Thus study probes the lives of individuals identified in Chapter 11 of the Book of Hebrews as persons of faith in an effort to help us grow more steadfast in our own faith. It is easy to walk by faith when we see and hear the divine workings of God. But what about when God is silent and still? Do you struggle with “walking by faith” at times? Let God and His Word instruct you and challenge you to walk by faith alone, not sight, as you work through this series.
Thus study probes the lives of individuals identified in Chapter 11 of the Book of Hebrews as persons of faith in an effort to help us grow more steadfast in our own faith. It is easy to walk by faith when we see and hear the divine workings of God. But what about when God is silent and still? Do you struggle with “walking by faith” at times? Let God and His Word instruct you and challenge you to walk by faith alone, not sight, as you work through this series.
Week One Lesson: Abel, the Man with a Right Heart
Week Two Lesson: Enoch, the Man who Pleased God
Week Three Lesson: Noah, the Man who Stood Alone
Week Four Lesson: Abraham and Sarah, the Couple Who Believed God for the Impossible
Week Five Lesson: Abraham, the Man Willing to Make the Ultimate Sacrifice
Week Six Lesson: Isaac, the Man Who Accepted God’s Sovereignty
Week Seven Lesson: Jacob, the Man Who Finished Strong
Week Eight Lesson: Joseph: the Man with a Divine Purpose
Conclusion & Bibliography
I am thankful to pastor Neil Tomba at Northwest Bible Church in Dallas, who through his series on “Developing a Real Life Faith,” gave me the idea for this Bible study. I had always wanted to do a character study on the characters from Hebrews 11. As Neil took a birds-eye approach to the characters, I decided to do a more in-depth look. Thus, the concept for this Bible study was born.
God has truly shown me much about my own faith and how hard it is for me to walk by faith. When I first wrote this study, I was in the process of raising financial support for an Amazon mission trip to Brazil. It was easy to walk by faith when I saw God bringing in the support, because I could see His hand at work. But is that walking by faith, or by sight? It became much tougher when God’s hand became silent, and the support stopped coming in. But God wanted me to still trust Him even though I couldn’t see Him working. That is what walking by faith is all about. I wish I could tell you that I successfully walk by faith all the time, but I have struggled in this process, and I realize how small my faith really is. That’s when I have to make a choice. I either choose to focus on my lack of faith and get discouraged, or I choose to go before the Lord, confess my small faith, and ask Him to give me the grace to wait on Him and to walk by faith even when I can’t see His hand.
I pray that as you work through this study God would also reveal to you where you are in the area of walking by faith. This study has gone beyond “head knowledge” for me and has penetrated my heart, showing me what is inside. It was a hard lesson and painful at times, but well worth the process and the end result. As you begin this study, each week has work spread out over five days. I encourage you to not wait until the night before Bible study to do all the lessons for the week. If you rush through the lessons without taking the time to let God speak to you, you may miss out on what He wants to teach you. Take each lesson and let God speak to your heart. Listen to what He’s saying to you from His Word. Keep a journal and write out your thoughts and prayers. I pray that God and His Word would penetrate your heart and challenge and encourage you to walk by faith alone, not by sight.
Growing together in Him,
This study is designed to help you consistently spend time in God’s Word. Yes, you could probably do all the lessons in one sitting, but you will gain more from the study if you do it day by day, taking time to reflect on each day’s passage and main thought(s). It is important to ponder and meditate on Scripture, allowing God’s Spirit to speak to you and work in you through His Word.
Each week is divided into five days, and each day is divided into four sections. “Looking to God’s Word” and “Looking Upward” direct you to the Scripture for that day, guiding you through observation and interpretation questions. “Looking Deeper” is optional. It is for those who want to go further in their study of the lesson. It will direct you to other related passages to deepen your personal study. This section is not required and will not be discussed in your small group time unless the group as a whole decides to include them. However, if you have time to go deeper, this section can enhance your personal study. “Looking Reflectively” is designed for application and reflection on the lesson. Each day I have given a “nugget” (the statements in bold) on which you can meditate throughout the day. This area of the study is designed to take the head knowledge and make it heart knowledge.
