Sabbath School Lesson for April 23-29, 2022

Overview of Lesson 6

The beginning of Abraham’s life contains these episodes:

  • God calling Abram to leave his heritage (Sunday)
  • Abram’s fall to temptation in Egypt (Monday)
  • Abram’s generous offer to his nephew Lot (Tuesday)
  • Lot’s capture and Abram’s rescue (Wednesday)
  • paying tithe to the priest Melchizedek (Thursday)

Abraham, who came to be known as a great man of faith (Nehemiah 9:7, 8, Hebrews 11:8), showed that he had weaknesses and imperfection to overcome, just like the rest of us. We saw in his first calling by God a challenge to leave his past behind (Genesis 12:1).

In his last calling, God required him to leave his future behind (Genesis 22:2). Later in his life, the call that required him to sacrifice his son felt like he was giving up the promised future God had shown him during his long, hard journey.

In between these great calls and promises he received from God, Abraham lived like a migrant vagabond, always a stranger in the land he dwelt in. He was left suspended between the past he had left behind and the future he could not see. But God was ever present with His faithful servant, connecting with him in powerful ways that lightened the heavy load he carried to get to where God wanted him to be.

Memory Text: “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” Hebrews 11:8 NKJV

Like Noah, who obeyed when God told him to build an ark, Abram obeyed God and journeyed on to wherever God led. Even though he couldn’t see his final destination, he trusted that God would get him there someday in the future.

Since Abraham occupies a major part of the Genesis narrative, covering many chapters in the center of the book, our study here will look at three sections of his journey. His initial calling, explored this week, contains many worthwhile lessons to ponder.

Sunday: Abram’s Departure

The land Abram and his father Terah came out of is identified in Genesis 11:31 as “Ur of the Chaldeans”. Even without an extensive knowledge of this area and the people residing there, we can safely assume it was a land seeping with pagan influence and Babylonian idolatry.

The book of Daniel mentioned the Chaldeans in its description of Babylon, revealing that the language of the Chaldeans was spoken there (Daniel 1:4). Evidently, Abram’s birthplace and homeland was not a place where Abram and his family could grow spiritually to the extent that God desired.

The Hebrew phrase for “go” (lekh lekha), used repeatedly in Abraham’s story, literally means to “go yourself”, or “go for yourself”. Abram was obviously being called to not only leave his place of birth and all ties to his pagan past, but there is the assumption that Abram would also leave behind parts of himself in this departure. It would be in his best interest to follow God’s leading away from his past, including his past behaviors and attitudes.

The blessing for all families or nations (Genesis 12:2, 3), sounds like the promise of God given to Adam and Eve, when they were promised a Seed to bruise the serpent’s head. Later in Abraham’s life, this was more clearly expressed in Genesis 22:18 and fulfilled in the life of Jesus (Acts 3:25).

Discussion Questions:

Genesis 11:31-12:3

  • What part(s) of your life do you find you have left or are leaving behind to follow God?
  • How would all the families or nations be blessed?

Monday: The Temptation of Egypt

Ancient nomadic tribes were drawn to the ever-flowing waters of Egypt whenever drought and famine threatened their existence. Therefore, Abram also headed to Egypt, when hardship and famine struck his caravan. This seemed to be a fateful decision he apparently made on his own. Egypt became known as a symbol of humans trusting in humans (2 Kings 18:21, Isaiah 36:9).

It wasn’t long before Abram recognized the dilemma this move brought him. He made the mistake of lying to the Egyptians about his relationship with his beautiful wife Sarai in order to save himself from danger. After all, she was his half-sister, so the claim wasn’t totally false.

Even though he informed Sarai of his plan from the start and she agreed to tell the lie, it soon became evident that their plan had failed miserably when Pharaoh, hearing that she was unmarried, added Sarai to his harem.

What a tortured experience this separation must have been for Abram and Sarai. The gifts Abram received for Sarai did nothing to relieve his torn heart over the situation. But God had not forgotten them. Plagues began to appear in Pharaoh’s household, and the king somehow recognized their source and gave Sarai back to Abram, commanding they leave his country immediately.

Our merciful God continues to work with His children, even when they mess up and make grievous mistakes. We should be grateful that Abram’s story includes this unfortunate incident.

Discussion Questions:

Genesis 12:10-20

  • How would you compare Abram’s conduct with Pharaoh’s in this story?
  • What did Abram learn about God through this experience?
  • When has God blessed you, even when you didn’t do the right thing?

Tuesday: Abram and Lot

Abram evidently was a changed man after his trying experience in Egypt. He returned to Bethel it says in Genesis 13:3, 4, to the very altar he set up on his first arrival there. Calling on God, he was ready for a fresh start, truly humbled and ready to be led by God this time.

This change of heart was tested when his herdsmen began to have problems with those of Lot. Their herds had grown larger from their time in Egypt, and the grazing land wasn’t large enough for both Abram and his nephew.

