The Abrahamic Covenant
Dr. Joe Temple

God Speaks to Abram of Blessings to Come

Will you open your Bibles, please, to the book of Genesis, chapter 17. We have thought together about chapter 16 from a typical standpoint. I suggested that it should also be considered from a dispensational standpoint, and I gave you several passages of Scripture in the book of Galations that you could tie in with this passage. Since two chapters later there is a sequel to the story in chapter 16, I think it will be better to wait until we get to it and then consider the two chapters together dispensationally in the light of the book of Galatians. So we will look at chapter 17 now. We will read the Word. Then we will go back and consider what we have read, and try to learn that which the Lord has for us:

Genesis 17:

1And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.
2And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.
3And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,
4As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.
5Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.
6And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.
7And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.
8And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.
9And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.
10This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.
11And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.
12And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.
13He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.
14And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.
15And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be.
16And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her.
17Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?
18And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!
19And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.
20And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.
21But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.
22And he left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham.
23And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham's house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him.
24And Abraham was ninety years old and nine, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.
25And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.
26In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son.
27And all the men of his house, born in the house, and bought with money of the stranger, were circumcised with him.

By way of brief review, I would like to turn back to chapter 12 and notice the covenant God made with Abram.

He told Abram (his name then) that if he would get out of the country in which he lived and away from his kinfolk and from his father's house, and would go to a land that God would show him, He would make a great nation of him. He would bless him, He would make his name great, and he himself would be a blessing. God said that He would bless all them that would bless him and curse him that would curse him. In the last part of verse 3, He said:

Genesis 12:

3…and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

This was a very general promise that God made to Abram. We have discovered, as we have continued our study of the book of Genesis, that periodically God met with Abram and reiterated His covenant. Each time He did so, He added some detail that He had not given before. For example, you will notice in chapter 15:

Genesis 15:

1After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.

Abram carried on a conversation with God relative to the covenant that God had made with him, and then in verse 5:

Genesis 15:

5And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.

In chapter 12 it is a very general promise. In chapter 15 it becomes more specific. In chapter 16 it is emphasized again. Then in chapter 17 we have a reiteration of the original covenant with some very definite details. We shall notice those details as we go along.

God Visits Abram-A Theophany

To begin with, we want to notice in chapter 17 what I have told you is theologically referred to as a theophany. A theophany is an appearance of God upon the earth.

If you are not familiar with your Bibles, you are apt to think that the only time God came to earth was when He came in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, born as a babe in Bethlehem's manger. But we have reminded you that God has made a number of visits to the earth. Usually it has been to talk with a specific person. Notice chapter 17:

Genesis 17:

1And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.

We have suggested that every word in the original text of the Word of God is important. God does not waste words. We should not read this or any other verse in a general way without learning everything we can from the verse word-wise. I would call to your attention the phrase ninety years old and nine . Ninety-nine-years…that is very significant. God made this appearance to Abram when he was ninety-nine years old. What is so significant about it?

It had been thirteen years since God had made any appearance to Abram. When Ishmael was born, God made an appearance to Abram. Then for thirteen years there was no record of any appearance whatever. I do not think we have the right to read too much into what is left out of the Scripture, but I think, if you are familiar with the plan of the Word of God, you will recognize that silences in the Word of God are tremendously significant. For thirteen years, I am going to suggest, Abraham lived a barren and unfruitful life. As we learned in chapter 16, he tried to do in the flesh what God expected him to do in the Spirit. He tried to take things into his own hands and help God out, and God was not interested in his help.

I think that is indicated also in the manner in which God appeared to Abram, because if you will look at this first verse again:

Genesis 17:

1And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.

Notice the name that God gave Himself in this instance. I am the Almighty God. El Shaddai was the name by which He appeared to Abram. As we have pointed out, God has many names, and He is always careful to use the right name for the right occasion.

What does the name El Shaddai mean? It means, “I am the Self-sufficient One. I do not need any help from you, Abram. I do not need any help from Sarai. I am quite capable of performing My own miracles without any assistance from you. I am Self-sufficient.” El Shaddai means All-sufficient . “Abram, I am all-sufficient for this particular thing. You think you are past the age for child bearing? You are. You think Sarai is past the age for child bearing? She is, but I am sufficient. There is one thing you will have to learn, Abram, and that is that I am not governed by the laws of men. I am all-sufficient for anything that may arise at any time, and when you learn that, you will learn the most important lesson of your life, Abram.”

