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Abraham, Part 7: A New Name

Scripture: Genesis 17:1-27, Deuteronomy 18:3, Colossians 2:11-13
Date: 03/27/2004 
The seventh in a 12 part series on the life of Abraham. When God cleanses us from sin, we are by faith clean. God's commands have power within to obey. It is like receiving a new name that describes what we will be.
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

Morning. I’d like to wish everybody a happy Sabbath. We’re very glad that you are here worshipping with us at Sacramento Central and we are continuing this series, the never ending series on the life of Abraham. Now, you know, for years I’ve planned on doing this, but whenever I looked at the subject it was so big I thought, “When am I going to find ten or twelve weeks where I’ll be able to cover this ultimate patriarch?” But I just said, “You know, there is so much there I need to do it.” And I am very thankful that I have because I am learning so much as we study. For our young people today this is section number seven, Abraham the Ultimate Patriarch and the title of today’s message is “A New Name.” now I would like our young people to try to keep track of how many times Pastor Doug says the word name and then you can show up at the door after the service and you give me your list and we’ll see how they coordinate the numbers and the tally that you have. Turn with me, please, to the book of Genesis chapter seventeen.

You notice not every time but most times we have been doing these presentations based on chapter sections. And today once again we’ll be just dealing with one chapter. I kept planning to take two or three chapters but I found so much that by the time I finished my study I wondered how I was going to get one chapter in. There is so much here to learn. Chapter seventeen, verse one. “When Abraham was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless.’” Now from the time that he spoke to Abraham previously to this time is about twelve or thirteen years. There was silence.

We know at this point now about twelve years later Ishmael has grown up. Last time he spoke to Abraham he was going to be having a son, that God said he would bless Ishmael, but he wasn’t the promised son. But then he makes this statement. First of all, God now introduces himself by a new name. This is God’s new name. You find for the first time the reference to the name God Almighty and that comes from the Hebrew translation Shadai-El. We often think of it as El Shadai because it’s like when you convert Spanish and English. In one language you say the white house. In Spanish you say casa blanca, house white. Well, that’s a little bit like Hebrew. And this name of God that he reveals to himself is only used a few times in the Bible. This is the first time God reveals himself by this name. And the name El’ shedai means, shed in Hebrew, to pour out.

I am the God who pours out blessings, who gives them abundantly, continually, richly, irresistibly and I Am the One who is able to pour out and destroy. I am all sufficient, Almighty. It’s found here six times in Genesis, 31 times in the book of Job. God is the all sufficient, the Almighty. One thing we will learn is the names of God. You notice how I said that? Not just the name of God, the names of God in the Bible all give us different depths and dimensions of his character. By the time you get to the book of Revelation the Lord basically has pulled all the stops out and he is using more names than ever to identify himself.

He is the door and he is the lamb and he is the shepherd he is the water and there are, he is the Alpha and the Omega and there are so many names because it’s telling us different aspects of his character. And of all that beings in the cosmos who has the most depth, dimension and complexity to his character? That’s God. And so these different names of God all tell us something about him. Now we do things differently in our culture than the Hebrews did. Many of the names of the Hebrews in the Bible were taken much more seriously. It’s interesting when in America of people prepare to name a baby you know they can go online and look at baby names, or you can buy your baby name book. And people come up with all kinds of interesting ways for naming their children. How many of you felt some pressure to name your children after a relative? I did.

My dad just came right out and said, “Well, why couldn’t you name one of them after me?” That’s pretty direct, very subtle and yeah, we did. Stephen is actually George Stephen. And then my grandparents in the Jewish tradition you’re supposed to take the first letter of one of your kids and then name your children with a name that is similar and they wanted me to name one of the kids with an R in the name for my mom, Ruth, because she had passed away before Stephen and Nathan were born. And so there’s these different traditions and we do that some people like the sound of a name, and the way it rolls off the tongue and you know names go through phases where there are phases of popularity. You know years and years ago the names Gertrude and Matilda were popular and now when you say Gertrude and Matilda what do you think of?

Typically old maids and old people, right? It’s not very… it will come back, just hang on. But you know the names go through different… but the Jews didn’t name like that. I heard about one lady, I may have told you this. After she came out of the labor they had sedated her during labor and when the baby was handed to her she said, “God has given me the name for my baby.” And the doctor said, “Well what would that be?” And she said, “Placenta.” Evidently while she was semi-under she had heard the doctor and the nurses using that word and she thought the Lord had given her that name and I don’t know if they ever talked her out of it but you know this is… people get different names different ways. And so I remember when I was I knew this family and they didn’t have a great deal of education and she named her boys Amos, James and Thamous.