The Word of God changes lives. I pray that each of us will see life change as a result of His Word working in us.
If someone were to ask you, “What do you know about Abel?” how would you answer? Most of us would probably say the obvious: he was Cain’s brother and was murdered by Cain. However, would you be able to say much more than that? There is very little written about Abel in the Bible, and yet, there is much that we can learn from the story of Cain and Abel. This is a story of what is in a man’s heart and how that affects his life. As you look at Abel’s life, look to your own heart. Do you have a heart that is righteous and pleasing to God? Is your motivation for doing “spiritual things” right? How would you know if your motivation is wrong? Ponder these questions as you study the life of Abel and contrast his life with that of his brother.
“Lord, clear away the distractions and open my heart to hear what You have to say to me through Your Word. Show me my true heart motivation. Give me a heart like Abel’s, one that is right and pleasing to You.”
1. Put verse 1 in your own words.
2. Who are the “men of old” in verse 2 and what does the author mean when he says, “by faith they gained approval”?
3. What is the difference (if any) between the faith of the Old Testament characters and the faith of believers after the death and resurrection of Christ?
4. What does verse 3 mean?
5. How would you define “faith”?
6. What is the difference between positive thinking and Biblical faith?
“Faith begins where man’s power ends.”1 – George Mueller
“Faith is not simply one way to please God; it is the only way... No matter what else we may think, say, or do for or in the name of God, it is meaningless and worthless apart from faith.”2
How would you describe your faith in Christ? (Strong, wavering, small…)
How is faith evident in your life?
When is the last time you stepped out in faith?
What can you do to increase your faith? What step of faith can you take at this point in your life?
By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks. (NASB)
1. What do you learn about Abel and his sacrifice from this verse?
2. Scripture does not tell us specifically why Abel’s sacrifice was more acceptable or “better” than Cain’s, but what are some possible implications from this verse as to why?
3. What does it mean that God “testified about his gifts”?
4. What does it mean that “through his faith, though he died, he still speaks”?
5. What is the hardest thing for you to bring before the Lord as an offering or sacrifice?
(Your money, your time, your gifts, your talents, etc.?) Why?
6. How would you know if God is pleased with your offering or “sacrifice” to Him?
1. What were the respective “vocations” of Cain and Abel?
2. How do their offerings differ and how did God’s response to their offerings differ?
3. We are not told specifically in this account why God had no regard for Cain’s offering. However, what insight does 1 John 3:11-12 give concerning these two brothers?
4. How did Cain respond to God’s lack of regard for his offering? What does that indicate about Cain’s heart?
5. What does God’s response indicate about the way He views our “offerings”?
6. Give an example of someone doing a right action with a wrong attitude or motive.
Even though the emphasis this week is on the character of Abel, the story would not be complete without also looking at the heart of Cain. So today and tomorrow our focus will be on Abel’s brother, Cain. Notice the contrast in the character of these two brothers.
1. List the questions that God asked Cain.
2. What are some possible reasons why God questioned Cain when He obviously knew Cain’s heart and actions?
3. In verse 7, God told Cain that if he does not do well, “sin is crouching at the door, and its desire is for you (NASB).” What does that mean?
4. How does James 1:14-15 relate to this? What is the process of sin?
5. God exhorted Cain in Genesis 4:7 to master sin. How do we do that?
6. What would be some warning signs that your heart attitude is wrong toward God?
7. How and why does your heart attitude affect your countenance?
To be honest, I have struggled with anger all my life. I have a volatile temper, and it doesn’t take much to get me angry at times. As I have yielded this area to Him, He has worked greatly in my life; and anger has become a rarity now, instead of the norm. However, my “old self” still rears its head from time to time, and anger arises before I realize it’s there. I speak before I think, and I wish I could take back words spoken in haste. Each time, I have to come before the Lord with a repentant heart and confess my sin. I am clearly reminded that sin is definitely crouching at the door, just waiting for the right opportunity to overtake me.
