Genesis 17: Seven Lessons for Living in a “Covenant Relationship” with God

Introduction: In Genesis chapters 15 through 17, God reveals important life lessons for every believer. In Genesis 15, He revealed seven lessons on the benefits of living a life of faith. In Genesis 16, He contrasts this with sevens warnings about living a life according to your flesh. In Genesis 17, He reveals seven lessons for living in a “Covenant relationship” with Him. These include: (1) holiness, (2) faith, (3) hope, (4) purity, (5) gratitude, (6) joy, and (7) obedience.

First, God, who revealed His name here as El Shaddai, commanded Abraham to walk blameless before Him as part of His Covenant. From this, God reveals that a Covenant relationship includes His desire that you walk in holiness and fellowship with Him. Second, at age 99, God transformed Abraham by changing his name and promising to make him the father of many nations. Abraham would never live to see this. Yet, he believed in faith that this was true. From this, God reveals that you should have faith in God, and let Him transform you. Third, God promised to Abraham future kings and an eternal covenant with his descendants. Abraham again never lived to see this. Yet, he lived in hope for his descendants. From this, God reveals that you are to place your hope in His eternal promises, not in the things of this world. Fourth, as a sign of his Covenant relationship, God commanded Abraham, every male member of his household, and his descendants to be circumcised. This was a sign that no one else could see. From this, God reveals that Covenant relationship involves hidden purity. Fifth, God warned that any male who rejected a Covenant relationship with Him would be cut off. None are worthy of His Covenant. All deserve to be cut off. From this, God reveals that a Covenant relationship should include gratitude for His mercy and grace. Sixth, God transformed Sarai and made her pregnant at age 90 with Isaac. His name meant “laughter” because Abraham laughed in disbelief at God’s promise of Sarai’s pregnancy. Isaac would also make Sarai laugh with joy. From this, God reveals that walking in a Covenant relationship includes walking with the joy of the Spirit. Finally, Abraham acted with obedience in circumcising all the men of his household the same day God instructed him. From this, God reveals that a Covenant relationship includes obedience.

1. Holiness: In Response to Your Unearned Salvation, Be Holy for God. Gen. 17:1-3.

  • God, El Shaddai, commands Abraham to walk blameless before Him. Thirteen years after Abraham’s failure of his faith in sleeping with Hagar, God showed His mercy and grace by promising to give Abraham an heir with Sarai at a time when he was 99 years old: “1 Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before Me, and be blameless.’ ‘I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you exceedingly. Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying,” (Gen. 17:1-3). Here, God reveals Himself by the name “El Shaddai”. The NASB translates it as “God Almighty”. Although its exact translation is unknown, the name has many meanings. It stresses His majesty and power (Ex. 6:3; Nu. 24:4, 16; Job 11:7). The name also signifies His Covenant promise of countless descendants and nations through Abraham (Gen. 28:3; 35:11; 43:14; 48:3; 49:25). The medieval French rabbi known as “Rashi” also translated the name as God “who is sufficient”. (Rashi on Genesis 43:14). Others translate it as the “All-Sufficient One” or the God of the mountains. His mysterious name could signify multiple meanings here. He would soon demonstrate His amazing power by transforming the life-long infertile Sarai at age 90 into a fertile woman. His grace (that which is unearned) was also sufficient for Abraham and Sarai. God did not owe them anything. They were instead to show their gratitude by walking in holiness.

  • Walk with God, blameless through Christ. Here, El Shaddai gave Abraham two directives. He was to “[w]alk before Me, and be blameless.” (Gen. 17:1(b)). Both Enoch and Noah also “walked with God.” (Gen. 5:22, 24; 6:9). Before his fall, Adam also walked with God. This suggested not just piety, but also fellowship. Sin broke this fellowship between God and Adam’s descendants. Yet, through Christ’s blood, you too can “walk” with Him in fellowship. (Dt. 5:33; 8:6). Like Abraham, it is never too late to start your walk. You are also Jesus’ “ambassador” to the lost and to sinners (2 Cor. 5:20). In other words, you might be the only Bible that some people read. Thus, you are called upon through Christ to be blameless in conduct: “You shall be blameless before the LORD your God.” (Dt. 18:13). “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48). “Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.”’ (Lev. 19:2; 20:7; 1 Pet. 1:16). “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.” (Eph. 1:4). Are you walking with Jesus through holy conduct as light to others?

