Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Genesis 17:1-2

Genesis 17:1-2: Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless. And I will establish My covenant between Me and you, And I will multiply you exceedingly.”

We have another opportunity here to look at the timeline that we started at the very beginning of this study. We last left it as follows:

• 3171 Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran (Gen. 11:26)
• 3219 Peleg died (Gen. 11:19)
• 3220 Nahor died (Gen. 11:25)
• 3272 Serug died (Gen. 11:23)
• 3306 Terah died at age 205 (Gen. 11:32)

We can continue this further by inserting some more dates based on later chapters:

• 3246 Abram departs from Haran with Lot at age 75 (Gen. 12:4)
• 3257 Abraham was 86 when Hagar bore Ishmael to him (Gen. 16:16)
• 3270 Abraham was 99 when God appears to him (Gen. 17:1)

We’ll continue to watch this timeline develop as we study the Word further – but somehow I’m having difficulty thinking we will arrive at the billions of years scientists figured we (or at least dinosaurs) have been around.

This chapter begins with two verses that are packed with lessons. For starters, Abram was ninety-nine years old. Chances are that no one that old will ever read this commentary. In fact, Abram was 39 years older than I am as I write this. Just when I feel that I have missed life’s great opportunity to serve God in some meaningful way, along comes this verse in God’s perfect timing, to tell me it is never too late. God still appears to old men and women and His message is the same.

What God said to Abram that day in history is not really that different than what He says to you and me today. It’s critical stuff, yet it is very simple stuff. In fact, this utterance of the Almighty encompasses God’s plan for everyone that would follow it. First, He is God Almighty. No need to debate it. Either one accepts it or one doesn’t. Second, we need to walk before Him. We need to walk in His presence recognizing who He is and being under His leadership as God Almighty. Third, we are to be blameless. We are to live holy lives in His presence. And at the same time, we are to recognize that only He can make us blameless before His righteousness. [Perhaps this is a direct inference to what the Gospel is all about.]

Now here comes a most interesting part. God wants to actually implement His covenant or promises to us. Well, what’s been holding Him up? If language means anything, then I have to believe that the fulfilling of God’s promises is a function of two things. The first is something that is not referred to in this verse and that is the overall impact of “God’s divine timing”. Things will happen in His appointed time for them to happen. But the second condition impacting the delivery of God’s promises to some extent is hidden in the word that commences the last sentence of verse two – namely, “And”. This word ties in a sequential manner, what God expects of us and what He will do for us. I believe that while God will do His part, we need to do ours – recognize Him as God Almighty and live accordingly including walking before Him and being as upright as humanly possible.

And still with those two conditions in place, God will see to it that His promises are delivered, that His blessings will be poured out on us, regardless of how we react. In Abram’s case, the blessing was that his descendants would be multiplied exceedingly, numbered like the sands of the earth.

There are two inherent dangers in this kind of thinking, however. The first is that one starts to believe, “what’s the use of being good, when we’re going to get blessed anyway?” That is a fallacy. God clearly has a blessing for us, but it may not be the ultimate blessing we could have received had we done our part. The second inherent danger is that we desperately try to figure out God’s thinking and rationale of how and why He does what He does in this whole thing of “promise-lifestyle-blessing” process. Forget it. We are not God. We do not think like God, we do not see like God, we have no idea of what lies ahead like God, and besides, God has the total right to act, as He, God Almighty alone, wants to act.

Where do you and I stand today in this simple summary of purpose and life that God gave to Abram? Do we see Him as God Almighty? Do we walk before Him? Are we blameless to the extent we humanly can be? If so, God will keep His promises to us and we will be blessed with the blessing He has for us.

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