What Does Genesis 17:5 Mean?

"No longer shall your name be called Abram, But your name shall be Abraham; For I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.

Genesis 17:5(NASB)
Picture courtesy of Public Domain - wikimedia

Verse of the Day

Sometimes we forget that Abraham, that great man of faith, was named Abram for much of his life. It was not until he reached a certain point along life's spiritual journey of faith, that the Lord changed his name from Abram to Abraham. He was 99 years old when the Lord told him, "No longer shall your name be called Abram. Your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations."

Over 20 years earlier Abram's faith had been reckoned as righteousness when he heard God's call and obeyed His instructions to leave His home and follow God. "Go out from your land and your relatives," he was told. "Leave your father’s house, and go to the land that I will show you." The Lord promised to make him into a great nation. God promised to bless him and make his name great.  "You will be a blessing," he was promised. "I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt, and all the people of the earth will be blessed through you."

Although Abram was instructed to leave everything behind, his father Terah - who remained an idol worshipper, set out with Abram and his wife, together with Lot - Abram's nephew. And for some time their journey to the promised land was halted, in the pagan city of Haran. But after his father died, Abram once more set out on his journey to the promised land of Canaan.

There were many lessons that Abram needed to learn before he could be given the name God had prepared for him. He had been saved by faith, and God credited him with righteousness. But Abram had to learn to live by faith, to walk by faith, to pray in faith, and to believe that God was able to do the impossible. Abram had to come to an understanding that nothing was too difficult for God to do.

One of the first things God did to test his faith was to send a famine to the land of Canaan - but Abram chose to trust in the fleshpots of Egypt rather than rely on the Lord to provide all he needed for life and godliness. He even put his wife in harm's way to protect his own skin, and the pagan Pharoah of Egypt was used by the Lord to expose Abram's ungodly ways.

God also used Abram's nephew, Lot, to teach him other important truths about trusting the Lord with all his heart and not to walk by sight, rely on his own intuition, or become unsettled by life's difficult circumstances. God used Lot to teach Abram that the Word of God is not only true, but that the lust of the eye and the pride of life can end in destruction.  And after he and Lot decided to part company, God brought Abram to a deeper understanding of the dangers of fleshly lusts and the need to remain separated from the pagan nations and the enticing trinkets the world offers.

It was after his arrival in Canaan that Abram learned the importance of calling on the name of the Lord, through prayers and intercessions - but Abram continued to wait for God's promise of a son to be established and fulfilled. It was not until he was 99 years of age that the Lord appeared to Abram once more, and said, "I am God Almighty. Walk before Me, and be blameless. I will establish My covenant between Me and you." 

Many years had passed since Abram foolishly tried to fulfil God's promise of a son by taking Hagar to be a surrogate mother, who gave birth to Ishmael. But the son of promise was not to be born of fleshly lust but according to God's purpose. Abram fell on his face when the Lord spoke and the Lord continued to explain the covenant between them. "Behold, My covenant is with you, and you will be the father of a multitude of nations," Abram was told.  "No longer shall your name be Abram. Your name shall be Abraham - for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations."

God stated very clearly that Abram was to be Abraham, a father of many nations and that the Promised Seed would come through his wife... whose name was also changed from Sarai to Sarah. Despite being an old man of 99, whose wife was not only barren but at 90 years old, was well beyond the age of child-bearing, Abraham fell on his face and rejoiced. He laughed with great joy at this wonderful news.

It was at this special point in his life that God gave Abraham the covenant sign of circumcision. It was to be a sign that would set Abraham's descendants apart from every other nation. And through the child of promise - Isaac, would come the Promised Seed - the Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom all the families of the earth would be blessed.

God worked in Abraham's life with a long-term view, and He works in each of our lives from an eternal perspective. God knows what He wants to achieve through us. May we not only be saved by faith but live by faith, walk by faith, and pray in faith. May we be willing to learn the lessons that God wants to teach us - so that He can use us to forward His plans and purposes in each of our lives - in His way and in His time.

My Prayer

Heavenly Father, as I read through the life of Abraham, I see how important it is to not only be saved by faith, but to live by faith, to walk by faith, and to pray in faith. And just as Abram had to learn many lessons as he sojourned in the land of Israel, I pray that as I journey through life, I would learn all that You have to teach me and become the person You have destined me to be. Help me to submit to You, resist the devil, and recognise the dangers of fleshly lusts and the wisdom of trusting Your Word. Thank You that You are working in my life from an eternal perspective. May my life be a testimony of Your goodness and grace. This I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.

Picture courtesy of Public Domain - wikimedia

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