Sunday Gathering – Genesis – Covenant  – Nick Lugg – Sermon Only
May 5, 2024

Sunday Gathering – Genesis – Covenant – Nick Lugg – Sermon Only

Passage: Genesis 17

Summary of Sermon: Covenant by Nick

This sermon explores the story of Abraham and Sarah from Genesis 17, focusing on the concept of God's covenant and its enduring promises.

Key Points:

  • God's timing: The passage highlights the vast amount of time that can pass between God's promises and their fulfillment. We can get discouraged by waiting, but God's faithfulness endures. (Genesis 16 & 17)
  • Resilient Faith: The long wait for a child teaches us about the importance of holding onto faith and God's promises even when there seems to be no progress. (Romans 4:17-21)
  • God initiates the relationship: God is the one who pursues a relationship with us, revealing Himself and offering His blessings. (Genesis 17:1)
  • God's Sovereignty: We are not God. There's a healthy reverence and humility required in our relationship with Him. (Genesis 17:3)
  • The Power of Names: Names and labels can influence our perception. God changes Abram's name to Abraham signifying a shift in his identity and future. (Genesis 17:5)
  • Transformation: God desires to transform us from the inside out. We can hold ourselves back by clinging to past limitations. (Gideon - Judges 6:11-16)
  • Promises vs. Feelings: God's promises are not contingent on our emotions. We can rely on His faithfulness even when we doubt or feel discouraged. (Genesis 17:1-8)
  • Signs of the Covenant: Circumcision served as a physical reminder of God's covenant with Abraham. God gives us various signs to bolster our faith. (Genesis 17:11)


  • The author uses contemporary examples like service awards and long-term friendships to illustrate God's faithfulness despite the passage of time.
  • The story of Zacchaeus from the Gospels demonstrates how God takes the initiative in relationships.


  • We are encouraged to develop a resilient faith that trusts in God's promises even when facing challenges.
  • We should acknowledge God's sovereignty and majesty in our worship.
  • The sermon challenges us to examine the labels we place on ourselves and be open to God's transformative work.
  • We can rely on God's enduring promises regardless of our emotional state.

Verses Referenced:

