Memory Verse: Genesis16:12 “He (Ishmael) will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s against him ,and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.” (NIV)
God is faithful and He keeps His promises. This is something you can rely on. This is something that will strengthen your trust and your relationship with Him.
Your lesson tells about the story of a man Abram and his wife Sarai who left everything that was familiar to them to follow the Lord’s instruction. They left their extended families and relatives and traveled to a new land because God asked Abram to do so. Abram trusted God.
1 “The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. 3 I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”
4 So Abram departed as the Lord had instructed, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran. 5 He took his wife, Sarai, his nephew Lot, and all his wealth—his livestock and all the people he had taken into his household at Haran—and headed for the land of Canaan. When they arrived in Canaan, 6 Abram traveled through the land as far as Shechem. There he set up camp beside the oak of Moreh. At that time, the area was inhabited by Canaanites.”
Abram traveled to a foreign country taking everything he owned with him, his wife Sarai, and his nephew Lot. He didn’t ask questions; he didn’t argue with God, he obeyed, so God blessed him. He trusted that God would take care of him, his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot and all of his herds, servants, and possessions. He believed God’s promise to him.
7 “Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “I will give this land to your descendants.” And Abram built an altar there and dedicated it to the Lord, who had appeared to him. 8 After that, Abram traveled south and set up camp in the hill country, with Bethel to the west and Ai to the east. There he built another altar and dedicated it to the Lord, and he worshiped the Lord.”
God promised give the land in which Abram was living to Abram’s descendants. This was an extraordinary promise because Abram had no children. His wife Sarai had not been able to conceive. Abram’s response to this promise was to build an altar and dedicate it to God. He didn’t say, “But God, I don’t have any children to inherit this land.” Abram trusted that God could and would fulfill His promise even though he was over 75 years old at the time. He believed God.
9”Abram continued traveling south by stages toward the Negev. 10 At that time a severe famine struck the land of Canaan, forcing Abram to go down to Egypt, where he lived as a foreigner. 11 As he was approaching the border of Egypt, Abram said to his wife, Sarai, “Look, you are a very beautiful woman. 12 When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife. Let’s kill him; then we can have her!’ 13 So please tell them you are my sister. Then they will spare my life and treat me well because of their interest in you.”
14 And sure enough, when Abram arrived in Egypt, everyone spoke of Sarai’s beauty. 15 When the palace officials saw her, they sang her praises to Pharaoh, their king, and Sarai was taken into his palace. 16 Then Pharaoh gave Abram many gifts because of her—sheep, goats, cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels.
17 But the Lord sent terrible plagues upon Pharaoh and his household because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. 18 So Pharaoh summoned Abram and accused him sharply. “What have you done to me?” he demanded. “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ and allow me to take her as my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and get out of here!” 20 Pharaoh ordered some of his men to escort them, and he sent Abram out of the country, along with his wife and all his possessions.”
A famine struck the area and Abram had to take his family to a place where they could get food. The closest place for them was Egypt. When they got there, Abram told his wife Sarai to say that she was his sister. It was common practice in those days for kings and pharaohs to kill the husbands of beautiful women so they could take those women as wives. Technically, Abram was not lying, but he was not telling the whole truth. Sarai was his half-sister. They had the same father but different mothers. That too was common in those days.
Even though Abram feared for his life and resorted to subterfuge, deceiving Pharaoh about Sarai, God was faithful to keep the promise He made Abram.
Remember God said He would bless
those that bless Abram and curse those who would treat Abram with contempt?
When Pharaoh took Sarai into his palace, was that showing contempt for Abram?
What curses did Pharaoh and His household suffer? (terrible plagues).
What does this tell you about the promises of God? (He keeps them). God showed Abram that He would keep his promises. Abram increased in wealth and possessions as God blessed him as God had promised him. However, Abram still did not have a son.
1 “So Abram left Egypt and traveled north into the Negev, along with his wife and Lot and all that they owned. 2 (Abram was very rich in livestock, silver, and gold.)”
