Today’s Christian is saved by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross. He or she lives, or “walks”, by faith with much counsel from the Word of God. While Abraham was an Old Testament believer, he did believe God and His promise to provide redemption, and he was declared righteous because of his faith in the One True God. We’re just like Abraham in many ways, but we have the privilege to know of the finished word of Christ on the Cross. Either way, believers of all ages “walk by faith”, we live according to what we believe about God and His revealed Truth.
The believer’s walk is a spiritual walk, originated and empowered by God. We cannot afford to assume that we can “go it alone”, as Abraham has adequately demonstrated. Our humble dependence on the Lord is essential, getting closer & closer to Him as we go. It is not a lonely walk – it is walked together with Him.
Along with Abraham, we all have the challenge of walking faithfully and worthily of the calling of God in our life. We have been walking along with Abraham beginning with Genesis 12 and we have observed two key things: his human frailty, and his steadfast faith. God has allowed tests to come along that challenge and prove Abraham’s faith, not always perfectly, sometimes with God’s intervention needed. But Abraham’s faith has strengthened. Now we approach the supreme test of his faith, the sacrifice of Isaac.
Genesis 16 – Hagar & Ishmael
- Sarai responded to being childless differently than Hannah
- Hannah, in 1 Samuel 1, was childless, but God gave her a son, Samuel.
Bible Study Journal
Read 1 Samuel 1:10-11, 19-20, 24-28, and note the humility and dependence she expressed in her prayer, and confident expectation of fulfillment.
- If we circumvent/improvise/help God’s will “one way or another“ that’s always a mistake; if it is God’s will, He will accomplish it Himself, without any assistance from us.
- 16:2 – The Lord prevented?
That’s a faulty perspective. That approach is not right, regardless of cultural norms of the day. Note that this happened with Rachel as well in Gen.30.
Bible Study Journal:
We should never let culture guide us rather than God. What do you think?
- Go in to my maid! And Abram listened… uh oh – is this the valiant man we read about in Gen.14? Doubting God’s word, like Adam & Eve – they opted for a fleshly disobedient solution. Sarai sought to control the will of God by seizing the initiative.
- Paul refers to this event in Gal 4:21-31 to illustrate/emphasize “Do you want to be under the Law?” We are “children of the Promise”, in the legacy of Isaac.
- A higher view of God’s plan for our lives is “delay is not denial”. When we pray for God to do something in our life, sometimes God answers by saying “wait”. Other times, He might say “no”. He is still our loving heavenly Father, working the “best” in our life (Rom. 8:28-29).
- 16:5-6 – “oh, the drama of love…”
- As often occurs in the biblical narratives, the reader is not given all the background and dialog involved in the event. For example, Abram may have been more initially involved. Hagar may have been trying to persuade Sarai to do this.
- In interpreting historical narrative in the Bible, readers need to ask “why did the writer record this?” and/or “why did God inspire this be included?”
- Abram and Sarai needed to learn that human performance is not the key to a relationship with God; faith, obedience, and perseverance are!
- Everything Sarai did was culturally/legally acceptable, but her attitude was not right before God. Abram, as the head of the home, was responsible and should have sought God for the right counsel.
The Rescue of Our Compassionate God
- Gen. 16:7-16, The Angel of the Lord
- This is the first of 48 appearances in the OT of the Angel of the Lord. Here & often, God Himself is present; other times, it is an angelic messenger. In all instances, you need to study context to determine which is applicable.
- Likely here it is God Himself being referenced. Hagar was probably on her way back home in Egypt
- God is asking Hagar questions –
- But He is not trying to figure things out, as a human would be
- He has no lack or lapse of knowledge and understanding for any situation
- Jer 29:11, I know the plans I have for you
|• Where the appearance is God||• Where it is an Angel|
|• Gen. 16:7-13; 18:1-33; 22:11,15; 31:11,13; 48:15-16||• Gen. 24:7,40|
|• Exod. 3:2,4; 14:19 (13:21)||• Exod. 23:20-23; 32:34|
|• Jdgs. 2:15; 6:22-24; 13:3-23||• Num. 22:22|
|• Hosea 12:3-4||• Jdgs. 5:23|
|• Zech. 3:1-5||• 2 Sam. 24:16|
|• Acts 7:30,35,38||• 1 Chr. 21:15-30|
|• Zech. 1:12-13|
- Abraham sacrificed…
- His Homeland – the comfortable life of “upscale” Ur
- Extended Family – all the family and friends of his upbringing
- Nephew Lot – he had lost his family so he came along with Abram from Ur, likely unsure but needing security
- Son Ishmael – Abraham really loved Ishmael but he knew he would not be his heir or be the progenitor of God’s people
- Son Isaac – although he was sure that Isaac was the promised son God intended to use to carry on the family of Abraham, he still had to obey God
- What do we sacrifice? Paul summed up the model of how we are to respond to God after salvation in Rom. 12:1-2 – place ourselves on the altar of surrender and service to God, given over to God’s plan & leading – do we approach that altar with the same faith-filled obedience that Abraham demonstrated?