  • Genesis 16:1-16
  • Genesis 17:1-27
  • Romans 4:17-21
  • Judges 6:11-16



Thank you very much and excellent foundation this morning to what I want to say from the
team so thank you Stephen team as well for leading us in worship that way we've already
we've raced to Genesis chapter 17. So right into the heart of the story of Abram and
Sarah I and remember Karen spoke very challenging last week about the birth of Ishmael and
how that came about. And so if you do have a Bible or a phone or iPad or whatever it
is figured up to Genesis 17 and we'll read it so we get some context into what I want
to say this morning. So Genesis 17 from verse 1. When Abram was 99 years old the Lord appeared
to him and said I am El Shaddai God almighty serve me faithfully and live a blameless life.
I will make a covenant with you by which I will guarantee to give you countless descendants.
At this Abram fell face down on the ground then God said to him this is my covenant with you
I will make you the father of a multitude of nations what's more I am changing your name
it will no longer be Abram instead you will be called Abraham for you will be the father of
many nations I will make you extremely fruitful your descendants will become many nations and kings
will be among them I will confirm my covenant with you and your descendants after you from
generation to generation this is the everlasting covenant I will always be your God and the God
of your descendants after you and I will give the entire land of Canaan where you now live as a
foreigner to you and your descendants it will be their possession forever and I will be their God
then God said to Abraham your responsibility is to obey the terms of the covenant
you and all your descendants have this continual responsibility this is the covenant that you
and your descendants must keep each male among you must be circumcised you must cut off the
flesh of your foreskin as a sign of the covenant between me and you from generation to generation
every male child must be circumcised on the eighth day after his birth this applies not only to
members of your family but also to the servants born in your household and the foreign-born servants
whom you have purchased all must be circumcised your bodies will bear the mark of my everlasting
covenant any male who fails to be circumcised will be cut off from the covenant family for
breaking the covenant then God said to Abraham regarding Sarah your wife her name will no longer
be Sarah from now on her name will be Sarah and I will bless her and give you a son from her
yes I will bless her richly and she will become the mother of many nations kings of nations will
be among her descendants then Abraham bowed down to the ground but he laughed to himself in disbelief
how could I become a father at the age of a hundred he thought and how can Sarah have a baby when
she is 90 years old so Abraham said to God may Ishmael live under your special blessing
but God replied no Sarah your wife will give birth to a son for you you will name him Isaac and I
will confirm my covenant with him and his descendants as an everlasting covenant as for Ishmael I'll
bless him also just as you have asked I will make him extremely fruitful and multiply his descendants
he will become the father of twelve princes and I will make him a great nation but my covenant
will be confirmed with Isaac who will be born to you and Sarah about this time next year when
God had finished speaking he left Abraham on that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and every
male in his household including those born there and those he had bought then he circumcised them
cutting off their foreskin's just just as God had told him Abraham was 99 years old when he
was circumcised and Ishmael his son was 13 both Abraham and his son Ishmael were circumcised on
that same day along with all the other men and boys of the household whether they were born there
or bought a servants or were circumcised with him that's the story Genesis 17 the title is
covenant but I've broken down going through that passage broken it down into a number of different
sections so we've just got some some points that we can draw from in terms of our application
and our understanding of the story and the first thing that I want us to think about is
that God's word and God's promises over our lives have no sell by date you don't get to a point
where you think well yeah that was then but this is now you know that that is sort of worn out now
it doesn't you know God may have said that in the past but but I think things have moved on
we've progressed we've gone to a new situation a new reality and maybe the promise doesn't carry
the same weight as it once did and one thing that's easy to miss with these accounts in Genesis
has been pointed out over the last few weeks is just how long the span of time is between
the events Karen spoke last week about the events leading up to the birth of Ishmael and here that
was in chapter 16 and in chapter 17 Ishmael is 13 years old already it's like super fast forward
I was saying we've raced to chapter you know 17 this this is a long period of time
and we still haven't seen the fulfillment of the original promise given to Abram
Abram and Sarah as they were then messed it up as Karen pointed out they and they involved Haegar
in a in a plot to try and try and manipulate God's blessing and to work out how it would
how the promise could actually be brought about according to their own understanding
and God said no that's not the way it's going to be I'm going to bless you from a son from
your own body and yet 13 years later we still haven't seen it
when Erika spoke she talked about there being 25 years between the promise the original promise
that Abram would have a son and the birth of Isaac 25 years is a decent amount of time isn't it
it's not as long now as it once seemed but it's still a long time
