I am God Almighty
Key Verse 17:1
“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless.’”
A happy New Year in 2016! Thank God for helping us to study one of the most hopeful and graceful passages. From today’s lesson we can learn how God is faithful and sincere and diligent and eagerly helping one person, his servant, to grow up for his kingdom.
Abram and Sarai failed to follow God fully. But God visited them again and again. In the view of a perfectionist, they could not be good examples for their descendants and the generations to come. They must have grown up before God. So today God appeared to them and changed their name. Today’s story is so gracious. God proclaimed the everlasting covenant with Abraham and his descendants. In Jesus this covenant has fulfilled. Today we can find out how gracious and faithful our God is. We can see the God’s strong will and zeal for his vision in Abraham and his descendants.
1. I am God Almighty, Walk before me (1-2)
Look at verse 1a. “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him.” Abram’s age became 99 years. God called him to enter the Promised Land when he was 75 years old. Now total 24 years have passed. Why did God appear to him? Smell it! Feel it! Check up the situation.. Something was there, right? There is 13 years gap between ch16 and 17. Why no any records for 13 years? In the point of God’s view, there was nothing valuable to record in Abram’s life. What happened to him? What’s wrong with him? Let us take a careful look into his personal life!
Chapter 16 begins with the words, "Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar." It was around the 10th years after they had lived as God’s promise which was given at chapter 12. 24 years ago Abram was a miserable hopeless and visionless old man. Why did God appear to him? Why did God choose him? Let us look back on Genesis 12:1-4.
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. 2“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” 4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran.
What a luxurious vision for an old man! How come Abram believed in God and just entered the land of promise? Did God entice a naive old man, Abram? God is a deceiver? Is God a failure to keep what he promised? Why so delaying? We, Koreans, like Ppalri.. Ppalri.. So Sarai devised her own plan to make a son for Abram and his ministry. Hagar, an Egyptian Slave girl, bore a son for Abram. His name was Ishmael. Abraham was so happy with him. But Hagar despised Sarai, and Sarai persecuted Hagar. Abram was torn down between two women. Abram had to play with Ishmael after work. Abram couldn’t go campus. He thought I would go next day and next day. But he couldn't go campus for 13 years. Abram lost his personal identity whether why he was there in Canaan. He found his self-concept as a noble father of one son Ishmael. Self-concept determines one’s life style and confines one’s life activities. Self-concept is how I see myself. As long as we change our self-concept, we can never change our life. That is why God changed Abram’s name.
Abram had lived worldly life, fleshly life. He was satisfied with a son as his father. He became a noble and good father for Ishmael. He had forgotten the eternal covenant with God for 13 years. He didn’t care of God’s vision, God’s purpose for the world redemptive work. He was dead in spirit.
Here, Ishmael was a child of impatience (which is unbelief), compromise and human calculations. Abram’s life of faith stopped at a plateau in Ishmael. Ishmael was self-imposed limitation. It is very wicked and sinful for him to limit the Almighty God. He thought God is nothing special. Oh, No God cannot do anything else because I am too old, now I am 99 yeas old. Have you experienced that getting old discourage you a lot? God’s luxurious blessings are delaying for 24 years. At the same time his physical condition gradually erodes his faith. Deep spiritual depression attacked him. He decided to go campus and to to do 3 one to ones per week. But he couldn’t make it at all. He said himself, no more struggle, no more challenge. That is enough with my Ishmael. Who can rescue Abram from his status quo, deep spiritual sleep? But God is living. He always helps his servants.
Look at 1b. “I am God Almighty walk before me and be blameless.” God clearly revealed Himself as God Almighty, El-Shaddai. In Hebrew, El means God, Shaddai means almighty, most powerful. The most powerful God is the Creator who create the world with His word. The most powerful God divided the red sea. God can move mountain, Jesus helped his followers, have faith in God. And challenged them to have mountain moving faith in God. God can make a stream of water from the rock. God is not human. God’s way is different from human’s. God is perfect. Really so is his word. I like PS19:7 The law of the Lord is perfect, revives the soul. Amen. Great servants of God have always empowered by the Almighty God and they called the name of God. Yahweh(The Lord), Jehovah Nissi (The Lord is my Banner), Jehovah Jireh(The Lord Provider), Johovah Rapha(The Lord is Healer), Jehovah Shammah(The Lord is There), Jehovah Shalom(The Lord is Peace).. What is the name of your God?
