Sermon Titled “Worshipping God is Right and Proper” (Genesis 17) – 7th July, 2013
Genesis 17 starts with the title The Covenant of Circumcision. A covenant, or contract, is defined in the FreeDictionary as an agreement with specific terms between two or more persons or entities in which there is a promise to do something in return for a valuable benefit.
In this case, the covenant is an agreement between God and Abraham; the obligation expected of Abraham (and all of his male descendants) involves an act of circumcision which ultimately represents a seal of sonship; and the reward is God’s promise to not only bless Abraham and his descendants with material blessings, but also with the promise of “fathering” them forever.
Men who are circumcised as babies don’t remember how uncomfortable the procedure was, but to be circumcised as a grown man or young boy can’t be a pleasant experience. So why does it appear that Abraham willingly consented to obliging God with this particular request? We know from previous scriptures that Abraham has enormous faith in God, so much so that he moved his entire family to an unknown place because God told him to do so. Here again, God is asking Abraham to do something fairly radical, and yet because Abraham worships and trusts His heavenly father, he naturally believes that it is the “right and proper” thing to do.
If only faith were that simple. If only we were all like Abraham, and willingly obeyed whenever God commanded that we do this, or do that. But the reality is that we don’t always act in compliance with God’s will for us. I think most of us tend to be more like Sarah, who lost patience while waiting for something that she was hoping for, and then eventually took matters into her own hands.
A few months ago, as my husband and I realized that this could potentially be our last year in Okinawa and that the Marine Corps would soon be sending us to a new duty station, we both began to consider what would be an ideal location to move to. For my husband, “ideal” entailed a move to pretty much anywhere, as long as the unit he was sent to allowed him to deploy or participate in multiple field exercises (he doesn’t care too much for desk jobs). My “ideal” location would be somewhere warm, somewhere that we could find a great school for our youngest daughter, and somewhere that I could run trails. Needless to say, as we narrowed down possible locations, our choices didn’t necessarily overlap and we both began to feel flustered as we realized that we might end up somewhere where neither of us would get what we wanted.
After weeks of trying to manipulate the system (via talks with my husband’s monitor and various other persons who we thought might be able to help us), it finally dawned on me that God always has the best plans for us. That moment of revelation removed so much unnecessary stress from mine and my husband’s lives, as we committed instead to seeking God’s choice of location for us.
God asks us to trust Him, just as he asked Abraham to trust Him. Granted, we are fortunate to not be tested the way that Abraham was, but that does not mean that we are exempt from “complying” to certain obligations if we wish to also enjoy the promises and blessings of God. He wants to bless us and take care of us, and all He asks of us is that we acknowlegde Him as our heavenly father and confess Him as Lord over our lives.
As part of God’s covenant with Abram, He gave him and Sarai new names (Abraham and Sarah) – names which also affirmed new identities since the name Abraham meant that he was now an exalted father of many, and the name Sarah, which means princess, meant that she was to be the mother of a long line of royal (Godly) children. They were no longer Abram and Sarai, a husband and wife occasionally falling in line with God’s will for their lives; they were now Abraham and Sarah, destined to follow the exact path that God had set for them. When we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, he gave us new identities too – and in doing so, we also set out on a new path, destined by God, and designed to lead us to the ultimate reward of all.