teaches me about and us about the longevity the length the span of time that God's promises
can cover they can span years decades and they're still as valid today as they were the day they
were given and we're an instant-minded people aren't we we if we send a text or a WhatsApp and we
haven't had a reply in 20 minutes we think what's wrong what's wrong with those people
haven't they maybe I better send them another one or send them a different one if you send
a WhatsApp try a text message or then an email maybe even radically give them a ring
they've seen the message there's two blue ticks and they haven't written back
why aren't they answering I've got a number of friends now that I've turned off that blue tick
thing so you never know with it yeah maybe we'll give them a nudge I remember we used to get a
gold watch or a carriage clock when you've done 25 years service in a company my son my youngest
son started a new job last May and this week he got his long service award
he did personal letter from the CEO congratulations on on finishing a year
we're not very good at allowing the passage of time are we without wanting something dramatic to
show for it I mean he did laugh I like his perspective he did they understand it was a funny thing
long service award for a free I don't know what they're expecting
but these accounts ground us in the fact that God's work in our lives take a lifetime
faith in Jesus is a long game I keep referring see I'm really good on I listen to what everybody
said Chris spoke many weeks ago and said about a long obedience in the same direction I've read
that book as well the world my world looks very different from when I was 16 and when I first came
to faith it's four years so so much has changed but things God spoke to me then are still being
worked out now and some haven't even come to be I found in the attic the other day a number of
prophetic words I got in about 1988 and it was it's fascinating to see that these things still
carry weight they still stand and I wonder if you struggle when God seems slow or even seems to
have forgotten about you all together Genesis teaches us that just because nothing's happening
doesn't mean nothing's happening God allows our lives to unfold and he doesn't seem to be
worried by taking time Charles Slagle once said that God is extremely slow but he's never late
he doesn't give us updates or commentary he told them 13 years ago actually you've got it wrong
Ishmael is not the blessing there's going to be a son from your body 13 years later they're still
waiting there haven't been there haven't been daily updates or you know like we get from Steve
we get emails from Steve keeping us up to date with what's going on in case we in case we lose
heart that God doesn't seem to to operate in the same way Steve but he's building strong
resilient people who have the strength to hold on to him and his word even when there's no external
disco even when there's no external encouragement even when we don't actually get the updates
even when we don't know we haven't got you know our latest sort of nugget of encouragement from God
or from anybody else can we keep holding on can we keep resilient can we keep our eyes focused on
the promise on our understanding of what God has said we struggle don't we in that in the African
churches which we've been so much a part over the years there's the thing where somebody was
out God is good if he was there all the time and all the time God is good because that is his
nature and it's a wonderful declaration but it's something in our in our sort of society that we
can start to undermine and we can start to question and say yeah but there's all this that's happened
and that's that happened but there's something about those statements and those declarations that
are so important to actually say that yes God is good he's good throughout the span of time he's
good throughout every change in our circumstances he's good in sickness and he's good in health
he's good in poverty and he's good in wealth he's good all the time and there's a resilience
and a strength that is needed in our hearts in order for us to navigate the life of faith and
particularly in the times that we live in we have to be those that can hold on resiliently
and rigidly onto onto the Word of God and say that we know what he said and we know what he
would do and we will not be knocked sideways or blown around by everything that happens to us or
everything that can come or everything that might undermine our faith we say know that we know
that we know the God who we have believed so what Paul said didn't he I know who I have believed
and I'm persuaded that he is able that's nothing to do with feelings that's nothing to do with
what might happen tomorrow that's to do with what we know what we know deep in our hearts
what we've been persuaded and what we've come to the settled realization about that God is good and
faithful in Romans it tells us the story about Abraham Abraham they said he faced the fact that
his body was as good as dead and yet against all hope in hope believed and so became the father of
many nations he faced facts and yet still believed can we face facts and still believe still hold on
still choose faith still choose joy still choose that overcoming attitude to endure confusion and
loss and hold firmly to what we know about God always challenged by the the accounts in the book
of Acts about people like Silas and Paul when they were whipped and they were flogged and they were
they were thrown in a dungeon and they were locked in stocks and there was there was there was nothing
good about their situation and yet they were able to respond with joy they were able to respond with
worship because they knew that they're God they they knew who they had believed and were persuaded
in every way that he was good that he was faithful and that he would do what he had promised and
