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Genesis 17:23-27

A Spiritual Leader

23 And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham's house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him. 24 And Abraham was ninety years old and nine, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 25 And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 26 In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son. 27 And all the men of his house, born in the house, and bought with money of the stranger, were circumcised with him.


The character of a man is reflected in the character of his family. A godly man will have a godly family. This requires first that the man of the house should be an example for the others to follow, but it also means that he must assume the responsibility for teaching them and for leading them in worship. He should have his family's respect as their spiritual leader, because he has worked to earn it.

In modern society, there are few households that have godly leadership of the type demonstrated in this last part of the seventeenth chapter of Genesis. As fathers, we have so many more advantages for being strong leaders than Abraham had. Yet, we have difficulty raising a godly family with only one or two children. Abraham's household was huge in comparison to the modern family, for despite the fact that he had only one son, he had hundreds of servants and employees for whom he was responsible.

Abraham's leadership even had the respect of God. Consider what God says about him in the next chapter,

"And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; …… For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him." (Genesis 18:17,19)

The central theme of the passage that we are studying is not the circumcision, for that has already been covered. The important message here is in the fact that Abraham "… circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him." Men of faith do not hesitate in their obedience to God. Abraham acted upon God's command immediately and with complete trust. This was a difficult thing for Abraham to do, and perhaps we gloss over it and take it too lightly.

First, it was a very painful sort of mutilation, especially for a man of ninety-nine years. We must remember that in those days there were no antiseptics, sterile cutting instruments, or bandages. Even the smallest of wounds could be deadly. Abraham, however, did not hesitate to do as the Lord commanded him. His faith was greater than his fear.

Secondly, it is difficult to visualize the hundreds of men who were in Abraham's household willingly standing in line and waiting to be circumcised. Abraham must have done a wonderful job acting as the spiritual leader of this group. His leadership and character are exemplified in the unquestioning obedience of all of the men of his household to suffer this pain and embarrassment.

Few of us will ever suffer the leadership test that Abraham was put through, but how do we fare on the simple ordinary tests of daily living? Does your family worship every Sunday? Are prayer and Bible study regular habits for the members of your family? Are you setting the example for them to follow? When God sets ministry opportunities before you, are you quick to respond and to lead you family in the work, or do you procrastinate until it is too late?

Before The Throne:

Confess your leadership weaknesses to God. The lady of the house has the same responsibilities as the husband, because you are his helper. Pray that God would make you an example to your family, your church, and your community. Ask to be shown what you need to improve upon. Pray for your family. That is the first step to spiritual leadership.

For Further Study:

(v.23)
** circumcised. Gen 18:19; 34:24; Jos 5:2-9; Ps 119:60; Pr 27:1; Ec 9:10; Ac 16:3; Ro 2:25-29; 4:9-12; 1Co 7:18,19; Ga 5:6; 6:15;

(v.24) Gen 12:4; Ro 4:11,19,20;

(v.26) Gen 12:4; 22:3,4; Ps 119:60;

(v.27) ** circumcised. Gen 18:19;

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