< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: September 2014

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Choosing Isaac's Wife

The next chapter in Genesis deals with Isaac’s marriage and is a great illustration of how we ask and receive direct guidance from God concerning matters of daily life. The key thought of this chapter might well be Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

We will see that it’s NOT difficult to know God’s will and it’s not impossible to do it!
Genesis 24:1-8 Abraham was now very old, and the Lord had blessed him in every way. 2 He said to the senior servant in his household, the one in charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh. 3 I want you to swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, 4 but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac.
5 The servant asked him, “What if the woman is unwilling to come back with me to this land? Shall I then take your son back to the country you came from?”

6 “Make sure that you do not take my son back there,” Abraham said. 7 “The Lord, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father’s household and my native land and who spoke to me and promised me on oath, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give this land’—he will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there. 8 If the woman is unwilling to come back with you, then you will be released from this oath of mine. Only do not take my son back there.”

Isaac was the first heir of God’s promised inheritance. He was the firstborn of what would be called “God’s chosen nation.” The woman who would become his wife was very important. If he was married off to one of the people in the land she could have led her family into paganism.

So Abraham decided to have his servant go to his relatives for the wife. And convince her to leave her home and travel 600 miles to marry a man she didn’t know!

But Abraham had learned that when he chose to obey God’s will, God would smooth out the difficulties and give guidance and help so that His purpose would be fully accomplished.

Genesis 24: 9-27 So the servant put his hand under the thigh of his master Abraham and swore an oath to him concerning this matter.

10 Then the servant left, taking with him ten of his master’s camels loaded with all kinds of good things from his master. He set out for Aram Naharaim and made his way to the town of Nahor. 11 He had the camels kneel down near the well outside the town; it was toward evening, the time the women go out to draw water.

12 Then he prayed, “Lord, God of my master Abraham, make me successful today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. 13 See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. 14 May it be that when I say to a young woman, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’—let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.”

15 Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder. She was the daughter of Bethuel son of Milkah, who was the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor. 16 The woman was very beautiful, a virgin; no man had ever slept with her. She went down to the spring, filled her jar and came up again.

17 The servant hurried to meet her and said, “Please give me a little water from your jar.”

18 “Drink, my lord,” she said, and quickly lowered the jar to her hands and gave him a drink.

19 After she had given him a drink, she said, “I’ll draw water for your camels too, until they have had enough to drink.” 20 So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough, ran back to the well to draw more water, and drew enough for all his camels. 21 Without saying a word, the man watched her closely to learn whether or not the Lord had made his journey successful.

22 When the camels had finished drinking, the man took out a gold nose ring weighing a beka and two gold bracelets weighing ten shekels. 23 Then he asked, “Whose daughter are you? Please tell me, is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?”

24 She answered him, “I am the daughter of Bethuel, the son that Milkah bore to Nahor.” 25 And she added, “We have plenty of straw and fodder, as well as room for you to spend the night.”

26 Then the man bowed down and worshiped the Lord, 27 saying, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not abandoned his kindness and faithfulness to my master. As for me, the Lord has led me on the journey to the house of my master’s relatives.”

The servant set off with tangible proofs of Isaac’s ability to support a wife. He got there safely and then he prayed that God would show him which woman was the one He had chosen for Isaac. A commentator said that he prayed a “believing prayer”. He prayed specifically and expectantly. In James we are told that there are many things, many blessings, many victories we don’t have because we do not ask in prayer for them. There are four points to notice about his prayer:

1.      His prayer was for Abraham’s sake. He was confident because he had lived with Abraham and seen first hand how God loved Abraham and had answered his prayers in the past. Jesus told us to pray in His name!

2.      His prayer covered everything. The whole enterprise.

3.      His prayer was also practical and specific. He asked for simple, specific signs to indicate the direction in which God would have him move.

4.      His prayer was expectant. Therefore in faith. He acted as though he knew God would help him in answer to his prayer. We shouldn’t pray for guidance if we aren’t prepared to act upon what we receive.

How do we know God’s answer for guidance is really God’s answer for guidance? 1. There will be confirming circumstances after the prayer. 2. The guidance received will be in accord with the basic principles of God’s Word. 3. You will have a deep peace concerning the move.  And you really should have all three of these things because you can have a false sense of peace, or read something into a scripture passage or it might seem that circumstances have lined up. But not all three unless it is God’s answer.

Genesis 24:26-27 26 Then the man bowed down and worshiped the Lord, 27 saying, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not abandoned his kindness and faithfulness to my master. As for me, the Lord has led me on the journey to the house of my master’s relatives.”

The servant asked God for guidance. He received it and he gave God the glory for the outcome.

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Sarah Dies

Genesis 23:1-2 Sarah lived to be a hundred and twenty-seven years old. 2 She died at Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to weep over her.

Sarah is the only woman in scripture who’s age is recorded! She was a wonderful helpmeet and wife to Abraham.

Genesis 23:3-20 Then Abraham rose from beside his dead wife and spoke to the Hittites. He said, 4 “I am a foreigner and stranger among you. Sell me some property for a burial site here so I can bury my dead.”