  • Be reverent toward God. Out of respect, Abraham “fell on his face” when he heard God (Gen. 17:3). In the Bible, a person fell on their face as a sign of submission to their superior. It also was a symbol of reverent respect, frequently done while petitioning God (Gen. 37:10; 42:6; 44:14; 48:12; Nu. 16:4, 22; Josh. 7:6; 2 Sam. 9:6; 1 Kgs. 18:7). Today, many flippantly use Jesus’ name as a swear word. Are you reverent in your walk with Him?

2. Faith: Have Faith in God, and Let Him Transform You for His Glory. Gen. 17:4-5.

  • God’s transformation of Abraham. Even though his faith had failed many times, God accepted Abraham’s faith as sufficient to transform him into the father of many nations: “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you will be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.”’ (Gen. 17:4-5). The name “Abram” translates as “exalted father”. The name “Abraham” translates as the “father of many”. God named him before time began because He knows all things (2 Tim. 1:9). God changed his name to signify His ownership over Abraham and His control over mankind’s future.

  • All things are possible with Christ. It was impossible for Sarai to conceive at age 90. Yet, “Jesus said to them, ‘With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’” (Matt. 19:26; Lk. 18:27; Job 42:2; Jer. 32:27). You may be facing an “impossible” challenge with your health, family, job, or something else. If so, have you put your faith in Jesus?

  • God is faithful to keep His promises, even when you are not. This was the fifth of seven times that God repeated His promise to extend Abraham’s blessing to include countless future descendants: (1) Gen. 12:3(b); (2) 13:16; (3) 15:5; (4) 16:10; (5) 17:4-5; (6) 18:18; (7) 22:18. Jesus completed this promise by becoming the “seed” of Abraham through which God’s blessings are extended to you (Gal. 3:16). He repeated these promises to Abraham to build up his faith after he failed God. “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Tim. 2:13). Do you believe in all of His promises?

  • God will one day give you a new name. Throughout the Bible, God changed a person’s name to tell us that He had transformed that person. Here, Abraham became the father of many nations only through faith and God’s sovereignty. God later changed the name Jacob, which means “holder of the heel” or “supplanter” to “Israel” which means “God contended.” (Gen. 32:28). He transformed Jacob through his many struggles into a man of God. As another example, Joshua was originally named Hoshea, which meant “deliverance.” (Nu. 13:8). Moses later renamed him as “Joshua,” which means “the Lord is deliverance.” (Nu. 13:16). Jesus likewise changed the name Simon, which means “God has heard” to Peter, which means “stone.” (Jo. 1:42). Peter was a failure while Christ was alive. Yet, He heard God’s calling and became an important “stone” of God’s church after Jesus died. Jesus was the Rock upon which his stone rested. Jesus saw him for the man of faith that he would become, not the failure he was while Jesus lived. These examples tell us that God sees us for who we will become, not the failures we made in our past. No matter how much you have failed in the past, those failures are forgotten when you accept Christ as our Lord and Savior. All believers in Christ will one day receive a new name in heaven (Rev. 2:17). Just as Adam named the animals to show his dominion over them (Gen. 2:20), God will name you to assert His dominion over you. “Everyone who is called by My name . . . I have created for My glory.” (Is. 43:7). Are you living as His new creation, worthy of your new name?

3. Hope: Place Your Hope in the Everlasting Covenant of the King of Kings. Gen. 17:6-8.

  • God’s promise to Abraham of future kings and an eternal covenant with his descendants. In addition to reconfirming the everlasting Covenant, God expanded upon it by promising that (1) kings would come from him and (2) he would be the father of “many” nations: ‘“I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings will come forth from you. I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.’” (Gen. 17:6-8). The Jews would spend 400 years in captivity in Egypt. Yet, those with faith, placed their hope in this promise to get through the dark days of slavery and oppression. The promise of future kings also foreshadowed the future King of kings. Christ is the “seed” of Abraham through which God’s blessings are extended to you: “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as referring to many, but rather to one, ‘And to your seed,’ that is, Christ.” (Gal. 3:16). If you are struggling with burdens or oppression, God also wants you to place your hope in Him.