1. What do Cain’s responses to God in verses 9 and 13 reveal about his heart attitude?
2. What is meant by the phrase in verse 10, “the voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground”?
3. What was the price of Cain’s sin (Vv. 11-12) and why would this punishment be especially tough on Cain?
4. What do you learn about God from the narrative of Cain and Abel?
5. Cain thought God was unfair to him by rejecting his sacrifice. Abel was murdered, even though he lived a pleasing life before God. That seems unfair. Are there any present situations in your life that you feel are unfair?
6. How does one keep a right perspective and attitude in an unfair situation?
“Those who worship God must have as their goal to please Him rather than letting envy and hatred ruin their lives.”3
1Bruce Barton, Dave Veerman and Linda Taylor, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 1997), 180.
2 John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary on Hebrews (Chicago: Moody Press, 1983), 289.
3 Thomas Constable, “Genesis” in The Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas L. Constable (CD-ROM), May 2004 Edition, 63.
Like Abel, very little is written about Enoch in the Bible, and yet, God placed him in the chapter of great men and women of faith in Hebrews 11. Enoch’s life caught God’s attention. As you study his life, look at your own. Consider how God would sum up your life today.
“Lord, open my eyes and heart that I might learn what it means to walk with you. Help me to identify areas in my life that hinder my walk. I desire to be pleasing to you in all that I say and do.”
1. What do we know about Enoch from verse 5?
2. Enoch was pleasing to God. What is required of us in order to please God according to Hebrews 11:6?
3. Why is it impossible to please Him without it?
4. According to verse 6, what is the progression of getting to the place of pleasing God?
5. Verse 6 tells us that God is a rewarder of those who seek Him. What does it mean to seek the Lord?
6. How does God reward those who seek Him? (Can you support your answer with Scripture?)
Yesterday we looked at Hebrews 11:5-6 and saw how Enoch was commended for pleasing God. Today we will look at some other passages that focus on pleasing God and what that involves.
1. What should be our ambition?
3. Paul says in verse 7 that “we walk by faith, not by sight.” Give an example of walking by faith, not by sight.
4. According to these verses, what pleases the Lord?
5. Why would these things please the Lord?
6. Why would someone continue in an action that he/she knows is displeasing to God?
1. What do you learn about Enoch from this passage?
2. All the other men mentioned in this chapter were said to have “lived” and died (a result of the curse). Enoch is the only one of whom it is said that he “walked.” What is the difference between living and walking?
3. How does Paul describe walking in a manner worthy of your calling in Ephesians 4:1-3?
4. In addition to the qualities mentioned above in Q. 3, what other characteristics would you expect to find in the life of someone who walks with God?
5. Can you partially walk with God, or is it “all or nothing”? Explain your answer.
1. How do these New Testament passages instruct us to walk with God?
2. How do the areas above in Question 1 work together to bring us into a deeper walk with God?
3. Paul instructs the Thessalonians in 1 Thess. 4:1 to “excel still more” in their pleasing walk with God. How can you excel still more in your walk with Him?
4. What causes someone’s walk with God to stagnate, stumble, or come to a halt?
5. If you have struggled in your walk with God, what was the cause and how did you handle it?
1. Jude quoted from the apocryphal Book of Enoch here.4 This is the only other place in Scripture where Enoch is specifically mentioned, other than genealogies (1 Chronicles 1:1). What did Enoch prophesy would happen in the future to the ungodly?
2. List the different ways Enoch used the word “ungodly” in verse 15.
3. How did Jude describe the ungodly in verse 16?
4. How does Enoch’s quote relate to his life of walking with God and the culture within which he lived?
5. How do you respond to the sin you see around you in the world?
6. How does Jude 24-25 encourage you in your walk with God?
My walk with God began when I was 9 years old. I wish I could say that I have always walked in close fellowship with the Father since that day, but I confess I have not. I have stumbled many times along the way. Yet God was always there to pick me up and set me on my way again. He never let go of my hand.
