Sermon #1422                                   Miscellaneous Sermons


          Title:            El-shaddai – The God Of The Covenant

          Text:            Genesis 17:1-27

          Subject:       God’s Covenant With Abraham

          Date:            Sunday Morning – September 17, 2000

          Tape #         V-100b

          Reading:      Genesis 17:1-27



          The God of Glory appeared to Abraham when he was yet in Ur of the Chaldees. There, the Lord God promised to make of him a great nation. After the death of his father, Terah, in Haran, the Lord appeared to Abram again, and renewed his promise.


Though he was a seventy-five year old man, Abram believed God and left Haran with his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, and Lot’s wife, and came into the Land of Canaan. There, at Beth-el, the Lord appeared to him again and, again, renewed his promise.


A Son and A Savior


          In Genesis 15, after his lapse in Egypt, after the strife between his herdsmen and Lot’s herdsmen, after the slaughter of the kings, after the appearance of Melchizedek, the Lord graciously appeared to Abram again, this time more fully than before, and again renewed his promise. Abram asked and God specifically promised to give him a Son, a Son who would be his Savior, a Son through whom he would be made righteous, a Son in whom all the world would be blessed. Then, we are told, “Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him for righteousness.”


The Arm of the Flesh


          Still, Sarah was barren. After ten long years in the land of Canaan, Sarah devised a plan. She gave her servant, Hagar, to Abram. She seems to have thought, “The Lord has not fulfilled his promise. He must intend for us to do something. So,” she reasoned, “it only makes sense that if we are to have children, if God is going to fulfill his promise, it will have to be by means of a surrogate.” Therefore, she said to Abram, “Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her.” And “Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai” (Gen. 16:2).


          What folly! What presumption! God does not need something from us to accomplish his purposes. We can never do good by evil means. The arm of the flesh can never accomplish the work of the Spirit.


          Yet, despite Sarai and Abram’s unbelief, presumption, and sin, God proved himself gracious, wise, and faithful. As we have seen already (Genesis 13), our God even over rules evil for good, making all things work together for the salvation and everlasting good of his elect. The Lord used these events to reveal himself to Hagar. Though the Lord over ruled the evil for good, Sarah and Abraham had to live with the consequences of their actions for many years. The fruit of their unbelief and sin was Ishmael. Abraham loved Ishmael, as any father loves his son; but Ishmael was the source of great and constant pain to him and, at last, had to be put out of the house.[1]


Deliberate Delay


          When we come to Genesis 17, it has been thirteen years since the Lord last appeared to Abram. We have no record of God speaking to his servant in any way for thirteen long years. Spiritual barrenness is always the result of disobedience and unbelief. But we must never imagine that the man’s unbelief nullifies the purposes and promises of God.


          It often appears that the Lord God is not working, that his purpose is being hindered, that his promise has fallen to the ground; but that is never the case. God’s delays are always deliberate. Not only is it true that God always knows best and does best, he always does it at precisely the best time. He always fulfills his promise in “the fulness of time.” He is never late; and he is never early. God is always on time.


          Why did Abraham have to wait so long for God to fulfill his promise? It was twenty-five years from the time the Lord first appeared to Abram and promised him a Son, a Seed in whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed, until the birth of Isaac. Why? The reason is simple. Abraham had to be brought to the end of himself. He must be brought to his wits end. He must be made to know that God’s work is in no way dependent upon or determined by him. The simple fact is, God never acts in grace until he convinces us that our only hope is for him to act in grace.


·        God does not show us his power until he shows us our impotence.

·        Only when Israel is in utter desperation does the Lord speak, and say, “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.

·        It was not until Abraham saw the deadness of his own body as well as the deadness of Sarah’s womb that God gave him a son.


          Now, I want us to look at Genesis 17. The title of my message this morning is El-shaddaiThe God Of The Covenant.


(Genesis 17:1-3)  "And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am (EL-SHADDAI) 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."