that whatever happened to their lives God's promises would stand and that's the situation
that we have and that's the the type of people that God is wanting to build in us we need to be
tough we need to be tough people tough for tough in our faith tough in our resilience tough in
our ability to hold on to the word of God and you don't need me to tell you that life has its own
curveballs it has its own challenges it has unexpected twists and turns the question is will
we stand when those things come will we know that God's promise is not undermined it's not set aside
it's not forgotten but it stands in our lives secondly our relationship with God is his idea and not
ours God appeared to Abraham and didn't just speak but gave him his name I am El Shaddai God
Almighty that's a real big deal for someone fought for God to come to Abraham and reveal his name not
just say you know give me sacrifices give me worship give me loyalty give me give me your stuff give me
all those things he's actually I'm going to give you my name I'm going to give you my presence I'm
going to give you my who I am could be reticent about using our first and English people can
be can't we we're a bit more relaxed here you know I I am Nick or whatever you know but in in
tradition we we don't like to keep our powder dry a little bit who we are we we we're a little bit
more formal Americans are very relaxed about it all but giving our name it's a bit like the
lifting of the veil this is who I am it reveals something about ourselves all the local tribes
had their gods that they offered sacrifices to but he was God Almighty drawing closes and this is
who I am I'm going to give myself to you Abraham through no for no reason except that I'm choosing
to do it and the Bible is a story of how God has revealed himself to us and his intention to be
known by us we think we hold ourselves back who think I'm not good enough I'm not strong enough
I'm not faith filled enough I'm not you know I don't think I can really aspire to a relationship
with God and yet we find God has actually come to us and revealed himself to us of his own
volition and his own choice I am El Shaddai God Almighty God's idea to have a friendship with you
not yours so when you think I don't know if I could be a very good friend of God
go say well I'm being your friend
I want to be a friend with you and yet we disqualify ourselves when it is actually God who has approached
us God who has revealed himself to us God who has gone before us and lavished us with mercy and grace
you look at yourself and you say well who am I that God should know me that you know that I could
I could even think maybe I'm just on the edges I'll look just like Zacchaeus in the tree and he was he
didn't even qualify himself he didn't want to introduce himself to Jesus he just wanted to see
what was going on and so he climbed up like a spectator in life and looking down just to see
if he could benefit from just seeing what Jesus was doing with his real friends and in the middle
of it all Jesus looked up pointed at him and called in my name and says Zacchaeus come down
because I'm coming to your house I'm coming to your house not would you like to come to my house
I'm coming to yours he's very bold Jesus wasn't he wasn't very English I'm coming round
get the kettle on
that's the position of security we're in
we are safe we are secure we are blessed because our blessing is from God to us
not the other way around that he comes to us and he says I am God almighty of all the people to
introduce themselves to us God almighty makes himself known to us made himself known to Abraham
thirdly God is God and we are not sounds obvious doesn't it but it's easy to forget God is God
and we are not
verse three at this Abraham fell face down on the ground God spoke to him and Abraham didn't speak
back he fell face down on the ground and God said to him this is my covenant with you and
explained the terms of the covenant God has come to us and he's announced himself to us and his
desire to have a relationship with us but it doesn't sort of put us on a unequal as somebody once said
he's God almighty not God almighty so there he comes so close and there's such an opportunity for us
but yet there was something in the revelation that Abraham received that caused him not to just
say all right God let's have a chat he got down on his face on the ground and then God spoke to him
and there's something about that relationship that we need to I think that was reflected in
some of the songs that we chose this morning the the power and the glory and the majesty
of who God is is so vital for us in our relationship with him because we have we're
invited into a beautiful relationship with him we're invited into his promises we're invited into
his blessing but we have to remember who we are and who he is and we have and there must be always
that dynamic of worship between us you know we have that thing people will say well when I see God
I'm going to have a word with him and I'm going to I'm going to ask him a few questions I'm going
to sit him down and he's going to answer me these things we think well okay we'll see how that works
out because there is a difference there is a difference between God and us there's a difference
between the eternal and the flesh there's a difference and we have to know it and we have to respond
to it we are free in our relationship with God but we have to know who he is he is God and we are
not Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and from that time
they decided we're going to decide now what's good and you find it now don't you people will say
well if God is going to say this and if God is going to say that then you won't find me worshiping
him I couldn't worship a God like that there are even people that will that will assert that
what God has said is evil or wrong or not progressive or not modern enough or whatever it is
and we have to understand that whatever we think we are not the judges of God