For Enoch, walking with God lasted at least 300 years. We don’t hear of any “detours” that he took in his walk. We don’t read of any areas in which he displeased God. What marks his life in Scripture is that he walked with God and was pleasing to Him. What a great example for us to look to as we seek to walk with God however long God gives us on this earth.
1 Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (Uhrichsville, OH: Barbour Publishing, 1963), March 17.
2 MacArthur, MacArthur New Testament Commentary on Hebrews, 312.
3 Oswald Chambers, Still Higher for His Highest (Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade, 1970), October 8.
4 Kenneth Barker and John R. Kohlenberger III, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: New Testament (Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 1994), 1123.
What do you think of when you see a rainbow? Is it the “pot of gold” at the end? Is it the sunshine and rain and beautiful colors? Or does it remind you of God’s covenant with Noah?
Noah was a man who stood alone in a godless culture, a man whom God chose to be the father of the “new world,” a man who found favor in God’s sight, a man who walked with God. He was most likely ridiculed for building the ark, especially since it had not rained before. Can you imagine what people must have thought about Noah? We don’t know all that went through Noah’s mind, but we do know that he was faithful to do what God asked of him. By faith, he stood alone in obedience to God and refused to listen to the world. How would you have responded in that situation? My prayer for you as you study the life of Noah is that you would be encouraged to stand firm for Christ, regardless of what the world is saying around you.
“Lord, open my heart. Take away the distractions that so easily hinder me from focusing on your Word. Teach me fresh truths from the story of Noah. Help me focus on you and not on the world around me.”
1. Noah built an ark in “reverence” (NASB) or “holy fear” (NIV). What is involved in being reverent?
2. Why would reverence or holy fear be necessary to carry out the task that God had given Noah? In other words, why is reverence necessary for obedience?
3. What three things were evidence of Noah’s faith?
4. How did Noah’s faith condemn the world?
5. What is the relationship between faith and reverence?
6. In what ways do you show reverence to God?
1. Describe the moral climate of the earth at this time.
2. Verses 1-4 are highly debated concerning the interpretation of the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men.” (You will have the opportunity to look at this further under “Looking Deeper.”) Regardless of how you interpret these phrases, we know that their intermarriage displeased God greatly. Describe God’s response to the moral climate of the culture at that time.
3. How does Matthew 24:37-39 compare the time of the coming of Christ with the situation in Noah’s day?
4. Describe how Noah’s life contrasted with the “world” at that time.
5. In Genesis 6:3, God told Noah that man’s days would be 120 years. What did He mean by this? Why would God give a timeframe?
6. God was grieved by what He saw in Noah’s day. We are told in Ephesians 4:30, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.” How do we grieve the Spirit of God today?
1. God chose to destroy the earth and all flesh with a flood. What are some possible reasons why He chose a flood over other ways to destroy the earth? (What insight might verse 17 give?)
2. Read the account of the flood in Genesis 6:13-8:22. Note the literary structure of this passage.
A God resolves to __________________________________ (6:13).
B Noah builds ________________ according to God's instructions (6:14-22).
C God commands the remnant to ______________________ (7:1-9).
D The flood _____________(7:10-16).
E The flood ___________150 days; water covers the mountains. (7:17-24).
F God ______________Noah (8:1a).
E The flood _________ 150 days; the mountains are visible (8:1b-5).
D The earth ______________ (8:6-14).
C God commands the remnant to _____________________(8:15-19).
B Noah builds ______________________(8:20).
A God resolves not to _______________________________________(8:21-22).3
3. What is the focal point of this structure and how does that encourage you?
4. Is there a situation in your life where you feel that you are standing alone for God? How are you handling it?
5. In Genesis 8, we see Noah’s patience and waiting on God to leave the ark. In what areas do you struggle with waiting on God’s timing in your life?