Proposition: In this chapter the Holy Spirit has recorded for us the covenant God made with Abraham and shows us that the basis upon which the covenant promises were made to Abraham and the basis upon which he believed those promises was the omnipotence and all-sufficiency of God our Savior.


          As we look at this chapter together, I want everyone here to understand that this passage is as applicable to believing sinners today as it was to Abraham. The promises made to Abraham are the promises of God to all who, believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, are the children of Abraham. With those things in mind, I want to show you four things in this chapter. May God the Holy Spirit, whose Word we hold before us, inscribe the lessons of this chapter upon our hearts by his grace.


I.     God’s Character


(Genesis 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."


          Here the Lord God reveals himself to Abram as El-shaddai, “the Almighty God.” This is the first time God made himself known by this great name. None but the Almighty God could perform for Abram the things he here promises. This was a ninety-nine year old man. His wife was ninety. Yet, El-shaddai promised him a Son; and what he promises he can and will perform, because he is “the Almighty God”. “With God all things are possible.


          This great attribute of God’s being, his absolute omnipotence, strikes terror in the hearts of the wicked; but to the believer nothing is more consoling.


(Proverbs 18:10)  "The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe."


A.  Since our Savior is the Lord Almighty, we can confidently forsake all and follow him (2 Cor. 6:17-18).


(2 Corinthians 6:17-18)  "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, {18} And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty."


B.  Because our Savior is El-shaddai, “He is able to succor them that are tempted.


C.  Because he who loves us with an everlasting love is the Almighty, nothing can ever separate us from his love (Rom. 8:39).


D.  Because our God is the Almighty God, he “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.”


E.   Because he is God Almighty, the Lord Jesus Christ, our Good Shepherd, is able to keep his sheep in his omnipotent hand (John 10:28).


F.   Because he is the Almighty God, our Savior is able to raise our bodies from the grave in resurrection glory (Phil. 3:21).


(Philippians 3:21)  "Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself."


G. Because he is El-shaddai, the Lord Jesus is able to keep you from falling and present you, and me, and all his own faultless before the presence of his glory in the end (Jude 24-25).


(Jude 1:24-25)  "Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, {25} To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and for ever. Amen."


          As I said, everything in this passage is for us. He who appeared to Abraham and said, “I am the Almighty God,” is the Lord Jesus Christ, our God and Savior. Let believing sinners rejoice! He who is our God is El-shaddai -- “the Almighty God”.


II.  God’s Command


          Look at verse one again.


(Genesis 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."


          Our translators have, in the marginal reference, told us that this word “perfect” means “upright” or “sincere”. But God cannot and will not accept our sincerity or uprightness. The holy Lord God requires and demands perfection. It is written, “It shall be perfect to be accepted” (Lev. 22:21).


          There is only one way in which we can walk before the Lord God in perfection. If we would walk before the holy Lord God, if we would be accepted before his august, majestic holiness, we must do so by faith in Christ, like Enoch of old (Heb. 11:5-6).


(Hebrews 11:5-6)  "By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. {6} But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."


A.  Perfection is what God requires of sinners and what he gives to sinners in Christ (Matt. 5:20).


(Matthew 5:20)  "For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven."


B.  Perfection, absolute, perfect holiness in thought, word and deed, is the standard every believers seeks, though we know it is unattainable in this life (Phil. 3:12-14).


(Philippians 3:12-14)  "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. {13} Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, {14} I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."


C.  Perfection, absolute perfection of character and conduct, is what every child of God shall have in heaven’s glory (Ps. 17:15).


(Psalms 17:15)  "As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness."


III. God’s Covenant


(Genesis 17:2-16)  "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. {9} And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. {10} This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. {11} And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. {12} And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed. {13} He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. {14} And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant. {15} And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. {16} And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her."


          Abraham fell on his face in utter awe before the Lord God, the Almighty God, who stood before him, “And God talked with him.” I am interested in what God said to this man. Aren’t you? We do not have to guess about it. The Holy Spirit tells us that the Lord God, the Almighty God, El-shaddai here talked to him about a covenant.


