Genesis 17

I Am God Almighty

There is a thirteen-year gap between Genesis 16 and 17. Scripture does not give details concerning what had taken place or how Abram's and Sarai's scheme had affected their family. Certainly, the relationship between Sarai and Hagar would never be the same. Ishmael has become a young man. Abram is about to become a centenarian and Sarai is not getting any younger. Abram may be unintentionally seeing Ishmael as his heir as he becomes a man. Abram's faith is still being tested as hope is stretched to the breaking point. God appears to Abram and describes himself as El Shaddai or God Almighty. God is working out his plan in the lives of his people, and he had not forgotten or forsaken his covenant. God commands Abram to walk before him and be blameless that he might multiply him greatly. Abram does not respond with skepticism or question the Almighty's timing; he falls in worship. This divine declaration once again tells him that his progeny would be vast in number. 


Abram was not just the father of one nation; he was the father of a multitude of nations. To commemorate this encounter, Abram was to change his name to Abraham. The change was much greater than it may seem on the surface because Abram which means the exalted father is now Abraham, the father of a multitude. Nations and kings would come from Abraham through an everlasting covenant that would include the Messiah. Abraham would enjoy God's grace and eventually his descendants would be given the land of Abraham's sojourning. Abraham and his offspring were expected to keep the covenant. The outward sign of the covenant would be the circumcision of every male. This act symbolized putting away the flesh and separation from the Gentiles. Circumcision also served as a reminder of the covenant and encouraged cultivating moral purity. 


Sarai would no longer go the same name; she would become Sarah, the princess. She too would enjoy God's covenant blessings, and she would have a son by Abraham. Abraham hit his face again with such joy and wonder that he laughed. Abraham as a father is concerned for Ishmael, and he asks that Ishmael would live before the Lord. God will answer this petition generously, but first, he wants to make it clear that he and Sarah would have a son and that his name should be Isaac. Isaac was the son of the everlasting covenant. God answers the prayer of his servant and promises to bless him and multiply him. Ishmael would father twelve princes and become a great nation. Then Abraham received fantastic news, his son Isaac would be born the very next year. This last revelation removed the question of when and the Lord went up from Abraham. Abraham believed the Lord and acted that very day in obedience because delayed obedience is disobedience.

Things To Consider:

  • What do God's titles tell us about him?
  • Why is obedience necessary?
  • What do you think the conversations were like when Abraham announced he and Sarah's name changes?
  • Have you ever had a moment so wonderful that all you could do was smile and laugh?
  • Can faith and doubt be found in the same person? Why or why not?
  • Can you imagine the next year for Sarah and Abraham?
  • Do you think Abraham spoke with Ishmael about fathering princes and being a great nation?
  • Can you imagine the discussion about circumcision within their household?
  • How would the sign of the covenant open the door for faith and evangelism?