El Shaddai; The All-Sufficient One
May 20, 2018
All right, so when we left Abram last week, if you remember God had made this amazing promise that He would give him a son. However, the problem, and that's one of the things we've been seeing here, his name means high father or exalted father and God made this promise of having a son but the problem is he's now 85 years old and his wife Sarai is 75 years old and she is barren.
The story takes a tragic turn in chapter 16, when Sarai decides to help God out by providing a son through her handmaiden Hagar. This is a very, very famous story and very important because of what's happening in the world today actually can be traced back to this event in chapter 16. Abram listens to his wife, he goes into Hagar, you know what that means, she becomes pregnant and that's when the drama begins, which is absolutely predictable. They didn't follow God's plan, they took matters in their own hands and the result was trouble upon trouble and it sounds like a soap opera because of what happened.
Right, Hagar, she gets pregnant, so now she starts acting all superior to Sarai. Sarai blames Abraham for this whole thing. It's like, "Whoa what are you blaming me for? It was your idea." All right then he said, "I want nothing to do with it, you know do whatever you want to do," and so Sarai starts treating Hagar harshly and Hagar can't stand being treated this way, so she runs away presumably headed back to her home in Egypt. That's the drama and then God intervenes, because He finds Hagar there by the spring of water in the wilderness and He told her to go back, go back to Sarai and to submit to her authority.
In other words, stop being part of the problem. Stop adding to the drama. He said, "You're going to have a boy, his name is going to be Ishmael," which means God hears and he was born the next year. He was a wild donkey of a man difficult to raise. Which is actually also what God said, he would be a wild donkey of a man. Then Abram doesn't hear from God for like 13 years. Finally, after 13 years of living with the consequences of not trusting God and having to face all the drama of raising a contentious well donkey of a boy, God appears to Abram in chapter 17 and says, "I am El Shaddai, the All Sufficient One. Are you ready to hear that name?" In other words, walk before me and be blameless.
All right, this is a great and very important chapter, so let's read it. Over here in Genesis 17. We'll begin in verse 1. Now when Abram was 99 years old, so he's like he's getting up there, and the Lord then appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am God almighty," that is El Shaddai, often translated the All Sufficient One, Almighty. Meaning “all sufficient”.
"Walk before me and be blameless and I will establish my covenant between me and you and I will multiply you exceedingly." Abram, when he heard this, he fell on his face and God talked with him saying, "Now as for me behold, my covenant is with you and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations, so no longer shall your name be called Abram," which means exalted father, "but now your name shall be called Abraham," Father of a multitude.
Now this is where we now begin the call him Abraham, "And I will make you the father of multitude of nations, and I will make you exceedingly fruitful and I will make nations of you and kings will come forth from you, and I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant." That word there was everlasting. That's important because some people think God's finished with Israel. I suggest to you that God's not done with Israel, because God made an everlasting covenant. He said, "To be God to you and to your descendants after you." Everlasting is like a pretty long time and He means it.
"And I will give to you and to your descendants after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan." That's the land of Israel. The claim to Israel is because God had promised it to Abraham and to his descendants as an everlasting covenant. "And I will be their God."
God said further to Abraham, "Now as for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. This is my covenant which you shall keep between me and you and your descendants after you. Every male among you shall be circumcised and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin and that shall be the sign of the covenant between me and you. Every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations.
Even a servant who was born in the house, or was bought with money from any foreigner, or who was not of your descendants. A servant who was born in your house or was bought with money shall surely be circumcised thus shall my covenant be in your flesh and for an everlasting covenant, but an uncircumcised male who is not circumcised, that person shall be cut off from his people is broken my covenant." Then God said to Abraham, "Now as for Sarai, your wife, you shall call her name not Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name, and I'll bless her." The name meanings are very distinctly different there, "And I will bless her and indeed I will give you a son by her."