          In these fifteen verses of Inspiration, the Lord God tells us six things about his covenant with Abraham. But, again, I remind you, these things are recorded for us. They speak to us. They speak about God’s covenant, “ordered in all things and sure,” for us.


A.  First, understand this. – As it is revealed here, God’s covenant with Abraham was a covenant made with one man for the benefit of many.


          The promised blessings of the covenant extended to all Abraham’s descendants. The blessedness promised reach to the four corners of the earth. Andrew Fuller wrote,


“Surely these things were designed to familiarize us with the great principle on which our salvation should rest. It was the purpose of God to save perishing sinners. Yet, his covenant is not originally with them, but with Christ. With him it stands fast; and for his sake they are accepted and blessed. Even the blessedness of Abram himself, and all the rewards conferred on him, were for his sake. He was justified, as we have seen, not by his own righteousness, but by faith in the promised Messiah.”


          God’s covenant of grace and salvation, that covenant of which David said, “this is all my salvation and all my desire,” was made for us (his elect) with Christ our Surety before the world began. It is this covenant of which Paul speaks in Ephesians 1:3-7.


(Ephesians 1:3-7)  "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: {4} According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: {5} Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, {6} To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. {7} In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace."


B.  Second, God’s covenant is a covenant of righteousness.


          Let it be understood that God always, first and foremost, deals with sinners upon the ground of strict, unwavering, inflexible righteousness, justice, and truth. God’s promised blessings of grace and everlasting salvation cannot be bestowed upon any, except those who stand perfect before him.


(Leviticus 20:7)  "Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God."


(1 Peter 1:15-16)  "But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; {16} Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy."


          The blessings of grace and salvation come to chosen sinners by the merits of a perfect Surety, through the blood of the everlasting covenant. These covenant blessings come to us upon the grounds of…


1.    Righteousness established and brought in by the perfect obedience of Christ in his life. He is “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.

2.    Justice satisfied by the sin-atoning death of God’s own dear Son as our Substitute (Rom. 3:24-26).


(Romans 3:24-26)  "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: {25} Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; {26} To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus."


C.  Third, God’s covenant with Abraham, and his covenant with Christ as our Surety, is a covenant of grace.


          In verse nineteen, the Lord God told Abraham plainly that his covenant would be established not with Ishmael (the child of works), but with Isaac (the child of promise and of grace). We know that this is the meaning of the Lord’s words to Abraham because the Holy Spirit tells us so in Galatians 4:22-31.


D.  Fourth, God’s covenant is a covenant of circumcision.


(Acts 7:8)  "And he gave him the covenant of circumcision: and so Abraham begat Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat the twelve patriarchs."


          Circumcision was here instituted by God as the outward, ceremonial sign and seal of God’s covenant with Abraham. This Old Testament rite of circumcision was a picture of that circumcision made without hands in the hearts of God’s elect by the Holy Spirit in regeneration (Rom. 2:29; Phil. 3:3; Col. 2:10-15).[2]


(Romans 2:29)  "But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God."


(Philippians 3:3)  "For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh."


(Colossians 2:10-15)  "And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: {11} In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: {12} Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. {13} And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; {14} Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; {15} And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it."


          Circumcision in the flesh meant exactly the same thing to Abraham and his descendants that the new birth means to us.


1.     It was a mark by which God’s covenant was sealed to his people (Eph. 1:14; 4:30).

2.     It was a mark distinguishing God’s people from the rest of the world.

3.     It was a painful mark. – The experience of grace is painful to the flesh.

4.     It was a purifying mark.

5.     It was a permanent mark.


E.   Fifth, God’s covenant is a covenant immutable and sure.


          When the Almighty God says, “I will,” he shall. Nothing can prevent him from doing what he says he will do. All power is his. He is El-shaddai, the Almighty, all-sufficient God. Seven times in this chapter he says, “I will.” Hear his word of promise and rejoice.


