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In our last study, we learned about Hagar and Ishmael. While God promised safety and prosperity to Ishmael and his descendants, God made it clear that Ismael was not Abram’s son of the promise. Abram’s son of the promise was to come through Abram and Sarai. He would be a “miracle son,” born of a woman far beyond child-bearing age, and that would reveal the mighty hand of God and His faithfulness to fulfill His promises.

Genesis 17:1-8

1 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. 2 And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. 3 And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, 4 As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.

5 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.

6 And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. 7 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. 8 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.

God’s Eme has come to give Abram the son of the promise: the son whose descendants would inherit the Promised Land, whose descendants would become the promised people– the people known as the Jews; The promised people would become the promised nation– the nation known as Israel. And from Israel would come the promised Seed — the Seed known as Jesus, the promised King.

God waited until Abram was 99 years old (and Sarai 89). Why? So Sarai’s pregnancy would be a witness of God’s intervention.

The Faithfulness of God

God had confirmed his promises (Gen 17:6-8) and the time had come to give Abram a son. But God had waited until it was impossible for the son to be born without His intervention and power (Gen 21).  This served to remind Abram of God’s power and His faithfulness to keep His promises.

We know it would be many generations before Abraham’s descendants became a nation. And many more before they entered the land. And many, many more generations before their promised King was sent to them.  But God is always faithful.

A New Name for a New Man

5 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.

Following God’s confirmation of His covenant promises, Abram came to a point of fully trusting God. The old man, with his self-serving ways, was now gone (or at least put off). Therefore, God chose to give Abram a new name. From this point forward, Abram (which means “great father”) would be named Abraham (which means “father of a multitude”). By adding the Hebrew letter “hey” (ha) to Abram, God changed Abram’s name to Abraham.

“Hey” is the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet. When spoken, it sounds like our letter “h.” In Hebrew, every letter has meaning, and this letter means, “breath, sigh, look, and reveal.” The letter “hey” (“h” or “ha”), when spoken, makes a very breathy sound. Therefore, it is said to represent the breath of God, which we also understand to be the Holy Spirit. So by adding the “hey” to Abraham, God gave Abram a new name. The name Abraham would represent a new breath in his life, the presence of His Holy Spirit.

Paul’s Further Revelation

In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul wrote of Abraham being the father of all who believe (Rom 4:11). Note that Abram’s name change happened AFTER Ishmael was born. And through Ishmael, born of Abram, would come many nations. Their father is Abram. But through the son of the promise, Isaac, born of Abraham, would come the Jews and then all who believe–whose father is Abraham.

Be Perfect

Also note, in verse 1, that God commanded Abraham to be “perfect.” Would Abraham keep that commandment? No. And God knew that he would not. But that does not change what God wanted. God said, “be thou perfect.”

Read the verse again:

Gen 17:1 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.

When we let Almighty God walk before us, we are able to keep God’s commandments—and to be perfect —at least in some of our choices.

This is really about choosing to obey God’s commandments. It’s about surrendering to His will, and allowing the Holy Spirit to work in and through us. And that’s what God was telling Abraham when He said, “… walk before me, and be thou perfect.”

Paul explained this in contrast with our sinful nature:

Rom 8:4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Gal 5:16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

Gal 5:25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

Just as Abram chose to disobey God and tried to conceive a son by his own means, we have a choice to obey God or do things our way. Having new breath in his new name, and walking before God, Abraham was enabled by God to live in accordance with God’s will.

Application for Us

We also have the breath of God. We have the Holy Spirit, significantly indwelling us and sealing us for God’s service. Jesus promised that He would teach and guide us (John 14:26, John 16:13) and by His presence (Col 1:27) we are empowered to make choices to live in accordance with God’s will.

As Joshua said, “…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…” (Josh 24:15)



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A Room with a View of Eternity—The Last Will & Testament of Jesus Christ   Take a seat at the Master's table. Learn about the riches He gives to all who are His. This book will bless and encourage you, give you hope, and help you live in the joy of your salvation and the riches of Christ that are yours.

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There is much to be learned from those who have gone before us in the faith.  Check out our Cloud of Witnesses category that features the words of departed saints who are now with the Lord in glory.  Their words equip and encourage us even to this day.  Take a few minutes to hear...

  1. ONLY ONE LIFE, Twill Soon Be Past – by C.T. Studd (1860 – 1931)
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  3. Prayers from Billy Graham
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  5. “Immanuel” — A Poem by Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892)
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  7. Understanding the Everlasting Arms of God, by J.R. Miller (1840–1912)
  8. 24 Reasons Why I Love America, by John Wayne (1907-1979)
  9. Give Me Perpetual Broken-heartedness (from The Valley of Vision)
  10. Abide with Me, by James Smith, 1859

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