Sabbath School Lesson for April 17-23, 2021

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Livestreaming on those days at 3 p.m. CST from the Facebook group “The Teacher’s Notes on the Sabbath School Lesson”

Overview of Lesson 4

The covenant God presented to Abraham was explored in more detail this week. We saw…

  • the meaning of the name Yahweh (Sunday)
  • the meaning of the name El Shaddai (Monday)
  • the change of Abram’s name to Abraham (Tuesday)
  • the different stages of the Abrahamic covenant (Wednesday)
  • what was required of Abraham (Thursday)

Memory Text: ” ‘I [God] will establish my covenant between me and you [Abraham] and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you.’ “ Genesis 17:7 RSV

After the flood and even the Tower of Babel episode, the sin situation on earth got out of hand once again. The cruel, false teachings of pagan religions were quickly becoming a dominating force in the world. God saw that decided action must be taken if He were to preserve a people who would welcome and nurture His Son at the appointed time of His birth.

Abram was a man that God saw as His most likely candidate for this faith venture. Taking him one step at a time, God revealed His plan of salvation and instructed him in how he could partner with God in accomplishing far-reaching goals.

Including Abraham’s descendants in this solemn covenant gave him a sense of the timeless, eternal issues he was dealing with. The fate of all mankind would be determined by the decisions made by Abraham and his children in the future.

Sunday: Yahweh and the Abrahamic Covenant

Names were especially meaningful for those in Near Eastern cultures in Bible times. God revealed to Abraham the name YHWH, pronounced Yahweh, as a very personal way to address the Creator God. In most of our Bibles, the word is translated LORD, in capital letters, when it appears in the Old Testament. See Genesis 15:7.

Although there’s a lot of mystery involved with the name Yahweh, the word seems to be a form of the verb “to be”. This reminds us of the name “I AM”, later revealed to Moses. Many Bible scholars believe that the name implies the Messiah, the Son of God, who came in the flesh and died for our sins.

The name Yahweh, or I AM, is linked with expressions used for God, such as “the eternal One”, “the Self-existing One”, and “the Self-Sufficient One”. These divine attributes help us see the divinity of Christ, who claimed that title as His own (John 8:57-59). John, in his gospel, supports the eternal, divine nature of God consistently, beginning in the very first verse and chapter (John 1:1).

Bible Verses to Read and Discuss:

Genesis 15:7

  • Why is it important to recognize that God is leading us?
  • How do we know He is leading us?

John 8:57-59 and Micah 5:2

  • What benefit is there in understanding the divine, eternal nature of Christ?

Monday: ‘El-Shaddai

In Genesis 15:7, God stressed the close, personal nature of God with the name Yahweh. He brought Abram out of paganism and led him to his land of inheritance. But in chapter 17, He wanted Abram to see His might and power. He used there in verse 1 the name ‘El Shaddai, meaning the Almighty God.

Abram was getting older, 99 years old, we are told. He must have been getting anxious about bearing children with his wife Sarah by this time, as so far, she had been barren. The couple had even resorted to having children through Sarah’s handmaid, Hagar. God, of course, was not pleased with such an action and their lack of faith. It was definitely not part of God’s plan. But, God mercifully worked with them, despite their wrong, short-sided decisions.

God wanted to revive Abram’s faith, so a renewal of their covenant was helpful once again. Abram must be convinced that God was a worker of miracles, as the name ‘El-Shaddai conveyed. God had inexhaustible resources to carry out the plan of salvation, if Abram was willing to be obedient and faithful to the requirements of the covenant.

Bible Verses to Read and Discuss:

Genesis 17:1

  • Why do you think God used the name Almighty God (or in Hebrew, ‘El Shaddai), when He reminded Abram of their covenant relationship?
  • At what times in our lives, do we need to remember God as the Almighty One?

Tuesday: From Abram to Abraham

As previously stated, names in the Bible tended to have spiritual significance. They could definitely have an impact on how a person saw himself. But name changes were common as well, when there was an abrupt change in someone’s life or circumstances.

In this reminder of God’s covenant to Abram, God begins by expressing the fact that he would be “a father of many nations”. This would be announced to everyone by changing his name to Abraham, which actually meant “father of a multitude”.

It would also help Abram get used to his destiny, as implausible as it seemed at the time, with no children of their own. God was serious about working out His plan through Abraham, and perhaps the name change would help bolster Abraham’s faith in God’s promise.

Bible Verses to Read and Discuss:

Genesis 32:28

  • Why was Jacob’s name changed to Israel?

Genesis 41:45

  • Why did Pharaoh change Joseph’s name? How had his circumstances changed?

Daniel 1:7

  • Why were the captives’ names changed at this time?

Ruth 1:20

  • Why did Naomi request a name change?

Wednesday: Covenant Stages

God came to Abraham at least three times with different features of His covenant in chapters 12, 15, and 17 of Genesis. It seems to have been presented to him in stages. Sometimes, God’s plans are of such a magnitude that we can’t comprehend it all at once. Each time God came to Abraham though, He reminded him of his election, his obligations, and His promise.

The three angels’ messages in Revelation 14 seem to reinforce this idea of God’s covenant coming in stages. God knows what we are ready for. He is always willing to reveal as much of Himself as we are capable of comprehending.

Bible Verses to Read and Discuss:

Genesis 12:3 and Galatians 3:6-9

  • How were all families of the earth blessed by Abraham’s descendants?
  • Who do his descendants include?

Revelation 14:6, 7

  • What similarities do you see in the first angel’s message and the Abrahamic covenant?

Thursday: Covenant Obligations

Just as God saw something special about Noah, there were qualities about Abram that God particularly valued as well. Even though he wasn’t a father at the time, he showed promise of being a good father by leading his household well and being particularly devoted to his wife Sarah. He showed that justice and mercy were already part of his character.

There were obligations that Abraham must meet though, in order for the covenant to be successful. Abram showed promise of being obedient and faithful to the requirements that must be met. But God knew He was working with imperfect creatures, and He made allowances whenever possible. That’s why the covenant was explained and reviewed so many times.

God, likewise, works with each of us. We, too, have obligations that must be met in order for us to have a close connection with God. And that is the goal: to restore the relationship that has been destroyed by sin. God simply wants to be our Friend, and we must do everything possible to maintain that friendship.

Bible Verses to Read and Discuss:

Genesis 18:19 and James 2:17, 22

  • Why was Abraham’s obedience as important as his faith?
  • What happens when either faith or obedience is missing?

Friday: Final Thoughts

Ellen White said in Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 126, 127, that many of us are still tested, like Abraham. We, too, are called away from human influences and assistance, and led to feel the need of God’s help.

The rainbow was God’s sign of His covenant with Noah and the generations that followed him. And circumcision was the sign God established with Abraham. The rite of circumcision held spiritually symbolic meaning for the household of Abraham. It reminded them of God’s promise to make Abraham fruitful, and ensured the purity of his family line, which would someday include the Son of God.

After the Messiah was born and the gospel message went more fully to the Gentile world, the sign of circumcision was no longer needed (1 Corinthians 7:18-19). See also Galatians 5:6, 6:15. However, these verses tell us that the spiritual significance of keeping God’s commandments, having faith that works through love, and becoming a newly created, born again Christian remain.

Next Week: Sabbath: Children of the Promise

To read the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly or see more resources for its study, go to