Genesis 17
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. In what sense are we to take this? None can keep God's law perfectly (Romans 7:23). And why at this point in Abram's history the emphatic "I am?" &c. The character of his life was faith (cf. Hebrews 11:6) resting on the promises made him (Genesis 12:7; Genesis 13:16; Genesis 15:5). The last of these was a special instance of faith. But the triumph was followed by a fall - impatience, would not wait God's time (cf. Psalm 27:14; Psalm 31:15). An instance of a common fault - partial faith (cf. Matthew 4:4; Matthew 14:28-31). The result was disappointment. Thirteen years passed. Must we not connect this with his fault? Want of faith delayed the blessing (cf. Numbers 14:33). Then came the word of the Lord - a gentle rebuke (cf. Matthew 8:26), and a precept: "Walk before me," &c. Return to thy first faith; let it be perfect, not partial (cf. Proverbs 3:5; Matthew 17:20).

I. A LESSON FOR BELIEVERS. Watch lest faith grow cold. Some like not to retain God in their thoughts. They hide themselves from him amid the vanities of the world. But his people, who have known his love (1 John 3:1), why should they ever shrink from opening their whole heart to him? Yet, imperceptibly perhaps, there is a change. The faith is held, but the sunshine is gone. The desire to tell all to God is not there. Why? The man has set his heart upon something, and cannot trust God's love; or he is drawn to something he cannot approve, and listens to what can be said for it (cf. Romans 14:4); or he has fallen into self-sufficiency. Then reserve towards God. The hidden life becomes disordered. No longer the desire that he should know all and guide all. And thus uneasiness, reserve, distance. Then follow plans to quiet the uneasiness - business, ceremony, theology, or work in some other direction. But no real communion with God in all this.

II. THE REMEDY. "Walk before me." Recognize the evil. Believe the cause. Be not faithless. Bear in mind God's presence (cf. Psalm 62:1-7). Seek not to hide from him, or to justify self. And "be perfect," i.e. matured; not in any high or strange attainment, but in that which a child may learn in trusting God's truth and love; in bringing thoughts, wants, and wishes before him. Towards this active obedience and following Christ are means; and, above all, sincerity, and a real definite dedication of the life to God.

III. ENCOURAGEMENT. "I am the Almighty God" - all-powerful (Isaiah 59:1; Luke 1:37) and all-loving (Psalm 37:5; Romans 8:32). This, really believed, would remove anxious care. What is it that leads thee to seek another way? The consciousness of having wandered. Has he not made provision for this? (1 Timothy 1:15; 1 John 2:1). Or is it that the blessing long desired is not given? Some power, some opportunity for God's work, and still the door is closed; or it may be some spiritual gift, some token of growth in grace, and still the evil of thy nature is unsubdued. Be patient (James 1:4). Thy Father in heaven will not fail thee (Romans 6:14). Walk before him. Tell him all that is in thy mind. In his time thou shalt find peace (Philippians 4:6; 1 John 5:4; Revelation 21:7). - M


1. The revelation one in a continued series of-progressive manifestations.

2. Accompanied with direct promise, which in the form of covenant appeals to reciprocal fellowship and confidence.

3. Embracing both present and future blessedness. The blessing upon the earthly lot, as preparatory to the higher blessedness, a foundation on which the higher life is built up.

II. THE METHOD of the life of faith. Walk before me; be perfect, &c.

1. Constant reference to God - his will, his truth, his covenant.

2. Distinction from the world. Abram the pilgrim. Walk among the heathen, and yet before me. The consciousness of a chosen aim a great preservative. The sustaining favor of God. Development of the Divine in the human.

3. A life which is worked out as a trust for others. The representative man holds a special position towards God not for his own sake alone, but as the depositary of the blessing. Great help to walk before God and be perfect, that we are called to be the channel through which blessings flow. Confirmation of the Covenant will be sent to us in the way, when there is lack of promise in appearances, notwithstanding the evidence of our own infirmity. We walk in the light towards a future which shall abundantly reward patient continuance in well doing. - R.

Genesis 17:15
Genesis 17:15. Thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be, &c. "Mother of nations;" "kings of peoples shall be of her."

I. EXALTATION OF THE LOWLY. A pilgrim and stranger, made a princess. A mother of nations, though once desolate, mourning, ready to murmur. The lamentation turned into laughter.

II. THE FREEDOM OF DIVINE GRACE. The blessing unexpected, apart from creature strength, notwithstanding blind and foolish attempts to obtain blessing in our own way - the Ishmael, not the Isaac. Though many things "said in our heart," the one thing Divinely purposed the only true fulfillment of that heart's desire.

III. FOREGLEAMS OF THE COMING GLORY. The seed of the woman, specially representing the promise of God, supernaturally given, coming as the royal seed, son of a princess and forerunner of kings of peoples. God-given heir, God-given inheritance. The birth of the child of promise, so manifestly Divine, points to the yet greater glory: "Unto us a Son is born." - R.

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