Sabbath School Lesson for May 7-13, 2022
Overview of Lesson 7
This week we explore Genesis, chapters 15-19, and see where Abram’s journey brings him. His covenant was shown and ratified with the sign of circumcision, a stark reminder of where Abraham’s faith must come from–not in his own works, but through the blood and righteousness of the Lord.
- A special sacrificial ceremony taught Abram more about God’s covenant. (Sunday)
- Abram reveals his doubts about God’s promise to have many descendants by taking Hagar as a wife. (Monday)
- God tries to bolster Abram’s faith by changing his name and giving him the covenantal sign of circumcision. (Tuesday)
- Abraham welcomes heavenly guests who announce the birth of his son Isaac. (Wednesday)
- Abraham advocates for his nephew Lot, in hopes of preventing the destruction of Sodom. (Thursday)
As we can see by the events portrayed this week, Abraham still struggled with doubts, just like in the beginning. His faith was something that grew gradually as Abraham came to know God through the years.
Perhaps the greatest lessons he was to learn concerned the nature and means of our salvation. It is not a subject that any of us readily understand. As God formalized the covenant with Abraham, we see the growth of his understanding, along with the faith we associate with Abraham’s character.
Despite Abraham’s doubts and fears, his passionate caring and hospitality shine, making us all desire his sensitivity, respect, and compassion, even for those who wronged him.
Memory Text: “But Abram said, ‘Lord God, what will you give me, seeing I go childless,, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?’ ” Genesis 15:2 NKJV
The prospects of Abram becoming the father of anything were looking more and more unlikely to Abram and Sarai, as they were both past their childbearing years. We probably shouldn’t blame them for questioning God about this matter, and even doing the most practical thing in their eyes by having children through Sarai’s handmaid.
Even these missteps, however, contained lessons that continue to grow our faith, just like they did for Abraham. We must wait on the Lord for the fulfillment of promises that are still in the future. As some would say, “We ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” God still has miracles in store for mankind that are beyond our comprehension.
Sunday: The Faith of Abraham (Gen. 15)
After Abram’s rescue of Lot, a vision came to Abram, where he expressed doubts and anguish about not bearing children, wondering how he would ever have descendants to inherit the land God had promised him (Genesis 15:1-3).
God repeated His promise of having many descendants by pointing to the stars in the sky to illustrate how many they would be. To further explain the situation, He instructed Abram to prepare a special ceremony of animal sacrifices, full of symbolic lessons about what the future would hold for those descendants (Genesis 15:9-11).
After falling into a deep sleep, God spoke to Abram about the future, explaining the meaning of some of those symbols. The animal sacrifices obviously pointed to the future sacrifice of the Messiah, one of Abram’s descendants. The vultures preying on the sacrificed animals represented a sad period of time when his descendants would be held in bondage for four hundred years, or four generations (Genesis 15:13, 16).
- What might Abram, whose name meant “exalted father”, have been feeling after so long without children?
Genesis 15:12-16 and Matthew 24:44
- What was the reason given for the long delay in their having possession of the promised land (v. 16)?
- Besides the Amorites not being ready to be destroyed, how might Abraham’s descendants not been ready either, and how would slavery get them ready?
- How does it make you feel to know that God doesn’t act until people are ready? What should we be getting ready for?
Monday: Abraham’s Doubts (Gen. 16)
Even after God assured Abram that he would have descendants, Abram must not have been totally convinced. Sarai came to him with the idea that he should take her handmaid as a wife, a common practice at the time. Just as Adam foolishly listened to Eve’s suggestion that he try the forbidden fruit, Abram relented and had a son with Hagar. The results were not what either of them expected. Like when Sarai listened to Abram when they were down in Egypt, they would both come to regret their decision.
In her pregnancy, Hagar became spiteful and disrespectful toward Sarai, making both their lives miserable with conflict and ill feelings. Sarai’s harsh retaliation only made matters worse, to the point where Hagar ran away.
Not surprisingly, God came to Hagar in her loneliness with some consoling words about her future, hopefully to soften the anger that had become so unmanageable for both women in Abram’s life.
Ishmael, was born to Abram and Hagar when he was 86 years old. But Abram and Sarai probably didn’t feel the joy and satisfaction they expected. God would have to once again remind them of the promise.
Sarai’s actions throughout this story indicate that she made mistakes and had doubts, just like Abram. She also needed her faith to grow. Thankfully, that growth was later recognized, as she was one of only a handful of women mentioned in Hebrews 11, the faith chapter (Hebrews 11:11).
- What might have been the cause for Sarai’s inability to bear children? Was it the Lord’s fault, as Sarai suggested?
