Genesis 17 – Three Lessons From a Biblical Covenant

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Genesis chapter 17 is where we’re at today. Genesis chapter 17. This is a beautiful chapter for us to reflect on as a as a church because of the theme that it carries. You know, we try to keep things fairly simple and the reason that we exist as a church, because I think Jesus kept things pretty simple in the way that he, the purpose for which he created his church. You know, when Jesus Jesus came on the scene and the Gospel of Matthew, it tells us in chapter 16, his desire was to create a church that would live on mission. Jesus created his church for a purpose and to live that purpose out. And, you know, one of the beautiful things that I find as a pastor here some 2000 years later is that seeing how God has lived out in your lives as a community, we are a very, a very generous and a very service oriented church. It’s a beautiful thing to be a part of that. We become the tangible expression of what God desires to not only do in you, but also through you. And when I think about the way that God desires to work in your life, one of the things that I’m I want to reorient to us to constantly is the reason why we do what we do, to not lose sight of that, to not just be about doing good, for simply doing good.

We want to certainly do good, but we want to do good for the glory of God, of God because of what God has done in our lives. And Genesis chapter 17 is one of those passages that has a tendency of reorienting our lives to that purpose. You know, when Jesus died, he didn’t have in terms of his church. The church didn’t have programs. It didn’t have property that really Jesus didn’t even have any possessions. But what he created was a movement in this world. And the effectiveness in a church is not so much found in programs or buildings or property or possessions, but in how our hearts are lived out now. We can certainly leverage those things for the glory of God. And I’m thankful that we have a building because it’s freezing cold outside and I don’t want to meet there today. But but we want to leverage what God has given us for his glory. And even a facility like this, like we’re working on building a new facility right now, but we’re just in the design phases of that, and we want to continue to grow what the Lord’s doing, but we want to leverage it, too. And I think even our our facility where we’re at, we we maximize what we can do in a piece of property like this for God’s glory. But, you know, sometimes if you’re not careful, we have the tendency as people to define ourselves in something different, which God intended, meaning some churches you could fall into the the practice of your life is about just a religious performance, or a church can find its identity in its in its property, its possessions.

It can find its identity in a personality like a pastor or just simply people. You just show up because, well, your family’s there, but God wants more than that for us. God wants us to be a people that live for a purpose. And Genesis chapter 17 is one of those chapters that reorients us to to a purpose. In fact, it helps create an overarching narrative throughout all of Scripture. And I’ve tried to highlight this for us in the book of Genesis, that when you read the Bible in general, and especially the book of Genesis, that these aren’t just one off stories, that you create a nice little warm moral thought about, and you move on with your life that God is taking the stories of Genesis to create a grander narrative throughout all the Bible. It ties all the Bible together. It’s a redemption for our souls. And the Jews had a word for that when they saw these narrative themes throughout the Bible. You think in the Old Testament this is an oral tradition culture, and they learn through narrative story. And when they’re telling these stories, they start to see the Jewish people would see these themes in Scripture that they realize there was a greater theme that God was telling, and they would use this word called kesher.

It was this, this word that that tied together this idea of stringing of pearls. And they understood that there was a grander thing that God wanted to create for us in that. And today we’re going to look at that through the story of, of Genesis 17in the thought of, of covenant God is going to bring for us this this idea of covenant. And more specifically than that, he’s going to tie the picture of covenant through this word that we call circumcision. So today we’re going to talk about circumcision out of all things. You think out of out of know Thanksgiving. You have family together, and some of you probably got your family here visiting. And here we go with an uncomfortable story like circumcision. I mean, how many, how many of you are excited to talk about circumcision today? What a great saying. I’m just kidding. You don’t have to just I just want to point out the weirdos. I’m just kidding. I can get like, circumcision is a weird subject to talk about, but it’s a very important subject because it’s tying together a greater story of of what it means to understand our relationship with God in terms of covenant. And specifically, we’re looking at it through the life of Abraham. Now, if you remember the first 11 chapters of Genesis, we kind of seen this theme together over and over in the story of Genesis that God would work with a people group for the purpose of relationships, starting with Adam and Eve, and mankind would reject God and run away from God, and God would come back into their life and intervene and bring his grace and connect to them relationally.

And mankind would reject God again and on and on and on. It would go over and over again. And finally, when you get to Genesis chapter 12, God’s like, okay, I’m going to work through one person and I’m going to select him to bring. To bring about a person that through that person, all nations, all people groups would be blessed. Meaning he. God comes into the life of Abraham and promises that a future seed, which is Jesus, would come about to bring covenant. Promise that through Jesus, all people, groups, all nations would be blessed. And so God intervenes in the life of Abraham. But remember, one of the unique things that we’ve seen about Abraham is that Abraham was not anything special. Abraham was a pagan man living in a pagan land with a pagan family, even with a pagan name, to worship a pagan deity. And it was only by God’s grace that God selected him. God called him out. And we’ve seen, starting in Genesis chapter 12, it goes on to Genesis chapter 25, telling the story of Abraham. Abraham was not a perfect man, and he steps out by faith, trusting in what God told him.

