Sun, Oct 07, 2007
Genesis 17:1-4 by Joe Guglielmo
Ministry of Pastor Joe Guglielmo teachings through the Bible, verse by verse for a better understanding of Gods Word.
Series: Sunday Service
GENESIS 17:1-4

            Please turn in your Bibles this morning to Genesis chapter 17 as we look at how God answers our prayers. Now, for some of you here this morning, you may be wondering, “God, where are You?” in regards to the prayers you have laid at His feet. You are wondering why God is not answering your prayers. Maybe you have come to the conclusion that God doesn’t care, or God can’t do anything about the situation you are in, or maybe even that God has forgotten about you.  Let me say this, that is totally wrong and we will see that in our study this morning.

            Now before we get to that, let’s look at some prayers that God received from some young children.

- Source Unknown

            Here in Genesis chapter 17 it has been some 25 years since God spoke by direct revelation to Abraham and 13 years since Ishmael was born. Keep in mind that Hagar; Sarah’s maidservant was given to Abraham to have a child because Sarah was barren.  And as God looks upon their efforts He sees Ishmael as a son of the flesh and not a son of the promise, not a son of the faith.  In fact, God will not even recognize Ishmael as a son of Abraham, none of the promises given to Abraham and his descendents would be passed on through Ishmael, he was not an heir. That is where we will pick up our study this morning in Genesis chapter 17, starting in verse 1 and let’s see what the Lord has for us as we study His Word.

GENESIS 17:1-4

            As I read through these verses I see three points emerge regarding God and His actions towards us. First of all, in Genesis 17:1 we see that GOD WAITS. Now we may not like that, but God has His reasons for waiting. Secondly, in Genesis 17:1-2 we see that GOD ANSWERS.  In other words, God is going to answer Abraham, He will fulfill His promise to him.  And thirdly, in Genesis 17:1-4 we see that GOD BLESSES. Many times we don’t see this but God does bless us, we just may not be looking!

            Now before we look at these points, let me say this. God answers all our prayers, every single one of them!  Now don’t run away.  I realize that statement may shock some of you. Some of you may not even believe it, but it is true.  You see, sometimes God says, “Yes” and He gives to us our prayers. Sometimes God says, “No” and he doesn’t give to us what we have been praying about.  And sometimes God says, “Not yet” because it is not the right time for God to act. Thus, as you can see, God does answer all of our prayers; it just may not be the way we want!  Now, let’s look at these three points dealing with God and His actions towards us, fulfilling the promises He makes to us.


            God called Abraham from the Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan, the Promise Land where God would make Him a great nation. That was well over 25 years prior to the events transpiring here in Genesis chapter 17. The problem for Abraham is that his wife Sarah was barren, they had no children and it is hard to be a great nation if you have no children in the first place!

            So Sarah has a plan, that Abraham would take her maidservant, Hagar and have a child with her and that would be the heir of the promise. Thus, Ishmael was born, a child of the flesh and not a child of faith. And, as I have said, God does not even recognize Ishmael as the son of promise, as the heir of the promises of God!

            Now Abraham is ninety-nine years old, Sarah is eighty-nine years old, well past the age of child bearing and now God reveals to him once again, 24 years after He spoke to Him in Genesis chapter 12. To say God waited is to put it mildly. Why did God wait so long?

            Folks, in this situation I believe God was waiting for Abraham to come to the end of himself, the end of his resources.  Abraham saw He could not do it and thus, if God did not intervene, then it was going to be hopeless. Folks, did God want to intervene?  You bet He did, but He waited until Abraham came to the end of his resources and could only look up.

            The children of Israel faced a similar situation as they left the slavery they faced in Egypt to head to the Promise Land. And as they came to the Red Sea a problem arose. The Egyptians came after them and now fear grew in the hearts of the children of Israel. How did they end up in a situation like this in the first place?  Listen carefully. In Exodus 14:1-2 we are told, Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Speak to the children of Israel, that they turn and camp before Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, opposite Baal Zephon; you shall camp before it by the sea.’

            God told them to camp there, He put them in this situation with no way to escape, no place to run from the enemy that was coming down fast upon them. How come God didn’t just open up the Red Sea before the Egyptians were upon them? Why did God bring them to this point?  I believe God was bringing them to the end of themselves. They could do nothing to save themselves except look to the Lord, which they should have done in the first place! The problem is they did not look to the Lord. Instead of looking to Him, they complained to Moses for another fine mess he got them into and the reality is, they were blaming God for this!

            In Exodus 14:10-12 we are told, And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the LORD. Then they said to Moses, ‘Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, “Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians”? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.’