Now she's like 90 years old right now. This is going to be a miracle. "Then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations and kings of people show come from her." Now, when Abraham fell on his face and heard this, he laughed, and he said in his heart, "Will a child be born to a man who's a 100-years old and will Sarah who is 90 years old bear a child?" Abraham said to God, "Oh, Ishmael, consider Ishmael. May he live before you." God said, "No."
That's kind of a big word right there. "No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son and you shall call his name Isaac." Which means he laughs or laughter, "And I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him forever." All right these are very important words. Very, important verses that we want us to look at starting with verse 1 when God reveals his name. It's never before seen in the Bible, it's the revealing of the name of God, one of the names of God El Shaddai, means God is all sufficient.
I. God is All-Sufficient
Sarai and Abram were not strong enough from the faith, right, to believe yet that God would fulfill His promise for a son, right. They didn't believe in the sufficiency of God. You see, and so God comes to him 13 years after they took matters into their own hands, because they had been suffering the consequences of that for 13 years. The first thing that God says to them after 13 years is, "I am El Shaddai." Are you ready to hear the name of God? El Shaddai. "I am the all sufficient one," and this is an aspect we need ourselves to understand.
He is still El Shaddai and He wants us to recognize that He is the sufficient one in our lives as well. That He can by his sufficiency, take matters, our matters, our concerns into His hands. This last week I had the opportunity to go to a Pastor's leaders meeting and of Luis Palau was speaking. Now, many of you know Luis Palau. He's a very famous of course, Evangelist around the world.
Just this last Christmas time, he found out-- he was told that he had cancer. Lung cancer. Never smoked in a day in his life, but he had lung cancer, stage four lung cancer. In fact, when he met with the oncologist, the oncologist was quite straightforward and blunt about it and he said, "Stage four, it's incurable and so that is the way it is." Luis said, "Well, how long will I last if I don't do any chemo or any treatments?" He said, "Maybe four months."
"How long will I last if I do chemo?" He said, "Maybe nine months, maybe a year most." He is doing the chemo but he is-- that was Christmas right, this is May this is like he was speaking, and he was being very open with everybody about it, but one of the things he said really touched me very deeply because he said, very vulnerably, he said, "I've prayed," and I tell you, he said, "I am ready."
"I am ready to meet God. I am at peace in my soul and I know that my relationship to God is sure and I know that I'll see my Savior and my heart is at peace." He said that, "This is what is on my heart, is my wife." He said, I know this is selfish of me, but I want my wife to come with me." He said, "I want my wife." He said, "Honey I wish I could take you with me," and she says, "I wish I could go with you, but God hasn't given me that. God has not made a way for that."
He says he was just praying and praying and praying like, "God my wife, my wife." Then he felt this assuring Word that comes from the Lord, "Do you not think that I am able to take care of your wife and you will see her again, and you will spend eternity together." That brought peace to his heart. I was just so touched because what God was showing him was that God is The Sufficient One. In Genesis 17, God comes to Abram after 13 years of suffering the consequences of making the wrong decision and making the difficulty that came with it. He comes and speaks again of this covenant of promise. Now however, He's going to call Abraham to a changed life.
A. God doesn’t need your help
Maybe we could say it this way, God doesn't need your help. Let's say it that way. God doesn't need your help. He's 99 years old. God's given him this promise of this multitude of descendants that's going to come from his own body. Perhaps he thought that this problem was too difficult for God, so they came up with their own answer, their own way, and it only created troubles. The whole point to it is that God's plan and God's way is just way better. Have you ever tried to come up with your own plan, have it fail miserably and then God reveals that his plan is way better? I tell you. I know this. I've seen it.
One of the stories, I have several, I could write a book of God's amazing provision, of God demonstrating that he is El Shaddai, God Almighty, The All-Sufficient One. One of the interesting examples was this, many years ago, before I was in Bible school, before I was in ministry, I was in the restaurant business. I was partners, but I felt this calling to go into ministry. The problem is to go into serious ministry, I felt I needed a good Bible education. Go to university, but I couldn't afford it, right?