The Faith We Need - Forsaking All, I Take Him

He could have included every one of us in this. Do you realize how long it was from chapter 12 to chapter 17? It was twenty-five years. Do you realize how long God made Abram wait before He answered his prayer? It was twenty-five years. I do not want you to answer this question, because I am asking it rhetorically, but I wonder how long you have waited for an answer to some of your prayers? How long? “Too long,” you say. “Why must I wait that long? Why?”

There are a number of reasons. We cannot cover them all in one lesson, but I do want to suggest one thing. Sometimes God makes us wait for the answer to our prayers until we come to the end of ourselves. Otherwise, God could never get the glory.

You see, Abram and Sarai were conniving Christians. We are using the term Christians broadly. Have you ever met any conniving Christians? Maybe you are one and do not know it. A conniving Christian is a Christian who is not willing to let God work His plan out in His way, but feels that he must help God out. He connives in so many ways to help and assist God. Then when it is all over, in spite of himself, he enjoys seeing what he and God were able to work out. God does not get all the glory.

Abram and Sarai were both of that nature. Remember when they went down into Egypt? God had told Abram, “I am thy shield and exceeding great reward. Count on me. I will take care of you.” Sarai was a beautiful woman, and Abraham said, “I believe we had better help God out of this situation. I think the best thing to do is to tell folk you are my sister instead of my wife. If we tell them you are my wife, they will kill me to get you.” Do you see how they were trying to help God out?

Then you remember that God had promised that a child would be born to Abram. They waited thirteen years. Then Sarai, bless her heart, said, “You know, I have been thinking, Abram. I believe that one ought to work and pray. I believe one ought to put feet under his prayer. I believe now that God does not expect to do everything. He expects us to do something, so I have got a little plan worked out.”

She had it worked out, all right! God in His mercy and grace let them have their way, and then He made them wait thirteen years longer. By this time, twenty-five years from the time the promise was given, there was not much point in conniving, because they were past the point where conniving would do any good. They had to throw themselves completely on God.

When I suggest that perhaps the reason God does not answer your prayers as soon as you would like is that He has to wait until you get to the end of yourself so He can have all the glory. Do you know that God is jealous of His glory? That is the only thing of which the Bible says God is jealous. You can steal His money, and He will not kill you. You can lie, cheat, and murder, and He does not visit in judgment, but He cannot stand for anyone to take His glory. That is when He sometimes makes us wait.

You say, “I did not know all of that was in the first verse.” If you will look at it again, I think you will see that this is what He had in mind:

Genesis 17:

1And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.

Be Thou Perfect In Faith Through Complete Faith In God

God says, “Be thou perfect, and walk before Me from here on out.” Be thou perfect is a tremendous phrase and a tremendous command. How often commentators, translators, and preachers attempt to walk around this word. If you have a marginal reference Bible, you will notice that in the margin it is suggested that you can use the word upright instead of perfect . Some marginal reference Bibles suggest that instead of perfect you can use the word honest . Well, that is not correct. The word in the Hebrew which is translated perfect is everywhere translated perfect , and it means just that.

But someone says, “That concerns me, because I do not believe that there is a perfect person on the earth.” Well, I don't either. The thing you need to keep in mind here is that the word perfect ….I want you to get this because it is important…is a relative word. It is not speaking of total perfection. It is speaking of perfection in the sphere under discussion.

Be Thou Perfect In Love Through Love for God, His Word, and Others

Let me illustrate what I mean. Turn with me, please, to the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 5, verse 43:

Matthew 5:

43Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
44But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
45That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
46For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
47And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
48Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Notice the phrase, be perfect as your Father . What is He talking about? He has just told them what the Father does. The Father makes the sun to rise on the evil, and He makes the sun to rise on the good. He makes the rain to come down on the just, and He makes the rain to come down on the unjust. He makes no difference between the two.

The Lord Jesus is making an appeal here for His followers to be perfect in this sphere, perfect as God is perfect in manifestation of love to everyone, whether friend or foe. He is not asking for sinlessness. He is asking for perfect love.