5 “Lot, who was traveling with Abram, had also become very wealthy with flocks of sheep and goats, herds of cattle, and many tents.”
Both Abram and Lot prospered under the blessings that God had promised to Abram and those who would bless him.
6”But the land could not support both Abram and Lot with all their flocks and herds living so close together. 7 So disputes broke out between the herdsmen of Abram and Lot. (At that time Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land.)
8 Finally Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not allow this conflict to come between us or our herdsmen. After all, we are close relatives! 9 The whole countryside is open to you. Take your choice of any section of the land you want, and we will separate. If you want the land to the left, then I’ll take the land on the right. If you prefer the land on the right, then I’ll go to the left.”
10 Lot took a long look at the fertile plains of the Jordan Valley in the direction of Zoar. The whole area was well watered everywhere, like the garden of the Lord or the beautiful land of Egypt. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) 11 Lot chose for himself the whole Jordan Valley to the east of them. He went there with his flocks and servants and parted company with his uncle Abram. 12 So Abram settled in the land of Canaan, and Lot moved his tents to a place near Sodom and settled among the cities of the plain. 13 But the people of this area were extremely wicked and constantly sinned against the Lord.”
Even though Abram was superior to Lot, Abram gave Lot the power to choose where he wanted to live when conflict arose between their families. Lot chose the lush, green Jordan Valley near Sodom and the evil cities of the plain. He disregarded the danger of exposing his family to the evil that would constantly be around him in favor of expanding his wealth and herds. This choice would cause Lot problems later on. Abram chose the lesser quality land. God blessed Abram for his generosity to Lot.
14”After Lot had gone, the Lord said to Abram, “Look as far as you can see in every direction—north and south, east and west. 15 I am giving all this land, as far as you can see, to you and your descendants as a permanent possession. 16 And I will give you so many descendants that, like the dust of the earth, they cannot be counted! 17 Go and walk through the land in every direction, for I am giving it to you.” 18 So Abram moved his camp to Hebron and settled near the oak grove belonging to Mamre. There he built another altar to the Lord.”
For the 2nd time, God again promised permanent possession of the land to Abram’s countless descendants. Still Abram did not doubt God’s promise even though he and Sarai still had no children and were getting way too old to have any children. He trusted that God would keep His promise to him. He didn’t know how it would happen, but trusted that it would.
1” Some time later, the Lord spoke to Abram in a vision and said to him, “Do not be afraid, Abram, for I will protect you, and your reward will be great.”
2 But Abram replied, “O Sovereign Lord, what good are all your blessings when I don’t even have a son? Since you’ve given me no children, Eliezer of Damascus, a servant in my household, will inherit all my wealth. 3 You have given me no descendants of my own, so one of my servants will be my heir.”
Abram thought that God might keep His promise by allowing one of Abram’s servants to inherit his wealth. God was very clear that this was not how it was going to happen.
4 “Then the Lord said to him, “No, your servant will not be your heir, for you will have a son of your own who will be your heir.” 5 Then the Lord took Abram outside and said to him, “Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have!”
6 And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith.”
God promised Abram a son of his own that would be his heir and Abram believed God would make it happen regardless of how old he was or that Sarai was well past childbearing years. God counted Abram righteous because of that unshaken faith that God would do as He said.
7”Then the Lord told him, “I am the Lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land as your possession.”
8 But Abram replied, “O Sovereign Lord, how can I be sure that I will actually possess it?”
9 The Lord told him, “Bring me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 So Abram presented all these to him and killed them. Then he cut each animal down the middle and laid the halves side by side; he did not, however, cut the birds in half. 11 Some vultures swooped down to eat the carcasses, but Abram chased them away.
12 As the sun was going down, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a terrifying darkness came down over him. 13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “You can be sure that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign land, where they will be oppressed as slaves for 400 years. 14 But I will punish the nation that enslaves them, and in the end they will come away with great wealth. 15 (As for you, you will die in peace and be buried at a ripe old age.) 16 After four generations your descendants will return here to this land, for the sins of the Amorites do not yet warrant their destruction.”