I came up with a plan, I had what I thought was pretty clever. The plan was this, so in the restaurant business, we were negotiating to get another restaurant to add and I thought, "This is a great idea. We'll add this restaurant," it was going to be a super great deal, "And then the value of my partnership will be greater, then I'll sell my partnership, I'll take the profits, and I'll pay my way through school. God, I've got it all figured out. My plan is so good. If you could just bless my plan, I think we can deal this thing." Of course, you can see where I'm going with this, right?
One day, I remember a very, very well. I was at a marriage conference and my partner, Ken, he was the one negotiating. I was running the restaurant. He came and he said, "Hey, I got to tell you. I think there's something unethical about these people. So, I just killed the deal today and I knew as a Christian you would understand that." I'm thinking, "Oh yeah I understand that. Oh Lord, what are we going to do? That was my whole plan." It is just like, "Lord, what am I going to do?"
This is a Friday night, I remember it very, very clearly. I could tell you what time it was. I am praying, "God what am I going to do. I cannot afford this." Then Saturday, I'm just like this is my prayer project as I am praying, "God, I don't want to borrow this money. I don't want to go to the government for this money. I'm asking You. God do a miracle. Something. I cannot afford this, God. I need your help. I'm just asking for a miracle." By the time Saturday closed or ended I had peace. "Okay, God, I just trust you. I just trust you. You want me to go, I know you can provide, and if not then I'll just serve you here."
Sunday, I get up, I'm just excited to go to church. I wanted to worship. I get to church, I'm not even 10 steps from the door of the sanctuary, and a fella literally steps in front of me puts his hands up like this and says, "Stop." He said, "God told me this week that I'm supposed to pay your way through Bible college." Immediately I thought, "God, your way really is better."
"Your way is way better." He meant every single word of that, and got me all the way through the Bachelor's Degree, went into the seminary for the Masters, and he just paid all of it. He's still a good friend today, still in the church today. I won't tell you who he is because he likes to be anonymous, but absolutely God is sufficient, and His way is better.
Abram and Sarai's solution brought Ishmael, Israel's thorn in the flesh even today. At this point in the story, he's 13 years old, you can imagine the bitterness, the rebellion, the contempt that would have been in their home because he was a wild donkey of a man.
Tells us this in Genesis 16:11-12, "The angel of the Lord said to her, Hagar, behold you are with child and you will bear a son and you shall call his name Ishmael. He will be a wild donkey of a man. His hand will be against everyone and everyone's hand will be against him." Like contention in conflict and difficulty, as we're seeing still today in the Middle East, because the Arab nations have come from Ishmael. The conflict in the Middle East can be traced to the conflict between Ishmael and Isaac who is yet to come.
This is important that we recognize that the troubles often come to us when we don't trust that God is The-Sufficient-One. When we try to do things our own way, we make a mess of it. Maybe you've got your own story. Let's do a show of hands. How many people would say, "Yes, I know this one? I've done that. I tried to do things my own way and I just messed things up." Okay, the show of hands.
Now, you know what would be awesome, if we could just look around the room and realize there's a lot of hands raised up here. I think I'll learn that lesson. Amen, but Israel didn't learn that lesson. Interestingly, you roll the tape forward to when they were in the desert, I mean they have the history of Abraham, but it tells us in Psalms 106 verses 13 to 15, It says, "They soon forgot his works. They did not wait for his counsel. They tested God in the desert and He gave them their request but sent leanness into their soul."
B. Be blameless before God
If you remember the story, there's a lot of stories, but one of those he's referring to is when they're in the desert, they've already seen God's amazing sufficiency in the miracles that were happening there for Israel in the desert. One after the other, amazing miracles. There was a miracle every day in the sense that manna would be there like dew that they could harvest and have the provision of something sweet and healthy and glorious every day. A miracle every day. They started grumbling, "We're tired of this manna. We want some meat." They started grumbling against the Lord, "Give us something different. We're so tired of this."