Though many of us may not realize the practical experience of perfect love, it is a possibility. If it were not a possibility, God would not expect it. How may it become a possibility in our lives? Turn to the First Epistle of John, if you will, and notice in chapter 2 a suggestion as to how you can be perfect in love:

I John 2:

5But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.

Do you want the love of God to be perfect in your life? Do you want to be made mature and complete in your Christian experience? Then walk in obedience to the Word. Perfect love is possible.

Now turn to the First Epistle of John, chapter 4, and notice verse 16:

I John 4:

16And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.
17Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.

Literally, that verse should read:

I John 4:

17Herein has love been made perfect…

This speaks of the perfect manifestation of the love of God through His sacrifice of His Son on the Cross.

I John 4:

18There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
19We love him, because he first loved us.
20If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
21And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

Glance back at verse 12:

I John 4:

12No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

So we find how to be perfect in the sphere of love: first, by obedience to the Word of God. How does that help our love to be perfect? It keeps us in fellowship. If we are in fellowship, the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, because love is the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22).

How is love made perfect in our lives? Love is made perfect in our lives by the practice of love. The more we love, the more perfect we become in this sphere.

You may think we have gotten far afield, but we haven't. The reason we have turned to these passages of Scripture is that when God said to Abram, “Walk thou before me and be thou perfect,” He was not talking about sinlessness. He was talking about perfection in the sphere of love.

Be Thou Perfect Through Experience

Will you turn with me, please, to the Philippian letter for another illustration that may clarify what we have discussed. Paul has just been talking about deep fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ, experiencing His suffering and the power of His resurrection. In verse 12, he says:

Philippians 3:

12Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
13Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
14I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
15Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.

Notice that in verse 12 he said, “I am not perfect.” Someone says, “See, even Paul said he was not sinless.” He is not talking about sinlessness. It is not even the subject of discussion. He is talking about experiencing the power of the resurrection of Christ…the fellowship of his sufferings . He said, “I am not perfect in that respect. I have not fully entered into the suffering of Christ. I have not fully experienced the power of resurrection in my life, but I am looking forward to attaining that experience of perfect fellowship.”

In verse 15 he is still talking about perfection. He says, “Those who are perfect in this respect, pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, let us bear this in mind. Let us strive for this particular thing.”

He (God) Is Faithful Who Promised

Going back now to the book of Genesis, chapter 17, when God said to Abram, “Walk thou before me and be thou perfect,” He was talking about a certain sphere of activity. Let us read with that in mind and see if it doesn't become a bit clearer, paraphrasing a bit:

“When Abram was ninety years old and nine (after thirteen years of silence as far as God was concerned), the Lord appeared to Abram and said unto him, I am the self-sufficient God, Abram. I don't need your help. I am the all-sufficient God, Abram. Nothing is too hard for me. Walk thou before me and be perfect in the matter of faith. Be perfect in the matter of trusting me. Quit trying to work things out for yourself. Leave it to me. I am the One who is able to do what I have promised.”

That is evidently the thought of the passage, because in verse 2 He says:

Genesis 17:

2And I will make my covenant between me and thee…

Between me and thee, not between anybody else. We don't need Sarai's help. And just on the basis of this covenant between me and thee…

Genesis 17:

2…I will multiply thee exceedingly.
3And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,

Notice now:

Genesis 17:

4As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.

Throughout the chapter, God reiterated, “Abram, this is a private matter between Me and you. You cannot do anything about it. You are absolutely helpless. You will have to sit back and let Me do it.”

“Abram” to “Abraham”

He repeats the words, I will seven different times, and each time He uses the words I will He amplifies the original covenant that was made in chapter 12. We will not have time to notice every single verse, but in verse 5 God changed the name Abram, which means Father , to Abraham, which means Father of Multitudes . “You will not be just a prince in your own household. You will be a father of multitudes.”

In verse 6, He told Abraham something He had never told him before:

Genesis 17:

6And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.

In verse 7 He mentions that this is an everlasting covenant, not only for Abraham and his immediate seed, Isaac, but for succeeding generations. In verse 9, He emphasizes that the land will not only be given to Abram and his immediate seed, Isaac, but it will be given for an everlasting possession to his posterity.