1. What was the first act of Noah following the flood (8:20) and what was God’s response?
2. Genesis 6:18 and 9:8-17 is the first mention of a Covenant in the Bible. What is the promise of the Noahic covenant?
3. Why is the sign of the rainbow appropriate for this specific covenant?
4. In Genesis 9:20-28 we read about an occurrence in Noah’s life in the “new world.” How was sin still evident in life after the flood and why did Ham’s behavior bring such strong words from Noah?
NOTE: Noah’s words here have direct reference to the nature and destiny of the Canaanites, who would later be Israel’s antagonists.4
5. How did life change for them after the flood?
6. What difference (if any) does the Noahic covenant make in your life, knowing that God will never again destroy the earth and all flesh with a flood?
1. As you review Genesis 6-9, how do you see…
2. How have you seen these attributes of God in your own life recently?
3. What are some lessons for life you can learn from the life of Noah?
Note the parallels between the creation narrative and Noah’s story.
God’s action (Gen. 2:7 and 7:23)
God’s blessing (Gen. 1:28 and 9:1-2)
God’s prohibition (Gen. 2:16 and 9:3-4)
God’s warning (Gen. 2:17 and 9:5)
Noah, like Abel, had a righteous heart. Like Enoch, he walked with God. Noah was a man who was not influenced by the pull of the world, but listened to God’s voice instead of man’s voice. Even though he was not perfect, God still considered Noah a man of faith, worthy to be included in the chapter of faith in Hebrews. He obeyed God in the midst of a disobedient society, and he never wavered in his obedience to God’s instructions. He is a great example to us of someone who stood alone for God.
1 Barton, et al., Life Application Bible Commentary on Hebrews (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 1997), 182.
2 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary: Pentateuch (Colorado Springs: Cook, 2001), 43.
3 Allen P. Ross, “Genesis” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1985), 39.
4 Ross, “Genesis,” 40-41.
What is your favorite story about Abraham and Sarah? When God called him to leave his home and family? When God promised to bless him with descendants too numerous to count? When he and Sarah decided to “help God out” and provide a descendant through Ishmael? When they laughed at God’s promise to give them a child in their old age? The lives of Abraham and Sarah are full of lessons from which we can learn much. But will we? Because Abraham believed God was faithful to His promises, he stepped out in faith and followed God’s leading. Because Sarah believed God was faithful, she gave birth to a son well past her childbearing years. They believed God would do what He said He would. It was not always easy for them to believe, but, in the end, God honored them for their faith. Looking at their lives causes me to search my own heart. How will I respond when God calls me to step out in faith and follow Him? Can I wait on God’s timing in my life? Am I able to trust Him for the impossible? Am I looking forward to my heavenly home or am I settled into my temporal one? My prayer for you as you study the lives of Abraham and Sarah is that you would give your complete heart to God. I pray that you would trust Him in obedience to do whatever He asks of you, that you would believe He is faithful, and that you would look ahead to your eternal home while just passing through this temporal one.
“Lord, teach me from the lives of Abraham and Sarah. Give me a willing heart to step out in faith and trust You. Help me trust You even when I cannot understand what You are doing. Help me believe You for the impossible. Show me what temporal or earthly things are entangling me and keeping my focus off of the eternal. Give me the faith to believe that nothing is impossible with You.”
1. Let’s begin by looking at Abraham’s background:
His wife and her childbearing situation:
Where did Terah and his family set out to go?
How far did they get?
His father’s spiritual background (Joshua 24:2)
2. What did God specifically tell Abraham to do?
3. Why would this be a step of faith for Abraham?
4. How did Abraham respond to God’s leading?
5. How do you know when God is leading you to do something?
6. Abraham was asked by God to leave everything he knew behind and step out in faith. What would be the hardest thing for you to leave behind and why?
7. Would you be willing and able if God asked you to step out of your comfort zone in a step of faith? What would enable you to obey and follow wholeheartdly?
