< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: August 2014

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Genesis 19

Genesis 19:1-19 The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city.

Notice that there were 3 men with Abraham. 2 went on to Sodom and the LORD stayed to talk to Abraham and then left. But not to go with the other 2 men.
When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. 2 “My lords,” he said, “please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.”
“No,” they answered, “we will spend the night in the square.”

3 But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate. 4 Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. 5 They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”

6 Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him 7 and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. 8 Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”

9 “Get out of our way,” they replied. “This fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.” They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door.

10 But the men inside reached out and pulled Lot back into the house and shut the door. 11 Then they struck the men who were at the door of the house, young and old, with blindness so that they could not find the door.

12 The two men said to Lot, “Do you have anyone else here—sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here, 13 because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the Lord against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.”

14 So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were pledged to marry his daughters. He said, “Hurry and get out of this place, because the Lord is about to destroy the city!” But his sons-in-law thought he was joking.

15 With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.”

16 When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them. 17 As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!”

Apparently Lot was the only man in Sodom who had any kind of relationship with God, so He gave him a way out.

18 But Lot said to them, “No, my lords, please! 19 Your servant has found favor in your eyes, and you have shown great kindness to me in sparing my life. But I can’t flee to the mountains; this disaster will overtake me, and I’ll die. 20 Look, here is a town near enough to run to, and it is small. Let me flee to it—it is very small, isn’t it? Then my life will be spared.”

21 He said to him, “Very well, I will grant this request too; I will not overthrow the town you speak of. 22 But flee there quickly, because I cannot do anything until you reach it.” (That is why the town was called Zoar.)

23 By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. 24 Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of the heavens. 25 Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land. 26 But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

27 Early the next morning Abraham got up and returned to the place where he had stood before the Lord. 28 He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace.

29 So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived.

So Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city when the two angels arrived. The gateway was the meeting place for city officials and other men to discuss current events and transact business. It was a place of authority and status where a person could see and be seen. Lot had become someone in Sodom.

The story of the men of Sodom coming to his door later and Lot offering them his daughters instead of his guests is strange, to say the least. Although a host was to protect his guest at any cost, this seems extreme!

And this is certainly an example of the extreme wickedness of Sodom and why God was going to destroy it.

In verse 13 the angels told Lot to save his family, that they had been sent to destroy the city. Archaeological evidence points to an advanced society in this area in Abraham’s day. And most researchers confirm some sort of sudden and devastating destruction. It is widely thought that the buried city lies beneath the waters of the southern end of the Dead Sea.

When he warned his sons-in-law, they didn’t believe him. My commentary Bible says Lot had lived among the people here for so long and fit in so well he was no longer a credible witness for God!

When the angels told him to take his wife and daughters he still hesitated to leave and they had to grab his hands and lead him away. Was he hesitant to leave his wealth behind? His comfortable surroundings? His position? His wife looked back and died!

When God tells us to let go of a sinful lifestyle and follow Him we need to let go of it completely – turn away from it – and go to Him.

Genesis 19:30-38 30 Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and settled in the mountains, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar. He and his two daughters lived in a cave. 31 One day the older daughter said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is no man around here to give us children—as is the custom all over the earth. 32 Let’s get our father to drink wine and then sleep with him and preserve our family line through our father.”

33 That night they got their father to drink wine, and the older daughter went in and slept with him. He was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.

34 The next day the older daughter said to the younger, “Last night I slept with my father. Let’s get him to drink wine again tonight, and you go in and sleep with him so we can preserve our family line through our father.” 35 So they got their father to drink wine that night also, and the younger daughter went in and slept with him. Again he was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.

36 So both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father. 37 The older daughter had a son, and she named him Moab; he is the father of the Moabites of today. 38 The younger daughter also had a son, and she named him Ben-Ammi; he is the father of the Ammonites of today.

Sounds like a new reality TV show! Is this crazy or what? But the Bible always relates what happens just like it happened. It doesn’t leave out the messy events or sugar coat things. The Bible does not tell us this stuff saying it’s right or ok though!