But his walk with the Lord looks inconsistent, and God through that is helping him understand what it means to live out a life of purpose in the Lord. Finding yourself reoriented in the promises of God, which is established in this thought covenant. And so when we talk about covenant this morning, we’re going to learn three things from covenant, and we’re going to talk about how we should respond. But I want you to know when I say the word covenant, especially in our particular culture, where we where we live, I know covenant for for many of us can be a reluctant word. It’s a word that certainly reflects commitment. We saw this starting with, with the Lord and, and, and Abraham’s relationship in Genesis 15 and the dealing with a cutting of a covenant, which I’ll deal with in a minute. But the idea of covenant deals with commitment, and in our culture we are a little bit reluctant to it here in Utah, because the word covenant is used as a word to manipulate and guilt you to abuse. Really, because the emphasis that we tend to place on the idea of covenant is all about you. It’s something about our human nature that walks contrary to the Lord. That our tendency is in relationship with God is to focus on ourselves, and especially in the terms of covenant. And we tend to put the emphasis on the idea that when it comes to covenant, it’s about the covenant commitments you make towards God.

And you need to obligate yourself and you better fulfill that and shame on you if you don’t. That’s typically the way that we refer to the word covenant culturally. That is not the way that the Bible teaches us about covenant. In terms of your relationship with God. The emphasis is certainly not on you because the covenant isn’t established by you. The covenant we discover in the Old Testament was brought to us by the Lord. And so the idea of covenant is not about putting the emphasis on you, but rather understanding who we are in light of of who God is. The idea of covenant is not about what you do. The idea of covenant is about what God has done. And the calling for us then, is to embrace it. You know, when when I think about Thanksgiving, there’s a couple of things I know that’s going to happen at Thanksgiving or it’s just not successful. Right. And for me, this year, again, you know, it happened. It was a success. Two things at Thanksgiving happened. One, I gained a couple pounds. Right. If if that didn’t happen for you, you did Thanksgiving wrong. I don’t get you get kind of a do over around Christmas time I think. But we we can gain a couple pounds and then also you get to watch football. Okay. So I haven’t watched very much football this year but I did for Thanksgiving.

And one of the things I saw during one of the games is I was watching a college game, and one of the sideline reporters was interviewing a quarterback, and they wanted to know, asking this young college student, what is it that’s changed in your ability to play this year versus last year? And he said, you know, the one thing I feel like I grew in more than any other thing is to be able to put the the last play behind me and move on to the next play. And, you know, that’s, that’s that’s really a picture of what covenant relationship with God is about because of what Christ has done for you. It gives you the opportunity now to walk in freedom. We don’t have to hold on to the past. When you put the emphasis on what you do or all about you, you’re constantly reflecting on the guilt and shame of you didn’t perform or you didn’t live up to the standard. And it’s all about you, you, you, you, you and that, that is that is not Christianity. Christianity is about losing yourself in the greatness of who God is and what he has done. Looking to him. Jesus is more than enough. When he hung on the cross, he said, it’s finished. It’s paid in full. Talking about your life. And so it gives you the opportunity to put the past in the past and to be able to step into something new in the Lord.

And that’s exactly what covenant, covenant, community and covenant idea is about for us when we live out our purpose in the Lord. I mean for you this morning, the reason we exist as a church, we live on mission to see your life transformed in Christ, that you can put the past in the past and move forward in Jesus. It doesn’t mean there might be some things to reconcile in relationships that you have in this world, but Jesus brings you something new in him, and to be able to live out that freedom through which Christ has created you. And this is especially important, beginning to be reflected in the life of Abraham, that he helps us understand this idea of covenant, that we can then step into what God desires for us in a new covenant with Jesus. And so Abraham comes to the story in Genesis chapter 17. And he’s. 99 years old. I don’t know about you, but when I get to 99 years old, my big question isn’t so much going to be about what more can I do, but how can I rest in the peace of where I am? And and covenant? Covenant certainly is that place for Abraham. And so when you look in terms of Genesis chapter 17, remember in 16 Abraham came to this place at 86, where he felt pressured because God gave him a promise that through him would come a seed, and through that seed would bless all people, groups.

