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  The Great Bible Story #14
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Promise and covenant

Jacob Ninan
God came to Abram when he was ninety nine years old, reminded him about His promise to bless and multiply his children, and made an everlasting covenant with him and his children. He wanted Abram to walk and live before Him blamelessly, and He would bless him and his descendants so that he would become the father of many nations. He would be their God and they would keep His covenant. He would give the land of Canaan as an eternal possession to Abram's children. In order to signify this, He changed his name from Abram (meaning 'exalted father') to Abraham (meaning 'father of a multitude') and also his wife's name from Sarai (meaning 'dominative') to Sarah (meaning 'princess').

At this time God instituted the practice of circumcision for all the male members in Abraham's household, including his servants. This was to be a sign of the covenant between God and Abraham's extended family. In obedience to God, Abraham had all the men and boys who were older than eight days to be circumcised.

As we look at history we can see that the family of Abraham broke this covenant with God several times. God warned them, rebuked them and punished them so that they would come back to Him. Even when they went after other gods in idol worship, He never stopped loving them. His correction and punishment were all signs of His love for them which wanted them to return to Him in repentance. But because of their failure, they lost many blessings from God, they had to face much sufferings including long periods of slavery, and they were unable to keep the whole of the land which He had promised. But we can also see that from God's side, His love, care and protection are still with them.

Ishmael was thirteen years old when he was circumcised along with his father Abraham and all the other men with them. But God made it clear that it was not through him that He was going to fulfil His promise, but through a son whom Abraham would have through Sarah. By now many years had passed since God had made the promise of a son and many descendants to Abraham. Abraham had become very old as had Sarah his wife who was ninety years old at this time. Abraham had reconciled himself to accept Ishmael as his heir and he pleaded with God to recognise Ishmael as such. But God was very clear. He had promised Abraham and Sarah a son, and Ishmael was not the one He had promised. The one God had in mind had to be one born to Abraham and Sarah in fulfilment of His promise.


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