What did God said to him? Look at verse 1b. “I am God Almighty, walk before me and be blameless.” What kind of word is this? What happened to Abram? Why did God say to him in this way? Isn’t God rebuking him? Yes, He is. How did God help him? Look at verse 1b again. “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless.” God said, "Walk before me and be blameless." This was a call to Abram to repent of his petty, family-centered life and walk before the Almighty God who had called him and who had a great purpose for his life. ‘Blameless means ‘being righteous.’ Faith in God makes him righteous, blameless. Romans1:17 reads, the righteous will live by faith. Who can be blameless before God? Here God’s requirement is having faith in God accepting God’s vision and purpose for us. With this word, God woke him up from spiritual deep sleep. And God reminded the first promise. He lifted his burden of sin and helped him to continue to live by faith in God's covenant promise.
Look at verse 2. “Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your number.” Old verse “I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.” Confirm is not new beginning. It is reaffirming what God said in the beginning. Make it sure. Make it more clear and make it real.. How many times had God repeated his promise to Abram? How gracious and kind our God is! Our God is so faithful and always the same, yesterday and today. Humans are unfaithful, but God is faithful. We fail to keep the promise, but God keeps his promise, Amen. Now, when 24 years elapsed without the fruit of this promise, God repeated this, “I will greatly increase your numbers(2).”
What did Abram response at this? Look at verse 3. Abram fell face down before God in repentance. It is the very strong point of Abram. He had done many wrong doings, but whenever God said to him, he humbled himself and repented. What we should do before God is to fall face down instead of having stiff neck.
When I think of how God helped foolish Abram and Sarai, my heart is filled with thanksgiving. How many times I have done foolish things!
Abram was in a great confusion. He was overwhelmed by the dark cloud. He was crying with his life conditions. But God appeared again and restored his faith. What is bigger in your mind between God and life problems. If God is bigger in mind, the life problems are smaller. Meditate God and hold his promise by faith. Amen
2. The covenant blessing package (4-8,15-16)
A covenant is an agreement in between two entities. Each party must carry out each duty. If not, the covenant breaks. A kind of commercial trading agreement, in this verses, God offered the blessing package in this covenant. What are in the package?
1) God promised many nations, from the promised son (4-6)
2) God makes it an everlasting covenant between God and Abraham and his decedents(7)
3) God provides the land as an everlasting possession. (8)
4) God is their God.(8b)
These are amazing blessings in a covenant package. In terms of UBF ministry, God promised a sheep and many leaders. God makes it valid generation to generation. God gives us campuses as our working field territory. And at the last God is with us. God is our God. People, territory, and working authority. That is the very kingdom of God.
God offered Abraham an everlasting kingdom. The kingdom consists of at least 3 components. These are the people, the territory and the governing power of kingship.
First of all, over all these covenant blessing package, God changed the name of Abram. God changed the inner concept, the self image of Abram.
Look at verses 4,5. “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.”
Even though the blessing package is so great, without changing of the inner person, the blessing is not blessing any more. No benefit is there.
God changed Abram's name to Abraham. Abram means "noble father"; it is the name of a small man. It is very shallow and shabby self-concept. Abram was living a narrow, family centered life. But the new name "Abraham" means "the father of many nations." God wanted to bless the whole world through Abraham. Abraham was to be, not only the physical father, but also the spiritual father of many nations. The vision of God was so great for a hopeless sonless small man, Abram. Abram was really small man. He was despised among his contemporaries. He was treated as a cursed object. But God’s vision was this; “You will be the father of many nations.” How come this can be? It is because God is Almighty and great. Amen
At the same time God changed Sarai’s name too.
Look at verses 15-16. God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” So far God hasn’t mentioned Sarai. God clarified that Sarai would be the woman shared the promise of God with Abraham. God changed her name too. Sarai was the name of a princess. But God called her Sarah, which means the mother of many nations. In the chapter 16, Sarah was a hysterical woman. She couldn’t control herself. Even though she was mistress, she acted this way and that way like a reed shaking by wind. But from the beginning God had concerned Sarah. Through her body God wanted to send the Messiah. God’s love is unchangeable. Sarah had joined Abraham’s suffering. Therefore she must have joined his glory. It is the principle of God.