And I said, “Jamous?” And she said, “Yeah, J-a-m-e-s, Jamous.” And I said, “Where’s Thamous?” She says, “That’s the river in England, the Thamous River.” It’s the Thames of course. And those were her kids. They grew up with Amos, Thamous and Jamous. She liked the sound of it and rhymed and I don’t know maybe she planned on having triplets but different ways that people pick the names. The Hebrews, they pick the name wanting there was always some occasion or divine relationship to the name. When Jacob was born his first name meant trickster or deceiver because he grabbed his brother’s heel and kind of pulled himself out and they considered that tricky. And you’ll see through the Bible they found different names for the babies that would have some kind of a meaning that would help to find their lives and some of the names were very interesting. You wonder the story behind them.

Now God says something to Abraham here. He says, “I am the Almighty… walk before Me and be thou perfect.” When I read statements like that in the Bible it makes me a little nervous. How many of you get nervous when you read Matthew 5 where Jesus says, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Everybody here who feels like they’re as perfect as the Father in heaven let me see your hands. Not too many would dare to raise their hands on that question. Most of us, anyone here feel imperfect? So when God says, “Be ye therefore perfect.” It always makes you feel a little bit imperfect to hear that. What does that mean? Well, the Hebrew word perfect is used several times in the Old Testament “tomime” and it means, here’s what it means; entire, with integrity, without blemish, to be sound, full, complete, perfect, spotless, undefiled, upright, whole.

Now keep in mind whenever God asks us to be something inherent in the command is the power. When the Lord says, “Be thou holy,” is it possible for us to be what God commands us to be? When God says, “Let there be light,” is there light? A leper came to Jesus one day and he said, “Lord, if you will you can make me whole.” And Jesus said, “Be thou whole.” Or actually he said, “You can make me clean.” He said, “Be thou clean.” And he was clean. So it’s through the declaration of God it becomes a reality through the word of God. When you come to Jesus and you say, “Lord, forgive my sins.” And he says, “Be thou cleansed.” How do you stand before the Lord after that prayer? Are you cleansed? Do you believe the promise of God? Are you perfect now? At that moment when you come from the Lord and you ask for cleansing, you are clean. What a wonderful thing to consider.

In the command of God is the power to obey. Let me give you some other verses. If you have your pencil you may jot a few of these down. Deuteronomy 18:3 Moses is speaking, “Thou shalt be perfect with the Lord thy God.” That’s a positive command. I mean, sometimes Moses says, “Thou shalt not.” Here he says, “Thou shalt be perfect…” The same word is used. Tomime. “…with the Lord thy God.” Job 1:1, “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright.” And how do you define that perfection? He feared God and eschewed, or hated, evil. He drew near to God and he shunned evil. Let me tell you how I define biblical perfection. First of all, God wants us to be biblically perfect. When you love the Lord so much that you do what Daniel did. And you say, “You know, I would rather go to the lions’ den than miss my time with God.”

That’s biblical perfection. When you love the Lord so much you do what Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did and you say, “I would rather die than bow down to an idol and disappoint God. I care more about what God thinks of me.” It does not mean that they never got chapped lips or hay fever. That’s not biblical perfection. When we think of biblical perfection it doesn’t mean you become a sterile robot that you’re some kind of an automation. It means you have perfect love. Let me illustrate that for you. Matthew 5:48 “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Now listen to Luke how he says it. “Be ye therefore merciful, even as your Father in heaven is merciful.” Jesus makes this statement about perfection right after he says, “Love your enemies. Do

to those that hate you. Bless those who persecute you. Be ye therefore perfect.” What kind of perfection is God especially looking for? Perfect love, perfect mercy. He wants us to have the love of our Father and the patience of our Father. Think about it. Isn’t this what Jesus meant when he said, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive… if you do not forgive your brother his debts, your heavenly Father will not forgive you. Be ye therefore perfect.” He wants us to have the love and the compassion that our Father has for us for each other. Love the Lord with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself. This is perfect love. To love the Lord and then love your neighbor the way that you love yourself, this is what Christian perfection is all about. We’ve got… it doesn’t mean that it’s anything less than Jesus. Think about this for a minute.

What is the standard for… Oh, let me back up and say this differently. When you choose to follow Christ you take the name Christian, first used for the Christians in Antioch. That means, “I am a follower of Christ and his teachings.” Is that true? If you are a follower of Christ then who is your example? Who is it that we try to model our lives after? Was he perfect? Then if you have a perfect model do you understand what Christian perfection is? Be like Jesus. The Bible says that he lived and walked that we might walk in his steps and follow after his example. Luke 1:6, speaking of Zechariah and Elizabeth, “They were both righteous before the Lord, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” Is it possible for us to be consistent Christians? First Thessalonians 3:13 “…so that He might establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God.” Oh, wait! I like this. “…so that He may establish your hearts.” What is it that makes us blameless? God establishing our hearts. It’s a heart change, isn’t it? “He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and the Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.” Philippians 3:12-14. Do you think Paul will be in heaven, the apostle Paul?

