Father Abraham: Covenant Terms


Genesis 17

On a certain day Abram was going about his business as usual when God came to him out of the blue…

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. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.” (17:1-2)

For the first time in the relationship, God is giving Abram covenant terms (conditions) that he must follow, beginning in verse 1 with “walk before me faithfully and be blameless.” In the next several verses (3-8) God promises Abram that he will not only have a son, but that he will be the father of many nations, and changes his name to Abraham. As the father of nations, he will also be the ancestor of kings, and God’s covenant will extend to all of Abraham’s descendants, and those of his entire household. The land of Canaan will be their homeland and they will take possession it, something Abram had not yet been able to do. There is another condition as well, for all males must be circumcised.

In 17:9-14 God makes it abundantly clear that each and every male must be circumcised as a sign of the covenant, including anyone in the household who is not a blood relation and that if they do so, God will be their God, and the God of their descendants. If they do not do so, they are to be cast out.

Sarai is also to be blessed, for she in spite of their ages, will bear a son through whom the covenant will pass to future generations; her name was changed to Sarah.  Abraham’s reaction was to laugh, for how could they produce children at their ages? He suggested that Ishmael could be the son through whom the covenant would pass, but God, while willing to bless Ishmael with a great nation of his own, insisted that Abraham and Sarah would have the Son of Promise; they would name him Isaac, and he would be born within the year. To his everlasting credit, Abraham stopped laughing and was circumcised on that very day, along with all of the males in his household.

Let’s take just a moment and ask ourselves a simple question: Why did God wait around until Abraham was 99 and Sarah was 90 to fulfill His promise to give them a son? Was He too busy in another galaxy or something?

While we’re asking ourselves questions, let’s ask another one: Why did the Son of God come to earth as an infant born to a teenager in a manger in Bethlehem instead of coming on the wings of angels into downtown Jerusalem?

I can suggest one answer: God’s power is best seen when the humans in the picture are weakest. Certainly a son born to a 90 year old, fathered by a 99 year old is just as unlikely as a child born to a virgin, for as we know, both are not possible in the normal course of events.

Am I on the right track?


About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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17 Responses to Father Abraham: Covenant Terms

  1. Pete says:

    I would answer yes! All through the Bible, God picks the least likely to be His chosen ones. That gives all of us a chance in God’s kingdom. It has to be by His strength, not ours!

  2. George F. says:

    Yes. You do a great job separating the myth from the man, the factual from the ficticious. And who did Ishmael and Isaac become?

  3. It would appear that the Holy Spirit has us directed towards the same thought. I just wrote The God of the Covenant.

  4. This is in the front of book 1 of “They Met Jesus”:

    The plot is all wrong. Who’d ever believe it?
    Mary and Joseph? Nobodies. They think they have their lives together all figured out. They don’t. An interfering force is about to disrupt everything.
    A wedding that will be the talk of the town? Definitely. They will have that all right. But not in the way they intend. Their wedding will be the gossip of the town. Albeit, holy gossip. Whatever that is.
    Instead of guests coming in from everywhere for the happy occasion, hardly anyone will attend. Instead of delight, there will be embarrassment. Talk of the town? Yes. But Mary and Joseph will wish everyone would just leave them alone in peace.
    A moderate home in a moderate part of town? Not any time soon. They will be forced to go to their ancestral home at the other end of the country for a pointless census.
    Then the military will go after them. They’ll have to escape to another country. It will be a long time before they can have that moderate home in that moderate part of town. What bitterness lies ahead for them.
    How could Joseph go through with it in the first place? He’s stupid. Just plain stupid. Who would marry a woman who is already pregnant by someone else? That story she concocted about being impregnated by God. Where did she hatch that up? She needs a good head shrink. So does Joseph. What a weird pair. Maybe they deserve each other.
    And that son of theirs. This is where the plot really gets bizarre and makes no sense. Their son is actually supposed to be God.
    Now, let’s suppose for argument’s sake he really is God. It’s all wrong. Does he make his entrance as a grown man? No. He’s actually born. He makes his grand entrance as a mere baby. He takes all that unnecessary time to grow up.
    Once he’s grown, is he a giant? Nope. He’s the same size as any other man. Shorter than some.
    What about a ring of stars around his head to signify his divine station? Well, if not that, at least a halo. Where’s his halo? He has none. He claims it would detract from his divine mission. So, how is anyone supposed to know he’s God if he looks like everyone else?
    He could at least fling lightning bolts at his mortal enemies. No way. Not this peculiar specimen of God. He flings words instead. What good is that?
    All right, then. How about riding on the wings of a giant eagle as he goes around spreading those words? No way. Not that man—er uh God. He gets around like the mortals do. He walks or uses the same kind of transportation everyone else does.
    Well, food. Ah yes, food. He could eat stones and wash them down with water wrung out from a couple of clouds. But no. He eats the same kinds of food everyone else does.
    So here he is. He dresses like everyone else. He faces his enemy like everyone else. He gets around like everyone else. He eats like everyone else. No way is anyone going to believe he’s God
    He’s going to do everything wrong. It’s hard enough to believe in a divine eternal being. How is one supposed to believe in someone who looks and acts the same as them?
    Poor Mary and Joseph. Especially Mary. What’s about to enter her life is at once myth and mystical and a great big hoax. And even though some people will eventually call her a goddess of some sort, some will call her son a devil.
    But others will believe. They will actually believe this whole thing. They will stake their very lives on it!

  5. His power is perfected in weakness… ❤

  6. I would say, yes, on the right track.

    I don’t think God waited until Abram was 99, I think he waited until Sarai was 98, unquestionably beyond child bearing age. That was there was no question as to whether Isaac was from the power of God, and not an accidental occurrence of nature.

    Same with Mary. What most people miss is that she spent her youth, until her betrothal, raised in the temple. This was done so that there would be no question that she had not “known man” before she became pregnant. I’m sure this was one of the things Joseph puzzled over when he first heard the news.

  7. Pingback: The Father Abraham:Story by Don Merritt | franciscansonthemountains

  8. People Empowerment Project says:

    Does WordPress have a message option? I wanted to ask you if you’re receiving updates from me, as a follower of Africa’s Orphans. I remodeled it and the account is new. But I imported my followers, if the program worked the way I thought it would.

  9. Our need precedes His power! Good post.

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