It was obvious that they would have to separate in order to properly care for their families. Abram generously offered to let Lot pick where he wanted to go, and Abram would go in the opposite direction. This arrangement would have been unusual, because the elder would normally be the one to make such a choice. But Abram, out of a renewed, kind heart, allowed Lot to choose.

Genesis 13:11 tells us Lot “chose for himself” the well-watered plain of Jordan. This decision reminds us of those before the flood who “took wives for themselves of all whom they chose” (Genesis 6:2). It seemed to Lot like a good choice at the time, but one he would later regret.

God was happy with Abram’s unselfish offer to Lot and once again Abram heard the voice of God, promising him all the land he could see in all directions. In addition, his descendants would be as numerous as the “dust of the earth”. Since this was perhaps a dusty, less-watered land, the comparison would have been noteworthy, perhaps even a bit humorous. But the promise no doubt made Abram a happy man.

Discussion Questions:

Genesis 13:1-4

  • Why do you think Abram chose Bethel when he returned from Egypt?

Genesis 13:5-9

  • Why was this offer unusual, and what motivated Abram to give Lot first choice of the land?

Genesis 13:10-13

  • What was so appealing about the land Lot chose that caused him to overlook its wickedness?
  • How do we also base our choices on temporary, material benefits, ignoring the risk of losing our spirituality?

Genesis 13:14-18

  • How did Abram respond to God’s promises, even though they were so far in the future?

Wednesday: The Babel Coalition

The first “global” war recorded in the Bible is described in Genesis 14. The resulting battle in the Valley of Siddim has been called the Battle of Nine Kings. It occurred when four Mesopotamian armies attacked a coalition of kings from five Canaanite cities, who had rebelled against their Babylonian overlords.

Sodom, where Lot lived, was one of the cities on the plain that suffered heavy losses. Many of its citizens were taken captive, including Lot. Someone from Sodom escaped, however, and came to Abram with the sad tale of their defeat and Lot’s capture.

Abram had remained neutral during the conflict, believing he would someday receive the land of Canaan as a gift from God, not through the use of force or even skillful political maneuvers. But hearing Lot’s plight and after seeking divine counsel (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 135), he gathered 318 of his trained servants and launched a limited rescue operation that successfully retrieved his nephew from captivity.

Overlooking Lot’s previous ingratitude in choosing the best land for himself, Abram’s love demanded this bold, courageous intervention. It allowed his influence to grow in the region, causing many to want to learn something about the God he served.

Discussion Questions:

Genesis 14:11-16

  • Why was this such a dangerous mission for Abram’s servants?
  • What motivated Abram to take this action?
  • In what ways does this episode remind you of how Jesus intervened to rescue us from Satan’s captivity?

Thursday: The Tithe of Melchizedek

Since Melchizedek, the king of Salem, is mentioned several times in the book of Hebrews, knowing his connection with Abram must be important to our understanding of God. He was seen as God’s representative, not as God Himself, as some have proposed. His introduction to us in this story helps us understand the mission of Jesus as our High Priest.

The name Melchizedek contains the word for justice (tsedek). What a contrast to the names of some of the other kings in the region. The king of Sodom, Bera, for instance, means “in evil”. And the name Birsha, the king of Gomorrah, translates “in wickedness”.

This is the first time a priest is mentioned in the Bible. This king was unique for being both a king and a priest. He not only governed the physical lives of Salem’s citizens, but tended to their spiritual needs as well.

Melchizedek blessed Abram, reminding him that it was God who gave him success in retrieving his nephew. In return, Abram gave the priest one tenth (a tithe) of all that he had acquired from the raid as an expression of gratitude to God. The rest would be returned to the king and citizens of Sodom to help Abram regain his position of neutrality before the raid.

Notice that the tithe was given, not as a gift to God, who owns everything already. It was returned to God in response to the blessing Abram received from the priest Melchizedek.

Discussion Questions:

Genesis 14:17-24

  • Why did Abram give Melchizedek his tithe?
  • Why was it important that he not keep anything from the raid for himself?
  • Why does God expect us to return our tithe today?

Friday: Final Thoughts

The beginning of Abraham’s journey causes us to think about several things. First of all, what does it mean to be blessed? God obviously blessed Abram, despite his pitiful mistakes. But God declared at the start that He would also make Abraham a blessing to all the families of the earth, despite his failings. How can we also be a blessing to those around us? Do we have to be perfect at it, and why?

We are told about actions of Abram that showed he was capable of unwise choices (such as lying about his relationship with Sarai), but also wise choices (such as his generous offer to Lot and the later rescue of his nephew).

Despite everything, when Abram followed the Lord’s leading, he seemed to have the best outcomes. We, too, should be willing to take a leap of faith and go anywhere with Jesus. When we do, our lives, too, will be blessed beyond measure in many ways.