5 The Hittites replied to Abraham, 6 “Sir, listen to us. You are a mighty prince among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our tombs. None of us will refuse you his tomb for burying your dead.”

7 Then Abraham rose and bowed down before the people of the land, the Hittites. 8 He said to them, “If you are willing to let me bury my dead, then listen to me and intercede with Ephron son of Zohar on my behalf 9 so he will sell me the cave of Machpelah, which belongs to him and is at the end of his field. Ask him to sell it to me for the full price as a burial site among you.”

10 Ephron the Hittite was sitting among his people and he replied to Abraham in the hearing of all the Hittites who had come to the gate of his city. 11 “No, my lord,” he said. “Listen to me; I give you the field, and I give you the cave that is in it. I give it to you in the presence of my people. Bury your dead.”

12 Again Abraham bowed down before the people of the land 13 and he said to Ephron in their hearing, “Listen to me, if you will. I will pay the price of the field. Accept it from me so I can bury my dead there.”

14 Ephron answered Abraham, 15 “Listen to me, my lord; the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver, but what is that between you and me? Bury your dead.”

16 Abraham agreed to Ephron’s terms and weighed out for him the price he had named in the hearing of the Hittites: four hundred shekels of silver, according to the weight current among the merchants.

17 So Ephron’s field in Machpelah near Mamre—both the field and the cave in it, and all the trees within the borders of the field—was deeded 18 to Abraham as his property in the presence of all the Hittites who had come to the gate of the city. 19 Afterward Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave in the field of Machpelah near Mamre (which is at Hebron) in the land of Canaan. 20 So the field and the cave in it were deeded to Abraham by the Hittites as a burial site.

This may sound a little weird. Why didn’t he just take the land offered? Or why insist on having her buried there?

Abraham couldn’t have expressed his faith in stronger form than by purchasing this first piece of ground for her grave, himself and his posterity in the land of Canaan. For the people of the East, to be buried among one’s own people so as to be forever with one’s children’s children was all-important. This was just like saying that Abraham believed this country would be where his children and people would live. This was Abraham’s first possession of real estate in Canaan.

Not only was Abraham later buried here, but Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob and Leah too.

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Friday, September 12, 2014

God tells Abraham to Sacrifice Isaac

Genesis 22:1-19 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”

6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.

9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

19 Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba. And Abraham stayed in Beersheba.

Genesis 22 has been called a love chapter. And it’s about the great love Abraham has for God. His deep love is shown in an act that is both obedient and costly. Genesis 22 is also a faith chapter. Abraham’s love is based on perfect faith. On one hand Abraham believed God had told him to do this. At the same time, Abraham believed that behind all of God’s commands, God completely loved Abraham and his son Isaac. Therefore Abraham’s faith in God recognized that God’s command was based upon that love even though Abraham may not have seen God’s reason for the command at that time. And even though it would seem to Abraham that this sacrifice would negate all God’s former promises concerning his seed, Abraham believed God would be faithful to that promise even if it meant raising Isaac from the dead.

Hebrews 11:17-19 17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

One commentator wrote that Abraham went through this with hope in God. And likened it to the verse in the Bible about Jesus enduring the cross “because of the hope of joy set before Him.” His hope was also seen in his words to Isaac, “God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”

Isaac has also been likened to Christ in that he submitted to, in his case, possible death from his father. And Abraham’s love of God must be proved to have first place in his heart. Abraham needed to know he loved God more then anyone!

I doubt God will ever ask any of us to do this to our child! But are we willing to let our son or daughter go off into the mission field? Are we willing to put God first and our pride aside and share our testimony with people? What obedient (and possibly costly) act is God calling you to do?

Abraham didn’t hesitate. When God called, he said “here I am.” And he left “early the next morning” totally prepared to carry the task out with wood, his son, a knife, etc.

God chose the place for the sacrifice – Mount Mariah. It is thought this is where Solomon’s temple was later built.

When Abraham raised his hand with the knife in it – the sacrifice was complete. God knew Abraham would go through with it. Abraham’s love for God and his obedience to Him was clear. And of course God stopped it there. He would never allow one human to sacrifice another to “appease an angry God.”

The Angel of the Lord called out from heaven “Abraham, Abraham!” And remember “the angel of the Lord” is Jesus.

Verse 12 again 12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

Abraham was victorious. He won all the way around. He did everything right!

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Isaac is Finally Born!

Genesis 21:1-8 Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. 2 Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. 3 Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him. 4 When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. 5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.
6 Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” 7 And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

8 The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast.

Finally!! 24 years after the first promise!

Genesis 21:9-11 But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, 10 and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.”

11 The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son.

So Isaac would have been weaned when he was 2 or 3. And Ishmael was a teenager by then and had lived there his whole life. So he felt superior and was making life miserable for both Isaac and Sarah. Abraham didn’t want to send him away, but this time it seems he asked God what to do:

Genesis 21:12-14 But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. 13 I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.”

14 Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba.