            Many times, as we face difficult situations with no way out, at least that we can see through our own eyes, that we can attain through our own resources, we complain, we become angry with God for allowing it, just as the children of Israel were doing.  You see, it is hard to wait upon God to answer your prayer, to deliver you from the situation you are in as the enemy is coming down hard upon you, he is fast approaching. But listen to what Moses tells them in Exodus 14:13-14, And Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.’

            Moses tells them to Stand still or we might say, “Wait upon the Lord” because it is the Lord who will see them and us through any situation we find ourselves in.  You see, it is the Lord who will bring salvation to us and because of that and the way the children of Israel were acting, Moses tells them to hold your peace or literally, “be quiet!”  In other words, stop your complaining and wait upon the Lord to see what He will do, the salvation He will bring to the situation they were in and the ones we find ourselves in!

            I do have to admit that my timing and God’s timing are not always synchronized; they are not always in line. I think that God should act a lot faster than He does but guess what, His timing is perfect, mine is not!  So one of the reasons God waits is to bring us to the end of ourselves, and end to our resources so that we might see the salvation of the Lord, the salvation that He brings!

            God also waits so that we might gain patience. This one is easy for me, I am very patient as long as I get it now!  How about you?  Well, I guess that is not very patient and that is the point, this is an area that I need to grow in and I would suspect all of us need to grow in. Many times, as we are impatient, we do things that God does not want us to do, we run ahead of Him.

            Remember those words of James as he tells us, My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.  Trials in our lives, testing, as we learn to wait upon God, produce patience in us, we become mature in the faith.  Those that have temper tantrums; those that are inpatient are truly immature in the faith. Thus, let’s grow in patience and you know how that is done, you know how that happens, right?  TRIALS! Sorry, but that is where we learn to trust in the Lord, that is how we mature in the faith!

            One more reason God waits and that is to test our faith, to see where it is. This is not done so God will know, but so that we can see where we are.  Peter tells us in I Peter 1:6-9,In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seenyou love. Though now you do not see Himyet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith — the salvation of your souls.

            You see, as you learn to wait upon God during the trials you face, it is just a reflection of your faith in Him, that you trust Him no mater what comes your way!

            CS Lewis was the author of the widely read children’s books, The Narnia Chronicles, as well as many novels for grown-ups and books on issues surrounding the Christian faith. The movie Shadowlands (directed by Richard Attenborough and produced in 1993) tells Lewis’ story, focusing in particular on his relationship with his wife, Joy Gresham. Gresham and Lewis meet while Lewis is a don at Oxford University.

            After Joy is diagnosed with cancer the couple marry. The movie invites us to witness their love, their pain, their grief, their struggles with faith and God. Eventually Joy dies.

At one point in the story a friend says to Lewis, “Christopher can scoff, Jack, but I know how hard you’ve been praying; and now God is answering your prayers.”

Lewis replies “That’s not why I pray, Harry. I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God, it changes me.”

- Film quote found at Internet Movie Database

            Folks, I don’t want to change the mind of God or depart from His perfect will and receive His permissive will for my life.  He knows what is best and thus, I must wait and trust in Him. It is as Isaiah 40:31 tells us, But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew theirstrength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.  And The Amplified Bible puts this verse like this, But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] shall change andrenew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God]as eagles [mount up to the sun]; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired. [Heb 12:1-3.]

            You see, God promises to help us fly and there are those times we must rise above those problems in life, soar over them and only God can help us to do that. And when you are soaring like an eagle, high in the sky, close to the sun or Son of God, the situation looks smaller. God also promises to help us to run. Yes, there are times when it is not easy but we must keep on running and the Lord will give us the strength we need to do that, don’t quit! God also promises to help us walk and this may be the most difficult to do. Why do I say that?  Think about it, we can mount up with wings as an eagle and soar over our problems. We can run and not grow weary through our problems.  But walking and walking and walking, day in and day out, day after day becomes routine, mundane, it can be tough!  It is only through the Lord that we can walk, and walk and walk until we are called home to be with Him, He gives us the strength we need for everyday life!

            Now that word renew that is found here in Isaiah 40:31 can actually mean, “exchange.”  In other words, it can read, They that wait upon the Lord shall exchange their strength.”  We exchange our strength for His strength. We hand in our pocket batteries and plug into his nuclear power plant you might say, His dynamic power that never runs out and thus, He has all the strength that we need to keep going, and going. Because of that, there is no need for us to quit!