There's only so much you can do with manna. You can make a banana bread, you can make you know fried-- Okay, I won't keep going with that. "We're tired of this, we want meat." God said, "You know what, you've been grumbling, and grumbling, and grumbling. You want meat I'm going to give you meat." He brought in a flock of quail, a whole mass. Talking about mass.
They were batting in and out of the air, right? It was just massive. It says they had so much they were snorting it out their nose. Look it there, it's in the Bible. Say well, how in the world could you just snort it out your nose? Throwing it up. He gave them their request but leanness to their soul. Because they soon forgot his works. They did not wait for his counsel, leanness to their soul.
God allowed Abram to see the consequences of his solution for 13 long years but then He comes and He gives Abram a new name, "Listen, my name is El Shaddai. God Almighty. The All-Sufficient One." Then He says this in chapter 15, "Be blameless." He says, "Walk before me and be blameless." Be blameless before God, is a right good word for us. Perfectly able to demonstrate that He can do everything that He desires. If we could only discover and know this truth right now, before we do something dumb, if we could just grab that and hold on to that.
He tells, "Abraham walk before me and be blameless." Literally it means to be wholeheartedly in blamelessness. This is God's heart, speaking to the inner man. He's speaking to the soul. Psalms 51:6, "Behold, you desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part, you will make me know wisdom." It's a good word. He's speaking to the inner soul. That’s what God wants. Now, we know that it's impossible to be completely blameless before God on our own, right, we are fleshly in nature, and have a tendency toward sin, and so if a man were trying to obtain blamelessness this by his own efforts, he would find soon that he is the insufficient one.
Man is insufficient. God is sufficient. Man is quite insufficient. I'm trying to make a distinction, man is insufficient, God is sufficient. See, here again, that which is impossible for us is possible by God Almighty, the one who is able. Let me give you a great verse. Luke 18:25-27, Jesus is speaking, "For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." And then they heard that, and then they said, "Who then can be saved?" He said, "The things that are impossible with men are possible with God." That’s a principle. Because of what Christ has done on our behalf, He has made it possible to walk with God with all of our hearts. That's the key.
God told Abraham to walk with him and be blameless. Now that is a key thing. He says those two things together, walk with God and be blameless, they actually go together, you cannot separate them, they go together because they relate to one another. In other words, you cannot be blameless, unless you are walking with Him, but if you are walking with Him, then it will transform your innermost being. They go together, they are the key to the relationship and the victory that God wants for us. They go together, we must walk with God. The closer you walk with God, then the more of his power and his Spirit you will find in your own life and that is a transforming power. Is that not true?
The Holy Spirit is a transforming power, and the more you walk with God, the closer you walk with God, the more of his Spirit begins to impact your life and you will find a transformation. See, if you try to do that on your own, "So God tells me to be blameless. I think I'll put my righteous bootstraps on." This is you're insufficient, you're the insufficient one. You'll never do that. Until you walk with God, you will not see a true transformation. Walking with God suggests this agreement that you want to walk with Him, that you want his word, that you want his wisdom. Lord, I want to walk with you.
I want your word in my life. It’s like Amos 3:3, "How can two walk together, unless they be agreed?>" "Walk with me, Abraham. Let's walk together," and it should suggest agreement. I want to walk with God, I want his transformation. Now, that makes that personal. How many people would say, "I want to walk with God and I want that transformation that comes from walking with God." Let's just say that. How many people. I want to walk with God, I want the transformation that comes from Him. It's like a teen. You can imagine a teen, he's got great parents, okay, got this together a teen, who's got great parents. That teen then recognizes and realizes that, that relationship to his parents is the very thing he needs. Because of the blessings that will come and the wisdom that will come and the help that will come and he comes to the realization that, "God gave me my parents. They are wise, they are high in their wisdom and I cannot attain to it. I must have this wisdom that my parents have." This is glorious thought, isn't it? But it's not just like us? When we-- see a reason I make that comparison is because teens, you know, rightfully or unrightfully have a reputation of being difficult. Isn’t it? Honest reputation true, you were all teens once. Work with me here.