This is why the Jews have a right to the land of Palestine today. The Balfour Declaration was preceded by a treaty much more ancient…the treaty that God made with Abraham when He said, “The land shall be yours for an everlasting possession.”

“Sarai” to “Sarah”

Glance at verse 15:

Genesis 17:

15And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be.

Sarah means princess . The reason He changed her name to Princess is found in verse 16:

Genesis 17:

16And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her…

This is the first time that God has said definitely that Sarah would be the mother of Isaac. He promised a son to Abraham, but He had not said definitely that Sarah would be the mother.

Abraham and Sarah

It is true that when Abraham and Sarah tried to take things into their own hands and tried to make Hagar the mother of the seed, God said, “I will not approve of that.” But He still did not tell them what He wantd. Now He tells them, “Sarah shall be the mother of the seed.”

Abraham Awed by God's Promise

In verse 17:

Genesis 17:

17Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?

Look at this verse carefully. Someone may say, “How could Abraham laugh on a solemn occasion like this? How could he make fun when he was in the very presence of God?” The word translated laughed here is a word that does not include the rediculous. It includes amazement. It is just as though Abraham fell on his face with an exclamation of utter amazement! He was not making fun. He was amazed that God would even suggest such a thing…that he, who was nearly a hundred years old, could procreate a child, and that Sarah, who was ninety years old, could give birth to a child. He laughed. In verse 19, God said:

Genesis 17:

19And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac:…

Isaac means laughter . As a matter of fact, if you want to read verse 17 very literally, you could say, “Then Abraham fell upon his face, and 'Isaaced'.” Isaac means laughter, and God said that when the child should be born, He wanted them to name him Isaac. “I want you to call him Laughter,” God said, “that is, amazement. Every time you look at him, I want you to be amazed at the all-sufficient God.”

We can understand that, can't we? How many times have we said, “I asked God to do it, and I am just amazed at what God has done!” We do not mean that we are making fun. We do not mean that we do not believe that God is able to do it. We mean that it never becomes old and humdrum to us when God answers prayer in a mighty way.

I want to digress for a minute to give an illustration that the Spirit of God has brought to my mind. Kathleen Ray, our missionary in Central America, has written to us this week about an amazing answer to prayer. It has been very dry there in Central America, and their school is located in a sizeable acreage. They looked out the window while they were teaching classes and saw that the forest and the pastures were all ablaze, and that the wind was whipping the blaze toward the school. One of the men at the school, a worker or a teacher, jumped into his jeep and ran down to the city and got some men to come up to help fight the fire. A bunch of older boys and men went out to fight the fire, but the fire was coming right on toward the school. One of the women teachers was out helping to fight the fire, and the fire complete surrounded her. They called to her to run this way and that way…to run through the ring of fire. Her fright was so great that she stood frozen to the spot, and she had to be rescued. Kathleen had the very small children, and she could not leave them. She said she looked out the window and saw the fire coming closer to the school, and she turned to the boys and girls and said, “Boys and girls, we are too little to help. We are too little to do anything, but we can pray. God can stop that fire.” And they went to prayer. She led the children in prayer. As soon as she could, she stepped outside, and one of the lady missionaries was sitting on the ground with her face in her hands, weeping. She said, “We have seen a miracle. That fire was coming closer and closer, and suddenly for no reason at all the wind changed and swept the fire across the pasture another way. It was just on the verge of taking all the buildings.” The woman said, “I have never seen anything like it. What a strange thing!” Kathleen said, “Well, prayer changes things. I am amazed, but it works.”

You see, even in the midst of a miracle like that, amazement! That is the thing Abraham felt here, and that is what I want you to get. I do not want you to think he was making fun. He was just amazed that God would suggest that he could do such a thing.

Notice how, even in the most spiritual circumstances, the flesh creeps up again. Have you ever had a very blessed time with the Lord in prayer, and have said, “I am never going to disobey God again. I am just on the mountain top.” Then before you had time even to turn around, something happened and knocked you right down to the bottom again. Have you had experiences like that? You find yourself saying something of which you are ashamed. You thought surely you would never speak like that again.

Abraham Pleads for God to Bless Ishmael

Here was Abraham in the midst of this glorious experience, and in verse 18, notice what he said:

Genesis 17:

18And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!