Did he think he was going to be there? Yeah. “I’ve fought a fight, I’ve kept the faith. I’ve finished my course and hereafter there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord the Righteousness Judge will give me.” He had a great confidence in his salvation, but listen to what Paul says here in Philippians 3 verse 12, “Not that I have already attained or am already perfected, but I press on that I might lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has laid hold of me.” You see, God establishes our heart. Jesus gets a hold of us and he sanctifies us. It’s a pressing on. “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended, but one thing I do…” this is the road to Christian perfection “…forgetting those things that are behind and reaching forward to those things that are ahead and I press towards the goal, the prize of the upward call.” What is the goal for the Christian? Of God in Christ Jesus, to be like Jesus. That’s what it means in Christian perfection. So the Lord says to Abraham, “Walk before Me and be thou perfect.” But then he doesn’t stop there. Go back to chapter seventeen and I want you to read the next verse. He’s making a covenant with Abraham. “‘Walk before Me and be thou perfect. And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.’

Then Abraham fell on his face, and God talked with him.” Alright, one thing we notice by this is that God is now speaking to Abraham face to face. Abraham does what Isaiah did. He falls down and says, “Woe is me, I am undone!” Abraham does what John did. He does what Daniel did. When they saw God they fell down as though they were dead. Now Abraham, God is speaking to him and Abraham is falling down before the Lord. Was Abraham perfect? Did he ever sin? All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God except One so when it says, “Job is a perfect and upright man” does that mean Job never sinned? But he was a godly man, wasn’t he? Had Abraham made some mistakes already with taking one wife too many and then when he did have a wife he denied that she was his wife when he went to Egypt? But he was consistently choosing to put God first in his heart. He says, “Walk before me.” Implied in this is “be firmly purposed, thoroughly determined to obey for my eye is ever on me therefore ever consider that God sees thee.” Who can imagine a stronger incentive or inducement to live holy than the idea that you believe that your walk is before God? You know what it means to walk with God like Noah and Enoch? It means do not lose the sense that God is watching you and you are always in his audience.

You will always be more preoccupied with what he thinks of you if you walk with God and that will dictate your behavior. Let’s face it. Be honest. There are things that you would never think of doing in church that you would do at home. Isn’t that right? I know people who come to church here that smoke but I’ve never seen them light up in the church. Don’t start now. It just doesn’t feel right. I mean, after all we’re in the presence of God. Take that presence with you. See what it does to your behavior. Walk with him after you leave church. He’s everywhere, amen? It says, “Walk before me.” What kind of church did Abraham have back then? God was his sanctuary. He was with God all the time. There was no church building. He lived in the presence of God. Walk before me, and he says, be thou perfect and notice this, he’s going to make a covenant with him.

Do covenants have conditions? What is a covenant? A covenant is a binding agreement, an accord, a contract, a promise, a compact. God is making a covenant with Abraham. There are terms and notice this very important three letter word, a-n-d. “Walk before Me and be blameless. And I will make My covenant with thee.” Are there conditions to the covenant? Abraham did walk before him. Now we get into what the covenant is. Turn with me back to our passage in Genesis 17. “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.” Now he says here three times nations, nations, nations. I am going to make you a father of many nations and what else do we find here? He says no longer shall your name be called Abram. Now your name shall be called Abraham. I want you to also notice, go to verse fifteen.

Do you have your Bibles? “Then God said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name.’” Now everybody is getting new names here. God introduces himself as El Shadai, then he says to Abram, “You’re no more Abram, you’re Abraham,” and to Sarai, “You’re Sarah.” They were named by God. Have you looked at the Bible at how many people are named by God? You might help me. Jesus, did Mary get a baby book and find that book or did that name come from God? What does that name mean? It means “God saves.” It’s actually Yashua and Jesus is the Greek translation of that. Jacob got a new name. What was it? Israel, prince with God. Did Hagar name Ishmael or did the angel give her the name? What about the name for Isaac? We haven’t gotten there yet, but who picked that name? God picked that happy name. It means laughter and we’ll talk about that a little bit during this sermon. These were names that were chosen by God. Names mean something. You know I… be careful what you name your children.

I think some parents, you know, they have a sense of humor. Any of you remember that Johnny Cash song, come on admit it, “A Boy Named Sue”? I never forgot that. You know, the poor kid had a rough life. One reason I remember it is my brother really had a rough time. First of all, he looked unusual because he had cystic fibrosis which effects your appearance a little bit. He was a little barrel-chested and a little under-grown, but beyond that my brother had flaming red hair. There is nobody here that has hair like my brother had. Some of you remember Calin Alfredo, Calin Alfredo Pacheco? Flaming red hair like my brother, had hair like that. He just stood out in a crowd. We were real brothers and he had freckles and brown eyes and my father named him Falcon Batchelor. He was teased so much going to school. They called him “Bird-brain” and “Turkey” and all these things and I used to think, “Poor Falcon. He’s alright.” I got into a lot of fights for my brother. Even though he was two years older than me we were about the same size because I grew faster than him, even though I’m short, just because of his disease. And so I would get in fights defending my brother with his classmates because they would be teasing him. I met this kid one day.

