When Abram was ninety-nine years old Yahweh appeared to Abram. And he said to him, “I am El-Shaddai; walk before me and be blameless so that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you exceedingly.”
-Genesis 17:1 (LEB)
I looked up Genesis 17:1 in ten translations and looked at David Guzik’s commentary, and decided that I liked the Lexham English Bible the best. In the LEB, we have, “Yahweh”, “El-Shaddai”, and “Walk before me and be blameless”.
Instead of Yahweh, most other translations have, “The Lord”. I believe “Yahweh” here in this story is fitting, because that is God’s proper name, that means Lord. Why not have the name, rather than what the name means? And “The Lord” means the “I AM”(Ex. 3:15).
This verse starts out with Abram’s age of 99. He is still Abram, without the “ha”. These Yahweh encounters are going to result in a name change of his name (Gen. 17:5); and his wife’s name (Ge. 17:15).
In the verses that follow, God tells Abram that he is going to multiply him and Sarai, which is what their new names, Abraham and Sarah, signify. They were worried about addition and God wants to do multiplication. The multiplication did not occur until the third generation, when their great grandchild, Jacob had his children, who became the 12 tribes. From these 12, there would be millions and millions of people born.
“I am El-Shaddai”
God is standing in our future, with the provision we need to live there. He said to Abraham, “I am El-Shaddai”, before he said to him, “Walk before me and be blameless”. From David Guzik’s commentary, he writes that, El-Shaddai might mean “God who is sufficient” (Kidner), or, “I am that God who pours out blessings, who gives them richly, abundantly, continually” (Clarke), or, “It may have in mind the strength of a man’s chest (God Almighty) or the comfort and nourishment of a woman’s breast (God of Tender Care)” (Barnhouse).
It is a Biblical principal that where God guides, he provides. Before God gives Abraham the promise, that was something Abe and his wife wanted more than anything; he wants to transform Abraham through a revelation of who he is. Abraham gets an expansion of his knowledge of God.
He must be expanded, to receive what is coming. And Abraham and Sarah’s relationship with God must deepen and widen. The gift will come in the context of the relationship. All authentic ministry comes from relationship with God. All the benefits come from the benefactor, just like a good father who takes care of his child.
God wants to transform Abraham into a person who knows God as El-Shaddai:
- God has everything you need and will give it to you.
- God’s blessings, in all dimensions, that he wants to pour upon you, are beyond measure.
- God is The Almighty, who cares for each one of his kids.
- God’s provision for us is also in his comfort and nourishing, tender care.
God does not just want to provide for us. He wants us to know him as our provision.
We are missing it, if our eyes are just on the provision. Remember that we enter his gates with thanksgiving (Psalm 100:4) and that it is God’s will for us to be thankful in all circumstances (1 Thess. 3:18). We get caught up in thinking we do not have enough and wondering why God lets others have more. Ironically, many of the people who have more are also in discontent. Why? Because the key is knowing God and letting him transform you, so that you see him as your provision.
What is your vision? If you are a Christian, then God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) are your “pro”. They are definitely professionals at what they do, but the “pro” here is short for “provision”. They are the provision for the vision.
Abraham, when he was Abram; had a vision, a desire, and a destiny that God affirmed, confirmed, and prophesied. That’s the good news. The bad news was that it did not come to pass, for a long time. And, he shared that vision and prophecy with his wife, who would be his partner in that destiny or vision coming to pass.
Can you imagine the thrill at receiving the divine affirmation and confirmation about your procreation, and then the disappointment, when it does not happen… for weeks, months, years, and then decades.
What if the wait was because God was waiting for Abraham and Sarah to get something, about God, before God could give them what he promised?
Abraham would be looked back on as “the man of faith” (Gal. 3:9), and as “the friend of God” (James 2:23). His faith was severely tested and the friendship was stretched or refined by the fire of his suffering. Sarai’s suffering was his suffering.
