"And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you." (Genesis 17:7 ESV)
The blessings of covenant. We see several blessings of God's covenant with Abraham: first, living before God in his righteousness: "...walk before me, and be blameless..." (17:1). Secondly, fruitfulness, seen in an ongoing legacy: "...father of a multitude of nations... kings shall come from you." (17:4-6) Thirdly, the promise of the presence of God: "...to be God to you and to your offspring after you... and I will be their God." (17:7-8). And finally, a good land to live in: "And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession..." (17:8).
Continuity of history. Notice that the blessings above are, and have been, God's plan for redeemed humanity from the beginning. Though the various historical covenants which God makes with his people have variations, they always move forward this same divine plan. See the ending of history in Revelation chapters 21 and 22, for example... the righteous rule of God, fruitfulness, the presence of God dwelling with us, and a beautiful new world. Even now as we walk with the Lord we "seek first his kingdom and his righteousness" (Matt 6:33), we desire to be fruitful (John 15:1ff; Gal 5:18ff), we walk in his presence (1 Cor 6:19), and we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth (2 Pet 3:13).
God gives new names to the couple: Abraham (17:5, meaning "father of a multitude") and Sarah (17:15, meaning "princess"). In the NT Jesus gave the name "Peter" (from Lat., "rock") to his disciple, Simon. When we belong to the Lord we, too, have a new name (Isa 62:2; Rev 2:17). God, as Creator and Redeemer, has the right to define our identity. Much of our Christian growth involves the re-shaping of our character and identity.
The sign of the covenant (17:10-14, 23-27). As a seal upon Abraham's faith, God gives the sign of circumcision. Jeremiah explains the spiritual meaning: "Circumcise yourselves to the LORD; remove the foreskin of your hearts,... lest my wrath go forth like fire, and burn with none to quench it, because of the evil of your deeds." (Jer 4:4 ESV) It is a symbol of belonging to God at the deepest level of being. For Christians, the outward symbols of our covenant with God are baptism and the Lord's Supper.
Isaac, the promised miracle child (17:18-21). The covenant lineage will proceed now through Isaac, though God will greatly bless Ishmael. It is through this family line that God's Son, the Christ, will come. Abraham's faithfulness to this ongoing covenant will be tested in Gen 22. The birth of Isaac, being supra-natural, was a foreshadowing of the supernatural (virgin) birth of Christ (Isa 7; Matt 1; Luke 1).
Chiasm of the Bible. So many themes from Genesis are woven like a tapestry throughout the rest of Scripture and find their conclusion in the book of Revelation. The image below is my understanding of the chiastic structure of history...
We are following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule found here.
Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.