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 a certain sense we must all walk before God, whether in solitude or among the haunts of men. But it is open to us to realise His presence, or to dismiss it from cur minds. It is the first of these courses which God counsels Abraham to adopt. The words imply that the realisation of the Divine presence is the secret of all perfection. The text answers the question as to how the work of our calling may be done devoutly. It bids us "do all in God" by habitual mindfulness of His presence.
I. The counsel to be mindful of God's presence might seem to be quite practicable for those who have to work merely with their hands. But work which involves thought seems to preclude the realisation of the Divine presence at the moment of its being done. In answer to this we need only observe that all that is necessary is the consciousness that God's eye is upon us. Consciousness of a presence need not interfere with the most active operations of mind. The mind of a speaker may be intently occupied while he is making an extempore address, yet all the time he remembers that the eye of the audience is upon him. Consciousness of their presence forms the very groundwork of his mind.
II. The conception of God's presence will take different shapes in different minds. We may regard Him as locally present everywhere, the veil of matter screening Him from our view; or we may regard Him as having a certain intimate connection with our minds, as upholding momentarily in us the powers of life and thought.
III. In cultivating the consciousness of the Divine presence, we shall find it useful to catch at every help which our circumstances afford. If our hearts are right and true, we may find Christ—or rather may be found of Him—not only in the quiet country, but in the busy city, in the midst of the traffic of secular affairs.
E. M. Goulburn, Thoughts on Personal Religion, p. 172.
There are two things here to be considered: (1)The revelation which God makes of Himself; and (2) the conduct He requires of Abram as the subject or as the recipient of that revelation.
I. The revelation: "I am the Almighty God." God is always sufficient. He is enough for every being and for every occasion, responsibility, and work. The Almightiness includes: (1) all knowledge, including foreknowledge; (2) all wisdom; (3) all authority; (4) all power.
II. The requirement: "Walk before Me, and be thou perfect." These words require: (1) an onward and forward step; (2) the habitual recognition of God.
All that these words require is required on the basis of the revelation. Every position involves a corresponding responsibility; and knowledge is no exception. Get some truth that you have never had before; your possession enlarges your responsibility. This revelation to Abram showed that there could be no excuse for that which is contrary to uprightness in the service of God. If the God whom we serve be Almighty, He knows, judges, protects, frustrates, fulfils. Coming short in the service of God through fear dishonours God; it casts doubt upon His power and resources, upon His goodness and love; and he who has recourse to crooked devices sins against his own soul.
S. Martin, Penny Pulpit, No. 878.
Reference: Genesis 17:1.—R. S. Candlish, Book of Genesis, vol. i., p. 263.
Genesis 17:1-2I. The sun, the moon, the stars, were the old gods of the East, the Elohim, the high and mighty ones, who ruled over men, over their good or bad fortunes, over the weather, the cattle, the crops, sending burning drought, pestilence, sunstroke, and those moonstrokes of which the Psalmist speaks when he says, "The sun shall not smite thee by day nor the moon by night." And these the old Easterns worshipped in some wild confused way. But to Abraham it was revealed that the sun, the moon, and the stars were not Elohim, the high and mighty ones: that there was but one Elohim, one high and mighty One, the Almighty Maker of them all.
II. Merely to believe that there is one God is a dead faith, which will never be counted for righteousness, because it will never make a man righteous, doing righteous and good deeds as Abraham did. Abraham's faith was counted to him for righteousness because it was righteousness, and made him do righteous deeds. (1) His faith in God made him brave. He went forth he knew not whither, but he had put his trust in God and he did not fear. (2) Faith made him high-minded, generous, and courteous; as when he bids Lot go whither he will with his flocks and herds. Abraham was a plain man, dwelling in tents, but still, as the children of Heth said of him, a mighty prince, not merely in wealth of flocks and herds, but a prince in manners and a prince in heart. (3) Faith in God made Abraham a truly pious man,—it made him the friend of God. His communion with God is the especial glory of Abraham's character. This gave him his name, "the friend of God"; or, as his descendants the Arabs call him to this day, simply "The Friend."
III. Abraham believed God because there was in his heart something which there is not in all men's hearts—something which answered to God's call, and made him certain that the call was from God—even the Holy Spirit of God. Blessed is the man who has chosen his share of Abraham's faith: he and his children after him shall have their share of Abraham's blessing.
C. Kingsley, The Gospel of the Pentateuch, p. 59.
References: Genesis 17:1, Genesis 17:2.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiv., No. 845, vol. xviii., No. 1082. Genesis 17:1-3.—J. Burton, Christian Life and Truth, p. 270. Genesis 17:2-8.—R. S. Candlish, Book of Genesis, vol. i., p. 270. Genesis 17:5.—J. Morgan, Penny Pulpit, No. 382. Genesis 17:7.—J. Guthrie, Penny Pulpit, No. 34. Genesis 17:9-27.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iv.,p. 20. Genesis 17:16.—W. Wilkinson, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 399. Genesis 18:1.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. v., p. 449; Expositor, 3rd series, vol. ii., p. 203, vol. iii., p. 69. Genesis 18:1-8.—R. S. Candlish, Book of Genesis, vol. i., p. 292. Genesis 18:1-15.—Expositor, 1st series, vol. xii., p. 345. Genesis 18:9-17.—R. S. Candlish, Book of Genesis, vol. i., p. 296. Genesis 18:13, Genesis 18:14.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. viii., p. 280. Genesis 18:16-18.—Good Words (1860), p. 218. Genesis 18:17-19.—R. S. Candlish, Book of Genesis, vol. i., p. 299.
And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.
And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,
As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.
Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.
And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.
And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.
And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.
And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.
This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.
And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.
And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.
He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.
And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.
And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be.
And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her.
Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?
And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!
And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.
And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.
But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.
And he left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham.
And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham's house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him.
And Abraham was ninety years old and nine, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.
And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.
In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son.
And all the men of his house, born in the house, and bought with money of the stranger, were circumcised with him.