C. God’s blessings are undeserved
Therefore, it's a good analogy or illustration of our relationship to the Lord because frankly, a lot of people, frankly, if I can be so bold, would you allow me to be bold? You won't be offended. Many people are, frankly, kind of rebellious in their relationship to the Lord. Do you know what I'm saying? They are kind of independent, like, "God well, you know I'll visit you on Sundays or Saturdays." I'll visit. It’s like, I'll come home visit my parents, but don't tell me what to do. Okay, I'll go my own way, right. I'll visit you pay-- hey, you're my, you are my dad, you are my mom. Thanks for everything. Send me some money. It's all cool. But listen, don't tell me what to do.
Aren't a lot of people that way with God? Can I suggest to you that that's a formula for disaster? Anybody believe that? That's a formula for disaster. When we say, "God, I want your wisdom. I want to walk with you," and what God says is, "I am sufficient. I'll bless your life. You walk with me, I'll bless your life. Walk with me be blameless, I'll bless your life." This is what we begin to see. God's blessings are undeserved. They are undeserved, you don't earn them. You don't work for them. You don't say okay, "God, I've been walking with you now, so now you are going to bless my life." No, they are undeserved.
He tells him that He's going to confirm this covenant and is going to multiply him exceedingly. He speaks to the nature of God's blessing by giving him a new name, Abraham, father of a multitude. Sarai, her name means actually striving one or contentious and her name is changed to Princess, Sarah. The new name represents the new character that God is instilling in them. You know, when people think of your name, everybody, of course, has a name, but names have meanings, but what's interesting is, people begin to assign to your name a meaning. Did you know that?
When people think of you, they begin to think of who you are, they begin to think of your character and so if people could describe you in like one word, people could describe you one word like what would that word be? Don't tell me. Just think and ask God is that the word that I want people to be thinking of me? God, I want people to see your work, your ways, your Spirit. God wants Abraham to walk before him wholeheartedly, blameless heart, but this is going to require a change in Abraham's life. There are exceedingly great blessings that God desires to pour out on our lives, but they are all completely undeserved.
Because-- I tell you what, if God gave us what we deserved, let's start with that, if God gave us what we deserved, we would actually be in great trouble. Isn't that true? Let me give you a verse that is just going to prove it. Psalms 103:8-10, "The Lord is compassionate and the Lord is gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love and kindness. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor has he rewarded us according to our iniquities. Praise God for that."
II. Be Circumcised in Heart
Therefore, He blesses, and He blesses undeservedly, and so Abraham's response here has got to be a great example. He falls on his face. What a great example. He just falls on his face to worship God, and he's humbling himself there on his face, Abraham receives these blessings that he could never accomplish on his own. What a contrast. What a contrast to doing his own thing and making all the troubles and now he's just going to just fall on his face and receive them.
See, when we do our own thing, our own way, we mess things up and end up making life way much more difficult than we ever imagined it would be, but if we trust God to be El Shaddai, He accomplishes blessings we could never accomplish on our own. Far more abundantly beyond. Psalm 108:3 Oh, he says, though, that my people would listen to me, oh, that Israel would walk in my ways. I would quickly subdue their enemies, I would turn my hand against their adversaries, and I would feed you with the finest of wheat and with honey from the rock and I will satisfy you. Speaking of course, also a spiritual thing and their lives.
Then He goes, still I'm in Genesis 17, He then goes to this covenant of circumcision, and the point is spiritual. Be circumcised in the heart is the application that we want to draw here. Now I got to tell you, I will tell you this is not a topic that most pastors would choose to teach on. "Oh, what are you teaching on Sunday?" "I'm teaching on circumcision." Okay. It's not a topic most pastors would want to teach on and I'm sure frankly that Abraham would find this would be a sore subject as well.
A. Cut away the world
Little humor there, lighten up the mood. God is taking Abraham to the point of change, and He wants Abraham to have a mark on his life that will speak of the change in his heart. This is the point. It's reflecting something spiritual and of course the application, let's kind of say this way, cut away the world. When God makes it clear that Sarah herself is going to have a son, he falls on his face and he laughs. It's like this is far beyond his comprehension to believe it.
