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Jul 16 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 7, 2013 – Genesis Chapter 17

Now As For You . . .

Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him,
“I am God Almighty;
Walk before Me, and be blameless.
I will establish My covenant between Me and you;
And I will multiply you exceedingly.”

Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him saying,
“As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you
And you will be the father of a multitude of nations.
No longer shall your name be called Abram,
But your name shall be Abraham;
For I will make you the father of a multitude of nations . . .” 
Genesis 17:1-6

INTRO: I wonder if, at ninety-nine, Abram was ready for this

I imagine him responding,
“Walk before You, Lord? Could I just sit in a chair and rock before You?”

Last week Dad was in the hospital for a surgical procedure
– I spent three sleepless nights with him
• the most difficult part was watching him cough
• the most encouraging part was watching him work at his recovery
– at eighty-six, nothing is easy for him
• in early June, when I spent a week with my folks, both of them at different times said to me,
“Chuck, don’t get old”
– Yesterday morning, I sat by the window waiting for Dad to wake up
• I was in Psalm 150 and the words, “Let everything that has breath . . .” hit hard
• the purpose of Dad’s surgery was to help increase the volume of air he inhales with each breath
○ I wrote in my notebook:
“I have to say, regarding Dad’s attitude and fight, he is an excellent example for me. ‘More like Dad . . .’”

So Abram was old, but his journey wasn’t over
– and I think that’s all I want to say today
• our journey isn’t over, so we have to keep fighting for now
• we have to resist any voice that tells us, “It’s over, just give up”
○ it isn’t over and we can’t give up!
– and it makes all the difference if we have the right attitude
• we have to be able to find our way back to hope

If I can put it this way, God leaps onto center stage

In fact, the chapter is mostly God’s monologue
– Abram has one, short sentence, and there’s a little bit of narrative
• otherwise, God is talking through the whole chapter

“The LORD appeared to Abram”
– let’s not try to guess how – let’s just admit we’re envious
– he showed up and introduced himself, using a new title
El Shaddai – all powerful
• so whatever he has to say next, he can make it happen

“I am” – the drama begins here – God announces who he is

“Walk” – continue your journey (v. 8), but “before Me”
– the word “face” again
• a face is ore definite and intimate than a “presence”
– “blameless,” “complete,” “whole”
• when applied to ethical behavior – “integrity”
• when applied to an individual’s life – “healthy”

We need to be really clear about this
– the impression we get from evangelists (and evangelicals)
•  is that all of God’s efforts and the whole purpose of Jesus has been to get us to heaven
– that hasn’t even been hinted at in Genesis
• God created this world and placed us in it
○ this is where he wants us to know him and walk with him
○ not that heaven is unimportant – but that’s what comes after
• God’s goal is to make us whole – here in this life
○ we are broken, everyone of us – in various stages of healing
○ we won’t ever be all the way whole – that’s our journey
• our brokenness keeps us aware of our need for God and each other
– don’t settle into your brokenness!!
• all of its twisted thinking and sick behavior
• walk before God Almighty — he always makes a way

God’s purpose for this encounter was to secure an attachment
– to formally recognize the relationship he shared with Abram
• “as for Me” – “this is My part”
– what is this covenant relationship?
• it isn’t merely a legal arrangement – all some Christians know is a legal arangement
• it isn’t a formal partnership, “Do this for me and I’ll do this for you”
– it is a union of two lives, Spirit to spirit
• God’s life penetrates and grows into us and our lives penetrate and grow into him
• we get to know each other, we open up, we build intimacy
– this takes honesty and transparency – there’s lots of confession
• but it is in the covenant relationship that we’re made whole

God told Abram, this is who I am – now, this is who you are
– “Abraham” confers a destiny on the old man
• that’s what a name gives a person in the Hebrew Scriptures–identity and destiny
• “descendants” and “the land”
– two Hebrew words are repeated each time they’re used:
• “exceedingly” – doubling gives the word more force (vv. 2, 6, 20)
• “between” – creates a sense of space between the two objects (vv. 2, 10, 11)
○ the covenant fills that space and acts like glue
○ like gluons between quarks in the protons of an atom’s nucleus
○ the further the quarks move apart, the stronger the bond becomes

Vv. 9-10, Abraham’s part, “Now as for you . . .”