and Abraham fell down on his face and then God spoke to him that was the position from which
God spoke to him and there is that in our hearts where we have to know that we are we are who we
are before God in order that God might speak to us we are not God God is God Simon Peter when he
had interacted with Jesus he knew who Jesus was they were friends together they'd done all sorts
of things together but when there was a revelation about who Jesus was who this was standing in front
of him he said go away from me Lord because I'm a sinful man
Isaiah when he saw God himself he said
woe to me because I am a man of unclean lips and I live amongst the people of unclean lips
there is a conviction that comes just by being in the presence of God and we need to be prepared
for that and ready for that because that is the reality of what it means to be worshipers a revival
of worship that will turn us inside out and put us down on our faces it challenges the natural
arrogance of our hearts as we come to terms with what it means I am God Almighty
and that immediately affects the way that we interact and the way that we relate with God
thirdly or fourthly or fifthly I can't remember how many we've done
three thank you God changes our names or changes names and he changes outcomes he changes the labels
that are put upon our lives Abram's name was changed from Abram exalted father to Abraham
father of many after 25 years things were beginning to happen at long last
God said this time next year you will have a son and I'm changing your name from Abram
to Abraham exalted father to father of men it's a good label Abram was a good name not a bad name
and he said there's a change of gear now we are we are moving from from from one position to another
where we are looking at the eternal blessing with the eternal promise this son you thought you'd
worked it out Isaac each male was born and all of that but then none of that is gonna is gonna
is gonna affect the eternal promise but it's Isaac who will be the source of the blessing
and so Abraham's name was changed to accommodate the word over his life and future names and labels
matter and names and labels can keep us rooted in the past or they can build faith for the future
and our understanding and then there's so many things that we might it might be our actual name
came across a child in our sad situation in our time in Zambia and when we asked the child's name
we were told it was rubbish that was that was the name of the child and and it was such a
such a terrible you know it's almost like something you throw away and yet and so
people of faith and I think the family came to faith as well and they decided to change the name
of the child to blessings or gift gift that's what it was gift not something but you know those
simple things like that matter our names your name might mean something it might it might not
is something that parents do these days a lot more than they used to do look into the meanings of
names and what it all means on sort of want to our aspirations and our expectations our hopes
for our children so we'll let's encompass it in a name I think Nicholas means great leader or something
look it up later
but we can label ourselves in our in our hearts and our emotions we can say well this is just what
I am this is who I am this is what I've always been this is what I'll always be it's interesting
how they stick isn't it I was fascinating you know the Jesus had had supper in the home of a
man called Simon the leper he was someone who'd been healed but he was he's still carried that
that label but there are things from our things from our past things from our
our understanding of ourselves things from our upbringing that shape our expectation of what we
can be and what God can do in our lives and God himself comes to right at the beginning of history
comes to Abram says I'm going to change your name to Abram because I know that names matter
and know that labels matter and and it's true of us today that there is so much that can
can be encompassed in the labels that are placed upon us whoever controls the labels controls the
outcome and we need to hear what God is calling us not what we call ourselves he would come to Gideon
in the Old Testament while he was hiding away threshing wheat in a wine press an impossible
thing to do and he said the Lord is with you mighty warrior and he looked out and he said
I'm anything but a mighty warrior but that was what was spoken over him Jesus would change
Simon's name I tell you you are now Peter and on this rock I'll build my church
so much that is carried in the in the names that we that we have and very often we look back and we
judge ourselves and we shape ourselves and we make the the Abram was limited by the by his
imagination in terms of what he understood of himself and God was coming in and saying no I'm
going to stretch your imagination and God wants to stretch our imagination about what is possible
about what grace can mean in our lives about what transformation can look like you know we talk
the message of transformation but we don't often really grab hold of what it means to be transformed
from the inside out that we we have a gospel of transformation but we really expect to be the
same we year after year after year and yet there is an opportunity and I know there are people in
here that could give testimony after testimony of how God has transformed them from one place to
another but we want to see that multiplied over and over again and one of the things that will be
the key to that is if we are prepared to change the labels over our lives and our expectations
over what can happen even the good things there are many good things many transitions
that we go through in life from one good thing to another and yet it's that previous good thing
that can hold us back whether it's a a life change of direction or change of employment