They really didn’t have that much of a reason to be desperate. Abraham’s large family wasn’t too far away and he could have found them husbands! It seems though that growing up in sinful Sodom had rubbed off on them!

And their sons Moab and Ben-Ammi, the products of incest, became the fathers of two of Israel’s greatest enemies, the Moabites and Ammonites. These two nations settled east of the Jordan River and Israel never conquered them.


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Genesis 18

Genesis 18:1-15 18 The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. 2 Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.

3 He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. 4 Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. 5 Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.”

“Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.”

6 So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs of the finest flour and knead it and bake some bread.” (3 seahs is about 36 pounds of flour!)

7 Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. 8 He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.

9 “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him.

“There, in the tent,” he said.

10 Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”

Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”

13 Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”

15 Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.”

But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”

There are a couple things I find really strange here! First they prepared a calf and all that bread – so how long did the guests have to sit and wait? Half a day? And they knew Sarah’s name, but Abraham didn’t question how they knew it!

Abraham was eager to show hospitality to these visitors. In his day a person’s reputation was largely connected to his hospitality. Sharing house and food. Even strangers were to be treated as honored guests. My commentary Bible says that even today meeting another’s need of food or shelter was and still is one of the most immediate and practical ways to obey God.

Hebrews 13:2 suggests that we, like Abraham, might entertain angels!

In verse 14 where they ask if anything is too hard for the Lord. It’s a good question to ask ourselves when we have a problem. Because of course the answer is “no, it isn’t!”

In verse 15 it says Sarah lied because she was afraid. Being afraid is one of the most common motives for lying. We’re afraid our wrongdoings are going to be discovered or our inner thoughts revealed. But lying causes greater complications then telling the truth.

Genesis 18:16-33 16 When the men got up to leave, they looked down toward Sodom, and Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way. 17 Then the Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? 18 Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. 19 For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”

20 Then the Lord said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous 21 that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”

22 The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord. 23 Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

26 The Lord said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

27 Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, 28 what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five people?”

“If I find forty-five there,” he said, “I will not destroy it.”

29 Once again he spoke to him, “What if only forty are found there?”

He said, “For the sake of forty, I will not do it.”

30 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?”

He answered, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”

31 Abraham said, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?”

He said, “For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.”

32 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?”

He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”

33 When the Lord had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.

People often read this passage and wonder, did Abraham change God’s mind? Of course not. The more likely answer is God changed Abraham’s mind. Abraham knew that God is just and punishes sin, but he may have wondered about God’s mercy. Abrahams seems to be probing to find out how merciful God is. At the end of the conversation he knew God was both kind and fair. Our prayers won’t change God’s mind, but they may help us understand Him better.

God knew there weren’t 10 righteous people in Sodom. He wasn’t ignorant of the city’s wicked practices, but in His fairness and patience He gave them one last chance to repent. Just like He’s giving us a chance today.

This passage shows us that asking God for anything is allowed with the understanding that God’s answers come from God’s perspective. Only He knows the whole story. Sometimes we miss the answer to our prayers because we are only looking for the answer we expect.

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Saturday, August 02, 2014

Genesis 17

Genesis 17:1-3 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. 2 Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”
3 Abram fell facedown,

This was 13 years later and apparently no further revelation from God had been made to Abraham. But now He shows up as God Himself. The God who can do anything. “God Almighty.” But every new revelation we receive carries with it an accompanying responsibility to believe it and to act upon it. God calls Abraham to “walk before me and be blameless.” Paul, in Ephesians, tells the Christians there; first what Christ is to the believer and then exhorts them to “live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”

And Abraham fell on his face. That seems to happen a lot in the presence of God! Profound reverence. Jesus and Paul both knelt to pray. John fell to the ground “like a dead man” Daniel lay down on the ground. Most Christians today treat God a lot more casually, don’t they?

Genesis 17:4-14 and God said to him, 4 “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5 No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. 6 I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. 7 I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. 8 The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”

9 Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. 13 Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

To seal the fact that God is now going to do a new thing in Abraham’s life, He gives him a new name. In Scripture a new God-given name often represents a new departure, a new nature, a new power. God also promised not only that Abraham should become the “father of many nations” but that “kings will come from you”. And the covenant was everlasting, not only between Abraham and God, but Abraham’s seed and God.