And Abraham feeling that pressure, and Sarah feeling that pressure, Sarah decides to give Abraham his her handmaid or her maid, and Hagar and Abraham takes on a like a second tier wife, and through that second tier wife has a child feeling like they have to help God out with this promise. And because of that, there’s definitely a mess up in the family here. And in Genesis chapter 17, God again intervenes in his grace and reminds Abraham of covenant promise. So three things we learned. Here’s number one in your notes. Covenant promise graciously transforms my life. First blank in your notes. It graciously transforms my life. And I want you to see this in the first three verses. I’m going to go slow here, and then we’re going to build up as the passage goes on. But I want you to see how Abraham’s life is graciously transformed in the Lord as he understands what covenant is. And so Genesis chapter 17, verse one, when Abraham was 99 years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, I am God Almighty. Walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and I may multiply you greatly. Then Abraham fell on his face. Let me just reflect here real quickly on the the beauty of Christianity, apart from really any religion in this world, is that we have a personal God that pursues us.

You know, the image and other religions about God is he’s sort of this deistic idea. There’s a there’s a God who who created all things. He kind of wound things up, and now he just sort of hovers in the cloud. And this Zeus like look, with maybe a little robe around him with lightning bolts in his hand, only to tell you when you mess up and that’s it, you just kind of get zapped by God from a distance. That’s not Christianity. Christianity is a God who becomes personal, a God who draws near, a God who becomes flesh, and a God who suffers with us and suffers for us. And you see that in this passage, as it begins to be shaped in the idea that the Lord appeared to Abraham, that’s what it says in this first verse, the Lord appeared to Abraham. God becomes personal, that Abraham could understand him, that God intervenes in Abraham’s life and Abraham interacts with God. I know some of you this morning might see that and be like man. Well, if God did that for me, if God just showed up and appeared, of course I’m going to follow God. But but can I tell you, you live in the greatest time in all of human history to know who God is and walk with him. Because God did appear and God became flesh and God dwelt among us. You see the the grand theme of this narrative, having now been told, meaning, Abraham just got a piece of the story.

But here where you sit today, the story has now unfolded in terms of Jesus. And not only that, when you think about being a first century Christian as Jesus walked this earth, it took time for the writers of the New Testament to write the Bible together. And even then they had it in scrolls. I can imagine carrying 6066 scrolls around, but today you have it in one book that you get to carry around to know God in a personal way. I think you live in the best time in human history. Having seen how God has unfolded, his plan to know him and to know God has become personal, and then he says to us in verse two that he wants to God will make my covenant between me and you. God says, I will make my covenant between me and you. Meaning. The emphasis of this covenant is not about what you do, but about what he has done. It’s all about the grace of God. Remember in Genesis 15, the idea of covenant was introduced to to to Abraham and God had Abraham cut animals in half and he would walk between those animals as if to make a covenant with God. The word covenant means cutting a covenant, and they would in Abraham’s day cut animals in two, as if to say, if I don’t fulfill my end of the covenant, may what happened to these animals happen to me? But before Abraham could walk through this covenant with God, God makes Abraham fall asleep and God alone walks through this covenant.

And so God is saying to Abraham, Abraham, look, this is not based on what you do, but based on what I’m going to do on your behalf. And it’s the same, same is true for you this morning in the New Testament, we find the New covenant. Jesus went to the cross not because you’re lovable, right? And Bible says that you are in your sin. God demonstrates his love toward you in Romans chapter five verse eight. It’s the love of God that makes you more lovable. It’s what God has done for you. There’s nothing that you do that will make God love you more. There’s nothing that you’ve done that will make God love you less. God is always consistent in his own nature and character. He’s not contingent upon you to be who he is, made to be, or be who he is, who he is. God simply is. And he’s faithful to who he is. And so what you see in in Genesis is God saying to Abraham, I’m going to make this covenant not not because of what you’ve done, but because of who I am. And it tells us in this passage that Abraham is 99 years old, which would be a relief to hear that God wants to build this covenant, not on what Abraham’s going to do, but what God desires to do for him.

And when God introduces himself to Abraham, he says to Abraham that he is El Shaddai, that he is God Almighty. So let me just remind you in the story of Abraham, as Abraham becomes a reflection for all of us, that Abraham was not a perfect man, that he wasn’t called by God until he was 75 years old. Pagan man, pagan land involved in pagan worship. It was only because the grace of God intervened in his life, and when God called him, Abraham was not perfect. At the end of Genesis chapter 12, you find Abraham goes to the promised land that God had told him to. God said, follow me. Abraham did not, knowing where he was going, and God directed him to the promised land. As soon as he got there, he sees a famine. Abraham becomes concerned and he abandons the Promised Land. He runs to Egypt. He gets to Egypt. His wife is taken from him. God has to intervene to rescue Sarah from Pharaoh, and God sends Abraham back to the Promised Land. Abraham worships, gets a Genesis chapter 16 Abraham messes up again, but it’s God’s grace who shows up over and over again. And here’s Abraham at 99 years old, and you might ask yourself, at 99, eight years old, what are you going to be capable of? How could you ever how could you ever, at that age, come to the place where you’re like, I’m going to show God how great I am? Everyone just sit back and be amazed, right? I would say waking up is a success when you’re that old.