            So we have seen that GOD WAITS to answer our prayer at times because He is waiting till we come to the end of ourselves, we have run out of our resources, we are impotent to bring it to pass!  Or He can wait in order to develop patients in us. And He can wait to test our faith, to show us what is inside of ourselves, what we are made of you might say.  And like I have said, God’s timing is perfect so when GOD WAITS it is for our own good, it is what is best!


Did God intend to answer Abraham’s prayer, to fulfill the promise He made to Abraham? You bet He did. It was not “maybe,” it was not “could be,” it wasn’t even “probably,” but God would fulfill His Word but in His timing.

And Abraham did believe in the Lord’s promise to him as Paul tells us in Romans 4:13-22, For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect, because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression. Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all (as it is written, ‘ have made you a father of many nations’) in the presence of Him whom he believed — God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ 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 of Sarah's womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore ‘it was accounted to him for righteousness.’

In other words, Abraham’s faith was growing and it reached the point of belief that was then manifested in his life. You see, if faith is not manifested in our lives it shows that we don’t believe it, and thus, it is empty faith, it is dead faith! Think of it like this. If I were to tell you that there was a bomb in this building and it was going to go off in 2 minutes and yet I just stayed right here and went on talking, not running out the door for my life, would you believe me?  Probably not because what I have said that I believed was not manifested in my life!

But, if I told you that there was a bomb in the building that was going to explode in 2 minutes and as I was telling you this I was running out the door, would you believe me then? Probably yes!  Why, what was the difference? In the first scenario my faith was empty, it wasn’t manifested in my life and empty faith will not impact anyone!  In the second scenario my faith was real because it was manifested in my life, in my actions and living faith will impact people’s lives!

Do you believe in the promises of God to you?  I bet most if not all of you would say yes. The next question may be a little more difficult for you to answer. Do you see that belief in the promises of God manifested in your life, are you able to walk by faith no matter how dark things get?  God wants you to; He wants you to rest your whole weight upon Him!

In this chapter there are several “I will’s” that God expresses to Abraham. God promises Abraham that He will make an everlasting covenant with him, that he will be exceedingly fruitful, that He will be their God, that He will bless Sarah with a child, that through this seed, this child the promises would be extended to, and-so-on! Here’s the thing, can we wait upon God to answer our prayers? He wants us to.  Don’t go running ahead of the Lord but wait upon Him, believe in His promises to you and then walk by faith!

The problem many times is God makes His promise to us and we don’t believe it.  In Exodus 6:6-8 we are told, Therefore say to the children of Israel: ‘I am the LORD; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am theLORD your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. And I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and I will give it to you as a heritage: I am the LORD.’

Notice what God promised them through Moses. God told Moses to tell the people seven “I will’s” that He has for them.  God would brig them out of the burdens that the Egyptians had placed upon them. God would bring them out of bondage in Egypt.  God would rescue them. God would redeem them. God would take them as His people. He would be their God.  And God would bring them into the Promise Land.

How did they respond to what the Lord said through Moses? In Exodus 6:9 we are told, So Moses spoke thus to the children of Israel; but they did not heed Moses, because of anguish of spirit and cruel bondage.  In other words, the circumstances they faced caused them not to believe what God had promised them, not to put their trust in the Lord. Folks, may that not happen to us but may we look to the Lord to be the strength of our life! May we trust in Him because GOD ANSWERS our prayers!


            As God promised Abraham He was more than able to bring to pass in his life.  God blessed Abraham exceedingly abundantly above all that he could ask or think, how come? As I have said, it was not that he deserved it but I believe Abraham was now in that place where he could receive the blessings of God.

            Remember when Abraham went DOWN to Egypt, DOWN into the world for help during a famine, he didn’t trust the Lord. And folks, anytime you are not following the Lord, obeying Him, you will go down. And then, in Genesis 13:1-4 we are told, Then Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife and all that he had, and Lot with him, to the South. Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold. And he went on his journey from the South as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place of the altar which he had made there at first. And there Abram called on the name of the LORD.

            Notice, he now goes UP, to Bethel, the house of God, the place where he started and it is here he worships the Lord and the Lord blesses him.  The reason is simple, he was now in the place God wanted him in, and he is in the place where the blessings are flowing. You see, it is not that God’s blessings stopped, it was just that Abraham removed himself from the place where he could receive those blessings into his life!

            In Jude 20-21 we are told, But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.  How do we keep ourselves in the love of God?  By walking with Him. You see, His love for us really never ends, but there are times we miss out on it, not because God stops loving us, but we remove ourselves from the place it is being poured out, we remove ourselves from Jesus!