Verse 8 shows us that God gave Abraham the land of Canaan, presently speaking, the Israel of our day. Today we see the Jews as a nation in this same land promised to Abraham’s seed. In spite of their own sinning against God and His Christ, in spite of persecutions, organized massacres, migrations from one country to another over immense periods of history, Abraham’s physical seed – the Jews- still remain, as no other race, a distinct nation, a separate people, who returned to their land in 1948. They return in unbelief in Abraham’s greater Seed, the Messiah and will not know peace until they acknowledge Him. Nevertheless, their very return fulfills God’s prophecy.

The sign of the covenant would be circumcision. This had been practiced before, but now God ordained it as a recognized outward sign of “Old Covenant” the seal of obedience for all who belonged to Him. It was symbolical of a “cutting off” of the old life; of self effort, failure and sin. It symbolized purification of the heart. Paul later spoke of the spiritual meaning, that true circumcision is the outward sign representing a true inward love of God in trust and obedience.

Paul also mentions it in regard to the Christian. He states that since the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ for us, we no longer need the symbolism or “shadow of reality” of the rite of circumcision. Paul states that Jesus on the cross ‘cut off the body of sin” from us by the circumcision of the Cross. In other words as regarding our sins past and present, we look in faith to the Cross and see that God has removed them as a burden of guilt from us at the cross of Christ.

Genesis 17:15-17
15 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”
17 Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?”

The commentaries I read about this passage say Abraham wasn’t laughing in disbelief here, but in joyous amazement.

Genesis 17:18-22 8 And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”

19 Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. 20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. 21 But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.” 22 When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.

Abraham acknowledged his responsibility for Ishmael and God answers that He has a plan for him too. But He insists that in regard to the covenant and the seed which would eventually end in Messiah, the recognized line would be exclusively through Isaac. And He finally tells him when it will happen; “by this time next year.”

Genesis 17:23-27 On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him. 24 Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised, 25 and his son Ishmael was thirteen; 26 Abraham and his son Ishmael were both circumcised on that very day. 27 And every male in Abraham’s household, including those born in his household or bought from a foreigner, was circumcised with him.
He immediately and completely obeyed. Abraham was now ready to experience God’s miracle.

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Genesis 16

Genesis 16:1-6 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; 2 so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”
Abram agreed to what Sarai said. 3 So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. 4 He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.

When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. 5 Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.”

6 “Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.

This is really important today because it records the beginning of the strife over the land of Palestine. And it’s also a lesson in attempting on our own to “make” God’s promises happen instead of waiting on Him.

When Abraham first responded to God’s call, his life work was not only to become in every situation the embodiment of a man who lived by faith in God, it also consisted in producing the “seed” which led to Christ through faith in God’s promise and in His power. Abraham has been doing pretty well trusting God up until this point. But now a little unbelief is seeping in.

When people take things into their own hands because they don’t feel like God is doing anything – suffering occurs. And in this case the suffering has been going on for four thousand years.

Sarah’s suggestion wasn’t strange and awful back then like it would be today. It was actually pretty common if a wife wasn’t able to bear children to provide a handmaid to her husband in order to have children by her. But it wasn’t God’s will because he had created man and wife and Abraham (and eventually his heirs) were to live out God’s will, not the current culture’s. All Abraham and Sarah thought about was that it had been 10 years since God’s promise and He hadn’t acted on it yet. They didn’t have the Bible which shows us numerous examples of God waiting on something to show a greater miracle. (Like Jesus waiting 4 days before coming back to bring Lazarus back to life.)

We’re to do all things in the way God tells us to. In this case God said He’d do the work. Even Jesus refused to do anything of His own initiative, but in humble, utter obedience sought the mind of God about every action, every method of God’s work.

If Abraham had brought Sarah’s suggestion to God in prayer, think of how different the world would be today.

