WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN GENESIS CHAPTER 15-16:
- God judges sin but with grace
- God’s timing is not our own
- Nothing is impossible with God
- God is our shield
- God is our light
- God seeks us even when we flee from Him
Sarai told Abram to sleep with her servant in order to have a child. Once Hagar got pregnant, she got an attitude (probably thought herself better than Sarai) and despised her mistress. Then Sarai blamed Abram for this. Abram gave Sarai permission to do what she wanted with Hagar. She mistreated her, and Hagar fled.
11a) They knew God would give them a child, so they decided to help God out by using Hagar (which was acceptable back then). They believed God, but didn’t have any patience and thought they knew the method better.
b) Personal Question. My answer: We can believe one thing, but do another. Our fears and our doubts can make us do irrational actions even though we know they aren’t the best decision.
12a) Abram slept with Hagar (not his wife as God ordained). Sarai willingly gave Hagar to Abram (not ordained either). Both in a sense committed adultery.
b) There is nothing good that comes from sin. Ishmael was born, whom the Islamic faith comes from. They are non-Christians. Short-term, Sarai was angry at Abram when it was her fault, so their marriage was not doing well.
13) Everything is a wait game. You can’t push God’s timing.
You think Abram and Sarai would have learned after Sarai was prostituted out to Pharaoh, but nope. Only thing that came out of this was pain from everyone involved.
Hagar was a slave they got when they went to Egypt the first time against God’s orders.(Genesis 12:16). As you can see, sin compounds sin.
Sarai was tired of waiting for a baby. She was probably feeling hurt and sadness for not having a child yet. She could have thought God did not want her as the mother of the nations, only Abram as the father. She may have been angry at God, too. All of her feelings culminated in the sin of adultery.
Abram goes along with it. Ten years probably seemed like a long time to them. We must remember we can’t rush God. God is testing our patience and our obedience.
Note they did not pray about this decision. They just did it.
Some Bible scholars think that Hagar would sit on Sarai as Abram inseminated her. They point to Genesis 30:3 of Rachel giving Bilhah to support this. We don’t know. All we know is that having a surrogate mother was common in ancient times.
Having a baby with Abram gave Hagar clout, which she wielded against Sarai.
Sarai blames Abram, which is true. He was the head of the household and should have said no. Abram could have handled the problem, instead he defers to Sarai. This is what it is. Abram probably wanted to stay out of their squabbles. Hagar flees, probably back to her home in Egypt.
God also reiterates to Abram that He brought him from Ur to give him this land. Again, Abram questions God, asking for reassurances of this promise. God tells Abram to bring him a heifer, goat, ram, dove, and a pigeon. Abram cut these in half (except the birds). As Abram awaits God’s arrival, birds of prey come to feed on the carcasses so Abram drives them away.
Abram fell asleep, and the Lord revealed that Abram’s descendants will be strangers and enslaved for 400 years. However, God would punish this nation, and they will emerge with great possessions. Abram will die in peace and at an old age.
Then the Lord appeared (many believe) in the smoke and united the pieces, making a covenant with Abram, giving his descendants this land.
7) God answers Abram’s request of reassurance of God’s promises of an heir and land. He united the pieces of the sacrifice and makes a covenant with Abram to give his descendants the Promised Land.
8 ) Your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated for 400 years. (Exodus 12:31-40 tells of Pharaoh freeing the Israelites and they were prisonsers for 430 years.)
He will go to his fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age. (Genesis 25:7-8 tells us Abram died at the age of 175, and he died at a good old age)
In the fourth generation, your descendants will return, for the sin of the Amorites will not yet have reached its full measure. (Exodus 6:11 records God setting the Israelites free from Pharaoh).
9) Personal Question. My answer: Abram believes but asks for confirmation and reassurance. We do this in our lives too. We know in our hearts the truth, but are so fearful of the wrong decision that we ask for confirmation. Here, Abram does the same thing.
10) 2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:13-14 tells us God uses the Holy Spirit to reassure us of what is to come.