I was in a Laundromat waiting for my clothes to dry and I just struck up a conversation. “So what’s your name?” “Lucifer.” I said, “What?” “Lucifer,” he’s playing with his matchbox cars and doesn’t act like there’s anything wrong with his name. I thought, “What kind of parents would name their kid Lucifer?” Some names, I had a friend, his name was Jerry Mellow and he actually named his son Marshall. Now that’s ok if they don’t know your last name, but when you say it together, Marshall Mellow. Oh no! And then this is the truth, you know, you’ve heard of the Leer Jet? The family, the Leer family, they named their daughter Chanda.

I’ll wait for it to register. Chanda Leer. And you get teased a lot when you have a name like that. And fortunately people can change their names. And a lot of immigrants who have difficult names… in other countries they’re easy, but they get here and nobody can say their name, they finally, they change their name. And some people in other countries their names are fine, they get here their names are really strange and for other reasons they change their names. I heard about this one guy that worked in an office with a bunch of people. His name was Charlie Stink and the friends in the office with him just very nicely they said, “Look, Charlie, you’ve got to do something about your name.” And they labored with him for a while. Then he said, “Ok, ok, ok.” And he came back one Monday morning. He said, “I did it.” They said, “What did you do?” He said, “I changed my name.” And they all got really excited and they said, “What did you change it to?” “George, George Stink.” He didn’t understand what the problem was. So these names have meaning. Now I want to show you something.

Some names are prophetic in the Bible. The name is telling about the behavior. Jacob did end up being a deceiver and God had to change him into being something noble. I heard about a New York City window washer. His name was William Drop. People called him Will. You know how he died? Will Drop. There was another guy who was on death row in Florida. His name was Will Fry. This is true. I heard it from Paul Harvey. When I lived in Covolo I pastored this little church and just outside the church window there was a family, it’s still a little bit rural there and they had a pig right next door to the church this family and their back yard was right up to one of the back windows of the church and there was a pig sty there and on warm summer days, we had no air-conditioning in the church, it could be very disconcerting and it always seemed like right when I got up to preach that the pig was the only one saying Amen and I later found out the pig’s name was Barbie. And I thought, “Barbie?” Yeah, Barbie Q. Another family had a calf named Philip. Someone said, “Why Philip?”

They said, “Philip the freezer.” Prophetic names. Isn’t that terrible? You enjoyed it. God says that Abram’s name is saying something about his future. Now why does this matter? How many children did God give Abraham when he calls him a father of many nations? Well, he’s got one semi-illegitimate son in Ishmael, right? And yet he’s being called the father of nations. Before he even had these children God is calling him as though he does. Now I want to show you something here. Look at the difference, I’m going to put the Hebrew up on the screen, between Abram, those are the Hebrew characters and it means high or exalted father, now God changes his name to Abraham, father of a multitude. That change is made by the addition of one letter. That letter added is the equivalent of what we would call the H in Hebrew. Let’s look at the name Sarah for a second here. Sarah’s name Sarai meant my princess. Sarah, I mean you might call your mother my princess or your spouse my princess, but Sarah means princess over nations. What changed Sarai to Sarah? The same Hebrew letter is added.

One letter changed their name. Now look at the name of God that is given often translated Yehovah or Yahweh, Jehovah. Here it is the one letter that is added that changes the name of Sarah and Abram is a letter from God’s own name. This is called the tetragramatron. It’s the four consonants that you find in God’s name. We are not even exactly sure how it was pronounced. Even Rabbi Scholars are not exactly sure how it was pronounced because they figured the name was too sacred to say. Most times in your Bible, most Bible translations they translate it “Lord.” There are an increasing number of Bible translations that I see now where they are substituting the word Lord for Yahweh or Jehovah because they feel like Lord was too generic. They wanted to be more specific. Have you seen some of these Bibles and these translations that are coming out? But this was the holy name of God so what am I saying? God takes part of his own name and using one letter, what letter was it? It’s the letter “huh” and it changes Abram to Abraham, and it changes Sarai to Sarah. And someone said what God did is he took the letter that signifies the “huh” the difference between Abraham and Abram, Sarai and Sarah is the “huh” it’s the breath of life that God put into their names. Isn’t that interesting?

