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Genesis 17:9-27 - Obedience - Part 3; Abraham’s reaction!!
So, let’s pick it up in verse 15: “God also said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai, her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.’
Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, ‘will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety? If only Ishmael might live under your blessing.’” (Oh, he loves this kid, as we’ll discover as we go forward in the coming weeks.)
Like her husband, now Sarai receives a new name which means “princess,” a fitting name for a woman whose descendants would rule as kings. But notice Abraham’s reaction to discovering, really for the first time, that indeed the promise will come through Sarah! The idea of Sarah becoming pregnant at the age of 90 took Abraham by surprise.
Let me say this, during the Lord’s 13 year silence, Abraham learned to trust the Lord God beyond a doubt. He knew the Lord would bless him with many descendants, but most likely, at this point, he assumed it would be through Ishmael’s offspring. To clarify this with God, he put the idea before him in the form of a requested blessing on his son. But God reply was not what he expected: “NO! Sarah, your wife, will give birth to a son.”
The Lord commanded Abraham to name his new son Isaac, which means “he laughs.” We can’t say without some doubt whether Abraham’s laugh was one of disbelief or one of joy. Maybe it was a little of both. We could look at it this way: Maybe every time Abraham told the story behind Isaac’s name he would have to admit his disbelief! Of course, he would also have to admit to laughing in unrestrained joy over the miraculous birth of his long-awaited son.
Vs. 19-22 - “Then God said, ‘Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.’ When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.”
We will discover in the weeks ahead that there’s the son of the promise, Isaac; and the son of the flesh, Ishmael. Isaac is going to have what we call, an eternal inheritance. But God is going to bear out a promise to the son of the flesh, Ishmael, in an earthly way. So God is saying: “I know you love this kid, and I’m going to take care of him, but he’s not the one the eternal covenants are coming through.”
Vs. 23-27 - Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him. Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised, and his son Ishmael was thirteen; Abraham and his son Ishmael were both circumcised on that very day. And every male in Abraham’s household, including those born in his household or bought from a foreigner, was circumcised with him.”
Let’s really grab onto this “Immediate obedience” thing! The importance of immediate obedience.
There’s a time to pray - 1 Thess. 5 Tells us to pray without ceasing, but there’s also a time to act! And if God tells you to do something, ya just do it! Sometimes I think we’re like: “Well God, I know ya told me to do something, but I’d really like to pray about that for awhile.” NO! Immediate obedience!
I would imagine that circumcision was a difficult sell! From what I found is that Circumcision was widely practiced in the Near east as a rite of puberty, fertility, marriage, and other reasons. Performed on infants, it was more a ritual scarring than something done for health reasons. The fact that blood was shed also signified that this was a ritual and could have functioned as a substitution for human sacrifice.
So imagine the scene! You just heard from God, and your heading back to the Abrahamic compound. ‘Man, how am I going to break this one to the boys?’ He gets there and says: “okay guys, I just hear from the lord here. He’s changed my name, I’m now the exalted father of many nations. I know I’ve only got one kid and you might find that hard to believe. But wait until you hear this one guyss, Here’s what we’re going to do today!” What!!!!
So, not only was Abraham’s obedience immediate here, but he acted in faith even maybe if it didn’t make a whole lot of sense to him. I think, like Noah, its a real testimony to this man’s character and faith and integrity that he had no problem whatsoever leading these men to go forth and go through what could only minimally be called “an ordeal.”
We would all do well to obey God quickly, especially when we may dread the thought of fulfilling His request.
In this case, circumcision would likely have been both a painful and frightening prospect, a medical procedure done with some pretty primitive tools, yet the wise reaction would be to fulfill the request before we have much time to think about it.
To quote Matthew Henry, “While the command is yet sounding in our ears, and the sense of duty is fresh, it is good to apply ourselves to it immediately, lest we deceive ourselves by putting it off to a more convenient season.”
We should also consider that Abraham was called to do this not only to himself and his son Ishmael, but to all male members of his household.Â Why might have they agreed to Abraham’s request? I think maybe it was Because Abraham is a man of God living a godly life and has been for at least 24 years now.
His men have already risked their lives following him into battle just to save his nephew Lot. Jewish tradition holds that Abraham was well-respected in his household and was likely a teacher of the ways of God to his servants. How respected and trusted does a man need to be for one to allow him to do such a thing to him as circumcision?Â Very respected and trusted indeed!
When I got the calling to come to the Oaks I did NOT IMMEDIATELY obey. I questioned, I prayed, I came up with excuses, I had alot of self talk rather than God talk at first. But it became apparent VERY SOON that I needed to heed this call, and did so.
My wife, however, after sleeping on it, told me she would support my decision 100% in whatever I chose to do. She had the immediate obedience I did not have. It’s one thing to hear a calling from God and act in immediate obedience, but when that call comes from another person, how do we respond?
I have come across my share of individuals coming to me and asking for something radical or out of the norm and saying this is what God is leading them to do, and if I would help or be part of in some way.
When I am intimate with these individuals and know their character and integrity and their love for the Lord, I don’t typically even hesitate in affirming their request, regardless of how off-the-wall it may seem. I trust them, I trust their faith in the Lord and their passion for following the will of Jesus. At times I find myself more willing to be in immediate obedience to these things that when I think I'm hearing something from God Himself.
I’ve found that it’s often the simplest commands and the simplest acts of obedience that have the deepest and longest lasting results. And they also tend to become the foundation for larger assignments of faith later. Great opportunities later necessitate immediate obedience now.
So what specific instruction has God given you recently? Maybe even today? Regarding your family? Your job? Your church? Your circle of influence? Your possessions? Your future? Your relationship with Him?
Don’t calculate. Don’t second-guess. And don’t delay. Just do it now. Don’t ever make the mistake of thinking that your life is too big for you to obey a simple instruction from God. You will never outgrow the need to immediately obey anything God tells you to do.
And you might as well obey God now. Delaying won’t make it any easier, only more complicated. Blessings to you all.