“When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before Me, and be blameless, that I may make My covenant between Me and you, and may multiply you greatly.’” – Genesis 17:1-2.
It is easy for believers to think that in our pursuit of holiness all we need to do is muster up enough self-discipline and “try harder.” But lately the Lord has reminded me that apart from Him, I have ZERO ability to change my own heart. And while He has been faithful to reveal my weakness, He has been even more faithful to remind me of His power and sufficiency to make me more like Him.
One way that He reminded me of this was through Genesis 17. This chapter records the second covenant that God makes with Abraham. Part of this promise is that Abraham’s descendants would “outnumber the stars and become the nation of Israel.” But at the time God makes this covenant, they have not yet had the son through whom the covenant would be fulfilled; Abraham is ninety-nine and Sarah is ninety (v.17).
Keeping in mind this seemingly impossible promise, let’s focus on what God calls Himself. He is “God Almighty,” which is the Hebrew name El Shaddai. It means “God is powerful, the Almighty” and is the plural form of “majestic.” Many Jewish rabbis believed El Shaddai to mean “the One who is Self-sufficient.” Knowing that God had promised to give this elderly couple a child, why do you think it could be reassuring for Abraham to know that God is all-powerful, almighty and Self-sufficient?
Not only is God promising this 99-year-old a son, but He also says, “walk before Me and be blameless.” While it seems like two separate commands, each phrase hinges upon (and is bound to) the other. To gain a better understanding of God’s command, let’s break it apart:
- Walk before Me: “Before” is translated from the Hebrew word paniyem, meaning, “face, before, in the presence of, face.”
- Be blameless: “Blameless” is translated from the Hebrew word tamiym, meaning “complete, sound, entire, whole.”
God is calling Abraham to “walk facing Him,” to be in an ongoing, face-to-face relationship with El Shaddai.
Where would Abraham get the power needed to be blameless and “complete?” Does he need to muster up sheer will-power to do it? Thankfully, no! Rather, as Abraham walks face-to-face with God Almighty, His infinite power and sufficiency would enable Abraham to live a godly life.
To be honest, this sounds a lot like sanctification to me! You and I enter into a covenant relationship with God completely by grace when we place our faith in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:1-10). Thankfully grace isn’t only present at our salvation but every day of our lives afterwards, as it “trains” us in godliness (Titus 2:11-14).
Romans 8:11 promises believers, “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”
Do you hear how awesome this is? From the moment you committed your life to Christ, the Holy Spirit (that raised Jesus from the dead!) has lived inside of you and will never leave you. Through the Spirit, God Almighty has given us His power to put sin to death and to pursue holiness.
This doesn’t mean that we sit around and wait for God to change us. In Romans 8:5 Paul writes, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” We are called to actively “set our minds on the Spirit” and “put to death the deeds of the flesh” (Rom. 8:13). We do so by humbly pursuing a lifestyle spent in the Word, prayer, repentance, etc. As we intentionally live a lifestyle “face-to-face” with God, He will empower us to fight sin and will transform us into His image.
Becoming more like Christ is an exciting, lifelong process that God promises to work in believers as we set our minds on (and walk “face-to-face” with) our God. Praise the Lord for having all the power necessary to enable us to walk before Him and be blameless!
1 Thessalonians 3:23-24: “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.”
Emily Kelly lives in Athens, GA with her husband Mark, where she is the college women’s director at Watkinsville First Baptist. She is passionate about discipleship and helping younger girls know Christ through the Word. She loves spending time with her husband, with her family and with the awesome students in Athens.