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bible reading blog

genesis chapters 13-24

01/14/2019    |   Catherine Broadbooks

This week’s readings include some of the most messy in the Old Testament: Sarai “giving” Hagar to Abram to try to fulfill God’s covenant promise; Sarai sending the impregnated and smug Hagar away – and God sending her back; the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; Hagar and Ishmael being sent away permanently (with God’s blessing) after Ishmael mocks the newly weaned Isaac; and God asking Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering.


But in among all the drama, immediately after Hagar returns and gives birth to Ishmael, is a passage for our daily lives, a passage that reveals an aspect of God that can be for our every-day waiting times.


genesis 17:1-8



  1. Verse 1 of chapter 17 says, “When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lordappeared to Abram…” (all excerpts from ESV).  Chapter 17 ends with noting Abram’s age as 86.  Thirteen years have passed since God’s last recorded appearance to Abram.

  2. Abram was 75 when he first received the covenant promise of an heir. Twenty-four years have passed without the promised pregnancy.

  3. God reintroduces Himself: “I am God Almighty” (literally translated El-Shaddai). Humans work hard to try to explain God, yet this Name is God introducing Himself.  Therefore, it deserves extra attention.  Also, although “great God Almighty” exists as “light cursing,” it’s not humorous – this is one of Jehovah God’s proper names.

  4. God comes to elaborate on the original covenant with Abram:

    • Abram will be the father of many nations

    • His name will be changed to Abraham to reflect that promise (Abraham literally means “father of nations”).

    • This promise will be an everlasting covenant – a legal contract – with Abraham’s offspring (2x, verses 5, 6)

    • He will be God to Abraham’s offspring (2x, verses 7, 8)

    • Kings will come from Abraham’s lineage

    • The land of Canaan will be Abraham’s descendants’ everlasting possession.
      Who else other than El-Shaddai could make promises like these?

  5. Abraham falls on his face, for what other position could a person take in this circumstance?



  1. Am I faithful in the in-between years between spiritual “highs”?  January is a metaphor for these times in life, isn’t it?  We’ve just had all the best food, lots of good memories, beautiful lights… and then it’s all in boxes, the temperature drops, and skies are gray.  Abraham has been faithful in his January, another thirteen years… the un-notable, unrecorded thirteen years.  And God asks him in Genesis 17:1 to keep on: “walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” Just as with Abraham, a big part of being pleasing to the LORD Almighty, El-Shaddai is to walk before Him (see Proverbs 3:5-6, Micah 6:8). So many of my laundry-dishes-errand days can take on covenant promise if I walk before Him.

  2. El-Shaddai’s promises don’t happen in my timing. Abram and Sarai were already antsy eleven years after the original promise (see Genesis 12, then Genesis 16) – but it seemed they learned their lesson about trying to step in and solve what they perceived as the problem.  But oh!  Can you feel the waiting of over a decade?  Apparently, they hadn’t given up; they were finally in a trusting stance.  I want to be this patient as I wait for God’s promises to be fulfilled and faith to become sight.

  3. Do I doubt He is El-Shaddai, the Almighty, omnipotent One when I don’t get my way? How about when I see suffering that I don’t understand?  Two chapters later God is also El-Roi (the God who sees) and El-Shaddai when He hears and sees the outcry against Sodom and utterly destroys the city.  His justice will prevail in the long-run.  We are never told why God makes Abraham wait for Isaac’s conception, but the waiting doesn’t change who God is and how powerful He is.

  4. The more detailed legally binding agreement is the promise that includes me, Cherry Hills, Misael and Doris in Juarez, Greg Syverson and his friends in Pachuca, my friends Jung and Jun in Seoul, and on and on…Abraham is the Christian’s forefather (see Romans 4, 11). Hallelujah for this promise fulfilled of the multitude of nations as his offspring!

  5. As a parent, I think the promise to be God to Abraham’s offspring must have been so comforting. I am further blessed by the promise later repeated in Exodus 20:6 (that God will show His steadfast love to the one thousandth generation of those who love Him and keep His commandments). Also I desire this relationship – El Shaddai’s promise to show His love to my children and their children.

  6. Do I assume the same posture as Abraham before the LORD on a regular basis?  There is something about being on one’s face before the LORD in prayer that (in my experience) allows Him access to my heart in a different way.



El-Shaddai:  This Name You use in this passage makes me automatically need to confess that I doubt Your power in our messed-up world too often.  I confess that when I don’t get what I want, when evil seems so strong, I forget that You are stronger.  No circumstance can change the truth of who You are.


Your timing in Your promises being fulfilled also doesn’t change who You are or Your faithfulness.  We are impatient, but Your timing is always perfect.


I praise You for the ways You appear to us even today:  by opening our eyes to Your Word through Your Spirit (Luke 24); through nature (Psalms 19:1); through the encouragement of others (2 Corinthians 1) and many other various ways.  I praise You for the promises given that day to Abraham that still touch believers worldwide on this day.  I praise you that the promise wasn’t just for that generation or my generation, but for my children and their children too.


May I walk before you blamelessly through Your Spirit’s power – not only in the memorable episodes that are memorialized, but on the in between days and years of dishes and laundry and putting away Christmas and _____________________ (fill in with your activity).


Thank You for hearing our prayers.


In Your Son’s Name,