That's probably why God doesn't tell us in advance what He is going to do. I think many people would be shocked to find what God would do. They can't even imagine it. Abraham is 99, Sarah is 90, seems beyond comprehension. He has failed in his faith several times and we see actually he is failing again here. He even brings up Ishmael. "Oh, that Ishmael might live before you." God answers direct into the point, "No." Don't you just love it when God is direct? "No." Sarah, which is what He meant from the beginning, because Abraham had one wife.
When God gave that promise to Abraham, "Abraham, you are going to have a son, and he is going to come from your own body." Abraham only had one wife, Abraham was honoring the Lord. What does it say in the book of Genesis? A man shall leave his father and his mother, shall cleave to his wife, the two shall become one flesh. That is the definition of marriage, so, he, Abraham was honoring God. He had one wife. Many people didn't. Many people had many. He had one wife, he is honoring God. That's what God intended. Sarah couldn't comprehend this. Now is direct, "No. Sarah will have a son."
Then when God tells Abraham the boy's name, that is enough. Abraham immediately does what God asked him to do. He circumcises all the men in the household and we understand there is a spiritual significance, it represents the cutting away of the sin nature and having a relationship to God. Let me give you a great verse. Deuteronomy 30:6. Moreover, the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul in order that you may live. Spiritual. The purpose of the symbol that Abraham must represent that they belong to God. That they were a people set apart.
What was the point of an outward symbol if there is no reality behind it? It was an outward symbol was to reflect an inner reality. See, symbols, religious symbols without a heart behind them is what? They are just religion. Symbols without a heart, symbols without reality are just religion. God's not in to religion because there's no value to the soul. What is He telling him? He is telling him, live by a heart that is changed. We are called to salvation. God invites us to salvation, that's right, but also so much more. God calls us to a changed heart. "Walk before me." God said to Abraham. That represents the change God is calling him to.
B. Live by a heart that is changed
This is important for us to recognize because God is calling us to have a relationship of nearness and closeness and intimacy and He wants us to walk also with God. You walk with God and you are going to see a transformation. Some people say, "Well, I'm not being transformed." I suggest that you walk closer then, and walk nearer then, and draw your heart closer then, to fall more in love with Him then. I tell you, the Holy Spirit is a power and a power that transforms lives.
The difference could be compared to like the difference between pressure or principle. To live by pressure, is to do things because well, if you don't you are going to be in trouble and if you don't want trouble, you better be careful, but to live by the principle of God's heart, is to have the heart that is given to the Lord and to do things because your heart wants to walk with God and to honor Him in your life and to walk according to the principles of His Word.
It is like Galatians 5:6. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything. I tell you what, it does mean something. It's faith working through love. I tell you what? That is a good verse, that is a good verse. It makes it so clear. Look, in Christ Jesus, circumcision or uncircumcision, it means nothing. I tell you what, it does mean something. Faith working through love. It's calling us into that nearness, that relationship, bringing revival again in our lives. God is doing a new work.
It is important to see because some people are stuck. They are stuck in a rut that they have been stuck in for 20 years or more. God is doing a new work that we would walk with Him and believe that He is El Shaddai. That He is the sufficient one. That He is powerful, that He is able to accomplish what concerns us. Let me give you a great verse, Psalm 187:7-8. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you will revive me. God I believe you will revive me even in the midst of trouble, you will revive me and your right hand will save me. The Lord will accomplish what concerns me today.
Oh, your loving kindness, oh Lord is everlasting, that's a good verse. Your loving kindness oh Lord is everlasting. You will accomplish what concerns me today and though I walk in the midst of trouble, you will revive me. That's what God wants to do. He wants us to walk with Him, trusting Him even in the midst of trouble that He is El Shaddai. He is El Shaddai, God Almighty, The all Sufficient one. Circumcision or uncircumcision doesn't mean anything. Tell you what means something - Faith.