And at 99 years old, God is reminding Abraham of of the graciousness that he has demonstrated in his life. And he he reflects on this word, El Shaddai, God Almighty, it’s because of me and my power. Abraham, rest in that. And you think in terms of God picking Abraham, through Abraham comes the Jewish people, which the Messiah would be born of. Why did God pick Abraham? And it tells you in Deuteronomy chapter seven it says, for you are my people talking about the Jewish people? You are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession. Out of all the peoples who were on the face of the earth. You might ask the question why? Is it because it’s because they’re amazing? I mean, God just looked at all the people groups and thought, well, everyone else is a mess up. Let’s pick these guys because they’re the best. But in verse seven it says it was not because you were more in number than any other people, that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers.

And God’s saying, you know, out of all the impressive people groups, you were the least impressive people group like you were the smallest when it comes to doing anything by your strength. You didn’t have what other people had, but rather I picked you as the lowest to show that it wasn’t by your strength, but rather by my strength. And so God intervenes in the lives of people that weren’t weren’t able to impress with their size or their power or their authority, but rather be impressed with the size of their God in which they followed. And the same is true for us now, here this morning to impress God with who we are. But let’s see our hearts impressed with who he is to understand the greatness of our Lord, because that is what shapes us. And so Abraham, 99 years old, finds him in this place. And God says to him, because of that, then walk before me in this passage, walk before me and be blameless. Meaning Abraham had to learn the cadence of what it means to follow after God. He didn’t instantly become a perfect person in the Lord. In fact, being blameless doesn’t mean go out and be perfect. That’s it’s not possible, but rather be complete. Be whole. That’s what the idea is in this passage. Be complete. Being whole. Meaning make your identity here out of all the paths that you can make your life about.

Walk in this path because your identity is found in this position. This is the reason for which God has created you. When you think about Abraham’s life, when Abraham was first called at the at the end of Genesis 11, it was actually his father Terah that was called. And Tara left with his family, but he didn’t go where God had called him. He just left and went on a little bit of a journey and stopped short. But Abraham, he went to the promised land. But when Abraham got there, rather than stop short like his father, he he went beyond God. He started to do things in his own strength. And so it is to learn to walk in the cadence of the Lord, not to stop short, but to give all of ourselves, and not to go beyond him, but to understand the rhythm of God’s heart as we move throughout this world, in order to to glorify him as we rest in what he’s accomplished for us. And so God, God has called Abraham to to be blameless, which means we don’t want to be a superficial people, but a people of depth. And we find the depth of who we are and our relationship with the Lord, that when when life becomes difficult, when life cuts us, what we bleed is the goodness of Christ. Because we have learned the cadence of following after the Lord by by the position that we have in him complete whole walking with integrity in the Lord.

And Abraham’s response in all of this, then at the very end of this verse, verse three, at the very beginning of verse three, it says, he fell and he worshiped, he worshiped. The only response that is worthy of what God has done is worship. It’s not about putting the attention on you and the efforts of what you do and how you perform, and demonstrating to God why you should be worthy. But rather what he has done on your behalf. So Abraham worships because he knows only in Christ is his life truly and graciously transformed. Well, you see in the life of Abraham a place of just being undone. It’s giving back to the Lord who he is because of what God has given to him in this covenant promise. And so you start to see these promises then unfold in verse three and verse, verse three, it goes on. And God said to him, behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham. For I have made you a father of a multitude of nations. And here’s what he’s saying is Abraham, because of this covenant, this is redefined who you are. This is reoriented all of your life now because because of what I’ve done for you and and now because of that, you have a new identity.

You think in terms of how God has created us. God created us to know him, to walk with him in relationship. Genesis chapter one. That’s what’s unfolding. He creates in seven days. He creates Adam and Eve on the last part of his creation, and he creates them in his image to know him. Adam and Eve abandoned God. They sin and that destroys their relationship. But God doesn’t leave us there. God also now promises a recreation that this covenant would recreate our identity in him and the life of Abraham. He’s bringing a covenant that would recreate who he is in light of who God is, and the way that they culturally reflected a new creation was a new identity through a new name. This is a little unique for our culture today and our culture. We kind of name kids because we think names sound cool, right? Like or maybe it’s got a meaning that you appreciate, right? Like you just. And in Utah especially, we got to spell it unique. You can’t just be normal in our spellings. Right. So so we create names that way. But but in Abraham’s day, the culture, the tendency was name dealt with as much about the identity, especially as it rooted in the family. And Abraham’s original name was a pagan name towards a pagan god. Right? Exalt the father. The talking about their their god of ur of the Chaldeans.