When we step out to follow God’s leading, all that matters is that He knows our path. We just need to keep our hand in His so that we will not lose our way
1. List the seven things God promised Abraham.
2. What does this tell you about God’s relationship with Abraham?
3. Whom and what did Abraham take with him? Did Abraham completely obey God or not?
4. Was God’s promise dependent on whether or not Abraham obeyed God? Explain your answer.
5. In what ways can we rationalize our disobedience or refusal to follow God’s leading?
6. How has obedience to God been costly in your life?
Looking further at Genesis 12:4-9, trace Abraham’s journey and what occurred at each location.
Today’s reading is lengthy but important to the story of Abraham.
1. What insights do you gain about Abraham from the incidence in Egypt?
2. What additional insights does this passage give concerning Abraham in the way he dealt with Lot?
3. What does God promise Abraham in verses 14-17?
4. God made a covenant with Abraham. What do Abraham’s questions and responses in this chapter reveal about what was going on in his mind and heart?
5. God had already promised Abraham land, blessing, and seed. Why did He need to make a covenant with Abraham?
6. In what area(s) is your faith weak, and how do you respond when your faith wavers?
Genesis 15:6 tells us that “Then he believed in the LORD; And He reckoned it to him as righteousness.” Was this the point of salvation for Abraham? If so, why does his faith continue to waver? Explain your answer.
Again, today’s reading is lengthy, but we cannot overlook these chapters as they give us great insight into the lives of Abraham and Sarah.
1. Why was Sarah’s idea to give Hagar to Abraham wrong when it was acceptable according to the custom of that time?
2. What do you learn about Sarah from this passage?
3. How did Abraham respond to Sarah each time she “confronted” him (vv. 2-6)?
4. What was the result of their decision to take things into their own hands and what can we learn from this?
5. God appeared again to Abram when he was 99 years old to remind him of the covenant he had made, and he changed their names to Abraham and Sarah.
6. How does Sarah respond when she hears the promise that she will have a son within a year (Vv. 10-15)?
7. Why do you think God included them in the chapter of men and women of faith (Hebrews 11)?
It is helpful to look at a timeline of the events in Abraham’s life to understand why he might have had trouble waiting on God to fulfill His promises. Trace the timeline through the key events from these passages.
Age of Abraham when God called him: Genesis 12:4 ____
Age of Abraham when Sarah gave Hagar to him as his wife: Genesis 16:3 _____
Age of Abraham when Hagar bore Ishmael to him: Genesis 16:16 ____
Age of Abraham when God revisited him, changed his name, and established the covenant of circumcision: Genesis 17:1–14 ____
Age of Abraham when Isaac was born to him: Genesis 21:5 ____
God’s timing is perfect. It is never too late in His timing. Don’t give up on something because God has not answered yet. Trust His timing.
1. Why was Abraham considered to be an “alien” or foreigner in the land of promise?
2. What evidence do you see in these verses that he had an eternal perspective?
3. How are Abraham and Sarah examples of lives lived by faith in this passage?
4. Which of the promises made to Abraham did he see fulfilled before he died?
5. How do you balance making this your home but realizing it’s not your permanent home?
6. If you truly have an eternal perspective, what would characterize your life?
The more comfortable you are in this temporary home, the harder it will be to look forward to your heavenly home.
Have you ever thought about what kind of relationship Abraham and Isaac must have had? Abraham had waited years for God to give him a son through Sarah, a son who was the answer to God’s promise to Abraham. Can you imagine what it must have felt like to be told to sacrifice that very son? Had I been Abraham, I would have been tempted to think that God was being cruel to me. I probably would have asked, “God, why did you ever give Isaac to me in the first place if you were only going to take him away from me in this way?” But it is not recorded what went through Abraham’s mind during this time. We only know that he obeyed step by step. And Isaac must have loved his father so deeply that he trusted him every step of the way to Mount Moriah. He willingly let his father lay him upon the logs for the sacrifice. Can you imagine what must have been going through Isaac’s mind as he watched his father raise the knife to kill him? Their relationship was obviously one of love and trust. Abraham withheld nothing from God, not even his most prized possession, his promised son. And Isaac trusted Abraham even when he didn’t understand what was happening. We can learn much about our own relationship with God as we look at this chapter of Abraham’s life.
