See, I make everything new
- Romans 4:16-25
- Genesis 17:1-19
When I went to high school I met a giant. He was in year eleven and stood six foot and 10 inches tall in his shoes. When he finished school at the age of eighteen, he was a full seven foot tall. In the new language it is 2.13 meters.
Andrew Hall’s hight came in handy at the end of school days when he could close any school classroom window without ever reaching out for a stick. He would take the rugby ball and just through it where he wanted on the rugby field.
Andrew met a girl about six inches shorter than him. Their car was a Mini, with no back seat; the front seats were mounted on extra long rails, which made them look like they were filling all of the Mini.
Interestingly, the seven foot tall Andrew Hall had a nickname which he carried into the rest of his life: Tiny. I heard his boy were also called by that name.
Abram’s name, unlike that of Tiny, was not something given to him to mock him, although it would have been quite easy to do so.
In the time of Abram it was the tradition to, when, introduced make much of the name of every person. Names meant something. It was common to ask this question, because it was important to the people of the middle east. It would go like this: “Good morning, what is your name?” “Abram.” “Well that means ‘father of many’. May I ask how many children do you have?” “One.” “One?”
It is not impossible, because of his riches, that Abram met many traders in his tents. These questions would be asked over and over again, and every time Abram faced the surprised faces of his guests.
He was now ninety nine years old, and still there was only one child. And in the back of his mind, Abram knew that that son, was not the son of the promise. He held on to the promises of the Lord, but his name, “Father of many” began to sound like the seven foot Tiny’s nickname.
Between the year Ismael was born and now, thirteen years passed by and not a word of the Lord. Was it impossible to think that Abram was thinking of getting himself another name to spare him the possible ridicule?
And then God appeared to him again. Abram and Sarai was that old that if they had given up hope to have a child of their own, getting one would all the more point to the glorious power of God who can do what no man can.
It was the first time God introduced Himself by this Name: El Shaddai! This name revealed something about the Person of God that made Abram fell flat on his face. Like Daniel and John:
While He was saying this to me, I bowed with my face toward the ground and was speechless. (Daniel 10:15, NIV)
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. (Revelation 1:17, NIV)
Abram was unable to bear the sight of the divine glory. He humbled himself in reverence before the holy God who bowed down from heaven to speak to him personally.
Our fellowship with God may never lead to familiarity. If we ever thought that we can get God to our level, we need to ask ourselves if we indeed know the glorious God of creation and re-creation. It is a sickness of our time that reverence for God has flown our the back door when we gather for his worship. No, in worship we are gathered in the throne room of the Creator of the universe who is holy, clothed in majesty, glorious in power and great in limitless wisdom, power and might. It is only when we understand what it means to bow in adoration, giving Him the glory of due his Name, that we will find meaning worshipping Him.
God Almighty speaks to Abram. He is the all-sufficient God who always does enough in completeness. He is enough in Himself; He is self-sufficient; He has everything, yet He needs nothing. He calls us into covenant with Him and therefore He is enough for us, we have enough in Him, because He satisfies all we need. David says, “The Lord is my shepherd, I will lack nothing.” The Psalmist confesses:
Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. (Psalm 73:25, NIV)
Facedown before the Almighty God Abram is commanded to blamelessly walk before God. The holy God demands that those who believe in Him and walk in a covenant relationship with Him would reflect something of his own character. “Be holy as I am holy.” The right attitude of a sinner living in a relationship with God would be the same as that of David:
Keep your servant also from wilful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression. (Psalm 19:13, NIV)
It calls for integrity, honesty, it is to set God always before us, and to think, and speak, and act, in everything, as if we are always under his eye. It is to have a constant regard to his Word as our rule, and to his glory as our end in all our actions, and to be continually in his fear. Listen to these verses:
As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he shows us his mercy. (Psalm 123:2, NIV)
If Abram thought his name was embarrassing because he had only one son at that stage, what God had to say would change his life. Abram’s name would change from “father of many” to “father of many nations”. Not only was the covenant something God promised, but now it would be established and sealed with a sign. How God would do this would be spectacularly impossible for any human being: a man of almost hundred, and his wife ninety, will have a son.
Sarai’s name was changed too. She was now a princes, the mother of many kings; the mother of many nations. It all had its beginning with one son. God honoured the marriage between Abraham and Sarah to fulfil his promise to them. Not Ismael, who was born from a marriage not blessed in the first instance by God; not a son born out of the plans made by a man and his wives, but a son born when all seemed so impossible, so that God would receive all the honour.
Within a year, the barren princess Sarah would give birth to a son. God gave him his name: Isaac! Verse 17, I think, does not tell us that Abraham mocked God if God could not do what He said he would. No, I see a man flat on his face on the ground, in joy, laughing as laugh of jubilation. Yes, there was initial unbelief, because he was still thinking that maybe Ishmael would have a part in it.
Abraham’s unbelief is met with the confirmation of God, “Yes your wife Sarah will bear you a son.” Ismael will be blessed, but not in the same way. The name Isaac, which means laughter or joy, will bring joy to millions others whom God by grace will include into his covenant. All believers in every age should be looked upon as Abraham’s spiritual seed, and that he should be called, not only the friend of God, but the father of all believers. Years later Paul writes:
As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” 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, NIV)
God’s covenant with Abraham was everlasting in an evangelical sense. The covenant of grace is everlasting. It is from everlasting to everlasting in its consequences. In his body Abraham got the irreversible sign of circumcision, the very organ used to procreate and bring forth seed, is now externally marked: Abraham became the father of all who believe because in him God established the covenant from which “The Seed”, Jesus Christ would come. The covenant had an internal blessing which was by the Spirit of Christ’s seed to gather children for God in every age.
By the same grace God showed to Abraham, and through the same covenant we get a name change too. By faith in God and his Son Jesus Christ we become children of God and we are called “Christian” – we belong to Christ. God promised to his people:
The nations will see your vindication, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow. You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. (Isaiah 62:2–3, NIV)
John and James, disciples of Jesus, had a name change too. First they were “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17), then John became the apostle of love.
Paul writes that every family in heaven and on earth derives its name from the Father (Ephesians 3:14–15). John even refers to disciples of Christ who went out for the sake of the Name, forsaking everything to bring glory to Christ (3John 7)
I make everything new
For Abraham and Sarah that day was a new beginning: a new name, a new sign, a new promise, a newborn son – all by God Almighty, who says what He does, and does what He says. And it ultimately pointed forward to Christ, whose name is Immanuel, and Jesus, the one who saves. Because of his death and resurrection we hear:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV)
This Christ, the seed of Abraham, now seated on the throne promises:
“I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:5, NIV) He also promised:
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it. (Revelation 2:17, NIV)
We have real names, and we have nicknames. But what really counts is the name we received when we believe like Abraham and Sarah:
Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. (Romans 4:20–24, NIV)
Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 21 September 2014