That’s all that’s added is a piece of his own name and it changes everything. It’s like he breathes the spirit into them and he gives them a new name. Keep in mind as we talk about this subject God is promising to give you a new name. Revelation 3:12 “And I will write on him the name of My God.” You also find this in Revelation chapter two. The Bible says, “Abraham” Genesis 17:17 He “fell on his face and he laughed, and said, ‘Shall a child be born unto him that is a hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety-nine years old, bear a child?’” How can this be? So here the Lord was saying that God was calling something about Abraham as though it was before it even happened. Turn with me to Romans 4:17 and I want to read something to you. Romans 4:17 I’m probably going to read right on through verse 21. “(as it is written, ‘I have made you a father of many nations’) in the presence of Him who believed--even God, who gives life to the dead” notice this “and He calls those things which do not exist as though they did.”

God is calling Abraham by a new name before he is the father of a multitude. Is one boy by a handmaid, does that make you a father of a multitude? And you could see Abraham going along. He’s a nomad. As he goes through the Canaanite tribes and they say, “There he goes, father of a multitude.” And he’s got one somewhat illegitimate son. It didn’t seem right, but you know this is the thing about God that’s different he calls things that are not as though they are and they become a reality. Calling him by a new name. Go back Romans here, chapter four, verse seventeen. “He calls those things that do not exist as though they did; who, contrary to the hope, in hope he believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, ‘So shall your descendants be.’” I’m still in Romans chapter four, verse nineteen, “And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness Sarah’s womb. He did not waiver at the promise of God through unbelief, but he was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God.” He believed that God would do what he said. “And being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.” I want to stop here. What has God promised you? Has God given you a new name?

Does Jesus say that in Revelation? Can God change your heart and give you everlasting life? Do you believe that God is able to do what he promises? When you believe that God is able to do what he promises it becomes a reality. Don’t forget this, friends. The spies that looked at the Promised Land that did not believe never got to the Promised Land. Joshua and Caleb believed, they made it to the Promised Land. If you don’t believe that God can transform you, he can’t. If you do believe he can. Do you believe that God can make you into what he is calling you to be? When Jesus first called Peter, you know one of the first things he did is he gave him a new name. His name was Simon. Jesus called him Peter. He gave a new name to James and to John and he calls us by new names and then we hopefully will live up to our names. Reading on here. He did not waiver at the promise, verse 22, “And therefore ‘it was accounted unto for righteousness.’” So here he’s telling us that God is calling him by that, Abraham believes it and then it becomes a reality. He gets this new name.

Then he goes on and gives some more specifics of the covenant back to chapter 17. I don’t know how many of you remember the story of Cervantes wrote the story Don Quixote. Any of you ever read that classic or they actually made it into a musical years ago that was very famous that was called “The Man From La Mancha” and in that story this aging knight is living sort of in a dream world of the days of chivalry and he rides around in his rusty armor and he claims he’s going to deliver this maiden and that she’s his fair maiden and she’s actually a prostitute in the local tavern and she becomes irritated and says, “Don’t call me a maiden.” She says, “I am a casual bride of many. I’m not a fair maiden.” But he calls her Dulcinea. It means “sweet one” even though her real name is El Danza and she finally chases him away and his family labors with him to come out of his dream world, that the age of knights is gone and as he is dying she comes to him and she has been transformed. Because he viewed her as a lady she started living like a lady and her whole life changes because he had given her a new name. And this is what the Lord does for us. He calls us by something that is not and it becomes a reality for us if we accept that new name by faith. Reading on, go back to Genesis 17, God now gets more specific.

“As for you,” I’ll read verse nine, “you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you through their generations. This is My covenant that you shall keep, between Me and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you. He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with money from any stranger who is not your descendant. He who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money must be circumcised, and My covenant shall be in your flesh for it is an everlasting covenant. The 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.”

Then God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife,” I’ll give her a new name and she’ll be the mother of many nations. Now I want to talk a little bit about this subject of circumcision and I’ve wanted to address this for a while. I’ve noticed something. You know I grew up in a mostly Jewish family. My mother was Jewish and I spent more time with my mother than my father who was not Jewish. When you talk to what they call genteel society, gentile society, you mention the word circumcision it’s awkward. It’s not awkward for Jews to talk about circumcision any more than mentioning the birth day. It was actually a celebration.

You’ll notice in the Bible it’s pretty much from cover to cover. I mean here we are in Genesis, and it appears in just about every book in some form or another, but for obvious reasons it can be awkward to talk about it. But you can’t be faithful to the word dealing with this subject in this chapter today without addressing it. I’ll do my best to be graceful and you pray for me. The subject of circumcision needs to be understood because it is the first covenant of an outward sign, something specific that God makes with Abraham that is an indicator of salvation. Let me illustrate some of the reasons for this. First you can read in Romans 4:11 “And Abram received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all that believe.”