Hagar’s name means “flight.”  She was a bit of a victim, but not faultless. Instead of being thankful for the gift of a son she became proud and despised Sarah’s physically unproductive life. Pride and contemptuousness of others are two of the most condemned sins in all Scriptures.

Proverbs 6:16-19 There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him: 17 haughty eyes,
a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19 a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

According to the accepted procedures of that day, the fact that Sarah gave her handmaid to Abraham for the purpose of giving him an heir did not alter Hagar’s status as Sarah’s handmaid. Sarah’s harsh treatment, although wrong, was not unprovoked.

Genesis 16:7-12 7 The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. 8 And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”

“I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.

9 Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” 10 The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”

11 The angel of the Lord also said to her:
“You are now pregnant
and you will give birth to a son.
You shall name him Ishmael,
for the Lord has heard of your misery.
12 He will be a wild donkey of a man;
his hand will be against everyone
and everyone’s hand against him,
and he will live in hostility
toward all his brothers.”
Hagar fled in the direction of Egypt where she was from. (Probably a slave given by Pharaoh to Abraham when he left after living there awhile.) Shur means wall. The Egyptians had erected a line of fortresses on their Eastern boundary to protect their land and this wall, Shur, is mentioned in records dating from 2000- 1775 BC. The land where she was at this time was called the “wilderness of Shur”. The wilderness just outside the wall of Egypt.

This is the first time in the Bible THE Angel of the Lord instead of AN angel of the Lord is used. And we know from other lessons that this was a visible manifestation of Jehovah himself. He speaks and acts with God’s authority.

There are four points to notice in His conversation with Hagar.

1.      Jehovah required Hagar’s open confession of her present state –

From where and to where is this attitude of mind and action of flight leading you?

2.      He gave Hagar two explicit instructions to be obeyed –

      Return to the place you left and submit yourself to Sarah

3.      God’s promises to Hagar related to her descendants –

      A multitude of seed reaching into future ages of history, the birth of Ishmael as a proof of His love and care for her in her unhappiness, and the prophecy that her son would be a wild man against every man. And every man against him.

       4. Her son Ishmael would be appointed a place –

        This would be east of his brothers. So east of Canaan.
Genesis 16:13-14 13 She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” 14 That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.
Hagar’s faith is seen in her recognition that the voice of “the angel of the Lord” was God Himself speaking to her. She not only knew about Him, but spoke to Him, the living God, who personally involved himself in her situation, cared for her need and would be with her when she returned to her home and to Sarah.

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Genesis 15

Abraham’s life is divided into segments. The first was in Genesis 12 with God’s call for him to leave home and go to the “promised land”. The second was Lot’s separation and the consequences of all of that in Genesis 13 and 14.

In this next chapter God makes a covenant with Abraham concerning his seed, which God now promises will be the fruit of his own physical body. And through this seed all nations would be blessed.

This promise dates back to Genesis 3:15 when God gave Adam and Eve a promise and a prophecy concerning future deliverance from Satan and the consequences of their sin. The prophecy spoke of “two seeds”, the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. And God prophesied that one day the head of the seed of the serpent would be bruised (or destroyed) by the seed of the woman.

And of course the seed of the woman is Jesus. By the cross and His resurrection He delivered those who believe in Him from Satan’s power: sin and death.

Every woman who believed in God hoped from that time on she would be the one who would bear the man who would be that seed. Now in Genesis 15, God’s promise begins to take concrete form. The seed was going to come from Abraham.

And Abraham believed God even though he and Sara were way too old to have children. He chose to believe. That’s what faith is. We’ll see in Genesis 15:6 that because of Abraham’s faith in God’s promises God “counted this faith to Abraham as righteousness.” This is one of the most important verses in the Bible because that’s what happens to us when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior too! We take on Christ’s righteousness when we believe Him and that’s how God sees us from then on.

The people in the Old Testament who believed God’s promises about a future Messiah are saved just like we are who believe that Jesus is the Messiah.
Genesis 15:1-7 After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:
“Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”
2 But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”
4 Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” 5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

7 He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”

So in this passage the words “after this” show a new period begins in Abraham’s life. Then for the first time in the Bible we see a phrase that’s repeated throughout the Old Testament “The word of the Lord came to”. In our present day this might mean the recollection or the impression of some Bible passage brought to one’s mind in answer to prayer and a heart felt conscious response to it. Back then it might have been in a dream.

