When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.” Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you… (Genesis 17:1-4, NIV)
After God rebuffed Abram and Sarai’s effort to produce a child of God that would fulfill God’s plan, God set things in proper order, addressing first himself (“as for me”), then Abram (“as for you”) and finally Sarah (“as for Sarai”). Let’s move forward in the Genesis account by starting with God’s “AS FOR ME.”
Abram did not know God as “Lord”, the one who gives laws we must obey. Abraham knew him as “God Almighty”, the one who will multiply us into a vast multitude. God emphasixed the things that applies to this vast multitude when he said to Abram, “AS FOR ME, this is my covenant with you”.
“…My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” (Genesis 17:4-8, NKJV)
This is what God, not Abram, would do and it’s only the beginning of God’s dream, the first step to establishing what Abram came to Canaan to find, “a city with foundations laid by God.” Keep in mind that there is more to what God has promised us than the land he promised to Abram, hence forward known as Abraham, and his seed.
Three times God referred to three things when he said, “As for me…” He spoke about the covenant between him and Abraham three times, he referenced many nations three times, and three times he spoke about “multiplying.”
Now let’s look at how God in this passage addressed the covenant between him and Abraham:
Vs. 2: “I will make my covenant.”
Vs. 4: “My covenant is with you.”
Vs. 7: “I will establish my covenant.”
To say, “I will make and I will establish” is equivalent to saying “I will make the covenant stand.” The responsibility for the covenant standing rests upon God, not man. God already established covenant with Abram when Abram was 85 years old and he said, “To your seed/descendants I have given this land from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates” (Genesis 15:18). The covenant between God and Abram was to give, not Abram but his seed, the land between the river of Egypt and the Euphrates River.
Abram could have rejected God’s offer at any time in his life and returned to Ur. If Abram had chosen to abandon God his actions would not have stopped God from fulfilling God’s end of the covenant, because God had not promised to give the land to Abram, he promised to give the land to Abram’s seed. Therefore if Abram had changed his mind, the covenant could still be fulfilled even though Abram opted to exclude himself. (In that event, it’s possible we would now be calling Isaac the father of our faith instead of Abraham.)
When men act foolishly, their foolishness doesn’t make God a fool, it makes the man or woman who acts foolish a fool. God knows how unstable and changeable we are. He is too smart to make a covenant with any man or woman that depends for its success on what that man or woman does. Instead, God made a covenant with himself, God in the flesh, Jesus Christ. That guaranteed that anyone who truly wanted “in” would not be left “out” because some other man failed.
So it doesn’t matter what man does; God’s covenant will stand because its standing is not dependent on our good deeds or voided by our bad behavior. Paul made it clear in Galatians that to Abraham and his Seed, one seed, the promises were made. Again, not to seeds (plural), but to one seed, who is Jesus. The promises were made to two men, Abraham and Jesus, and in that regard we might better say “to Jesus and Abraham,” because Abraham was not included in the promises until he “learned his worth” in Egypt and became a man of peace.
If the promises were made to two men, where does that leave the rest of us? How do we partake of the things God has promised humanity? The same way Abraham partakes of the promises — only one way: “…if you are Christ’s then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29). If you belong to Christ, then you are counted in with Abraham’s “one seed.” In Christ we are one body. In Christ we are one Spirit. In Christ we have one hope and one faith to obtain what we hope for. If we are Christ’s, we will inherit everything that God promised to Jesus.
God revealed through the prophet Isaiah that he would
“…divide him [Jesus] a portion with the great [the Hebrew word for great meaning ‘abundant in quantity’]. And he [Jesus] shall divide the spoil with the strong [the Hebrew word for strong meaning ‘numerous’]. Why? Because he [Jesus] poured out his soul unto death, and he was numbered with the transgressors and he bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12, NKJ).
So it doesn’t matter what we do, God’s covenant will stand, because God foreknew that Jesus would do what we are not able to do — keep a covenant of law. Jesus alone earned the blessings and the right to divide the blessings, by living a sinless life.
God said to Abram, “I have made you a Father of many nations.” Three times God referred to the “nations.”
Vs. 4: “You shall be a father of many nations.”
Vs. 5: “I have made you a father of many nations.”
Vs. 6: “I will make nations of you.”
My uncle did a family tree of my mother’s side of our family that traced us back to England. From Scripture we know that Noah’s descendants Shem and Ham stayed mostly in the East, and his descendants through Japheth settled just about every place else. So if records went that far back, I might be able to trace myself back to Japheth. But Abraham came through Noah’s son, Shem. After the flood Noah awoke from a drunken stupor to cursed Canaan and blessed Shem and Japheth, saying, “Blessed be the God of Shem… and may God enlarge Japheth to dwell in the tents of Shem” (Genesis 9:26, 27). In other words, if you love God, he wants to include you in, not exclude you from, his tent. “May the sons of Japheth be many and dwell in the tents of Shem from which Abraham came.” But, as I’ve pointed out earlier in this chapter, the only way to be included is to have the same faith the father of our faith had.
You see, there is a measure of faith God gives to everyone as a gift. God has spoken his desire that everyone live, in a “voice louder than words.” Creation makes a clear and unquestionable “sound” that says God exists. And indeed, most people will not deny there’s a God somewhere; rather, they deny that he’s good and they question his integrity.
The measure of faith that has come to all men from creation’s “sound” will not save you. Men know God exists, yet they refuse to seek him; or more commonly, they worship everything but him. Therefore, the faith that could have blessed them now condemns them. Which leads us to ask them: “If you know God exists, why don’t you worship him instead of the things his hands have made? If you know he exists, why don’t you seek him?” The Apostle Paul tells us:
“There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one” (Romans 3:11-12, NKJ).
Why has every man gone his own way and done what is right in his own eyes? As the Apostle James tells us, “Even devils believe God exists, and they tremble.” Simply believing God exists will not save you anymore then it will save trembling devils. God taught Abraham the only kind of faith that will save you. If we don’t have the same kind of faith Abraham had, we, too, stand in jeopardy of being left out of the promises.
Three times in the passage we’re reviewing, God refers to a “multitude”:
Vs. 2: “…multiply you exceedingly.”
Vs. 5: God changed Abram’s name to Abraham. Abram means “High Father.” Abraham means “father of a multitude.”
Vs. 6: “I will make you exceedingly fruitful.”
As God Almighty, he is well able to multiply us into a vast multitude. From this vast multitude God will choose kings.
…I will make nations of you and kings shall come from you…and I will be their God (Genesis 17:7-8, NKJ).
In other words, this is what we can expect from God. God’s covenant with Abraham will not fail, because he made the promises to a man named Jesus who he knew would not fail to keep every point of law. God will keep his covenant to give Jesus the land, that a vast multitude of people from many nations may become one nation of true equality and become kings who rule according to God’s desires.
God made covenant to give Abraham’s “seed” the land for a specific reason, a reason far greater than health and wealth in this life. God has given and is giving “whosoever will,” from any time and from any nation, the opportunity to be a citizen in a nation of kings who work by God’s side in a kingdom that will never end. Timothy calls Jesus “…the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords…” (1 Timothy 6:15). One day a new song will be sung in heaven to the Lamb. It will go like this:
You are worthy to take the scroll And to open its seals. For You were slain and have redeemed us to God by your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation and have made us kings and priests to our God. And we shall reign on the earth (Revelation 5:9-10, NKJ).