Gen. 18 – Drama of the Highest Magnitude
- 18:1 – Abraham living in Hebron
- Located in the southern southwest arid sector of Canaan, where Abraham the nomad could wander to provide pasture for his flocks – the Oaks of Mamre likely were terebinth trees, and likely a grove of them – the shade could reduce temperature significantly
- Abraham humbly receives the 3 visitors, quickly realizing the One to be God Himself, e.g. v.3 “don’t pass by Your servant”
- To appreciate the profound encounter here, compare Jer. 32:17-27, “Nothing is too difficult for You”, and v.27, “Is anything too difficult for Me?”
- Read slowly this remarkable account of personal conversation with God – one of several distinctive passages for such interaction between our holy God and a humble man – note also the unique combination of divine conversation with the very “earthly” provision of a meal
- 18:16-21 – God’s conversation– a great expression of the Trinity
- 18:17 – God refers to “hiding” some element of His plan, a reference to what we refer to as progressive revelation, as with Paul’s “mysteries” about the Church
- Does God change His mind? Only thinking “humanly”
- God still knew the ultimate path taken
- Cp Jonah 3:10
- 18:20 – note the dramatic expression of the “outcry” emanating from Sodom & Gomorrah – the tragic sound of man’s moral rebellion – does God hear such an outcry out of America today? Or from Tampa?
- 18:22ff – this is the first Bible instance of intercession for others
- Compare Moses’ appeals for his people – e.g. Exo.32:1-14; Numbers 14:11-24
- Fellowship with God
- Sacred intimacy – the Lord came to Abraham to check in on him, confirm his faith, and reveal Himself to him
- Genuine humility – Abraham bowed down “to the earth“, face on the ground – have you been there lately?
- Special revelation – God’s knowledge & plan – this is God revealing His mind and will to man, what we have today in the Bible
- Note that there is a unique association between revelation, redemption and protection
- God revealed Himself to Abraham (Gen.18:1
- Abraham welcomed God’s revelation (Gen.18:2-3).
- Fellowship resulted (Gen.18:4-8). They ate together.
- This fellowship led to further revelation and greater understanding of God’s will (Gen. 18:9-22).
- Having learned of God’s purpose to judge the sinners, Abraham’s response was to intercede for those under God’s judgment (Gen. 18:23-33).
Gen. 19 – Another Rescue
- Compromise distorts values – Lot compromised, choosing the best land, to the southeast of the lower Dead Sea; he would have likely known the close association with Sodom & Gomorrah which be “part of the package”
- Lot was “declared righteous” according to 2 Pet 2:7; hard to understand “but by the grace of God” (which includes us…) – Lot was a quandary
- Lot’s issue was he was happy to be carnal (see 1 Cor. 3:3) – his selfish heart led him to choose Sodom
- Notice that he was so attached to Sodom that he hesitated about Sodom’s destruction, 19:14-16 – he had gone deeper & deeper into that fallen world of godlessness, and deeper into his own loss
- Consider the picture of God’s judgment we have from Noah and Lot, as expressed in Luke 17:26-30; 2 Pet. 2:6-9
- Supernatural destruction – One suggestion is that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed as a result of an earthquake. The pressure an earthquake generates could have forced the deposits of bitumen (see map) to the earth’s surface. Bitumen contains a high percentage of sulfur. As these deposits burst upwards into the atmosphere, a surface fire could have ignited the bitumen and produced a blistering rain of brimstone and fire falling from above.
Here is a map you can use (you might have something like this in the back of your Bible) to keep track of places our main characters are in. (You can copy this into a separate Word document so you can print it.)
Gen. 20 – Abimelech
- Decisions, decisions…
- Abraham’s nomadic journey takes him further south so now in Gerar (it’s on the map way down near Gaza)
- So now, in the interest of keeping the story interesting, Abraham once again “sacrifices” Sarah 25 years after the first mess with Pharaoh, really for his own personal “safety” but assisted by Sarah
- On the brink of Isaac’s birth, the Promised Fulfillment is put in jeopardy, traded away for personal safety. If the promise is ever to be fulfilled, it will owe very little to man. Morally as well as physically, it will clearly have to be achieved by the grace of God.
- Abimelech the Good
- Abimelech (a title more than actual name) apparently had been hearing of the awesome works of the One True God, was willing to hear and act on God’s revelation
- Abimelech’s integrity and obedience stand in contrast to Abraham’s failure – yet God still claims Abraham as his own, 20:7
- In contrast to Sodom, Abimelech’s people responded to God’s warning
- Abraham’s willingness to acknowledge error is key
- Abraham the Prophet
- 20:7, first mention of “prophet” – Abraham filled that role, declaring God’s expectations to other nations and interceding for them
In Ephesians 4:1, Paul challenges the Christian to “walk worthy” of the riches spoken of in the first 3 chapters of the letter.
In Eph. 4:17, 23, the writer Paul says to “walk… renewed in the spirit of your mind…putting on the new man”; 1 Thess. 4:1, “you ought to walk and please God”; Col. 1:10, “in a manner worthy of the Lord”; Col. 2:6, “as you have received…so walk”; 1 Thess. 2:12, “walk in a manner worthy of the God Who calls you”.