Genesis 17:1-27

 |  April 9, 2018

Gen. 17:1-27

  1. Locate the passage

This passage occurs after Abram’s belief expressed in God in Genesis 15 is followed by a lack of faith in Genesis 16. As with Gen. 15:1, the Lord appears to Abram and introduces Himself with a new understanding of who He is.

  1. Genre

The passage is narrative. Most of the speaking in this passage is from God to Abraham. When Abraham does speak, it betrays his lingering uncertainty. But, ultimately, Abraham’s actions demonstrate his faith

  1. Determine the structure of the passage

17:1-8 – Walk before Me

1-2 – God’s command to Abram to walk before Him

3 – Abram’s humility before God

4-6 – The changing of Abram’s name to Abraham

17:9-27 – Keep My Covenant

9 – God’s command to Abraham to keep His Covenant

10-14 – The sign of the Covenant

15-16 – Sarai’s name changed to Sarah

17-27 – Not Ishmael, but Isaac

17-18 – Abraham’s solution: Not Isaac, but Ishmael

19-22 – God’s solution: Not Ishmael, but Isaac

23-27 – Abraham’s obedience to God’s command

  1. Exegete the passage

There are two cycles of conversation between the Lord and Abraham that both involve: A command, an explanation of the Covenant, a name change, and Abraham falling on his face.

Note that Abraham twice falls on his face in this passage – once in humility (17:3), and once in doubt (17:17).

Abram was ninety-nine – the passage breaks 13 years of silence after Abram’s lack of faith with Hagar and Ishmael. The listing of Abram’s age in consecutive verses (16:16 & 17:1) highlights the tension of the consequences of sin.

Abraham only speaks once in this pericope (17:17-18) and what he says demonstrates his lingering uncertainty. But his actions (17:3, 23-27) demonstrate his faith.

17:1 – Seventeen years have passed between 16:16 and 17:1

17:1 – I am Almighty God

17:1 – Walk before Me

17:1 – Blameless

17:2 – The Lord reminds Abram of the Covenant

17:3 – Abram’s response is humility before the Lord

17:5 – Your name will no longer be Abram, but … Abraham

17:7 – An “everlasting” Covenant

17:9 – “As for you”

17:11 – Circumcision

17:15-16 – Sarai’s name changed to Sarah

17:17 – This time when Abraham fell on his face, it was not out of humility (17:3), but out of a lack of faith

17:18 – Abraham’s effort at negation regarding Ishmael suggests the impossibility with which he views the prospect of Sarah having children

17:19 – Sarah, your wife will have a son

17:20-21 – Ishmael will be blessed because of his association with Abraham, but the Covenant will be according to God’s plan and not Abraham’s

17:23-27 – Abraham’ immediate response of faith indicated his assent to God’s plan

  1. Let the structure of the text drive the sermon

Exp. Two conversations are recorded in this passage that both begin with God’s   command to Abraham. In both cycles, Abraham responds by falling on his face before the Lord. The first time (vs. 3), he fell on his face out of humility. But the  second time (vs. 17), he fell on his face out of unbelief.

Exp. God wants you on your face before Him, but for the right reason

  • Walk Before Me – God’s plan for Abraham to walk before Him involved: a new name, the same promise, a new sign, the same plan
  • Keep My Covenant
    • Third times’ a charm – God reassures Abe of His blessing
    • My Covenant is with you …
    • What’s in a name? The greatest significance lies in the fact that they were divinely attributed.
    • Laughter and faith
      • Sarah laughed, too
      • Bargaining in ignorance … (what about Ishmael?)
      • God doesn’t need our help
      • When God blesses our mess
    • Abe’s response of faith (circumcision)

Category: Sermon Structure
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