If we had time and I thought it was appropriate, I would discuss circumcision
– I think there are multiple meanings for this particular symbol
– for now, the promises of God’s covenant depend on procreation
• God says, this power has to be surrendered to Me
• it’s already proved an impossibility for Abraham
○ it’s the obstacle they tried to work their way around last week with Hagar

Vv. 15-20, Sarah’s part, “As for Sarai your wife . . .”

It’s easy to change a person’s name, but not at all easy to change a person
– in changing their names, God is changing them — he is speaking something into existence (cf. Ro. 4:17)
• he’s changing the condition of their lives
• he’s making Abraham a new man and Sarah a new woman
– God doesn’t leave us the same as when he found us
• be patient with God
• Abraham and Sarah are changed as they walk with God
○ this is their spiritual journey
○ it’s our spiritual journey too

I’m so glad Abraham laughed – it breaks the tension of this suspenseful scene
– he has been passive and silent throughout God’s monologue
• now, for the first time, we hear his voice and he’s laughing
– laughter will be the theme of his son’s life – Isaac
• I’m pretty sure, it was sort of laugh that comes out when, really, we want to cry

It’s okay to laugh!
– what God said was impossible

• Abraham could have given up right there
– situations are frequently thrown at us that seem impossible
• but if we just keep moving, taking one step at a time, we eventually tunnel our way through to the other side
• if this happens enough times, we become more confident and no longer panic at the impossible
○ for example, Abraham will seem irresponsibly nonchalant when he is told to sacrifice his miracle child

V. 22, God left and glow faded from the air – he dis/appeared

Abraham is again alone in the world
– he’s still ninety-nine, his body still aches, Sarah is still barren
– but he is holding on to a promise
• he’s in a covenant relationship
• and whether he sees God or not, he walks with him

CONC: I can’t say it strongly enough,

Your relationship with God is not an event, it’s a journey
– you can’t see the best part of it today
• to see the best part, you have to fight
• fight against everything that holds you back, trips you up
– you have to stand transparent before God
• he will tell you what is not you and what is you

We have God for the journey – and we have each other
– the sad thing is, our brokenness makes us do some ugly things
• life wouldn’t be so ugly if we traveled only with God
– cool thing is, at least we can see each other
• and if we look for it, we can see God’s image in each other

It feels strange at first to tell another guy you love him
– but I’m glad I did when talking with Jeff Jones last Monday
• I had no idea that I would never be able to say it again to him face to face
– since his death, dozens of people have posted “I love you, Jeff” on his Facebook page
• it sad to me, he wasn’t here to see it
○ I wonder, if he had known, would it have made a difference?

Fight alongside God — he’s given you a new name
– it’s the name of your destiny and your true self
And fight for each other – we’re all broken and face hard battles


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  1. paul Udell / Jul 19 2013


    You said,” Don’t settle into your brokenness.”
    This made me think of the poem from “The Grey ”
    The poem was about the area between life and death.

    “once more into the fray.
    Into the last good fight I’ll ever know.
    Live or die this day.
    Live or die this day.”

    It seems if we face our punctured equilibrium daily with Gods presence –we will become.
    Thank you for thoughtful insight.


  2. Chuck Smith, Jr. / Jul 29 2013

    Ah, Paul,

    I think the only way we can “face our punctured equilibrium” and not be overwhelmed by it, is to do so in God’s presence. It’s like in elementary school when we did not want to look at our scraped knee until we got to the nurse’s office. Immediately our horror of how bad it actually looked was instantly soothed by the nurse’s, “There, there, it’s not so bad. A little iodine and this colorful band-aid will fix you right up.” I would despair over my inconsistencies if not for God’s, “There, there . . . .”


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