Welcome back everyone! I apologize for being a few days late on our weekly meeting. I was out of town this weekend for a very uplifting retreat. Now I’m ready to jump back in and continue our study in the old testament. This week we get to meet a very important figure in the Bible, important to the old covenant AND the new. This week we are in Part 4: Session 3: God’s Covenant with Abraham. As always you can follow along: Multiply.
Although we are just getting into the Bible we start to see a pattern developing. Man sins, they suffer the consequences, and God redeems. Lather, rinse, repeat… However, as we pointed out in the last session, God has a plan. Man sinned, was cursed, and God made a promise in Genesis 3 (that Eve’s descendant would crush the head of the serpent). Man sinned, was destroyed (except for 8 people,) and God made another promise in Genesis 8 (that He would never again destroy every living thing). Then in Genesis 11 Man sinned again and we learn about a new promise starting in chapter 12. A promise to bless all nations. This promise began with one man.
God’s Promise of Redemption
God’s plan to redeem the world began when He chose a single man, Abraham and told him:
“Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 13:1-3 ESV).
With these words, God set in motion the plan that eventually climaxed in the death, burial and resurrection of our Savior, Christ Jesus which prompts Jesus to utter the words “It is finished”. God didn’t wait long to create a plan to redeem the creation He loved from the beginning.
Discussion Question #1: Take some time to read and meditate on Genesis 12:1-9, 15:1-21, and 17:1-14. What stands out to you from reading the promises that God gave to Abraham?
Discussion Question #2: What does God’s covenant with Abraham reveal to us about God?
Discussion Question #3: What does God’s covenant with Abraham reveal about God’s plan of redemption?
Discussion Question #4: Consider the biblical pattern: people sin, people suffer the consequences, God redeems. How have you seen this pattern in your own life?
The Covenant Confirmed
An important part of God’s promise to Abraham included what we know as the “promised land”. This land would belong to Abraham’s descendants forever. As we get further into the story, you will find much of the Old Testament has to do with this land and what happens in it or because of it.
After God made His promise to Abraham, Abraham asked God something that many of us often want to ask of God: he asked for a sign of assurance. God’s response was not to smite Abraham and look for someone else to bless, He obliged him. In a rather interesting way. God asked Abraham to gather some sacrificial animals, cut them in half and lay them out on the ground, halves facing. Then, while Abraham was in a trance, God walked between the halves in the image of a smoking fire pot and flaming torch.
This is one of those stories that kinda makes you want to say “He did what!?” While this practice seems utterly strange in today’s time and culture, this was actually a common form of signing an agreement (or covenant) with someone. Walking through these animals was taken to mean symbolically, that if the pact were ever broken, what happened to the animals was supposed to happen to the one who broken the pact. It is interesting to point out that God was the only one who walked, He didn’t require Abraham to walk through the animals. As if He plans to keep His side of the covenant even if Abraham (or his descendants) doesn’t.
Discussion Question #5: In Genesis 15, God made it clear that His promises to Abraham were not dependent on Abraham. How should this affect the way we think about God’s plan of redemption?
Creating a People for Himself
“The entire plan of redemption that unfolds in the rest of the Bible is God’s fulfilling His promises to Abraham” (166). With Abraham’s family, we are introduced to a people who would later be called the “Israelites”, God’s covenant people, a people about whom God repeatedly says “I will be your God and you will be my people”. God is giving Himself to a people to be their’s. That right there is an astounding gift. God is giving Himself.
Don’t forget what the original design was for Man, that he reflect God and be His representative here on Earth. With God’s promise to Abraham, He is once again trying to restore a people who will be His select representatives on Earth.
Discussion Question #6: In your own words, explain why it is significant that God created a people for Himself. What did God want to accomplish through this “great nation” He promised to form?
The Gospel According to Abraham
We are going to see that this initial promise to Abraham was one of extreme importance. “What we see in God’s promise to Abraham is nothing short of the gospel itself” (167). Paul said:
“Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.’ So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith” (Gal. 3:7-9 ESV).
So when God says “In you shall all the nations be blessed”, God was preaching the gospel. Abraham might not have seen the full extent of this promise, but through his descendants, the nations were truly blessed in Christ.
Discussion Question #7: Consider God’s intentions to bless “all the nations” through His promise to Abraham. What implications does this have for the way we view the world today?
One thing to consider here, when God blessed Abraham, He was intending to bless the world. God’s blessing are meant to be shared. He blesses us so that we, in turn, can bless someone else. “When we receive God’s blessings, we should immediately look around us to see whom we can bless” (169).
Discussion Question #8: Think about the ways that God has blessed you. How should these blessings be used to benefit the people around you?
The Faith of Abraham
The faith of Abraham is often spoken of in the Bible and to his credit, God gave him this seemingly impossible promise and “he believed the Lord, and He counted it to him as righteousness.” (Gen. 15:6 ESV). Because of his faith, Abraham was considered to be in a right relationship with God.
Romans applies this statement to us today as followers of Christ:
“But the words ‘it was counted to him’ were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Rom. 4:23-25 ESV).
Paul says that the statement in Genesis was written for our benefit so that we could believe in Christ and our faith would be credited to us as it was for Abraham. We will definitely discuss Christ further on, but we can see at this very early instance, the plan for Christ is already shaping up, and it starts with Abraham.
Discussion Question #9: Read Romans 4. Why do you think the New Testament makes such a big deal about Abraham’s faith?
Discussion Question #10: How should Abraham’s faith affect the way you think about and relate to God?
Discussion Question #11: Spend some time in prayer. Ask God to increase your faith in Him. Ask Him to make you more consistently aware of His plan of redemption and the role He wants you to play in that.
Thank you for joining me for yet another week. As you go through the week, keep this in mind: God always has a plan. We may not always know what it is, we may not like it, and we may not understand it, but it is always for our good. God is good! See you next week!