So Paul tells us what circumcision represents first and foremost. It is a seal. It is a symbol in the flesh of righteousness of faith. You remember Abraham believed God’s new name and this was to be the sign of his faith in the promise. Doesn’t that seem like a strange sign? Let me explain why this is something that is, it is appropriate. First of all, in case you did not know, not only do all Jews still practice circumcision, all Moslems do, the Ethiopians do, and there are other nations I’m sure that I do not know about. One of the things I think was interesting is I read this week that when the Spanish came to the Caribbean they were amazed to find that many of the tribes on these Caribbean Islands in the West Indies practiced circumcision and they wondered where did they get this? Where did they learn this?

Some have speculated that it may have been from some of the children of Keturah, you know the last wife that Abraham had was Keturah. Others have wondered the ships of Solomon sailed far and wide who knows how far they went? And they may have taken this practice to other countries, this sign of worshipping the true God. There are seven reasons I’m going to give you. I should have printed something out but maybe I’ll make this available through Amazing Facts and we can e-mail this list to you. First of all, circumcision represents the shedding of blood. It is a law that requires the shedding of blood as it says that “Without the shedding of blood,” Hebrews 9:22 “there is no forgiveness of sin.” <> …verse 8, “But now that the blood of Christ is shed all bloody ordinances are abolished.”

Do we as Christians need anything but the blood of Jesus for forgiveness, for the covenant? No, the Bible is very clear as far as we are living today. First Corinthians 7:19 Paul says, “Circumcision is nothing… uncircumcision is nothing, keeping the commandments of God is what matters.” That was the NIV version. Isn’t that interesting? He says speaking of the ceremonial laws that’s not what matters. They all pointed to Christ. Now what matters is keeping the commandments of God. You’ll find in the American culture there is a debate that probably never will close about, there are arguments about possible medical benefits, health benefits for male circumcision. There is an unbiblical, barbaric form of female circumcision that is practiced in some countries that is very unhealthy and unbiblical. It’s nowhere in the Bible and there is no health benefit known to that. But they’ve got studies and debates about if a person is interested in that for medical reasons, fine, there is no salvation merit in it. Is that clear to everybody?

I could read you probably fifty scriptures in the New Testament that bear that out. So one reason was it is a shedding of blood. Two, though the women were included in the covenant it is peculiar to the males because God was going to send his son which was a man-child as you read in Revelation 12. Three, the ordinance was to be administered to children when they were eight days old. What that means is after one week of life. What day of the week did Jesus rise from the dead? The eighth day. How many days in the week? If there was going to be an eighth day what day of the week would it be? He was filled with the Spirit and he raised the first day of the week or the eighth day after that first week, so to speak. So it’s a symbol also of, the reason that babies were circumcised on the eighth day it’s a time when the Vitamin K is actually released.

Now when babies are born they artificially give them an injection of Vitamin K which is a blood clotting factor, isn’t that right? But God knew that a baby normally it’s not until the eighth day after birth that they have this sufficient Vitamin K to make sure that there’s not a bleeding problem and I think that’s interesting that that happens after the eighth day. Furthermore it was done to the babies because if you were pure at any point in your life what is the purest time in your life? Typically when you’re a baby. That would be the most innocent time. And so it’s a symbol of the innocence. God sees us as newborn babies when we accept his covenant and it’s the innocence of Jesus. Notice that it was not just the literal children of Abraham that practiced circumcision, that participated but anybody in his household.

So the covenant was available not just to physical Jews but it was available to “whosoever will,” anybody who was grafted into his family. Keep in mind even in the New Testament it says gentiles can be grafted into the olive branch and they become the stalk of Israel. All the promises that God makes to Abraham are available to you and me through this. It involved the consecration of a part of the anatomy representing all of the offspring belonged to the Lord. The fathers were reminded that their children were God’s property through this rite. I think that that symbolism is obvious. Furthermore it was symbolizing that the holy seed of Abraham was going to come through his loins and God had promised the Messiah would come through the seed of Abraham. Point number six, one of their symbolic reasons for circumcision, it’s allowing God to have access to the most intimate parts of my life. There is nothing hidden from God. You know in the Bible God says that he wants to know us and that is the most intimate term that is used.

Keep in mind the Bible says, “Adam knew his wife and Eve had a baby.” God is talking about a love relationship with us, Christ marries his church. And so it’s reminding us of a very intimate relationship with God. God is not out there far away. He wants to be in our hearts. And finally and probably the most outstanding example and reason for circumcision, it represents a cutting away of the flesh in preference to faith, not living by the flesh but living by the spirit. Now Karen and I were watching a Christian program talking about the differences between men and women just this week and women marry largely for security, men marry largely for passion. I didn’t hear any objections. This is what the councilors say in book after book, generally speaking. This is a very strong drive for men. It’s strong in both sexes but it is predominately strong in men.