“Father, open my heart to hear your Word. Show me if I am withholding anything from you. Help me trust you so deeply that I would be willing to make whatever sacrifice You ask of me, knowing that You love me and want what’s best for me.”
1. What exactly did God ask Abraham to do in order to test him?
2. Why would this be particularly difficult in light of last week’s passages and Genesis 21:1-8, 12?
3. What are some possible reasons why God tested Abraham at this point of his life and in this way? Hadn’t he already shown his faith in God by waiting for his promised son to be born?
4. What else was significant about Mount Moriah according to 2 Chronicles 3:1?
5. How do you know when God is testing you?
6. What is your most prized “possession”? How would you respond if God asked you to let go of it and give it back to Him?
1. What observations can you make about how Abraham responded to God’s request?
2. How many days did Abraham have on the journey to Mount Moriah to think about what He would be doing? Why would God send him to Mount Moriah instead of having him sacrifice his son there in Beersheba?
3. How is Abraham’s faith evident here?
4. What thoughts would have been running through your mind had you been Abraham? Isaac?
5. Is it acceptable to question God in terms of why He is doing something? Explain your answer.
6. How has God tested you and how have you responded to those tests?
1. What observations do you make concerning the relationship between Abraham and Isaac?
2. What was God looking for in order for Abraham to “pass” the test?
3. What did God reconfirm in His promise to Abraham?
4. Were the promises reconfirmed because of Abraham’s action or because of his faith? Explain your answer.
5. How does one develop complete trust in a relationship?
6. How does your life reflect that you “fear God” and would not withhold anything from Him?
God did not want Isaac’s life; He wanted Abraham’s heart. Isaac was dear to Abraham, and God wanted to be sure that Isaac was not an idol standing between Him and Abraham. It was possible that Abraham was trusting Isaac to fulfill the promises and not trusting God.4
1. What insight does this passage give concerning the reasoning behind Abraham’s decision to obey by sacrificing Isaac?
2. What does verse 19 indicate about Abraham’s view of God? How does this relate to his comment in Genesis 22:5?
3. What does the last part of verse 19 mean? The NASB reads, “…from which he also received him back as a type.”
4. What do you learn about God from this passage and the Genesis narrative?
5. Why are relationships an area that God often uses to “test” us?
6. Is every difficult experience in life a test from God? Support your answer.
1. What is the relationship between faith and works?
2. What does James mean when he says that Abraham was justified by works when he offered up Isaac, and a man is “justified by works and not by faith alone”?
4. How would you define the term “justification”?
5. What is our justification based on?
I will be the first to admit that I don’t like being tested. I’m not even sure I have a passing record on the tests that God has given me. However, I know that what He places before me in terms of testing is for my good. I will grow in my faith. I will come to depend more on Him. I will see His love for me more clearly. I want the results, but I hate the process. Abraham was a great example of a man who passed the test with flying colors. He trusted God and God’s intentions for him so deeply that he was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice in his life.
“Lord, give me that kind of faith. Help me trust You so deeply that I would be willing to make whatever sacrifice you ask of me, knowing that you love me and want what’s best for me.”
1 Isobel Kuhn, In the Arena (Robesonia, PA: Overseas Missionary Fellowship, 1984), 97.
2 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary: Pentateuch (Colorado Springs: Cook, 2001), 104.
3 W. H. Griffith Thomas, Genesis (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 1946), 195.
4Wiersbe, Warren W., Wiersbe's Expository Outlines on the Old Testament. Wheaton: Victor Books, 1993), Ge 21:1
5 Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, 104.
Isaac is one of those characters in the Bible who seemed to have a good life. He married a woman whom he loved. He saw God answer his prayer concerning children. He had two healthy sons and became wealthy. God continued to bless him throughout his life. Yes, he did make a mistake by being deceptive, but that allows us to see his human nature. At first glance, I wondered, “Lord, what could you possibly want to teach me from Isaac’s life?”