17 After the sun went down and darkness fell, Abram saw a smoking firepot and a flaming torch pass between the halves of the carcasses. 18 So the Lord made a covenant with Abram that day and said, “I have given this land to your descendants, all the way from the border of Egypt to the great Euphrates River—19 the land now occupied by the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and Jebusites.”
God makes an unconditional covenant with Abram. We see this because only God walked through the halves of the carcasses. Usually in a covenant agreement, both parties would have walked through the halves. This might seem to you to be a gross way to make an agreement, but the message this gives is that “if I don’t keep my part of the bargain, may this happen to me”. This was very graphic and spoke of the seriousness of the covenant. Again God promises that Abram’s descendants would inherit the land. He seals the agreement in the common way at that time. Abram believes God. This is the 3rd time that God has made this promise to Abram.
1” Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had not been able to bear children for him. But she had an Egyptian servant named Hagar. 2 So Sarai said to Abram, “The Lord has prevented me from having children. Go and sleep with my servant. Perhaps I can have children through her.” And Abram agreed with Sarai’s proposal. 3 So Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian servant and gave her to Abram as a wife. (This happened ten years after Abram had settled in the land of Canaan.)
4 So Abram had sexual relations with Hagar, and she became pregnant. But when Hagar knew she was pregnant, she began to treat her mistress, Sarai, with contempt. 5 Then Sarai said to Abram, “This is all your fault! I put my servant into your arms, but now that she’s pregnant she treats me with contempt. The Lord will show who’s wrong—you or me!”
6 Abram replied, “Look, she is your servant, so deal with her as you see fit.” Then Sarai treated Hagar so harshly that she finally ran away.”
Sarai isn’t that trusting. She takes matters into her own hands and talks Abram into taking her Egyptian servant Hagar so Abram could have a son through her. Although a common practice in those days, this is a bad decision for all concerned. Hagar gets pregnant and becomes arrogant toward Sarai. Sarai complains about it to Abram, and Abram passes the buck back to Sarai telling her ,”She is your servant, so you deal with her. In her frustration and humiliation, Sarai mistreats Hagar so she runs away where God finds her in the desert and tells her to go back to Sarai, that she will have a son, and to name that son Ishmael and he too would father many nations.
7 “The angel of the Lord found Hagar beside a spring of water in the wilderness, along the road to Shur. 8 The angel said to her, “Hagar, Sarai’s servant, where have you come from, and where are you going?”
“I’m running away from my mistress, Sarai,” she replied.
9 The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her authority.” 10 Then he added, “I will give you more descendants than you can count.”
11 And the angel also said, “You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son. You are to name him Ishmael (which means ‘God hears’), for the Lord has heard your cry of distress. 12 This son of yours will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives.”
13 Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the God who sees me.” She also said, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?” 14 So that well was named Beer-lahai-roi (which means “well of the Living One who sees me”). It can still be found between Kadesh and Bered.
15 So Hagar gave Abram a son, and Abram named him Ishmael. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Ishmael was born.”
God kept His promise to Hagar. She had a son, named him Ishmael and he had many descendants. Ishmael is the father of the Arabs, who many years later became the Moslems.
The repercussions of Sarai’s decision to take matters into her own hands rather than trusting that God would keep His promise in the face of both of them being too old to have children together, carry forward to this day. Of all the ancient nations of the old Testament, only the Jewish people and the Arab people survived intact. There are no more Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and Jebusites.” The rest of those ancient nations disappeared into history. Abram was 86 years old when Ishmael was born.
1 “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty.’ Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life. 2 I will make a covenant with you, by which I will guarantee to give you countless descendants.”
3 At this, Abram fell face down on the ground. Then God said to him, 4 “This is my covenant with you: I will make you the father of a multitude of nations! 5 What’s more, I am changing your name. It will no longer be Abram. Instead, you will be called Abraham, for you will be the father of many nations. 6 I will make you extremely fruitful. Your descendants will become many nations, and kings will be among them!
