Marked with God’s Stamp
Father, give me Your insights into what is best for me, Your wisdom which is greater than I can grasp.
Read Genesis 17:1-14
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“Praise the Lord … he remembers his covenant forever” (Psa. 111:1,5). And how thankful we are for that!
It’s good to have milestones on our journey, key moments we can look back to when we understood more deeply what God promises and what God requires of us. Abram had the moment he heard God’s call and promises (Gen. 12:1-4). When fulfillment seemed slow, God renewed them in a covenant-making ceremony that included a fiery vision of God’s presence (Gen. 15:17,18). Now he is given a new name and an action to obey which will highlight that God is forming a covenant community.
Abram (meaning “great father”) is already a father figure for a considerable company of people who live and work with him (see 14:14). The new name, Abraham, looks to the future when he will be father of many nations, but one in particular will be God’s chosen community. Though founded on Abraham’s descendants, it is open to others without discrimination of race or class, provided they are completely committed to it. All the men of Israel are to be circumcised. This was very common, often a rite of passage at puberty. This community is to practice it within days of birth, making clear that membership is by God’s grace: a baby can do nothing to earn it. Some have suggested that the significance may include consecrating to God the very means of generation, a recognition that life and its reproduction belong to God alone.
God sets this minimal requirement for his covenant people but also makes a radical demand: “walk before me faithfully and be blameless” (1). No one comes up to God’s standard all the time. More failures of Abraham’s faith and moral courage will emerge in chapters to come. We need the support of a community, publicly marked out as God’s people, to help us live with integrity and keep our faith alive.
Think about the meaning of your baptism. How does it help you on your journey with the risen Christ? How does your faith community help you live faithfully?
Lord, I celebrate the fact that You are a covenant-keeping God, faithful to Your promises, true to Your Word. By Your Spirit, strengthen my devotion to You.
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