“Lord, Ishmael is thirteen years old. Let's use him. He is already here, and it would be so much simpler. Lord, let him be the one. Let all the promises rest on Ishmael. O that Ishmael might live before thee!”

Isn't it true that, even in the face of great promises, we take the line of least resistance? Isn't it true that a great many times we do what we do in the flesh because we do not want to pay the price of trusting God? Abraham's prayer was, “O that Ishmael might live before thee!”

Genesis 17:

19And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.
20And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.
21But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.

“Abraham, I have My plans, and I am going to carry out my plans in spite of all your suggestions. You suggest Ishmael, but it is Isaac, and it has always been Isaac, and it will always be Isaac.”

Notice how very definite God gets. We pray so indefinitely, don't we? I sometimes wonder whether, instead of a mark of humility when we add the phrase “If it be Thy will” when we are through praying, we don't add it to give ourselves an out if God does not answer our prayer. Then we can say, “I don't suppose it was God's will anyway.” You know, there are some things we can pray about and not have to say, “If it be Thy will.” It is His way, and we should learn to believe Him.

Notice in this instance how very definite God is:

Genesis 17:

21But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.

Do you see how definite and distinct God is? Twenty-five years ago God just said, “Abram, you are going to be a father,” and He did not tell him when. He did not tell him how long he would have to wait. Now He is saying it will be one more year, and that is all. The set time is next year, and Isaac will be born. God intended to keep His word.

There is one other lesson in prayer that I would like for us to notice from this chapter before we leave it. Notice verse 20:

Genesis 17:

20And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee…

Abraham said in verse 18, “O that Ishmael might live before thee!” Now God says, “I heard you about Ishmael.” Notice how God answers our prayers sometimes. He did not say He was going to change His plans. He said, “I heard your prayer about Ishmael, and I am going to answer your prayer, but not in your way. I am going to answer it in Mine.”

May we learn that. Sometimes, though it appears that God does not answer our prayer, He is answering it. He is just not answering it the way we prayed it. As Paul reminds us in his letter to the Romans, “We know not what we should pray for as we ought to pray.” None of us does, so the Holy Spirit has to interpret our prayers. That is what happened here.

Abraham prayed, “O that Ishmael might live before thee!” God said, “I have other plans for Ishmael.” Isn't it amazing, when you look at verse 20, how God overrules the mistakes of men? Have you ever made a mistake, a costly mistake? This is a costly mistake that Abraham made, yet he did not scurry around and feel, “I guess that mistake will haunt me the rest of my days. I guess I will have to pay for it forever.” Have you ever felt that way?

God has a blessed way of overruling mistakes. That is what He did here. He said, “I have heard thee, and I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. Twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.” Isn't that a tremendous thing to come out of a mistake? Twelve princes, a great nation, and all because of a mistake, mind you. That is how God overrules.

There is a passage of Scripture in the book of Joel that has always been a great blessing to my heart. God was talking to the nation of Israel about all their mistakes and all the sad things that had happened to them. He said, “When you get ready to come back to me, and are ready to do what I want you to do, then I will restore the years that the locusts have eaten.” Isn't that a wonderful promise? He was talking about how the locusts, because of the Israelite's sin, had come in and eaten up all their harvest, year after year after year. They lost their harvests until they were down to nothing. Then God said, “I am ready to restore the years that the locusts have eaten.”

I think that is true materially. I think that God can bring us down to the bottom where we are absolutely penniless because of our self-will and because of our sin. Then when we get right with Him, He can make up for it. He can do in six months' time what it might take us twenty years to do. He is able to restore the years that the locusts have eaten.

But I want us to think of it in a spiritual way. How many lives do you know who started out so well for God, yet have fallen by the wayside? They have lost interest in spiritual things. There is no sign of spiritual activity. You feel that it is a hopeless thing. Well, it is not hopeless. Keep on praying. Keep on holding on to God, and God will bring them to Himself.

Remember that God made Abraham wait twenty-five years. God is able to restore those twenty-five years. He is able to bless in such a marvelous way that the years the locusts have eaten can be restored in half the time.

I am grateful for God's overruling Providence. That is the spiritual message of the passage.


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