Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Sermon Notes on Genesis 17

Genesis 17 here

God's Gracious Restoration (v1-2): Abraham was a man who, back in Genesis 12, God had called to leave his family and his country to go to another land that God would show him. God gave him the promise that he would make Abraham's descendants into a prosperous and mighty nation and that through his offspring, all the nations of the earth would be blessed by God. The problem was, his wife was sterile, so Abraham and Sarah (Abram and Sarai as they were known at that point) tried jamming a square peg in a round hole by getting a son/heir through his maid - perfectly acceptable in that culture, but not with God. Nevertheless, God does not disqualify Abraham on account of his presumption and not only seeks out face-to-face fellowship with him, but makes the promise he gave him in Genesis 12 even better!

The Promise Renewed (v3-8): God now tells Abraham that he won't only become a great nation, but the father of many nations - a colossally diverse crowd of people. God also tells Abraham that this promise will last forever. It's not only for this life, God will be Abraham's God in face-to-face fellowship with him forever. The curse of death and separation from God by sin will be overcome. Abraham understood this as the writer of Hebrews indicates (Heb 11:8-16).

The Promise Sealed (v9-14): In order to confirm this promise and help Abraham remember it, God does two things. 1) He changes Abraham's name (from Abram to Abraham, from exalted father to father of many) so that every time someone spoke to him, he would remember God's promise; and 2) God gave him the sign of circumcision. In circumcision God gave to Abraham and his descendants a prophetic acting out of how God would save and renew his people and the whole creation. On the 8th day after birth, a father would take a knife to his newborn son and shed his blood in cutting off his foreskin. This would be symbolic of the fact that in due time, according to the scriptures, God the Father would send his Son into the world, born as a descendant of Abraham. He would die and in that death he would pay for the salvation of the whole world. The sure nature of God's promise means that God can have face to face fellowship with Abraham, a sinner, because he knows that the cross of Jesus will pay for this (Rom 3:24-26). Being circumcised is not optional here. Abraham must participate in this gospel sign or he is cut off from fellowship with God. The equivalent signs for us, who stand in time on the other side of the cross, are baptism in water and the Spirit.

The Son of Promise, not Human Effort (v15-21): Abraham still hankers after having the son born to him by his maid as his heir, but God will have none of it! God will not have any human help (initiation) in salvation - because it's as crazy a notion as talking about a one-ended stick. Dead people cannot help raise themselves; mortally wounded and sick people cannot help heal themselves. Sinners cannot save themselves. God will miraculously give Abraham a son through his sterile wife, both to confirm his promise and laugh at the so-called wisdom of the world that in its overweening pride thinks it can bring something to the table in salvation.

Obedience Springs from Faith in the Promise (v22-27): Abraham obeys. This time his obedience is not presumptuous, but rather a response in faith to God's gracious initiation. That is what all acceptable obedience looks like to God. It is a response made in faith, hope and love to his gracious initiation. 2 Cor 1:20 tells us that all the promises of God are yes to us through Jesus. The church is the fulfilment of God's promise to Abraham. The church is the descendants of Abraham raised up by God to walk in faith, be a blessing to the nations, and wait in hope of the return of Jesus and the New Creation.

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