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Genesis 17:1-5 - The Great I WILL God’s Covenant Promise Restated - Part 4
So, what are the benefits of the covenant that God offers? In its most basic form, God states the covenant like this: “I will be your God, and you will be my people. God offers us a relationship with Himself! He is our Great Reward! Certainly he has promised Abram numerous offspring and a land in which to dwell, but He will only see the frist-fruits of those promises, not their fullness. The promise that Abram receives and experiences is that of a relationship with God. THAT is his EXCEEDINGLY great reward!
If we aren’t surprised by this offer, then I think we fail to appreciate just what God is saying. Then we are still thinking that we have the freedom to pick and choose who we will serve. We’re still thinking in terms of interviewing God for the job of allowing Him to be ours. “Of course God would be delighted if I decide to let Him be my God; it’s what He’s there for.”
But the whole point of the book of Genesis up to this point is that because of sin, there is no “of course” about it. In the garden of Eden, a close relationship with God was a natural part of life. But afterward, because of sin - the overwhelming desire that we each have to be in control of our own lives and choose for ourselves what is right and wrong - there can be no such automatic acceptance by God. The way back to the garden and to God’s presence is barred by Cherubim wielding a flaming sword. Only God can tell His guards to stand aside.
This was Cain’s problem: he thought that God should have accepted his sacrifice no matter what the attitude of his heart was. “It’s God’s job to accept sacrifices; He has no business picking and choosing whom he will accept and whom He will not,” he thought.
This was also the problem of the builders of the tower of Babel; they thought that if they all worked together, they could make their own way back to God through the construction of their wonderful tower. In their arrogance, they thought that it was going to reach up to the heavens. They would burst in on God and surprise Him - and of course, God would accept them.
And this is still what many people think today: If I live a decent life and am nice to most people most of the time, then of course God will accept me - it’s His job.
Here’s a wake up call - the reverse is true. If my own righteousness is all that I’m relying on, then I have no hope in finding favor in God’s sight. This is probably the hardest message to get across to people - the fact that good people are not automatically headed for heaven! The truth is that it isn’t just our sin that drives us away from God, but especially our righteousness. - our own best efforts to please God and thus put Him in our debt. We as Christians must not only repent from our sins but of our very best righteousness. That’s why the Gospel has always been better received among the drug addicts, criminals, and losers than among the rich and famous. Those people don’t find it difficult to believe that they have nothing to offer God.
And this is a lesson that Abram had to learn through his failures. Over 13 long years between the end of Genesis 16 and the beginning of Genesis 17, he had plenty of time to reflect on his own unfaithfulness to God. He had time to think of his own failures. So he was more than prepared to recognize and appreciate the graciousness with which God came to him. In spite of everything, the Great King appeared once again to the man who had let him down, and confirmed His covenant with him.
God’s promises are NOT destroyed by man’s failure, because our God is a God of grace. When we fail to recognize the incredible grace of God in entering a relationship with us - the Holy Lord of heaven with utter sinners - we desire a God who won’t change our lives and make demands of us. After all, if we are good enough to be accepted by God as we are, what is there for God to do in our lives?
But that is not what God is offering in His covenant. He offers Himself, and you can’t have a relationship with Him without it changing your life. It makes sense when you think about it. After all, you wouldn’t expect to get married without it modifying your life at all.
Imagine someone saying to you, “Oh yes, I’m married, but I don’t let it affect my life. I do what I want with my money and my time. No, I don’t spend time with my wife. Yes, I talk to her occasionally, but only when I really need something from her.”
You might think that’s a pretty strange way to behave - yet people think that they can behave that way with God. They want God to be their God at least so that when they die, He will take them to be with Him in heaven, but they don’t show the least desire to be with Him or His people now! They don’t want a relationship with God that changes their lives. But that is the ONLY kind of relationship God offers.
God will be your God and come into your life and change it completely and radically - or He will not be your God at all, with all the consequences that has.
If you do recognize your own sinfulness, your own utter need of God, and the amazing grace that He shows in being willing to enter into a relationship with you at all, then you will be prepared for God to change your life.
Are you ready to make that change today? Will you accept His covenant? Will you agree to His Lordship? Ready to deny yourself, pick up your cross and FOLLOW Him?! Jer. 33:3 - “Call unto me and I WILL answer you...”
Blessings to you all.