  • God promises you an eternal Promised Land. God promised the Jews the Promised Land as an “everlasting possession.” (Gen. 17:8; Ex. 32:13; Dt. 4:21; 12:10; Josh. 11:23). He later promised His priests a permanent home: “As for cities of the Levites, the Levites have a permanent right of redemption for the houses of the cities which are their possession.” (Lev. 25:32). “As for cities of the Levites, the Levites have a permanent right of redemption for the houses of the cities which are their possession.” (Nu. 35:2). Today, you are part of Jesus’ royal priesthood (1 Pet. 2:9). He also has promised you a permanent right to a dwelling in His eternal city: “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.” (Jo. 14:2). If you believe in Him, your inheritance cannot be taken away: “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” (Ro. 10:9-10). “and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” (Jo. 10:28). “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” (Jo. 6:37). While your worldly inheritance can disappear, your eternal inherence will not.

  • Place your hope in the eternal Covenant. In the world, your hope can be quickly shattered: “For we are sojourners before You, and tenants, as all our fathers were; our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no hope.” (1 Chr. 29:15). “But man dies and lies prostrate. Man expires, and where is he?” (Job 14:10). Abraham, for example, never lived to see the great nations and kings that would come through him. Yet, he placed his hope in the unseen. “In hope against hope he believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, ‘so shall your descendants be.’” (Ro. 4:18). “while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:18). “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?” (Ro. 8:24). Is your hope in the things of this world or in heaven?

4. Inward Purity: Let His Covenant be Evidenced Through Hidden Purity. Gen. 17:9-13.

  • The covenant of the circumcision. As a sign of his Covenant relationship, God commanded Abraham and every male member of his household and descendants to be circumcised: “God said further to Abraham, ‘Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. 10 This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. 12 And every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations, a servant who is born in the house or who is bought with money from any foreigner, who is not of your descendants. 13 A servant who is born in your house or who is bought with your money shall surely be circumcised; thus shall My covenant be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.” (Gen. 17:9-13). In other religions, adherents adopt signs that immediately allow others to know that they are members. For example, those who follow the Sikh faith cannot cut their hair. By contrast, God picked a sign that no one else would see. It symbolized hidden purity. Some might think that hidden purity and holiness are the same thing. They are related. Yet, they are also different. A person can be holy though reverence and by showing love towards others. Yet, they might simultaneously lead a double life with corrupt inner thoughts. God wants both holiness and inner purity. Without inner purity, your holiness will soon be corrupted.

  • Circumcise your heart for God. As one of the rituals at birth to establish the child’s Covenant with God, He commanded that every male child be circumcised on the eighth day: “3 On the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.” (Lev. 12:3). The child was circumcised on the eighth day because Isaac was circumcised on the eighth day after his birth. The purpose of the circumcision was to symbolize a person’s Covenant with God (Gen. 17:10-11). Again, this was a sign that no one else could see. Because God cares more about your inward relationship with Him than any outward signs, He told His people to also circumcise their hearts: “So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer.” (Dt. 10:16). “Circumcise yourselves to the LORD and remove the foreskins of your heart, men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, or else My wrath will go forth like fire and burn with none to quench it, because of the evil of your deeds.” (Jer. 4:4). Paul explained that this inward circumcision is what mattered most: “But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.” (Ro. 2:29). Does your heart show God’s Covenant through your inward purity? Or, is your piety only visible by false outward signs?

  • Let the Holy Spirit circumcise your heart by cutting out the unnecessary things of the flesh. When you accept Jesus in faith, the Spirit will try to circumcise your heart: “and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ;” (Col. 2:11). “Moreover the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live.” (Dt. 30:6). One of the roles of the Spirit is to cause you to “remember” God’s Word (Jo. 14:16-18, 26). Thus, God’s promise to circumcise the heart of the believer does not mean that there is nothing for the believer to do in this process. He expects you to respond to the Spirit with obedience motivated by love. You must make a daily effort to circumcise the sin out of your life (Ro. 12:1-2). Just as the foreskin is an unnecessary part of a man’s flesh that can be cut out, you are to cut out the unnecessary things of your flesh. Are you cutting out your unnecessary things of the flesh?

