?

Receiving a new name from God is a sign of His fatherhood over us, a way that He claims us as His own. A few years ago I was introduced to the idea of asking God what names or titles He has for me, and if you’ve never done this yourself, I recommend trying it and seeing what happens. Just be sure you avoid the temptation of speaking for Him, though. It will only be a significant experience if it truly comes from God and not your own imagination.

In Abram’s case, there were many qualities that God could have singled out while giving him his new name. Abram had fought the armies of Elam, but God did not call him Abram the Warrior. Abram would become known for digging wells later in his life, but God did not call him Abram the Well-Digger. No, God knew that the primary defining trait of his son would be that of a patriarch, a father of many nations, a revered and respected head of a tremendous family. And so his name became Abraham.