They would exalt that false god. But you know, even even in some other cultures today, not so much in America, but in other cultures today, when when people come to know Christ, they will oftentimes take on a Christian name to reflect this new identity that they have in the Lord. And so it is with Abraham that he has this new identity in the Lord, and he takes this name, Abraham, which more than just an exalted dad, it’s like super exalted dad, this is his name goes from daddy to Big Daddy. That’s what he’s saying is like through you, not only not only with this little area, be blessed Abraham, but rather all nations, all people groups are going to be blessed. And so Abraham, he finds this gracious transformation in his life. And God gives him these these statements, these I wills. You’ll see in verse six to verse eight, God gives these I will statements of what he’s going to do based on who God is, not based on who Abraham is. This promise is completely given over because of God’s identity in Abraham. And he says, I will. I will make you exceedingly fruitful. I will make you into a nations, and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring. I will give to you and to your offspring after your land, to your sojourn, is the land of Canaan.

And verse eight, I will be their God. God’s graciously. Intervening in the life of Abraham and transforming him. Not because of who Abraham is, but because of who he is. Because I hope this morning you know that God still works in the same way. God’s desire is to transform your life because of his grace made known. It’s his covenant love that desires to ring true in your heart. And so point number two then in your notes is this. It brings me security through a sign, the idea of this covenant circumcision, which you’re going to read about in just a minute. It brings me security through a sign we could also use. The word comfort here brings me comfort through a sign. And in verse nine it goes on. And God said to Abraham, as for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. This is my covenant which you shall keep between me and you and your offspring. After you, every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall be circumcised by the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house, or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not your offspring. And here we go into the uncomfortable conversation, right? And when he deals with he deals with the idea of circumcision as a sign.

You know, when I read a passage like this, I as a guy, right? I immediately think God really like out of all the things, you know, like, what could it have been like a tattoo, a piercing? I would even shave my head like Abraham is 99 years old and he is about to self circumcised. I am never going to trust a 99 year old with a scalpel like that. Is. That is crazy. But but this is what God brings in this, this passage as the idea of of a covenant sign. And God is the. Maybe the question we should ask is why? Why would God do this? And let me just tell you, I don’t think it’s any mistake that Genesis 18 and 19 are what precede Genesis 17. Remember, I told you it’s important to tie these stories together, right? But Genesis 18 and 19 is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, which we get to deal with next week. Okay, so come on back. But Sodom and Gomorrah, if you know anything about Sodom and Gomorrah, this is a place of debauchery. This place Vegas to shame. This place does this this. The people would wake up for their own pleasure, and they use and abuse one another in order to pleasure themselves. That’s Sodom and Gomorrah. And different than that is Genesis 17. And in Genesis 17 you find circumcision.

And what’s being communicated here, I think, is, is exactly the problem in Sodom, Gomorrah. They wake up every day and think, what makes me happy? I want to live life for my glory because I’m God. But in Genesis chapter 17, no, God is saying no. I want every part of you as I’ve given all of my life for you. I want you to respond in that to give your life back to me because I made you for relationship. And circumcision becomes a sign, a reflection of that relationship because of what God has done. And God is saying, I want every part of you, even into the the most private, intimate part of your life. I want it to belong to me because through that comes blessing. And God comes to the there’s there’s nothing hidden from the Lord and God is saying in Genesis 17, even the most, the most private part of your life given over to me. And it says very specifically in verse 12, no, not 12. In verse 11, that is a sign at the end of verse 11, a sign of the covenant between me and you. That’s the last thing it says in verse 11, a sign of the covenant. And so he’s saying to us, A covenant is a sign. And when we think in terms of a sign, a sign has this way of orienting us and reorienting us. A sign becomes this place of comfort because of the way it orients us in life.

You think if you were to leave here today and jump on I-15, there is a big difference between reading the sign going to Salt Lake City and the sign going to Vegas, right? But when you’re jumping on an interstate, you just look at that sign as a confirmation that you’re heading in the right direction, right? It orients you, and also it reorients you. It reminds you as you drive on this journey, that you’re the direction that you’re in pursuit of. And so covenant works as this sign of of reorienting and orienting our lives to what that identity is because of what Christ has done for for Abraham in the Old Testament. It was a future promise of this Messiah that would come for us in the New Testament. It’s a reminder we talk in terms of covenant, of what Jesus has done for us on the cross, that he paid it in full. And so the idea of covenant, the sign of a covenant, is this orientation of our lives. It’s this reminder over and again and again of who we are because of what God has done on our behalf. It defines what we do. It’s why I said in the beginning, it’s important to not just do good things, but to find your life shaped and and these important themes of Scripture, because it tells this greater story of what God has done for you and in you.