The book of 1Chronicles 4:9-10 introduces us a man, named Jabez(means pain). He was very painful man. his life was pain itself. His mother gave birth to him in pain. His life destiny could have minimized his self-concept and end up with a miserable life. But he came out to the Almighty God and changed his life destiny with prayer.
“1)Bless me indeed. 2)Enlarge my territory. 3)Your hand be with me. 4)Keep me from harm (1Ch 4:10).”
Through this prayer, his life is changed. He became the most honorable in his brothers.
In the history of God and even the history of human beings everyone who has torn down his small heart, has been used by God. Negative thought, conventional human thoughts and stereotyped family legacies resist the work of God. Those will block the work of the Holy Spirit. We must demolish them through our intensive prayers and spiritual struggles. Do not complain any bad situations, instead, change your mind. Then we can see the vision of God and the power of God. And God will work for us. We can do everything in God according to the will of God..
III. God requirement for the covenant (9-14)
An agreement clarifies value exchange. It contains clear ‘give and take’. If there is receiving, there should be giving. Nothing is free. Pay the due duty for the valuable exchange. God is giving Abraham heirs, property, power and wealth. Abraham gives something in turn.
God’s requirement for the covenant is circumcision. Look at verses 10-11. Every male among Abraham shall be circumcised. He commanded him, as a sign and seal of the covenant, to undergo circumcision, and to circumcise every male in his household, including the teenager, Ishmael. It is no excuse. Look at verse 14. “Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”
What are the meanings of the circumcision? First, This is a spiritual painful operation, but by this act, Abraham would cut away from himself a compromising life. God requested clear life course correction. Repenting is not just resolution. It is a life course changing. It is painful. Not fun. But required absolutely. Uncircumcised person cannot share the covenant of God.
Second, it is engraving the covenant in the body. God showed him many evidences of his love and powers. Abraham loved God. God loved him so much. But he had been shaking many times. So God engraved his covenant on his body. You are mine. Don't move. Do not shake like reed. God requested him absolute commitment. Not only himself, but his whole family and household to God.
Here we can learn that how God loved one person Abraham. God loves me so much. He never gives up a sinner like me. He helps me to repent and circumcise my unfaithful life.
IV. Abraham circumcised (17-27)
Look at verse 17. “Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will as son be born to man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” God made Abraham laugh. Still Abraham put his mind on Ishmael. But God was clear. Look at verse 19. “Yes, but your wife will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. God even gave the name to the promised son. The meaning of Isaac is “laughter.” It was because Abraham laughed. Isaac became a laugher to Abraham. God makes us laugh. He can do what we cannot imagine. Young men! Be courageous! Expect great things from the God Almighty. God is Almighty. God is love. Open your heart and welcome God’s love and vision. Then the blessing given to Abraham is yours (Gal3:14). We must challenge a great thing as long as we believe that God is Almighty. Amen
Abraham accepted God's covenant. Abraham’s faith is fully restored through one to one Bible study with God, the best teacher. Once again Abraham accepted God's mission and God's vision. Therefore on that very day he was circumcised; and on that day he circumcised Ishmael and all male in his household. This was an act of obedience that comes from faith. Abraham believed that God is God Almighty. He made a decision to walk before him in trust and obedience.
He knew how great the God’s blessing. God’s requirement, the duties of Abraham’s side are nothing compare with God’s blessing. So he moved quickly. Repenting, circumcision of heart is not easy. It could be very much painful process. But when we think how great God’s blessing is, we can immediately obey God, Amen.
What covenant do we have in between God and us? God’s vision and mission for ubf is world campus mission. God had built up UBF for world campus mission. When we obey God’s world campus mission, his blessing is amazing..
Today, God appeared as the Almighty God. Even now we may have heavy problems, issues and burdens. We may not know how to get out of them. Now God appears to us and he is saying to us, I am God Almighty. In the Almighty God, restore his vision, hope and faith in Him! Pray to God Almighty! When men work, just men work. But when men pray, God works for us, Amen. May the God Almighty work in your life in 2016! A Happy New year!
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