The Sign of the Covenant

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In the last chapter, we saw Abraham’s tragic mistake in trying to hasten the work of God. He was eighty-six when Ishmael was born and ninety-nine when Isaac was born. However, before Isaac could be born, faith had to be exercised. This chapter explains how the covenant was received:

I. In absolute subjection (vv. 1-3). All Abraham had to do was listen for the Abrahamic covenant was unconditional and in no way dependent on his cooperation.

II. In absolute silence (4-14). Abraham lays prostrate in the dust listening while promise after promise are given.

A. The substance of the promise (vv. 4-8). - I will make thee fruitful.

1. There is a people involved (vv. 4-6). - Abraham and his seed.

2. There is a period involved (v. 7). - Everlasting.

3. There is a place involved (v. 8). - The land of Israel.

B. The seal of the promise (vv.9-14). - The right of circumcision.

C. The spirit of the promise (vv. 15-16). - Not intended to be an expression of saving faith on the part of the child, but of submissive faith on the part of the parent.

The promise of a seed is confirmed by the changing of a name and a sign. This was confirmed by the changing of the names of Abram to Abraham (vv. 1-8) and Sarai to Sarah (vv. 15-18) and God’s instituting circumcision as the sign of the covenant (vv. 9-14). God tells Abraham that he will be the father of many nations and the covenant will be everlasting. Today, an image is being created of a ravished Palestinian state and of a Palestinian nation that has been displaced by the Jews. The truth is that the last time an independent state existed, it was a Jewish state, destroyed by the Romans in A.D.70 and renamed “Palestine, after the Jews’ enemy the Philistines. There never has been a Arab state. Prior to the Abrahamic covenant God had already declared the boundaries of the land to be from the Nile on the west to the Euphrates on the east.


A religious act, in itself, is meaningless; consequently, the attitude in which I surrender myself to the Lord in complete obedience to His will is very important.

Genesis 17:1-16 (English Standard Version)

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