7 “I will confirm my covenant with you and your descendants after you, from generation to generation. This is the everlasting covenant: I will always be your God and the God of your descendants after you. 8 And I will give the entire land of Canaan, where you now live as a foreigner, to you and your descendants. It will be their possession forever, and I will be their God.”
Again God appears to Abram when he is 99 years old and this is the 4th time He repeats His promise to make Abram the father of many nations. God changes Abram’s name to Abraham, which means “father of many”. He promises Abraham that He will always be Abraham’s God, and in addition, promises to be the only God of all of Abraham’s descendants. Abraham is now 99 years old. It has been 24 years since God first promised Abraham that he would have countless descendants. Would you still believe God after all this time? Let’s see how Abraham reacted to this latest repeat of God’s promise to him.
9 “Then God said to Abraham, “Your responsibility is to obey the terms of the covenant. You and all your descendants have this continual responsibility. 10 This is the covenant that you and your descendants must keep: Each male among you must be circumcised. 11 You must cut off the flesh of your foreskin as a sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 From generation to generation, every male child must be circumcised on the eighth day after his birth. This applies not only to members of your family but also to the servants born in your household and the foreign-born servants whom you have purchased. 13 All must be circumcised. Your bodies will bear the mark of my everlasting covenant. 14 Any male who fails to be circumcised will be cut off from the covenant family for breaking the covenant.”
Sarai Is Named Sarah
15 Then God said to Abraham, “Regarding Sarai, your wife—her name will no longer be Sarai. From now on her name will be Sarah. 16 And I will bless her and give you a son from her! Yes, I will bless her richly, and she will become the mother of many nations. Kings of nations will be among her descendants.”
17 Then Abraham bowed down to the ground, but he laughed to himself in disbelief. “How could I become a father at the age of 100?” he thought. “And how can Sarah have a baby when she is ninety years old?” 18 So Abraham said to God, “May Ishmael live under your special blessing!”
19 But God replied, “No—Sarah, your wife, will give birth to a son for you. You will name him Isaac, and I will confirm my covenant with him and his descendants as an everlasting covenant. 20 As for Ishmael, I will bless him also, just as you have asked. I will make him extremely fruitful and multiply his descendants. He will become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. 21 But my covenant will be confirmed with Isaac, who will be born to you and Sarah about this time next year.” 22 When God had finished speaking, he left Abraham.
23 On that very day Abraham took his son, Ishmael, and every male in his household, including those born there and those he had bought. Then he circumcised them, cutting off their foreskins, just as God had told him. 24 Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised, 25 and Ishmael, his son, was thirteen. 26 Both Abraham and his son, Ishmael, were circumcised on that same day, 27 along with all the other men and boys of the household, whether they were born there or bought as servants. All were circumcised with him.”
Abraham at first thought that God was speaking of Ishmael, because of course, Abraham was too old to have any more kids. God was very definite. He made another covenant with Abraham that would identify the people of God and all of Abraham’s descendants. All males were to be circumcised and that would be the outward sign of who God’s people were. God also told Abraham that he and Sarah would have a son that Abraham was to name Isaac within the next year. What was Abraham’s reaction? He believed God and then was circumcised and had all the males in his family circumcised – even his male servants were circumcised. What faith! Would you still believe God after all this time?
1 “The Lord appeared again to Abraham near the oak grove belonging to Mamre. One day Abraham was sitting at the entrance to his tent during the hottest part of the day. 2 He looked up and noticed three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he ran to meet them and welcomed them, bowing low to the ground.
3 “My lord,” he said, “if it pleases you, stop here for a while. 4 Rest in the shade of this tree while water is brought to wash your feet. 5 And since you’ve honored your servant with this visit, let me prepare some food to refresh you before you continue on your journey.”
“All right,” they said. “Do as you have said.”