It’s like Abram keeps asking, “Are you sure, God? I mean, are you ABSOLUTELY sure?” We do this today, too. We believe God, but we need to have peace with it because we are weak and need God’s support. As this example shows us, this is okay and normal, and God will meet you where you are at in your need to be comforted and reassured.
Cutting animals in half and putting them back together again makes no sense to us. But in Abram’s day, this was the way covenants/promises were made. The two people would walk through the animal parts, repeating the promise. In fact Genesis 15:18 translates as “the LORD cut a covenant.”
Jeremiah 34:18-20 we see this ritual as well.
The covenant is sealed with blood (according to custom in those days). If you break the covenant, the blood is on you.
God was probably tired of this doubt, so He made the covenant final.
Note that Abram waited, long enough for vultures to find the carcasses. This is often the case. God’s timing is not ours.
God causes Abram to sleep so He can appear to him in a dream. God says Abram will have all this land, but at a cost — his descendants will be slaves. (Exodus 1:1-14). Yet, in the end, his descendants would inherit the land.
God walks between the pieces Himself as a smoking firepot and a blazing torch.
Note that Abram had no part in the covenant; it is all God by His grace alone. This is the same for Jesus. Jesus died for us; we had nothing to do with it.
God is in control, always.
God came to Abram and said, “Do not be afraid.” Abram questioned God since he had no children yet. God tells him he will have a son to inherit the land and that his offspring will be as numerous as the stars. Abram believed the Lord, and God credited it to Abram as righteous.
3) God is our shield and God rewards. Many places in the Bible God is called our shield. When times are tough, God will shield you.
Reward in the Bible.
4) I’m not sure it did. After all, Abram follows up God’s promise with a doubt. Although, Abram was probably afraid of retaliation by the 4 kings, and he did just give up a fair amount of riches (although he’s rich enough). God is our ultimate reward.
5a) He believed the Lord’s promise of an heir.
b) When you believe in God, you are made righteous by grace through faith, so you can then stand before God in His presence. Abram believed God’s promise of an heir and descendants, so he was then credited or made righteous before God. The same holds true for us today.
6) Personal Question. My answer: God comes to us when we need Him the most. He knows our doubts without us speaking. He knows when we need to hear Him. Hu understands we need to hear things more than once to believe. He is gracious. This is comforting, indeed.
I love how God just appears to Abram for the sole purpose of comforting him and allaying his fears. God does this today for us if we will listen close enough.
God spoke to people in many different ways in OT times: voice, vision, dreams, angels, the Holy Spirit, and through others. Here, it’s a vision.
Abram was probably afraid of retribution by the four kings. Do not fear, God says. He will protect Abram (be his shield) and He will be his reward (since he just gave up the plunder and reward from the king of Sodom (Genesis 14:21-24)). Interestingly, God did not tell him to do this; yet, Abram may be regretting it here.
Eliezer of Damascus was Abram’s servant.
Abram dismissed God’s promises here because he was concerned about a son. He tells God that he wants to believe him, yet he doubts. It’s okay to doubt God when you want to believe Him. It’s not okay to doubt God because you reject Him.
Abram tells God how he feels honestly. This is a great prayer example for us today.
God makes this promise crystal clear; it would be a physical son. We often misunderstand God’s promises.
He would have millions of descendents.
This last sentence can be confusing. Abram believed the Lord; the Lord credited this as righteousness to Abram. This is the righteousness you have when you believe in God and believe God. There is a righteousness on your own accord. This is not that one. This is God granting it.
The Message says this, “6 And he believed! Believed God! God declared him “Set-Right-with-God.” Righteousness is right with God.
Here, we see the truth of salvation by grace through faith. We see this verse quoted 4 other times in the Bible:
This fact will be used to discredit the notion that you had to be circumcised to be righteous before God since Abram had not yet been circumcised here (Genesis 17).
Fun Facts: This is the first time believe and righteousness are used in the Bible.
Summary of passages: Romans 4:13-25: Abraham received God’s promise by faith, not by works or by following the law (which didn’t exist or hadn’t been given in Abram’s time). For if you follow the law, then why would you need faith?
God’s promises are by faith in Him and by His grace to all who believe not just to those who follow the law. Through hope and faith Abraham believed God when God said he would be a father of nations even though he and Sarah were almost 100 years old and were close to death.
