Second Sunday of Lent (Feb 25th)

Pastor's Summary of Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16

Sarai is childless and advanced in years; she has not provided Abram with an heir. A covenant is between two parties, each of whom have benefits and obligations; it is made by both and can be terminated by either. God's covenant with Abram is different: (1) God makes (vv. 2, 6) and establishes it (v. 7); (2) most of the obligations are God's and benefit Abram (making him "the ancestor of a multitude of nations", v. 4, with "numerous", v. 2, descendants: giving him Canaan, v. 8); (3) how God benefits is not clear; (4) Abram has one obligation: to "walk before me, and be blameless" (v. 1); (5) God will never break the pact (v. 7); (6) it applies to Abraham and his descendants (but not to all humans.)

Abram's change of name in v. 5 is significant: the gift of a new name signifies a new relationship, a new status, a new stage in life. It was believed that such a change altered one's personality and fate. In v. 8, God promises the land of Canaan, where Abraham is now an "alien", to Israel for ever; he will be God of Israel. As a sign of this agreement, all males will be circumcised, soon after birth. (Egyptians and Canaanite practice was to circumcise at puberty.) Being cicumcised as infants, Abrham's descendants will bear this mark of identity, showing them to be members of the covenant community, throuhout their lives. Sarai shares in God's blessing, as shown by her change in name (v. 15). She will be blessed with fertility; she too will "give rise to nations" (v. 16) and kings. In v. 17, Abraham laughs in incredulity at the idea of Sarah bearing a son (who will be named Isaac, meaning May God laugh in delight).