Circumcision symbolizes not being controlled by the flesh but being controlled by the Spirit and that I think is probably the most significant symbolism that you’ll find in this sacred rite. Look with me in Colossians 2:11 I’ll read through verse 13. Speaking about the battle between the spirit and the flesh, and this is what’s involved here. There is a war that goes on between the spirit and the flesh. Colossians 2:11. “In Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off of the body of the sins of the flesh.” Now am I guessing about the symbolism or is this what Paul says? It’s a symbol of the circumcision of the heart and not being controlled by “the sins of the flesh” but “by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism.” Now what is the rite now for Christians? Is it circumcision or is it baptism?

Baptism replaces circumcision for the Christian as a consecration for the Lord. “Buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through the faith by the workings of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in trespasses in the uncircumcision of your flesh, He is made alive together with Him, having forgiven all your sins.” Being controlled by the spirit and not the flesh. Look with me in the book of Galatians. This is probably one of the best examples of this, these two forces that are at war in our members. Galatians chapter 5, you know this, verse 22. There are two forces. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” This is what God was asking of Abraham when he said, “Walk before me and be perfect.”

Have the fruits of the Spirit, not the works of the flesh. What are the works of the flesh? He says right here. Go back to verse nineteen, I’m sorry, go to verse eighteen. No, go to verse sixteen. “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.” This is circumcision of the heart. “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you’re not under the law.” Now some people say, “We’re not under the law, but we’re not under grace.” That’s right, if you’re led by the Spirit. But if you’re led by the Spirit you’re not breaking the law, does that make sense? It’s how much better to be led by the spirit of the law than the letter of the law? But if you’re keeping the spirit of the law you’ll keep the letter. Let me illustrate. The letter of the law says don’t commit adultery. The spirit of the law says do not lust in your heart. If you are keeping the spirit of the law in your heart are you committing adultery and breaking the letter? Of course not. The letter of the law says do not lie, bear false witness. The spirit of the law says let your yes be yes and your no be no, right? The letter of the law says do not commit murder.

The spirit of the law says do not be angry with your brother in your heart. If you’re keeping the spirit of the law and you’re not angry with your brother and sister in your heart are you going to murder them? Of course you’re going to keep the letter. See? So if you’re led by the Spirit you don’t need to worry about the letter of the law because you will naturally when you’re controlled by love for God and love for your fellow man it begins by keeping the Ten Commandments. That’s the starting point. Verse nineteen. “The works of the flesh are evident: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath (losing the temper), selfish ambition, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like.” I am disappointed that the list of the flesh is longer than the list of the spirit, but that’s, there’s more, seems like there’s more options there. “Murder, drunkenness, revelries, and the like…” He doesn’t even finish the list. He says, and these things. “…of the which I tell you beforehand, just as I’ve told you in time past, those who practice these things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” That’s simple enough. Amen? We must be controlled by the Spirit and have the fruits of the Spirit in our life.

Let me give you one more. Turn with me to Romans chapter eight. We’re still talking about a change of the heart here. Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak in the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. To be carnally minded,” that means fleshly minded, “is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind,” the flesh, “is at war against God; it is not subject to the law of God, indeed it cannot be.

So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh. You are in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.” Friends, what we’re talking about here is that letter from the name of God he breathes into us and gives us a new name. He gives us a new heart and we become dead to sin. Instead of the driving force of our lives being the very force that drives animals, animals are controlled by the flesh; we are now controlled by the Spirit. In order for us to have that, we need to be born again every day. Paul said, “I die daily.” That means he had to deny the works of the flesh every day. But doesn’t it make sense to me that if a person dies daily they need to be born every day or they’re more dead than alive? Isn’t that right? Every day we die to the flesh and we live by the Spirit. It’s a choice that’s made. God says, “I want to make a covenant with you. I want to give you a new name.” The same thing he said to Abraham. “I want to change you on the inside.” It’s a circumcision of the heart that he’s talking about.

Turn with me back to our study here. I’m going to read Romans 2:28-29 “He is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is of the heart, in the Spirit,” led by the Spirit. Now is this a New Testament concept? No, it’s an Old Testament concept. Even when God gave the covenant of circumcision to Abraham they knew that this physical mutilation… and you know that’s the word in Hebrew comes from the word mull and there is a connection there to the word mutilation that we get. Nobody is saved by that. He understood that it was something that it symbolized a change in the heart. Deuteronomy is Moses. That goes back pretty far, doesn’t it? Moses said, “Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart and do not be stiff necked” or stubborn.

Old Testament Jeremiah 4:4, “Circumcise yourselves therefore to the Lord, and take away the foreskin of your hearts, you men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, lest My fury come forth like a fire… because of the evil of your doings.” Galatians 6:15, “For if Christ Jesus neither circumcision avails anything nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.” God wants us to have new hearts, a change on the inside. You know one of the beautiful things in this story it says after God makes this covenant with Abraham how long does it take for Abraham to capitalize in the covenant? The Bible says in verse twenty-six, actually you go to verse twenty-four. “Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. Ishmael his son was thirteen years old.” You know at what age do Jews bar-mitzvah their boys and the girls?