6 So Abraham ran back to the tent and said to Sarah, “Hurry! Get three large measures of your best flour, knead it into dough, and bake some bread.” 7 Then Abraham ran out to the herd and chose a tender calf and gave it to his servant, who quickly prepared it. 8 When the food was ready, Abraham took some yogurt and milk and the roasted meat, and he served it to the men. As they ate, Abraham waited on them in the shade of the trees.
9 “Where is Sarah, your wife?” the visitors asked.
“She’s inside the tent,” Abraham replied.
10 Then one of them said, “I will return to you about this time next year, and your wife, Sarah, will have a son!”
Sarah was listening to this conversation from the tent. 11 Abraham and Sarah were both very old by this time, and Sarah was long past the age of having children. 12 So she laughed silently to herself and said, “How could a worn-out woman like me enjoy such pleasure, especially when my master—my husband—is also so old?”
13 Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh? Why did she say, ‘Can an old woman like me have a baby?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”
15 Sarah was afraid, so she denied it, saying, “I didn’t laugh.”
But the Lord said, “No, you did laugh.”
Three strangers show up and Abraham treats them with generous hospitality. One of them identifies Himself as God by stating that Sarah would have a son within a year. Sarah, eavesdropping on their conversation, is incredulous and laughs at the absurdity of the idea of an old woman like her, many years into menopause, ever conceiving, much less having a baby at her age. She was 89 years old and Abraham was 99 year old! How ridiculous! And she laughed at the whole idea. Her faith wasn’t as unshakeable as Abraham’s.
God heard her laugh and commented on it. She was shocked and afraid! How could this man know her thoughts? She realized this man was no ordinary man – he must be God and when confronted by Him, she denied laughing. God asked Abraham, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”
You can ask that question for yourselves. Is anything too hard for God who created all that is, was, or ever shall be? If God makes you a promise in His Word, the Holy Bible, will you believe it through everything good and bad – especially bad -- that happens to you in your life? Did God keep His promise to Abraham to make him the father of many nations? Let’s see.
1 “The Lord kept His word and did for Sarah exactly what He had promised. 2 She became pregnant, and she gave birth to a son for Abraham in his old age. This happened at just the time God had said it would. 3 And Abraham named their son Isaac. 4 Eight days after Isaac was born, Abraham circumcised him as God had commanded. 5 Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born. 6 And Sarah declared, “God has brought me laughter. All who hear about this will laugh with me. 7 Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse a baby? Yet I have given Abraham a son in his old age!”
What can you learn from Abraham? Does God keep his promises? Can you trust that God will keep any promises He makes to you in His Word? How will this impact your life today? Why did God take 24 years before He kept his promise to Abraham? Did Abraham ever fail to believe and obey God during those 24 years? Was Abraham faithful to God no matter what happened to him or to his family? Was God faithful to keep his promise even though Sarai tried to jump the gun, so to speak with Hagar and Ishmael? What does this tell you about the character of God?
God keeps His promises. Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90 when they had Isaac. That would be like if your great-grandma suddenly got pregnant, your great-grandpa was the father and they had a baby!
God performed a miracle with Isaac’s birth. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that God had done this. This was a “show-to-the-world-I-am-God” type of miracle. Nothing like this had ever happened before. Anyone who knew Abraham or met him later would know that God had done this and they would learn about God through this miracle.
God keeps His promises no matter what you do to hasten, circumvent, go around, jump the gun, etc. etc. His promises will come to pass no matter how long it takes. God has His own reasons and timing for keeping His promises and answering prayers. I think that He took so long with Abraham so the whole world, you included, would know that God was able to take an old woman and an old man and make them parents of a baby boy against all reason and logic. God did this to show you that no matter what, He can do all things, and He keeps His promises.
You don’t always know what
reasons God has for taking His time in keeping His promises and in answering
your prayers. You may never know the answers to your questions about the things
that happen to you and to those you love, good and bad, during your lives here
on Earth. Your part is to be faithful and obedient to Him and to continue to
believe in Him and in those promises, like Abraham did. God keeps His promises.
That’s all you or we need to know. You can trust God as Abraham trusted
Him – unconditionally, no matter what.