All those years went by and Sarai saw other ladies get pregnant and give birth and raise beautiful children, while she sat alone, barren. Why on earth would God promise something, but not bring it to pass? Can you imagine her faith and the strain on her relationship to her mystic husband who told her that God appeared to him and made these promises?
You might remember when Sarah laughed. Well, Abraham laughed before that and it seems like he laughed even harder (Gen. 17:17), because he fell to the ground laughing. I don’t think his laughter was joy, but was incredulity. It is hard to imagine laughing like that when God is speaking to you, not in a whisper, but in a full on appearance. I think that this is evidence of Abram’s friendship with God.
And God said to Abraham, “as for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, for Sarah shall be her name. And I will bless her; moreover, I give to you from her a son. And I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations. Kings of peoples shall come from her.” And Abraham fell upon his face and laughed. And he said in his heart, “Can a child be born to a man a hundred years old, or can Sarah bear a child at ninety?” And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” And God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear a son for you, and you shall call his name Isaac. And I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant to his offspring after him.
Faith is messy. We believe, because after all, God is faithful. But, we have doubts and we just don’t understand, and then when painful disappointment mixes in, it is a mess; but there is still faith. It’s still real faith, because real faith has faith in the faithfulness of another. We don’t have to understand it, for it to be real faith.
So, Abraham could have laughed hysterically, when God again made his promise and gave him the prophetic word; and still be a man of faith. Notice also that God named his son Isaac, which means “laughter”, right after Abraham laughed hysterically. On the spot, God took Abraham’s incredulous laughter and incorporated or transformed it into joyous laughter in the more specific prophecy about the promise that would be fulfilled soon.
It is also notable that Abraham and Sarah had a godly marriage, that Peter references in 1 Peter 3:1-7. Sarah never went to her place of prayer and got words from God about her destiny of being the mother of Isaac, that we know of. Instead, God gave her words through her husband.
She was subject to her husband. Subject does not mean “sourced”. God was her source. Her husband was her loving leader.
“Walk before me and be blameless.”
There is a saying that, “The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine”. The Bible teaches that a happy life, a content life, comes from wholeness. That life comes from walking before God, who is our Father, our provider, and our all-sufficiency.
You can be rich or poor, an owner or a renter, fertile or barren, sick or well, on the mountain top, or in the arid desert. You may be highly qualified or a simpleton. But the question is, are you walking before God? Or are you going your own way? Are you letting God meet your needs or are you doing it for your self?
“Walk before me and be blameless” (LEB, ESV, NET, and NKJV)
“Walk before me faithfully and be blameless.” (NIV)
“Walk with me and be trustworthy.” (CEB)
“Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life.” (NLT)
“Obey me and always do right.” (CEV)
“Live entirely before me, live to the hilt.” (MSG)
“Live in My presence and be blameless.” (HCSB)
“Walk before me habitually and be blameless” (Young’s)
Our physical walking is daily and many times daily. Our walk with God is the same. We may walk to the curb to get the mail or we may walk from the parking lot to our destination. In out walks, short and long, we encounter people, situations, and choices. It is in those places of living that we walk with God.
Our walk with God is not divorced from all of our run-of-the-mill, every-day encounters; but is completely wedded to it.
I think that “blameless”, means, “with integrity”. I think the idea is wholeness. God is after wholeness in us. Playing the part of “Christian”, but not really being one in how you live in private, is not wholeness.
Salvation is an event and a process. The walk is a continual walk. We get more sanctified, we get more fruitful, we get more wise, we get more freedom, and we grow in grace. If you do not embrace the process, the journey, your pilgrimage, and walking before God, through life; then you will not grow or mature spiritually.
Our basis for this walk is not our selves. God is. We must do things, but he empowers us to do them. We must be good, but his goodness gives us that ability. We take up what he has given us. That is what Paul means by, “The life I now live is by the faithfulness of the Son of God” (Gal. 2:20).