  • The Holy Spirit’s circumcision of your heart symbolizes a “new beginning”. Abraham’s circumcision of Isaac on the eighth day symbolized his new beginnings through God’s Covenant (Lev. 12:3). The number eight in the Bible symbolizes a new beginning. There were eight survivors on the ark who gave humanity a new beginning (1 Pet. 3:20). After the seven-day ordination (Lev. 8:35-36), the priest’s duties began on the eighth day (Lev. 9:1). After the seven-day festival of Tabernacles, the people were together for a holy convocation to celebrate a new beginning on the eighth day (Lev. 23:36). Christ also rose from the dead on a Sunday, the first day of the week or the eighth day (Matt. 28:1). When you soften or circumcise your heart by cutting out your unnecessary flesh, God will reward you with a heart to know Him: “I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the Lord; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.” (Jer. 24:7). ‘“But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’” (Jer. 31:33; Col. 2:11). Are you following the direction of the Holy Spirit to allow God to transform your heart?

5. Gratitude: Give Thanks for What His Covenant Has Spared You From. Gen. 17:14.

  • The penalty for those who reject the God’s Covenant. God warned that any male who rejected a covenant relationship with Him would be cut off: “14 But an uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.” (Gen. 17:14). Abraham knew that he was unworthy of God’s covenant. He slept with Hagar. He disobeyed God by taking Lot to the Promised Land. He failed to trust God by leaving the Promised Land during a drought. He lied to Pharaoh when he feared that Pharaoh would kill him to take his wife. He also failed to believe God’s promise that Sarai would have a child at age 90. He also deserved to be cut off. Thus, he later showed gratitude for God’s mercy and grace and His unearned Covenant.

  • None are worthy of God’s eternal Covenant. There is nothing that believers can do to earn their right to God’s Covenant: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Ro. 3:23). “Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.” (Ecc. 7:20; Ps. 143:2; Job 4:17; 14:4). If you think that you can be righteous by being a good person or for your deeds, then Christ’s death served no purpose (Gal. 2:21). All deserve to be cut off. Sadly, many voluntarily choose to be cut off because they do not believe. Are you warning those who do not believe of the eternal sorrow that awaits?

  • Give thanks for God’s mercy and grace. The Jews knew that they did not deserve God’s Covenant. Thus, they offered Him sacrifices of thanksgiving: “. . .Let them also offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of His works with joyful singing.” (Ps. 107:1, 2, 22.) “. . . To you I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and call upon the name of the Lord, I shall pay my vows to the Lord.” (Ps. 116: 1, 17-18). “ . . . I will render thank offerings to You. For you have delivered my soul from death.” (Ps. 56:12-13; 116:8). If you are grateful for what Christ did for you on the cross, you can make your life a living sacrifice to Him: “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Ro. 12:1). Is your life a living sacrifice of gratitude for His mercy and grace and your unearned Covenant?

6. Joy: Let Your Transformation be Witnessed Through Spirit-Led Joy. Gen. 17:15-22.

  • God’s transformation of Sarai. Even though it faulted, Abraham’s faith also allowed God to transform Sarai from a barren 90-year-old-woman into the pregnant mother of the future nation of Israel and the line leading to the Messiah. Isaac’s name meant “laughter” because both Abraham and later Sarah laughed in disbelief (Gen. 18:15). He would make both laugh with joy: “15 Then God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16 I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her. Then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” 17 Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, ‘Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?’ 18 And Abraham said to God, ‘Oh that Ishmael might live before You!’ 19 But God said, ‘No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. 20 As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him, and will make him fruitful and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. 21 But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this season next year.’ 22 When He finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham.” (Gen. 17:15-22). The name “Sarai” translates as “my princess.” Her new transformed name “Sarah” translates as “princess.” In her transformed role, she becomes the mother of all Israel: “Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who gave birth to you in pain; when he was but one I called him, . . .” (Is. 51:2). She also gave birth to the line leading to the Messiah. When God transforms, He does so for His glory, not yours.