And not only that, a sign is given after after the way is covered. And what I mean is, in terms of of covenants, we know that in our modern day, one of the in America, one of the closest connections we have to covenant is the idea of marriage. In marriage, when you get married, the sign of the covenant after you commit to one another is a ring. Now it. Silly to wear a wedding ring before you’re married, right? Like there might be a reason. Maybe you’re trying to keep someone weird away from you. But, but, but other than that, you put. You put that sign on after you’re married. It’s a reminder of how you’ve oriented your life, and it continues to remind you of the way your life is oriented now, how you identify, the way the steps that you take because it’s given you a position in someone’s life, husband and wife. And so it is with, with covenant that with with God. God has given a covenant sign that it becomes a reflection of us not only to reorient us, but but to to remind us that it’s covered. Right. Of what God has done. The dowry has been paid. And now here’s the beautiful thing for you this morning, when, in terms of covenant, you no longer have to snip the tip, right? It’s like now we do communion and we do baptisms. Those are the celebrations of covenant, right? You don’t have to worry about what Genesis 17 is saying a very specific way, but rather we have a way of honoring the covenant that God has given to us through baptism and communion.

Baptism is a reflection of where you are in Christ. If you were in Jesus and you’ve never been baptized, you’re not stepping into the picture of the covenant God has done. Baptism doesn’t save you, but it’s a it’s a sign of the beauty of your relationship with the Lord. And the same thing is true with with communion. It’s this reflection of God’s people over and over again, of the goodness of what God has done in our life. And so we we have the privilege of of walking in that sign that reorients our heart again and again and the goodness of what God has done for us. So it brings me security through a sign. And then when it talks about circumcision in this passage in verse 12, it says that they are to do it on the eighth day. The idea of the eighth day is what’s what’s said here in terms of the eighth day. It’s interesting in the Old Testament when you read the word eighth. And I’ll tell you, I don’t fully understand the eighth day, but let me tell you what I do understand about the eighth day when God created, he created in seven days. On the seventh day, our relationship with the Lord ended. We were cut off because of sin.

The only hope that we had to reengage in that relationship is forgiveness and grace on God’s behalf. And so when you read throughout the Old Testament, what’s interesting is the holy days that Israel has. And in terms of worship, there are a lot of things that happen on the eighth day. There are holidays that ended. On the eighth day. There was the consecration of the temple that took place on the eighth day. For priests. Their consecration took place on the eighth day when a Nazarite, when they would break their vows, they would have to be go through this purification ceremony that they were fully consecrated again. On the eighth day, you would dedicate your children to the Lord. On the eighth day it’s as if to say, after seven days God wants the relationship to continue. And so this idea of eighth day is this place of consecration, this place of setting you apart because of what Christ has done, the sign that it brings, and the security of the hope that you have and what Jesus has done. Third is this when it comes to your relationship with the Lord, it blesses those around me. It blesses those around me. In verse 15 it starts to shape now how through Abraham, in that covenant relationship, it begins to expand in its blessing to those around Abraham. Can I can I tell you if you find yourself in Jesus? That the beauty of that relationship isn’t supposed to end with you.

But to be passed on from you. Your relationships in your life should be better off because of your walk with Christ. It doesn’t mean everyone has to agree with your walk with Christ, but the goodness of who God is should drip from your life. The graciousness of God should be made known in your life. And here’s why. As as you see God’s gracious love towards you, given to you when you didn’t deserve it. You come to understand that that love of God is what changes your life? It’s only because that grace is made new every day, that your life is transformed moment by moment in Christ. Every day you wake up, you get to be shaped new in the gospel. Every day you wake up, you get to be shaped new. In the New covenant. It’s the same thing, right? What Jesus has done, and it’s that patient love of God over and over in your life that changes you. And as you come to understand how that changes you, it then gives you the opportunity to demonstrate that love and grace and God towards others, and that’s what transforms them. In fact, if you want to see the most intimate of picture in that, it’s Ephesians chapter five, verse 21. It says in 521 it says, submit to one another as in the Lord. And then it goes on and says, let me, let me explain to you how that looks in verse 22.

