It’s been 13 years since the end of chapter 16. Abram is now 99 and Ishmael is 13. Perhaps Abram thought God had forgotten about him and the covenant (solemn pledge) He made with him in previous chapters. Here God not only restates the covenant, He does even more.
First, God changes Abram and Sarai’s names. Abram (exalted father) now is changed to Abraham (father of many) and Sarai is now changed to Sarah (princess).
The second change is much more painful. Circumcision is God’s way of having His sign of the covenant ‘attached’ to His people. Strange, eh? Through this cutting of flesh, through the blood, the sign of the covenant is made. Where ever the Israelites go, they can be identified from the Gentiles (non-Jews). Those of Abraham’s people who do not get circumcised are cut off from the people. So, in one way or another, people will be cut…either cut on or cut off.
Thinking ahead to the time of Moses, God will first cut His Ten Commandments into rock. Looking much farther ahead, to the time of Jesus, we see God’s covenant of love through the cutting of flesh as Jesus was beaten, whipped and nailed to a cross to die. Through His blood, the payment of sin is made, for Jews and Gentiles alike.
PRAYER: “Cut on me, O Lord. Make my life pure in Your sight. I am far from perfect but by Your Grace, You make me holy and righteous in Your sight. By Your Spirit, help me live each day for You, trusting in Your promises of love and life…forever. In the strong and precious name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.”