God gave Ishmael a separate inheritance. They became the Arabs of today. And the two would never get along. Ishmael’s descendents believe they can serve God in their own way, by only their own effort. Thinking themselves good enough, they despise the way of faith, the miraculous and God’s Word. Isaac represents a people totally dependent on God. We cannot save ourselves.

Genesis 21:22-31 22 At that time Abimelek and Phicol the commander of his forces said to Abraham, “God is with you in everything you do. 23 Now swear to me here before God that you will not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants. Show to me and the country where you now reside as a foreigner the same kindness I have shown to you.”

24 Abraham said, “I swear it.”

25 Then Abraham complained to Abimelek about a well of water that Abimelek’s servants had seized. 26 But Abimelek said, “I don’t know who has done this. You did not tell me, and I heard about it only today.”

27 So Abraham brought sheep and cattle and gave them to Abimelek, and the two men made a treaty. 28 Abraham set apart seven ewe lambs from the flock, 29 and Abimelek asked Abraham, “What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs you have set apart by themselves?”

30 He replied, “Accept these seven lambs from my hand as a witness that I dug this well.”

31 So that place was called Beersheba, because the two men swore an oath there. 32 After the treaty had been made at Beersheba, Abimelek and Phicol the commander of his forces returned to the land of the Philistines. 33 Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the Lord, the Eternal God. 34 And Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time.

Abraham is living in such a way that neighboring people came to him said, “God is with you in everything you do.” A great goal for any Christian!

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Genesis 20 Abraham Lies Again

Genesis 20 Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar, 2 and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” Then Abimelek king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her.
3 But God came to Abimelek in a dream one night and said to him, “You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.”

4 Now Abimelek had not gone near her, so he said, “Lord, will you destroy an innocent nation? 5 Did he not say to me, ‘She is my sister,’ and didn’t she also say, ‘He is my brother’? I have done this with a clear conscience and clean hands.”

6 Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her. 7 Now return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all who belong to you will die.”

8 Early the next morning Abimelek summoned all his officials, and when he told them all that had happened, they were very much afraid. 9 Then Abimelek called Abraham in and said, “What have you done to us? How have I wronged you that you have brought such great guilt upon me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that should never be done.” 10 And Abimelek asked Abraham, “What was your reason for doing this?”

11 Abraham replied, “I said to myself, ‘There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’ 12 Besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife. 13 And when God had me wander from my father’s household, I said to her, ‘This is how you can show your love to me: Everywhere we go, say of me, “He is my brother.”’”

14 Then Abimelek brought sheep and cattle and male and female slaves and gave them to Abraham, and he returned Sarah his wife to him. 15 And Abimelek said, “My land is before you; live wherever you like.”

16 To Sarah he said, “I am giving your brother a thousand shekels of silver. This is to cover the offense against you before all who are with you; you are completely vindicated.”

17 Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelek, his wife and his female slaves so they could have children again, 18 for the Lord had kept all the women in Abimelek’s household from conceiving because of Abraham’s wife Sarah.

When Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed Abraham had been living less then 20 miles away. Back in Genesis 19:27-28 we saw that “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.”

And he decided to leave the area. So he traveled south to Negev. This land was the land of the Philistines and was ruled by a petty chieftain, King Abimelech. According to archaeological excavations Gerar was a fortress city surrounded by a wall built of great rough boulders. Only the tribal chief, or king, lived inside the wall. Abraham would have pitched his tents in some encampment nearby where his servants dug wells for his flocks and herds.

So Abimelech was the master of the area. No one gave him orders. He did what he pleased and his slaves fulfilled his every wish. Hearing about Sarah’s beauty, he sent for her to add to his harem within the city walls.

And just like in Genesis 12 twenty-four years earlier when they were in Egypt, Abraham lied about Sarah’s relationship to him. You would think he’d have learned from the last time! Especially now that Sarah was promised a baby within a year that would be Abraham’s seed! Where did all this faith in God Abraham had been showing go?

A lesson we can learn from this is we not only need to confess our sins, but turn from them and be on guard against sinning again because we all have weak spots. In fact, burn the bridges between yourself and a particular sin. If you know something tempts you don’t let yourself get anywhere near it!

We may lie to avoid confrontation, become bitter in trials, gossip to make ourselves feel better or take the easy way out. Especially when we are worried or insecure. But anxious fear, depression and insecurity are never from God.

Satan can insert thoughts and misunderstandings in our minds about others. And Abraham said he thought Abimelech wasn’t God-fearing. How many times in history have terrible things happened because someone thought someone else was either going to do something or they were a certain type of person?

Abraham should have prayed about his fear and trusted God to take care of it. It was an insult to God’s past protection and faithfulness not to!

But God was merciful to Abraham again, although He rebuked him through Abimelech’s words. Apparently Abimelech did know God and God appeared to him in a dream. God protected Sarah and her promised seed and he warned Abimelech. He also told Abraham to pray for the man he wronged.

Abimelech showed his belief in God by his prompt obedience. And instead of kicking them out of the land like Pharaoh had, he gave them silver and sheep and cattle and slaves, inviting them to live anywhere they wanted on his land. And we’ll see in the next chapter that later he makes a life long covenant of friendship with Abraham.

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