It goes on to start describes the marriage relationship as the first picture and then from from that. It goes on to describe all of our relationships and different facets of life. But in terms of the marriage relationship, it says submit to one another in love. Wives, submit to your to your husbands. Husbands, go die for your wives. And when it talks about dying for your wife, it then says, and then so doing you make her more beautiful. And here’s what it’s saying, guys. You don’t wait for your life, your wife, to be loving in order to love her. It’s because you love her that she becomes more loving. And the same thing is true with your relationship with the Lord. It’s because of God’s grace made known in your life that God takes a calloused heart and begins to soften it. And when you grow in the grace of God, it gives you. It gives you the strength and to extend that same grace to others, because you understand what it took for you to be transformed. And so you can extend that love to other people. Now, I’m not telling you to step into situations where you’re used and abused, but but I am saying for God’s people, we always want to keep the door of opportunity open for relationships to flourish and grow in the way that we demonstrate the grace of God to people around us.

And so you see it with Sarah. It goes on and says this. And God said to Abraham, as for Sarah, your wife, you shall not call her name Sarah, but Sarah shall be her name. God changes her name to to literally princess. And so as that covenant love is made known in their relationship, she becomes a princess, right? She becomes more lovable. And in verse 16, I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations. Kings of people shall come from her. Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said to to himself, shall a child be born to a man who is 100 years old? Shall Sarah, who is 9090 years old, bear a child? That is no. That’s a whole lot of diapers happening in this family, right between 99 and 90 and a baby like, no, thank you, Lord. Like, let that be Abraham and Sarah, not me. And verse 18 And Abraham said to God, oh, that Ishmael might live before you. And God said, no, but Ishmael or but, Sarah, excuse me. Your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. And I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard. Heard you. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and multiply him greatly.

And shall father 12 princes, and will make him into a great nation. But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year. And so you see through Abraham hear God’s covenant blessing going into the rest of his family. And through that all nations and people groups blessed. So God’s desire and what he does in your life is to also do it through your life. It doesn’t stay with you, but works through you to impact people around you and generations to come. That’s what God’s heart is as you align your life with with him. And so it starts with Sarah, his wife, and then it goes to his family and beyond. And here’s what’s interesting with Abraham. Abraham, even up to this point, thought the promise was going to come through Ishmael. And God’s like. No. Give the promise to you and Sarah. And so God brings this promise to to Isaac. And so through that you see Isaac blessed, and God just God saying to us, look, and I don’t just care about Isaac, I care about all people. And so Ishmael is blessed as well. You think about God’s specific promise to Abraham. It’s just not just looking to the Jewish people or just looking to Abraham. God’s mindful of the needs of everyone. And so you see God’s promise, wanting to to be made known and impact other people. And let me let me just end with this or let me, let me use this last passage and then I’ll give you an ending.

Sorry. That’s how I should say it. It should never as a pastor. So let me end with this and then go on for for a bit. But in verse 22, verse 22, it says, when he had finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham. Then Abraham took Ishmael, his son, and all those born in his house, or bought with his money every male among the men of Abraham’s house. And he circumcised the flesh of their foreskin. That very day, as God had said to him. Abraham was 99 years old when he was circumcised, and the flesh of his foreskin. And Ishmael, his son, was 13 years old when he was circumcised, and the flesh of his foreskin. It’s this is somewhat comical to me, but also some important I want to point out. Like comical thing is, when you’re 99 years old and you’re going to circumcise someone that’s 13 years old, like this boy didn’t have any sense he should have ran, right? I just what was he thinking? And then 99 circumcised yourself. That is. That’s just crazy. But but they’re pursuing after the Lord. And and here’s what I want you to see with the life of Abraham. He does it immediately. God tells him to do this. And here you see in this passage, he doesn’t delay. And can I just tell you this morning how important that is for all of us? To let go of yourself too.

To not think about your relationship with God in terms of religion. I’ve got to get my life right. I’ve got to get this done for us. I need to do this, you know, or to see even your Sunday attendance. As if God really needs you here today. I got to show up. You know I owe God something. God doesn’t need you. God wants you. Because God created you for him and he understands the purpose for which you were designed. And that doesn’t happen until your life is surrendered to him. And the way you surrender is through the cross. Can I tell you God doesn’t have grandchildren? What I mean is, God calls every one of us to become a child of God. You’re not born a child of God. John chapter one, verse 12 tells you that. And Romans chapter eight tells you that tells you you can be adopted into God’s family. If you’re already a part of God’s family, you wouldn’t need adopted. But the reason Jesus came is because you needed rescued. And the only way to the Lord is through the cross. Anyone that gets to heaven into the presence of the Lord has to go through the cross of Christ. God draws you in through what he has done, not what you do. And so for us, it’s this place of surrender, this place of not delaying.