Abraham was strengthened in his faith and gave God the glory when he had a son. It was through his faith Abraham was righteous and it is the same for all believers who believe Jesus died for our sins and was raised from the dead for our justification.
We must remember Paul is writing explaining the Christian faith and just got done in Romans 3, saying we are righteous only because of faith in Jesus and nothing else.
Galatians 3:6-9, 16, 29: Abraham believed God and was thus righteous. Therefore, those who believe are children of Abraham and are blessed along with him. The Scriptures say that God justifies the Gentiles though faith as evidenced when God said he would bless all nations through Abraham.
God’s promises apply to all if you belong to Christ.
Hebrews 11:8-19: Abraham when called obeyed by faith to go to the promised land and make his home there for he was looking forward to the city with foundations (heaven). Abraham became a father by faith and had descendants as numerous as the stars.
All of these people when they died were living by faith for they did not receive the promises in their lifetime on earth. They were strangers in this land for their home was in heaven.
Abraham offered his only son Isaac as a sacrifice to God for he had faith that God could and would bring him back from the dead.
9) Personal Question. My answer: It all comes down to faith in God, who He is, what He says, and what He does. We have nothing to worry about if we have God.
10) Genesis 12:3: God says “…all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Galatians tells us that all who believe are children of Abraham and are thus righteous and blessed as God blessed all through Abraham.
11a) Personal Question. My answer: He had unquestioning faith. He never questioned. God spoke; Abraham obeyed. Even when it was scary, uncertain, or painful (like called to sacrifice your only son). He believed in God’s promises.
b) Genesis 21:12: God says, “…it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” The ultimate blessing is our forgiveness of our sins and salvation through Jesus Christ, a descendant of Isaac and Abraham.
c) Personal Question. My answer: God’s promises have been the same since the Fall. That He would provide us an eternal home with him. He would cleanse us of our sins and redeem us. He would provide the way. And not only for God’s chosen people, the Israelites, but also for the Gentiles. All through faith.
Conclusions: Definitely dreaded this lesson after yesterday’s, especially when I noted nothing from Genesis (or the Old Testament) in the reading AND Hebrews 11 AGAIN!
Interesting how often the Bible does repeat itself or the same idea (like in these passages about Abraham’s faith) just in different ways. Guess we have to drill it into our heads to get it!
This lesson brought to mind the study of Isaiah where the importance of Israel and the Gentiles was prominent. Here, I first learned the significance of both and the difference.
Summary of today: God’s promises are for ALL. Which includes salvation.
Summary of passages: Genesis 11:26-32: The account of Terah from the line of Shem who was Abram’s (later Abraham’s) father. Lot was Abram’s nephew. Abram married Sarai (later Sarah) and she was barren (had no children).
Terah, Abram, Sarai, and Lot left Ur for Canaan but settled in Haran where Terah died.
Acts 7:2-8: Stephen tells us the back story: God appeared the Abram/Abraham while he was still in Ur in Mesopotamia before he left for Haran and told Abram to leave Ur and to go to Canaan. So he went to Haran. Then after Terah, his father, died God sent Abram to Canaan.
God gave him no inheritance in Canaan but He promised him his descendants would possess the land. God told Abram his children would be strangers in the land and would be enslaved for 400 years. But God would punish that nation and afterward they will come back to Canaan to worship Him. Here, God instituted the covenant of circumcision as a sign of this covenant.
Then Abraham had Isaac whom he circumcised. Isaac had Jacob who became the father of the twelve patriarchs.
7a) Ur, a city in Mesopotamia where the Chaldeans or Babylonians ruled at that time (approximately 2091 BC).
b) Personal Question. My answer: That God told Abram beforehand that they would suffer and be enslaved before they would have their inheritance of the land. Also, the covenant of circumcision was a sign of this promise.
8a) Personal Question. My answer: I learned that Lot was Abram’s nephew and was one of those chosen along with Abram to share in God’s inheritance of Canaan.
b) Personal Question. My answer: This one is pulling teeth. Not sure how the facts of Abram’s calling encourage my family.