This marks a new phase of God’s revelation of Himself to Abraham. He tells Abraham not to be afraid and that He would be his shield.

Abraham had just won a battle against a very powerful confederacy. He may very well have been afraid of possible repercussions from his enemies. But God tells him here He’ll protect him.

Like Abraham we’re not to have fear. We can always be at peace. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” And “My peace I leave with you.” No matter what happens God has us in His hands. Nothing can touch our inner lives.

After saying He is Abraham’s shield He says He is Abraham’s “very great reward.” Abraham had just turned down rewards from the King of Sodom. Now God opens Abraham’s eyes to see he has a far greater reward, far deeper joy and satisfaction which God gives to him than he could ever have received from the king of Sodom. God will always give us back more then we give up for Him.

But Abraham is discouraged here. In reply to God’s promise of a reward, in effect he says, “It’s not money or riches I crave, but a child which You haven’t given me.” 10 years had elapsed since God first told Abraham he’d have a child in Genesis 12:7. He was only getting older!

Abraham poured it all out to God which shows us we can pray that way too! Let God know what you think, what you want, what you question! (He does anyway!) This is how you have a personal relationship with Him.

And God responds by telling Abraham the seed would come from his own physical body and that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars of the heavens. And that they would inherit the land of Canaan.

Genesis 15:8 But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?”

Abraham is asking for a sign or confirmation here so he could be sure he hadn’t misunderstood God’s promises. We see in other instances in the Bible that asking for a sign is acceptable to God if it’s done in true faith. God answered this request by requiring him to transact a formal contract according to the ceremonial rites of that day.

Genesis 15: 9-11 So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.”

10 Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. 11 Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.

The technical word in Hebrew for the conclusion of a covenant is “to hew or cut” a covenant. In those days a written agreement was rare and men made their business transactions with solemn religious ceremonies. The contracting party was required to bring certain animals which were slaughtered and divided into pieces. These divided pieces, which represented the two parties to the covenant, were then laid opposite each other in such a way as to leave a path in the center along which both contracting persons walked. This represented the two parties to the covenant being made one.

Usually both parties passed between the divided sacrifices, but in this case God alone symbolized by the burning lamp and furnace passed through without consuming the sacrifices. God thus swore by Himself to fulfill the covenant. He took the responsibility.

Abraham’s part in this agreement was that of simply receiving God’s promise and openly expressing his faith as he obeyed God’s instructions regarding the ceremonial rite. He proved his faith in a practical way when he prepared the sacrificial animals.

We are called to act upon our faith too. This could be sharing the Gospel with someone. Or doing something you feel God wants you to do.

Listen well to this next part because God tells Abraham something that happens in Exodus 12 exactly like He said it would:

Genesis 15:12-21 12 As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. 13 Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. 15 You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”

17 When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates— 19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”

Not only is this passage amazing because God clearly tells the Exodus story, but He also gives the reason for Abraham dying before they go into the Promised Land. “for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”  God gave these people 4 more generations. God’s justice as well as His patience is revealed in all His dealings with everyone. Full opportunity was given for the Amorites to repent and turn to God before God used the Israelites as his instrument of judgment upon an utterly depraved people. So just like in the days of Noah, God waited! Just like in the days of Sodom, He waited. Just like today, He is waiting! God waits before He gives His command for punishment and destruction until it is proved that repentance is refused and the reformation of a people is impossible.

The other really cool thing in this passage is the boundaries God sets around the land He promises to Abraham’s descendants.  From the northern reaches of the Euphrates River to the river of Egypt – broadly speaking from Syria to Egypt in the south. Egypt itself was not included. These borders were actually reached twice in the history of Israel: in Solomon’s reign in 1 Kings 8:65 and in Jeroboam II who restored the border of Israel from the entrance of Hamath into the Dead Sea.

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