- Why did Sarai blame Abram for the treatment she received from Hagar, and was her blame justified?
- What other action could Sarai have taken in her situation with the handmaid?
- Why did God come to Hagar in her distress? What does this tell us about God?
Tuesday: The Sign of the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 17)
Abram and Sarai’s plan to have a son through Hagar proved to be a much less satisfactory solution than they imagined. Fortunately God saw their faulty attempts to do the right thing and continued to educate them about the covenant.
God saw that another covenant sign was needed, and the sign of circumcision seemed appropriate. It was a reminder that the shedding of blood was necessary for our salvation. Abram revealed his lack of faith by attempting to be a father on his own. Circumcision would also help ensure the bloodline of the man who would be the father of many nations only through God’s miraculous intervention.
That’s when God also gave Abram and Sarai different names. He would no longer be “exalted father”, but the “father of many nations”. And she would no longer be “my princess”, but “the princess”. These new names would not only bolster their own faith, but would inform others that their future would hold many new surprises.
Genesis 17:10-13 and Romans 4:11, 12
- How did circumcision teach them about righteousness by faith?
Wednesday: The Son of Promise (Gen. 18:1-15)
After all the males in Abraham’s household were circumcised, the Lord appeared again to confirm the promise of a son. One day, as he sat by his tent, three visitors appeared in Abraham’s camp.
As was the custom, they were greeted warmly, but Abraham seemed to treat them with particular reverence. Perhaps he recognized the heavenly origin of his guests. It’s hard to determine from the text. But, Hebrews 13:2 seems to suggest that he may not have known who they were, at least at first.
It shouldn’t surprise us that the Lord appeared that day as a hungry traveler. Jesus often identified with needy foreigners and marginalized individuals, and even suggested our treatment of them was how we treat Him (Matthew 25:35-40).
When one of the visitors revealed that they were there to confirm the birth of a son to Abraham and Sarah, Sarah laughed within herself as she listened to the conversation from inside their tent.
One of the visitors pointed out that she had laughed, which she denied because she was afraid. But the visitor replied, no doubt with a smile on His lips, that indeed she had laughed (Hebrews 18:15i).
Genesis 18:1-8, Matthew 25:40, and Hebrews 13:2
- Why is it important to be kind to others, especially strangers?
Genesis 18:10-15 and Proverbs 17:22
- Why was Sarah afraid when her laughter was pointed out by the visitor?
- What does this story tell us about God’s sense of humor?
- How does laughter heal us?
Thursday: Lot in Sodom (Gen. 18:16-19:29)
When one of the visitors revealed that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah would soon suffer destruction, Abraham pleaded for mercy, knowing that his nephew Lot lived in Sodom. He asked if fifty were found righteous there, could the city be spared. (In those times, the number “fifty” stood for half the city.) He continued his plea until ten righteous would be enough. (This was the first time an intercessory prayer is recorded in the Bible.)
Unfortunately, not even ten people listened to the angels’ warning. Only Lot, his wife, and two daughters agreed to leave the city with the two angels. It was a terrifying experience for them all.
The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is said to be an example of the final destruction of the wicked (Jude 7). There are other comparisons to consider as well. Just as the Flood was a reversal of Creation (Genesis 6:7), the destruction of Sodom was a reversal of the Garden of Eden. It was a place that Lot chose because it was watered like the “garden of the Lord” (Genesis 13:10).
Someday God will put a final end to the mess we’ve made of our world. A new earth will replace it, where only God’s people will reside in peace and safety for eternity.
Genesis 18:20, 21
- How does this investigative work seem to fit God’s previous dealings with our sinful world?
- Why does He bother to “investigate” crimes before punishing them?
- How effective was Abraham’s pleading for Lot’s city, and for Lot?
- Why does God listen to our intercessory prayers?
Friday: Final Thoughts
Three main ideas seem to dominate the events in Abraham’s story this week.
- God welcomes our questions and understands our doubts. Abram and Sarai often failed to trust God as they should, but God worked with them as their faith grew over time.
- Hospitality is always better than hostility. Abraham demonstrated a caring attitude and concern for others, including not only heavenly visitors, but Lot, who made many selfish and unwise choices. To be like God, means to treat others respectfully and do all we can to love them unconditionally. This attitude was a stark contrast to the beliefs and behaviors of the pagan tribes all around them.
- Passionate intercessory prayer makes a difference in outcomes. The closer we are to God, the more we are motivated to share our concerns and anxieties with Him. By praying for others, we are drawn away from our own selfish desires and are in a position to learn more about God’s will.
Like Abraham and Sarah, we are to take God’s hand and follow His leading, wherever it might take us. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNrVed6dP6s
Next Week: The Promise
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