retirement whatever it is there can be all of that and we can we can we can fail to really step
into the fullness of all that's ahead of us because we we're pulled back a little bit by what we what
we hear from the past God changes labels and finally the promises of God are not attached
to our feelings we rely on our feelings very much for our encouragement don't we we encourage
ourselves if we feel good all is good we feel good God is in heaven if we feel bad maybe years
we're not sure other promises still standing other promises are strong when we feel bad as
when we feel good and God was establishing here with Abraham an eternal unconditional covenant
he changed his name and then he gave him an enduring mark he didn't say you know just just
remember this you just tell tell people he said actually what we're going to do is give you quite
a radical mark of circumcision to remind him and everyone of the promise
Erica spoke about the signs of the covenant about the rainbow and the starry night and how Abraham
had nine thousand starry nights to consider the promise of God and nothing that ever happened
to him in his life was ever going to remove those stars from the heaven it doesn't matter you know
and with it there was desolation all around him he could still look up and those stars would be
there to remind him and God gives us marks that remind us that actually these promises are outside
of ourselves they're outside of our circumstances are outside of whatever might happen to us and
they are deep and permanent God came to him spelled out that he was going to become a father and it
was Sarah his wife who would give birth and he laughed in disbelief this is Abraham the father
of faith by the way who got all his credit all his righteousness credited to him for faith his
first response was to laugh and and as I was preparing this I remember that song by Michael
Cobb they called him laughter I won't sing it to you before he came after the father had made an
impossible promise come true the birth of a baby to a hopeless old lady no offense to the to Sarah
on there but just amazing what God can do but Abraham his his human response was to laugh
how can this be it's impossible but then from that laughter he got himself together he took a
deep breath and he stepped forward and he did what God had told him to do he did the circumcision he
made the mark on his body and everybody else's all the other male bodies that were there to remind
them of the of the nature of the covenant he set aside all his feelings and he acted on God's word
he chose to believe he chose to put things into action he chose to to mark himself permanently
in order that he would always remember what God had said and every generation after would
remember what God had said because there needs to be those things in our lives we need to be those
those moments where we take a decision to say actually we're not I don't even care what's going
to happen tomorrow I don't even care what's happening to me at the moment I am going to choose to believe
in the goodness and the permanence of the promises of God as we look forward as individuals as we
look forward as a church and we consider all that God is going to do we choose to believe in the
promises of God so excited and it's encouraging when we hear the hundred thousand pounds has come in
and we think oh well maybe we got it right after all that's not what we're thinking or what we
should be thinking you know that's a relief few they actually know that's what we that's actually
what we expect because God has placed something in our hearts and promised us things that we are
now seeing the unfolding of and so therefore we will continue to see the unfolding and we will
continue to see and we will see God establish things in this community and in this church that even
we won't even see the fulfillment of there'll be others that will come after us because we believe
in the promises of God it's not down to you know did did we get it right did we get it wrong what
do we feel today or how you know how's it going how was the how was the feeling at the prayer day
what do people think we don't take focus groups to decide whether the promises of God are still
valid they are there but perhaps our response when we consider what God has said is to laugh
and we have to be those that will then stand up and take action and make decisions and allow
ourselves to be marked by the promises of God not just moved by the promises of God
let's not allow it would only just be a moved emotionally into a into a into faith but we want
to be marked forever to say we are people who have staked everything on the promises of God
and as we come to communion don't want to take away from what James said he's going to say but as
we come to communion it's that that is so important it's that it's that it's not an emotional process
it's not something that we go through and we we try to find the emotions for communion but it's
actually a physical thing to remind us that these promises stand forever that this covenant stands
forever remember God's word stands no matter what time has passed he wants us to choose
faith in him regardless of what has happened or is happening or will happen he has chosen to come
to us and open a relationship with us not the other way around God is God and you are not
I am not God has things to say about you your life your future that are different to what others
have said or you've said about yourself and we need to listen to him and what he says
and it may be difficult to believe God or to trust him but you can choose to do it
you can determine to put your trust in him every day for the rest of your life and be marked forever
as a believer in Christ and as a believer in God not just while things are running well
but forever forever and ever and ever and on into eternity amen God bless you

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