  • Be filled with the joy of the Spirit. The laughter and joy that Isaac brought his parents symbolized the joy that God offers you. His Covenant was not meant to be a burden. Instead, the protections offered through His Covenant provide both peace and joy: “the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 14:17). David also writes, “in Your presence is fullness of joy;” (Ps. 16:11; 21:6). Joy is also a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22; Rom. 14:17; 15:13). Living in a Covenant relationship involves sharing the joy of the Spirit with others: “ . . . I rejoice and share my joy with you.” (Phil. 2:17(b)). “Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.” (Phil. 2:2). If you are filled with anger or bitterness, you are a poor witness of the Spirit within you. When you suffer tragedy, set back or disappointment, do others see the joy of the Spirit within you?

7. Obedience: A Covenant Relationship is Evidenced Through Obedience. Gen. 17:23-27.

  • The circumcision of Abraham’s household. Finally, Abraham showed that he wanted to walk in a covenant relationship with God through his obedience: “23 Then Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all the servants who were born in his house and all who were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s household, and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the very same day, as God had said to him. 24 Now Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 25 And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 26 In the very same day Abraham was circumcised, and Ishmael his son. 27 All the men of his household, who were born in the house or bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him.” (Gen. 17:23-27). Abraham passed his first test of faith by showing the obedience to leave his home for the Promised Land: “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.” (Heb. 11:8). He also showed that his faith was alive by rescuing his nephew Lot from captivity. The Jews considered this the sixth of Abraham’s ten tests of his faith. He passed this test. On “the same day” that God gave His instruction, Abraham received the painful circumcision at age 99. If he did not believe in God’s promise, he would not have done it. Or, he might have delayed. He also circumcised his servants. He also circumcised Ishmael at age 13. As a result, Muslims (who draw their connection to Abraham through Ishmael) circumcise their boys at age 13. He also circumcised Isaac on the eighth day after his birth. This tradition is followed by Jews today.

  • Show that your faith is alive through your obedience. Throughout the Torah, Moses exhorted the Jews to be obedient. Obedience was a command that Moses also gave frequently: “You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him.” (Dt. 13:4; see also, 6:3-4; 9:1; 20:3). Just before the Jews invaded the Promised Land, Joshua also exhorted the Jews to be obedient: “‘Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.’” (Josh. 1:7). Moses and Joshua knew that the purpose behind either a statute or one of God’s Commandments might not always appear clear at the time. They were required to be obedient even if they did not understand. God’s thoughts and His ways are greater than our own (Is. 55:8). Today, Christians are no longer “under the Law” in the sense that they must comply with it to be saved (Gal. 5:18; Ro. 7:6; 8:3). By “fulfilling” the Law, Christ freed you from the impossible task of trying to obtain salvation through the Law (Matt. 5:17). Yet, Jesus also says that, if you love Him, you will keep His Commandments: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (Jo. 14:15, 21; 15:10; 1 Jo. 5:3; 2 Jo. 1:6). Jesus was the “I AM” who gave Moses the Ten Commandments (Ex. 3:14; Jo. 8:58). Thus, the “Commandments” that Jesus referenced were the Ten Commandments. His “disciples” were the “disciplined ones” in keeping His Commandments. As bondservants or freed slaves, they were obedient out of love, not obligation. Whether you follow the Law out of love instead of obligation is a test for whether you really know God: “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.” (1 Jo. 2:3). Do you follow Jesus’ Commandments and the direction of the Spirit out of love and not obligation? If not, what kind of witness are you?

  • Patience is one type of obedience. Through this account, God also reveals the importance of patience, one form of obedience. Abraham had to wait until he was 100 years old to see God’s promise of a son with his wife fulfilled (Gen. 21:5). He further had to wait 25 years in the Promised Land before God fulfilled this promise (Gen. 12:4). Few could claim to have that kind of patience. Do you patiently wait for His direction in your life?

  • Promptness is another form of obedience. Here, God reveals the importance of promptly acting upon His direction. Twice, God emphasized that Abraham acted upon His direction the “same day” that He gave it (Gen. 17:23, 26). Abraham later acted without delay when God tested him to see if he would sacrifice Isaac (Gen. 22:2-3). Promptly acting upon His calling is another form of obedience. Have you delayed in responding to His callings?