This place of saying, Jesus, you’re enough. And thank you. God forgive me. And God make me one of your children. The Bible says, whoever calls on the name of the Lord is saved. And so for for us, that’s exactly what this covenant picture becomes. Is this place of dedication to the Lord that we as we look at the Abrahamic Covenant, we understand that the Abrahamic Covenant is a greater picture of God’s greater covenant that he wants to establish with us. And that covenant is seen ultimately through Jesus in the New Testament. We see the coming of Jesus, and what we find is every story told. This is a mosaic picture of Jesus. And in there are little squares, and every little square is a story that’s been told of the greater, overarching story of what Christ desires to accomplish. In fact, in Luke chapter 24, Jesus after his resurrection says this. Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory? It was necessary. It was necessary. This is the only way that we have to escape from the sin that we’ve done against God. And verse 27, and beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. Moses wrote the book of Genesis. He wrote the first five books of the Bible. And so it’s saying Jesus starts with the book of Genesis. And he explains to the people around him the overarching picture of how he’s the fulfillment of all things.

And this is what it’s saying to you and to me and to the idea of the new covenant, that when Christ came, he introduced to us the New covenant. So it says to us in Romans chapter two, in talking about circumcision, for for no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. Talking about physical circumcision, it’s not just about this performance, but rather he says, verse 29, but a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart by the spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man, but from God. And so he’s saying, here’s what God really desires for you as a circumcised heart. Now how do you do that? Right? If you have a picture of what circumcision was like in the Old Testament, and you think about the New Testament, how in the world do you circumcise your heart? Well, in layman’s terms, it’s saying like this the circumcision of your heart is when what you ought to do is also what you desire to do, what you want to do, what you ought to do becomes what you want to do. And circumcision of the heart is cutting away anything else other than to find your life identified in Christ. What Jesus has done. And live for that glory. Live in that covenant relationship.

Not because of you, but because of him. You reorient your life every day in that I don’t just embrace Jesus and then move on. It’s every day I find my life reoriented in that because of the grace of God. So let me let me really close with this story. In church history, there’s a man by the name of Polycarp. What makes Polycarp so unique and special is that Polycarp was directly discipled by one of the disciples, and he. He was a pastor and a leader in a church. After the disciples had died, Polycarp was discipled directly by the Apostle John. Polycarp became a leader in the church. What’s really amazing about church history is you can go back and look at leaders in church history from the beginning. There’s not this this age of apostasy where it goes totally black, where there’s no we lose everything. It’s Polycarp and disciples, Irenaeus, Irenaeus, you have Tertullian, and on and on it goes throughout history. But but Polycarp was a direct disciple of the apostle John, and and he was a leader in the church in Smyrna, which is in modern day Turkey. And the church was being persecuted as as Polycarp got older in years. Actually, it was while he was younger too, but older and years. The heavy persecution is happening where his church is located and the church. Knowing he’s older, they tell him, look, we want to put you into hiding. Christians are being killed and he doesn’t want to go.

He’s reluctant, but eventually they they put him on a farm out in the middle of nowhere. And when one of the leaders of his church is being being tortured, they finally give up where Polycarp is hiding and the Roman authorities go there to arrest Polycarp. And they even say, this man was so influential in kind that they were reluctant to want to arrest him, but they had to obey their orders. So they show up to arrest him and Polycarp rather than just go with them. He was kind to him. He prayed for them. He fed them. He was very hospitable. When they showed up, they spent some time with him at his house before they actually left. And when they arrested him, they brought him to the proconsul, the leaders of the day. And standing before the proconsul, they gave him an opportunity to renounce Jesus over and over. And they said to Polycarp, Polycarp, you declare, look at the Christians behind you that are going to get killed. And you say, away with those atheists, because in Roman society that day, Christians were looked at as atheists. Romans worshipped so many gods. The fact that Christians would only worship one God, they would label them as atheists. And so they said to Polycarp, Polycarp, turn to the Christians behind you that are about to be martyred, and say to them, away with the atheists and Polycarp. Rather than say that to them, he turns back to the proconsul, the leaders of the day, and he says, away with you atheists.

And they’re frustrated by him. But they give him a couple more opportunities to to denounce Christ. And finally, Polycarp says this 86 years I have been his servant and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me? And what Polycarp is saying is, I have found my life rooted in covenant love. And because Jesus has given me everything, I want to give my life in response. And Polycarp history goes on to tell us that he died that day as a martyr. He was tied to a pole. They set it on fire. The fire actually never burned Polycarp, but because they were frustrated that he never got burnt, they they speared him while he was on the pole. And his blood extinguished the fires and their Polycarp died. Because you belong to a rich history of people who have found their identity in the beauty of what Jesus has done. The question for you is what do you want your story to be about? God has given you covenant love, and that covenant love is intended to define you. And it’s when your heart is surrendered to him that you walk in that blessing, and through that other people are blessed around you.