You see, we need to stay focused on the Lord, but how?  Jude gives us four ways.  ByBUILDING YOURSELF UP IN THE FAITH. In other words, keep growing in the Lord, study His Word and apply it to your life as you walk with Him!  By PRAYING IN THE SPIRIT.  Here Jude is speaking of spending time in fellowship with God and being sensitive to the Spirit’s leading as you pray.  By KEEPING YOURSELF IN THE LOVE OF GOD. Jude is talking about walking were God is walking. His blessings are being poured out thus, stay under the spout where the blessings come out!  By LOOKING FOR THE MERCY OF OUR LORD.  In other words, expecting his return, looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ!  That is how we do it!

The same is true with blessings. In other words, keep yourself in the spot where the blessings flow out or be in that place where you can receive His blessings as I have said! Listen to what David said in Psalm 1, Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.  Psalm 1:1-3.  In other words, as God instructed Abraham and us, go back to Bethel, go back to the house of God and be in fellowship with Him, that is where the blessings flow!

Also, in Deuteronomy 11:26-28 we are told by the Lord, Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORDyour God which I command you today; and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way which I command you today, to go after other gods which you have not known.”  You see, are you in that place where you will receive those blessings or have you moved to the place where the blessings are not received, only cursing?

And in Ezekiel 34:26 we are told, I will make them and the places all around My hill a blessing; and I will cause showers to come down in their season; there shall be showers of blessing.  Where are the blessings flowing down? The area God has said and thus, walk in obedience to Him and see the shower of blessings He has for you.  Paul put it like this in Ephesians 1:3, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.  And The Living Bible puts this verse like this, How we praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every blessing in heaven because we belong to Christ. God wants to bless us!

But why are there so many bumps in the road of life to get to those blessings?  Warren Wiersbe put it like this in his book, The bumps Are What You Climb On. He wrote:

A little boy was leading his sister up a mountain path and the way was not too easy. “Why, this isn’t a path at all,” the little girl complained. “It’s all rocky and bumpy.” And her brother replied, “Sure, the bumps are what you climb on.” That’s a remarkable piece of philosophy. What do you do with the bumps on the path of life?

I have been a reader of biographies for many years, and I have yet to find a successful person whose life was free from problems and difficulties. Looking at these people from a distance, you might think they had it made and that life was easy for them.  But when you get closer, you discover that their climb to the top of the mountain was not an easy one. The road was rocky and bumpy, but the bumps were what they climbed on to get to the top.

We don’t have to read too far in the Bible before we discover this truth. Abraham certainly didn’t become a great man of faith overnight.  He had to go through some difficult tests on the road of life before he reached the top of the mountain.  No sooner did Abraham arrive in Canaan than a famine came to the land. Imagine facing a famine in the land God has promised you!  Then Abraham had problems with his nephew, Lot; and then war came to the land, and Abraham had to go out and fight. His wife led him astray with bad counsel and the result was the birth of Ishmael, a boy who brought sorrow to Abraham’s heart. Finally, Isaac, the promised son, was born, bringing great joy to Abraham and Sarah. Then God asked Abraham to put Isaac on the altar, a sacrifice that would be difficult for any father or mother. Yes, there were many bumps on that road, but Abraham used the bumps to climb higher.

- Warren Wiersbe, The Bumps Are What You Climb On, pp. 9-10

            I know, sometimes you may feel like that Charlie Brown character in the “Peanuts” comic strip. In one particular strip, he is complaining because his team always loses their games.  Lucy tries to console him by saying, “Remember, Charlie Brown, you learn more from defeats than you do from your victories.” And Charlie Brown replies back and says, “That makes me the smartest man in the world!” I think at times we feel like Charlie Brown, maybe not the smartest man in the world, but it seems like we keep losing. You are not losing if you are in Christ because all things are working for good, as Lucy said but more importantly as Paul said in Romans chapter 8!

            As I close this morning, keep in mind that sometimes GOD WAITS to answer our prayers for his timing is perfect.  And sometimes the reason He is waiting is that He wants us to reach the end of ourselves so that He can now work!  Also, GOD ANSWERS our prayers and I truly believe prayer changes our heart, it does not change the heart of God.  And the great thing is, as we spend time with God, He gives to us the desires of our heart and because we have spent time with Him those desires are His desires for us! And lastly, GOD BLESSES us in so many ways. May we look for those blessings and stay in that spot where His blessings are flowing out!  And yes, there may be bumps in the road, but use those bumps to climb higher, to get to that place that God wants you to be, looking to Him to be the strength of your life!

            And so, as our study is called, “God, where are you?” and the answer is, He is right there with us, He will never leave us or forsake us, and He will lead us all the way. All we must do is follow our shepherd, keep our eyes focused on Him and continue to walk by faith with Him!