It’s thirteen when they’re bar-mitzvahed, eight days old when they’re circumcised. “That very same day Abraham was circumcised, and his son Ishmael; and all the men in his house, born in his house or bought with money from the stranger, were circumcised with him.” Abraham said, “I believe in the Lord.” God said, “Walk before me, be perfect, and I’ll make this covenant and I’ll make you a great nation. Here is the sign of the covenant.” Did Abraham say, “Well, you know one of these days I may do that. Let me think about this.” It says, “That very same day.” How long did Abraham take to act upon the promise that God had made to give him a new name, to give him a new heart? That day he acted upon it. You know God has made the same promise to you. He has. God is promising to breathe a letter of his own name into your name and give you a new name. It’s the “huh,” the spirit of life, and he’s going to give you a new heart. He’s not asking us, thank goodness, to go through this mass mutilation physically but he is wanting us to humble our hearts before him, to have if it needs heart surgery that could leave our hearts tender and being able to hear the Spirit of God that’s what he’s asking us to do and not harden our hearts.

That’s why the Bible says, “Today” if you hear his voice, that very same day do not harden your hearts, but take him up on the covenant for “a new heart and a new spirit I will put within you.” From that day God called Abraham something new he said, “I believe it.” And as we get into our next study you’ll find out he began the first step in being the father towards a multitude because he accepted God’s covenant. God is inviting you and I to walk before him blameless. I’d like to have that experience but you can only have it with a new heart, friends. Would you like the new heart? He offers it to you. Why don’t you take your hymnals? We’re going to sing our closing hymn, “Lord, I Want to be a Christian in my Heart.” And that is number 319. Let’s stand together as we sing about this.

Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart, in my heart; Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart. In my heart, In my heart, Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart.

I’d like to give you an opportunity to respond to the covenant that God made with Abraham. You are Abraham’s seed if you’re in Christ. The same covenant of giving you a new name and being part of that heavenly family he makes to you. He wants to breathe his own essence into your heart. You accept it by faith. He is calling us to be holy. You can if you live by the Spirit and not by the flesh but it’s only as he gives you that new heart. Would you like to have that new heart? There may be some of you here, it doesn’t matter if you’ve been coming to church your whole life. You don’t get that heart by being born in a Christian family. You get it by coming to Jesus just like you are. If you haven’t made that decision or you wonder if you’ve got the new heart and you’d like to ask for that today come as we sing verse two. We’ll pray together for that experience.

Lord, I want to be more loving In my heart, in my heart; Lord, I want to be more loving In my heart. In my heart, In my heart, Lord, I want to be more loving in my heart.

There may be some of you that have a special prayer that is reflected in the next verse. “Lord, I want to be more holy in my heart. I want to live the kind of life that Job lived, that Abraham lived, walk with you like Noah and Enoch.” Maybe you’d like special prayer. Come, as we sing verse three together.

Lord, I want to be more holy In my heart, in my heart; Lord, I want to be more holy in my heart. In my heart, In my heart, Lord, I want to be more holy In my heart.

I want to be like Jesus in my heart. Is that your prayer? Let’s sing about that. Verse four.

Lord, I want to be like Jesus In my heart, in my heart; Lord I want to be like Jesus In my heart. In my heart, In my heart, Lord, I want to be like Jesus In my heart.

God said to Abraham, “I’m going to make you a great nation through your wife Sarah,” and he laughed. Next week you’re going to hear Sarah laugh too. And when God says to you, “I’m going to make you holy.” You might say, “Oh, no. Me? How could that be?” God calls us things that are not as though they are, and then they become a reality. God can do in you what he says he can do. When he says, “Be ye holy.” He can make you holy. God will not command you to be something you cannot be. And inherent in every command of God is the power to be what he’s asking you to be. Do you believe that? A new creature, a new heart, a holy people.

Father in heaven, Lord, we marvel at the faith of Abraham that was able to lay hold on such an unlikely promise that through his wife sarah he would become a great nation. And sometimes, Lord, it seems equally unlikely that we can be new creatures with new hearts and new names, but I pray that we will not underestimate your power, that when you breathe your very essence of your name into our hearts we do become new creatures. Lord, do for us what you did for Abram and Sarah. Help us to receive that covenant of circumcision in the heart that our hearts might be tender and led by your Spirit and not be controlled by the flesh. Bless these people, Lord, that this may be a reality and not simply a church procedure that we go through. And I pray that we can be a new people motivated by love. Bless each of us in our homes, Lord. Forgive our sins and help us to be righteous through Jesus, in Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

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God Cares: The Message of Daniel by Mervyn Maxwell

God Cares: The Message of Daniel by Mervyn Maxwell
God's Promises




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