(Genesis 17:6-8)  "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."


(Genesis 17:19)  "And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him."


(Genesis 17:21)  "But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year."


          God’s shalls and wills make his covenant immutable and sure.


(2 Samuel 23:5)  "Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow."


F.   Sixth, we are told that God’s covenant is a covenant kept by his people.


          Without question, all the terms, stipulations, and conditions of the covenant were kept for us by Christ our God and Savior, the Surety of the covenant. He fulfilled all for us. We could never have fulfilled God'’ requirements. Yet, the Lord God demands in verse nine that we keep his covenant.


(Genesis 17:9)  "And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations."


          The word “keep” does not mean to keep by fulfilling, but to keep by guarding, by holding fast. The reprobate and unbelieving despise God’s covenant. Needy sinners take hold of it and hold it fast (Isa. 56:4-6).


(Isaiah 56:1-8)  "Thus saith the LORD, Keep ye judgment, and do justice: for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed. {2} Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil. {3} Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the LORD, speak, saying, The LORD hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree. {4} For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant; {5} Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off. {6} Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; {7} Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people. {8} The Lord GOD which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him."


IV. God’s Child


          In verses 17-27, Abraham displays the character of one who is indeed God’s child.


A.  Abraham believed God (v. 17).


(Genesis 17:17)  "Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?"


B.  Abraham prayed for his son, Ishmael (v. 18).


(Genesis 17:18)  "And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!"


C.  Abraham bowed to the will of God (vv. 20-22).


(Genesis 17:20-22)  "And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. {21} But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year. {22} And he left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham."


          Though Ishmael was his firstborn son, though he loved him dearly, though he prayed for him earnestly, Abraham recognized that Ishmael had no claim upon God’s grace. Humbly, he bows to his God, even regarding his beloved son, Ishmael. Like Eli, he seems to have said in his heart, “It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good.


D.  Abraham obeyed the Lord (vv. 23-27).


          What an example of obedience this old, old man sets before us. What the Lord commanded he did. In his old age, Abraham continued to walk before his God as an obedient child. Old men commonly talk about the things they have done, while finding excuses to justify the neglect of present responsibilities. Not Abraham. Unto his dying day, in the tenor of his life, he readily received instruction from his God, and yielded implicit obedience to him, leaving the consequences of his obedience to God whose will he sought to obey and for whose glory he lived.


          What a shining example he was. This man was justified by faith alone, without works. But he justified his faith by his works.


1.    His obedience was prompt. – He consulted not with flesh and blood.

2.    His obedience was precise.

3.    His obedience was painful.




1.    Here is God’s Character – “The Almighty God.

2.    Here is God’s Command – “Walk before me and be thou perfect.”

3.    Here is God’s Covenant – “I will be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee.

4.    Here is God’s Child – Believing, Obedient and Blessed.

[1] We must never endeavor to accomplish the purpose of God by the arm of the flesh. This is a lesson for God’s servants in every age. We long for seed, spiritual seed, God’s promised seed. We long to see chosen sinners born into the kingdom of God. Far too often, men who themselves believe God (as did Sarah and Abraham), employ carnal means to accomplish what God alone can accomplish. The result is always trouble. Let us rather wait on him who is “the Almighty God” to perform his work. The best our efforts can produce is Ishmael. The fruit of grace is Isaac.


[2] The Old Testament rite of circumcision has absolutely nothing to do with the New Testament ordinance of believer’s baptism. There is not a single passage of Scripture in which the two are connected. Circumcision, as it is explained in the New Testament, pointed to the work of God the Holy Spirit in the hearts of chosen redeemed sinners. It was a picture of the new birth. As circumcision was the seal of God’s covenant with Abraham to his children, so the coming of the Holy Spirit in his saving operations of grace is the seal of the new covenant to God’s elect, Abraham’s true children (Eph. 1:13-14; 4:30).