Genesis 17
Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
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.
God the Giver

Genesis 17:8

'I will give.' That is the text. It is found in Genesis, and therefore in the right place; it is heard in the Apocalypse, and therefore the great Amen cannot be far off. Let us see how the river runs, and walk by it, as it were, hand in hand with God.

I. The Lord had to incarnate Himself in little phrases and small toy meanings in order to get at man's imagination, so He says in Genesis XVII, 8, 'I will give unto thee... land'. Do not put a full-stop after 'land'. That is the poorest and meanest of His gifts, and would be poorer and meaner still if it did not carry with it all the other gifts by implication, suggestion, far-flashing indication of an opening universe. But the land is God's to give. The land never belonged to any one but God. It is something to know that God gives men land, and clay out of which to make bricks, and quarries out of which to dig palaces, and forests out of which to bring navies and homes of beauty.

II. 'I will give you rain.' Of course; having given us the land, He could not withhold the rain. What is the land without rain?—dust unshaped into humanity and stewardship and responsibility—a poor waste, nothing but dust, that cannot grow a flower. Now I feel to be warming towards this great notion of the One-Giver and All-Giver. 'I will give you rain'—soft water, the kind of water the roots like and pine for. Never dissociate God from land and from water; they are both His, He only can give them in any sense that will bring with it satisfaction. There is a way of appeasing hunger that does not touch the deeper inner hunger of the other self—that excites a man and mocks him every day.

III. 'I will give thee—'—what more can He give? He has given us the land, He has given us the rain, He says, 'I will give thee riches and wealth and honour'. Is there a fountain of honour in the universe? Yes, and if we seek it not, we shall find it sooner; if we do not go after riches and wealth and honour, the poor weazened things will come to us.

IV. Now He begins a higher style of talk. He was condescending all the while to get at us, so lowly was our place in the pit. Now we are coming nearer to the light. He says, 'I will give you pastors according to Mine heart' (Jeremiah 3:15)—bits of God's own heart, fragments of His infinite love, souls that have received the kiss and will impart it to despairing spirits.

V. He is coming very near us now. What can follow such gifts—land and rain and riches and pastors? He said, 'I will give unto thee a son'. 'For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.' So loved—that He gave. That is the way to love. He lives to give. That is love. If you take all in and allow nothing to flow out you will one day find that your great gathering of water has burst the cistern or the deep reservoir and has gone. You come in the morning and say, 'I have an abundance of water, but I will not give you any, but you may look at it and see how rich I am; this is the reservoir, walk up this green slope, and I will show you what is worth more than crystal.' We say, 'I do not see it, where is it?' 'Wait a moment and you will see it, over this little hillock.' And we climb the hillock, and look, and the water, the gathered, stored water, kept from the poor and the needy and the thirsty, has gone. God will take it all up again into His sky and turn it into rainbows and into showers and pour it upon worthier receivers. They are storing poverty who are storing gold without God.

—Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. v. p. 242.

Genesis 17:18

'Abraham looked upon the vigorous, bold, brilliant young Ishmael, and said appealingly to God: "O that Ishmael might live before Thee!" But it cannot be; the promises are to conduct, to conduct only. And so, again, we in like manner behold, long after Greece has perished, a brilliant successor of Greece, the Renascence, present herself with high hopes.... And all the world salutes with pride and joy the Renascence, and prays to Heaven: "O that Ishmael might live before Thee!" Surely the future belongs to this new-comer.'

—M. Arnold in Literature and Dogma. References.—XVII. 18.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy ScriptureGenesis, p. 123. XVIII. 1.—Expositor (3rd Series), vol. ii. p. 203; ibid. vol. iii. p. 69. XVIII. 16-33.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy ScriptureGenesis p. 129. XVIII. 19.—G. Bainton, Christian World Pulpit, 5 Nov. 1890. J. Budgen, Parochial Sermons, vol. ii. p. 185. XVIII. 22.—C. J. Vaughan, Harrow School Sermons, p. 371. XVIII. 25.—Bishop W. Ingram, Under the Dome. p. 219. W. R. Inge, Faith and Knowledge, p. 57. Professor Story, Christian World Pulpit, 1891, p. 88. XVIII.—J. Parker, Adam, Noah, and Abraham, p. 135. XVIII. 25.—J. Vaughan, Sermons (15th Series), p. 117.

And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.
And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,
As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.
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.
And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.
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.
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.
And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.
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.
And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.
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.
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.
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.
And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be.
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.
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?
And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!
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.
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.
But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.
And he left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham.
And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham's house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him.
And Abraham was ninety years old and nine, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.
And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.
In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son.
And all the men of his house, born in the house, and bought with money of the stranger, were circumcised with him.
Nicoll - Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

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