Conclusions: My favorite part of this lesson was writing the summary. The rest I could have done without.
I gave up on 8b after 20 minutes. Couldn’t think of one thing.
This one was definitely a filler lesson in my opinion.
Map of Abram’s Journey out of Ur to Canaan: http://www.israel-a-history-of.com/old-testament-map.html#Peninsula.
Recommendation: If you are interested in map work, I would purchase a good Bible Atlas. The one I own is Zondervan’s Atlas of the Bible by Carl S. Rasmussen. This has a much, MUCH better map of Abraham’s possible route than I could find on the Internet as well as detailed background information, dates, and what’s going on in the known world in the same time period.
I’m sure there are many more wonderful ones out there but the detail given in a book is invaluable to me as I need to picture Abram trekking through the desert in order to understand a world more than 4 millenia before mine.
Summary of passages: Please see previous posts.
6a) Personal Question. My answer: The judgment was final. There was no going back once it began. Once God closed the door to the ark God’s judgment had been complete. So it will be in the End Times for Jesus’s Second Coming. No one will know when it will happen. It will just happen.
b) Believers are spared God’s punishment in terms of punishment. We are judged for rewards for God has forgiven our sins. Unbelievers are judged for punishments for their sins have not been forgiven.
c) Personal Question. My answer: I am a Christian through faith in our Savior, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit indwells my body to guide me in this life.
Conclusion: Honestly, again, dreading the repetition. But part b did give me a chance to clarify in my mind the Final Judgment and research the passages for this, which is important in explaining to others why they need to accept Christ.
Great, succinct answer to who is judged and when HERE
Summary of passages: Please see previous posts.
3a) Physical Needs: God clothed them. Food: now man must sow the ground for his food. The garden had provided shelter for man.
Spiritual Needs: A Father (God) to lead man.
Man thought he needed the knowledge of good and evil (or of God and what God knows) but in all actuality man doesn’t.
b) 3:15 “…and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head and you will strike his heel.” Matthew and Luke recounts how God provided Mary a child through the Holy Spirit.
4) Faith is believing in what we cannot see and being sure of it despite this. The writer uses the example that we believe God made the universe even though no one saw this happen and believing God made all we see from what we do not see.
5a) Personal Question. My answer: Abel knew God demanded the best from him so he brought the best. Just like God demands the best from us so we must give Him our best. Whatever that looks like for each of us.
b) Faith. Hebrews 11:5: “By faith Enoch was taken from this life…”
c) Personal Question. My answer: I must keep the faith. Hebrews 11:13: “…They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them…” Hebrews 11:39-40: “…yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us…”
Even though I cannot see it, it is there. God’s promises for me. In Him. And when I feel like this life sucks I must keep moving towards Him. Through faith. For He has a better plan.
Conclusion: Interesting how 2 obscure men in the Bible (Enoch and Abel) who maybe have a dozen verses between them (that’s being generous) made such an impact on others who remembered their faith. For we are not told much about what they did. Only Enoch walked with God and Abel brought the fat. That’s about it. Then they die.
This gives me hope. Currently, I am struggling with my life and its meaning. I feel like God has so much more for me and here I am languishing.
For who am I? Who was Abel? Just a guy who had faith and got killed for it. Who was Enoch? Just a guy who walked with God and because of it was spared a physical death. Who will remember me? No one will read about me when I die. Yet there is something out there for me that will make an impact. I just feel I’m not there yet.
End Note: Admittedly, I skimmed this Lesson (a review lesson) and was dreading it. I skimmed today’s passages and thought Not again! I mean, how many times do I have to read Hebrews. Seriously?
So I thought God must have something here for me. So I read all of Hebrews 11. And sure enough I came up with the answer to question 5c and the conclusion.
That even though I am only one person out of 7 billion people or however many people are on the planet now I can make a difference and an impact. If I have the faith in God and trust Him to do it. Not me. But Him. Just like all the people mentioned in Hebrews 11. All had one thing in common: faith in God. And all accomplished His mission in their lives.
This is my prayer for me and you: keep the faith and accomplish His purpose in our lives.
Fun Fact: Check out this website with cool charts on the world population throughout history: