When a person reads through the scriptures and genuinely seeks to understand the things that are written in them by stopping and contemplating the words and their meaning, one should realize how incredible the grace of God is. There is a verse that many people use as encouragement that says, "It is the goodness of God that leads to repentance (Romans 2:4)." Yet it is interesting to know that "goodness" in that context refers to God's mercy and His patience to withhold the wrath that we as people so dearly deserve. When one considers the world and the filth in it, it is mind-boggling to consider that God is patiently waiting to judge. When one considers the amount of arrogance that fills this world, as if a miserably flawed and finite human race can actually be like God, it is incredible to consider that God is patiently waiting to judge. The thing that makes these truths more powerful is that God is still willing to bless in the midst of all of this rebellion against Him! The grace of God is too much!
When one considers the testimony presented in Genesis 17:1-8, one can see the grace of God and how powerful it is when a person stops for a moment to receive it. In Genesis 17:1-8 the scriptures begin by providing a very important detail. The scriptures explain in Genesis 17:1-8 that Abram is 99 years old. This means that 14 years had transpired from Genesis chapter 16 to Genesis chapter 17. This means that 14 years had elapsed since Abram and Sarai decided to make a terrible decision, demonstrating miserable impatience and unbelief, and involved Hagar in their marriage relationship to try and have a child through ways different than what God had planned. The important thing to consider is that there is no dialogue or contact between Abram and God during this time. There is no scripture that suggests that Abram and God continued in their communication. The last communication that is seen from God is through the Angel of the Lord; but He is sent to communicate to Hagar to encourage her to endure the hardships that had come her way.
The scriptures powerfully suggest that Abram and God had not been in contact through the duration of these 14 years. Consider the perspective of Abram. He was able to get Hagar pregnant. Thus, by the time Genesis 17 begins, Abram's son through Hagar is at least 13 years old. In the mind of Abram it is likely that he felt God had honored his desire to have a son and that Ishmael was that son. Therefore, like so many other people do, when Abram got what he wanted from God (or at least thought he did), he distanced himself from God. When Abram was not in the desperate position of need anymore, the scriptures show that Abram was not as passionate to seek the Lord and commune with Him.
The interesting thing about Genesis 17:1-8 is that its contents reveal God repeating the promises He made to Abram in Genesis chapter 12. Though Abram didn't seek God for 14 years and felt his wicked actions that resulted in Ishmael were a good thing, God is the one who initiates contact with Abram. Abram should have repented to God for the unbelief he demonstrated, for the fornication he committed, and for the lack of leadership he demonstrated when Sarai and Hagar were quarreling with each other. Yet the scriptures don't show Abram make contact with God until God makes contact with him. In Genesis 17:1-8 God calls out to Abram and begins by saying, "I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless." The scriptures reveal God reminding Abram who He is, that He is almighty, and that in response to such truths, Abram should be sanctified unto God and be blameless. Based on the details of Genesis chapter 16, and the absence of details before Genesis chapter 17, Abram is hardly seen as "blameless" and "walking before God." God approached Abram while Abram was walking for himself. Nevertheless, God reached out.
God's introductory statement is a call to repentance. God told Abram that He is the Almighty God because Abram had forgotten. God told Abram that he should walk before Him because Abram wasn't walking with God. God told Abram to be blameless because Abram was not blameless. Abram needed to repent. Though God would have to righteous to judge Abram for disobeying God without repentance for 14 years, God patiently waited on Abram, giving him opportunity after opportunity to make things right. Yet when Abram finally showed that he would not repent on his own, God intervened to show His affection for His children and reached out to Abram. The amazing thing is that God didn't just call Abram to repentance, but before Abram could even respond, God reminded Abram of the promises He made 25 years before! One would think that 14 years of rebellion against God would disqualify Abram from receiving the benefits of God's promises. Any normal human being would not be so patient - but God is not like us! People are not faithful. God is faithful. People are not patient. God is patient. People are not gracious. God is gracious. God reminded Abram, that in spite of his sin, God would still establish the covenant He made with Abram and multiply Abram greatly. God made 3 promises to Abram. God specifically reminded Abram that He would multiply him to point out the mistake that Abram made with Hagar and Sarai.
Abram didn't deserve the promises, but God repeated them anyway. God made the promises in grace and He would fulfill the promises in grace. God ratified the promises without the participation of Abram and He would fulfill the promises in spite of Abram. Genesis 17:1-8 shows God repeating the promises that He made in Genesis 12 and repeated in Genesis 15. In these 7 verses of scripture, God says, "I will," 8 times. This shows that it is God who would be the cause of the promises being fulfilled - not Abram. God didn't rely on Abram's "performance" when He first made the promises, and He most certainly would not rely on Abram's "performance" to fulfill the promises. In fact, Abram's disobedience makes God's promises so much more precious and powerful. Abram's disobedience shows that mankind cannot sway God's mind and cause God to act outside of His nature. It is true that God has a unique affection towards mankind, but not to the point where the character and nature of God is compromised when mankind strives against God.
Since God's promises to Abram were eternal in nature in Genesis chapter 12, God reminded Abram that they would remain eternal in nature, meaning that God would continually fulfill these promises, even long after Abram's death. Nevertheless, God called Abram to remember who God was. God called Abram to walk with God and be blameless. God was so serious about this that He even changed Abram's name to Abraham in order to identify Abraham as God's own possession. Abraham would not be called by the name his parents gave him, but by the name that God gave him! God was serious. It is a reasonable expectation for God to expect Abraham's faithfulness and obedience since he is the recipient of God's grace. Since God was willing to do so much in spite of Abraham's disobedience, Abraham should have been compelled to show his appreciation towards God in obedience to God. God could have judged Abraham and destroyed him, but instead God decided to reaffirm His promises to Abraham, encourage Abraham, and make Abraham as His own child in the context of repentance. In response, Genesis 17:1-8 explains that Abraham fell to the ground in humility before God. This is the appropriate response of one who understands the extent of God's grace that they have received.
God has been patient with many of us. For many of us its been close to, or more than 14 years that we have rebelled against God. Yet the breath of life is in us anyway. Though God has had good reason to destroy all life on this planet, He has patiently endured the world's rebellion with long suffering, providing opportunity after opportunity for some to respond in humility, seeking His forgiveness through repentance. God has been patiently waiting for many of us to stop doing our own thing like Abram because He longs to make us His own children identifiable by His own character and blameless nature flowing in us and through us. God desires to bless us even though we don't deserve it. It's who He is. The fact that many people can't understand that is such a testament to show the greatness of God and how holy He really is. Abraham continued to make mistakes as God's child, but he responded to the voice of the living God to repent and was considered righteous. Abraham continued to make mistakes as a child of God, but he diligently sought the Lord in humility and earnestly tried to do right, such to the extent that the scriptures call Abraham "a friend of God (James 2:23). Respond to the grace of God in a like manner.