All of us have things in our past of which we’re not proud, things we wish would have turned out differently. No matter how clean and easy of a life one may have lived, there are things we would change. Because of this, many of us have high hopes for a future that will change our lives and redeem our past failures, disappointments and sins.
In Genesis 12 God first calls Abram. In chapter 15 God makes a covenant with Abram. Now in chapter 17 God confirms his covenant with Abram. This covenant will so change the lives of Abram and Sarai that God actually gives them new names: Abraham and Sarah (a pattern that we will see repeated in Genesis). God promises that nations and kings will come from the two of them (v. 6, 16) even though Sarah is barren. And as a sign and seal of this covenant, God instructs Abraham and his sons to be circumcised.
A new life, a new name and a sign of promise from God. For many of us, these ideas may seem too good to be true. But God freely gives each of these things to all those who trust in Christ: a new life (2 Cor. 5:17), a new name (Rev. 2:17) and a sign of promise from God (Rom. 2:29).
Unfortunately, it is all too easy to live as if we haven’t been given these things. Too easy to live like we used to, like everyone else. It’s like a lottery winner who just goes back to work the next week after winning the jackpot acting as if nothing has changed—as if their life hasn’t been turned upside down. No celebratory vacation. No spurt of generosity. Gaining unmerited riches and acting like the same old miser.
Jesus told a parable to teach that it should be just the opposite. “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” (Matt. 13:45,46) When the merchant realized the value of what he held in his hands, his whole life changed. What is more, he voluntarily gave up the life that he had to make the treasure he had found his own.
So which do you feel more like, the merchant who gave up all for the treasure he found or the millionaire still living like a poor man?
1. Do you like the idea of getting a new name when you see God face to face? What sort of significance do you think there is in a new name?
2. Read Romans 2:28,29, Colossians 2:11,12 and Deuteronomy 30:6. Is there anything you find odd about the idea of circumcision of the heart and spirit? Considering what you know about what circumcision meant to the Jews, what do you think the biblical writers were trying to convey with this imagery?
3. In what ways do you live your life like a lottery winner who doesn’t live any differently than they did before they won? In what ways do you live like the merchant who found the pearl of great value?