When Moses went to Pharaoh with God’s demand for the release of the Israelites, Pharaoh asked (not unreasonably), “Who is Yahweh?” And Moses might have said, “Well, it’s a long story…”
Part 5 (Genesis 17)
What does Abraham gain from this covenant? It seems to be very one-sided: God makes all the demands, and Abraham has to do the obeying. And the promise of a son has been dangled in front of him for so long without any sign of fulfilment that it seems as if it will never happen.
But… the long years of waiting are almost over, for God’s time has come. Abraham’s change of name is significant: it is a tangible reminder that knowing God changes us. It is also prophetic: it embodies God’s promise to him, and will be a witness of that promise to everyone he meets. Abraham will indeed become “a father of many nations.” (Genesis 17:5) He will be not only the physical ancestor of the Jews, but also the spiritual ancestor of all those who put their trust in God (Romans 4:16). “He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed – the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.” (Romans 4:17)
Naturally speaking, an elderly couple such as Abraham and Sarah have no hope of parenthood. God’s promise seems too good to be true – but we, like Abraham, can trust God to bring life out of death in order to fulfil His promises. The God who enabled a barren old woman to conceive is the same God who called the world into existence in the beginning, the same God who raised Jesus to life – and the same God who will resurrect us at the end of time.