  • Obedience is more important to God than outward acts of piety. Even if the Jews had been obedient to God’s Law in circumcising their children, that would have meant little to Him if they continued to disobey His Ten Commandments: “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God.” (1 Cor. 7:19). “For indeed circumcision is of value if you practice the Law; but if you are a transgressor of the Law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision.” (Ro. 2:25). Moreover, merely going through the motions is also not enough. Your obedience must be Spirit led or it is worthless to God: ‘“Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘that I will punish all who are circumcised and yet uncircumcised-”’ (Jer. 9:25). “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.” (Acts 7:51). Is there any rebellion in your walk? If so, you run the risk of turning away potential believers.

  • Show your obedience through the circumcision of the things of your flesh. Again, the cutting of the foreskin symbolized the cutting out of the unnecessary things of your flesh. Paul also commanded believers to make no provision for the flesh: “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” (Ro. 13:14). “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” (Gal. 5:16). “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Gal. 5:24). “[K]nowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;” (Ro. 6:6). Part of living by the Spirit requires that you renew your mind every day to live according to the Spirit: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Ro. 12:2). Are you purging the things of the flesh in your life?

  • The blessings of obedience. Joshua told the Jews to obey, even if they did not understand or if their hearts were filled with fear. If they obeyed with the right motives, Joshua also promised that the Jews would receive God’s blessings: “‘This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”’ (Josh. 1:8-9). If you do not boast of your works, Jesus also promised blessings in heaven for those who are obedient: “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” (Jo. 13:17; Matt. 6:4; 10:41; Rev. 2:26). The rewards for obedience done with the right motives may also be received in this life time: “But happy is he who keeps the law.” (Prov. 29:18). “Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.” (Ps. 19:11). “Surely there is a reward for the righteous . . .” (Ps. 58:11). “But you, be strong and do not lose courage, for there is reward for your work.” (2 Chr. 15:7; Dt. 29:9). “[H]e who sows righteousness gets a true reward.” (Prov. 11:18). “Walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.” (Dt. 5:32-33; 4:40; Lev. 18:5). Are you putting yourself in a place where He can bless you? Are you storing up blessings in heaven?

  • 21 specific blessings in the Torah for those who are faithful and obedient to God. Finally, being in a “Covenant relationship” means that you are standing in a place where God can pour out His blessings on you. In the Torah, God reveals at least 21 specific blessings for those who are faithful and obedient to Him. These blessings are unrelated to Jesus’ blessings of eternal salvation. In Exodus, God revealed at least three conditional blessings that come from faithful obedience. These include: (1) protection from diseases (Ex. 15:26); a prolonged life from honoring your parents (Ex. 20:12; Dt. 5:16; Eph. 6:2-3); and (3) God’s holy presence (Ex. 40:34-35). In Leviticus, God revealed seven other conditional blessings that He may use to bless a person or a nation for obedience. These include: (1) provision (Lev. 26:3-5); (2) peace (Lev. 26:6); (3) protection (Lev. 26:7-8; Ex. 23:22); (4) fertility (Lev. 26:9); (5) abundance from giving (Lev. 26:10, Ps. 92:12-14; Mal. 3:10-12); (6) guidance (Lev. 26: 11-12; Ps. 32:8); and (7) freedom. (Lev. 26:13, Ex. 20:2). In Deuteronomy, He revealed 10 other conditional blessings. These include: (1) exaltation for the nation (Dt. 28:1-2); (2) exaltation for the individual within the nation (Dt. 28:1-3); (3) growth (Dt. 28:4); (4) food (Dt. 28:5); (5) success (Dt. 28:6); (6) the defeat of your enemies (D. 28:7); (7) prosperity (Dt. 28:8); (8) holiness (Dt. 28:9); (9) respect (Dt. 28:10); and (10) the fullness of God’s blessings (Dt. 28:11-14). Finally, in books of the Law from Exodus through Deuteronomy, God reveals the blessing of forgiveness from the blood sacrifices (Lev. 17:11; Heb. 9:22). Jesus became the final one-time sacrifice to fulfill the Old Testament sacrificial laws (Heb. 10:12). The only act of obedience required to receive this blessing today is to believe that He died for your sins and that He is both your Lord and Savior. “for ‘whoever will call on the name of the LORD will be saved.’” (Ro. 10:13; Acts 2:21; Jo. 3:16; 1 Jo. 1:9). Are you living in a “Covenant relationship” where God can pour out His many blessings on you for His glory?