But as I began to spend more and more time looking at his life, I saw Isaac as a man who seemed to have everything going his way, and yet, in the end, was an unknowing and unwilling participant in the deceptive plan of others who were close to him. Was it unfair? Yes. But was God in control? Definitely. What a great reminder for us of God’s sovereignty in everything that happens in our lives. He is aware of it before it even happens. He has a purpose for all things that He allows to happen. Isaac accepted God’s sovereignty even though it must have been painful for him when he realized what had transpired. I pray that as you study Isaac’s life you would be encouraged by God’s hand in the circumstances around you, and that you would trust that God is still in control.
“Father, teach me from Isaac’s life. Help me trust that you are in control of everything that happens in my life, even when those circumstances seem unfair. Help me see your hand in the events of my life. Help me accept your sovereignty, not with bitterness, but with calm trust in your love for me.”
Abraham was now 140 years old (Gen. 21:5; 25:20) and would live another 35 years (25:7).
1. Why did Abraham want Isaac to marry someone from his own people and country, not from Canaan?
2. Why was Abraham adamant about Isaac not going back to the land from which they had come?
3. How did Abraham’s servant choose a wife for Isaac?
4. What do you learn about Rebekah from this passage?
5. How do you see God’s sovereign hand at work in this story?
6. How have you asked God to lead you in making a decision and following His will?
Read the entire chapter (Genesis 24).
NOTE: Genesis 25:1-6 gives us the history of Abraham’s family through another wife, Keturah. Genesis 25:7-11 records his death and burial and Genesis 25:12-18 lists Ishmael’s descendants. In verse 19, we pick up the story of Isaac again.
1. How old was Isaac when he married Rebekah?
2. What do you observe from these verses concerning both Isaac and Rebekah’s relationship with God?
3. Abraham and Sarah took things into their own hands with Sarah’s barrenness. Why might Isaac and Rebekah have waited on God instead?
4. What did the Lord prophesy would result from the “struggle” within her body?
5. What role does prayer have in bringing about desired results? Can you change God’s mind through prayer?
6. How do you handle disappointing or confusing situations?
The oracle that God gave to Rebekah in Genesis 25:23 indicates God’s choice of the one who would be the blessed heir of Isaac. Usually, the heir would be the first born son, but God chose to not follow the “norm” in this case. Scripture does not tell us why God chose Jacob over Esau.
1. What do you observe about Esau?
2. What do you observe about Jacob?
3. How old was Isaac when the twins were born? How long did Isaac and Rebekah have to wait till they had children? (See Gen. 25:20.)
4. Why was the birthright important? What did Esau give up by selling his birthright (see also Deut. 21:17)?
5. Why was God’s prediction to Rebekah in Genesis 25:23 significant to this incident?
6. What are some possible reasons why Rebekah favored Jacob, and Isaac favored Esau?
7. What causes sibling rivalry? Have you experienced it in your life, either with your own siblings or with your children? If so, how has it affected you and them? What have you learned from it?
I don’t have children but I do have two cats that are like children to me. Before I got them, I wondered if I would have a favorite, but I soon realized that each one is special and unique. They each have different personalities, different quirks, different things that make them special. Do I love one more than the other? No. But I do love them each in their own special way because of their uniqueness. In the same way, God loves us each because of who we are and our special uniqueness that He has given to us.
1. Why did Isaac go to Gerar and stay there?
2. How did Isaac follow the negative example of his father Abraham (see Genesis 12:10-13 and 20:1-2)?
3. What do you learn about Isaac from this incident? Was his deception a lack of faith? Why or why not?
4. How did God bless Isaac in this land?
5. Isaac was not perfect, as seen in the story of how he lied to Abimelech for fear he might be killed. He took things into his own hands. How have you taken things into your own hands and what resulted?
6. What mistakes have you made in life that you would like to go back and redo?
1. Why was Isaac’s blessing of his sons, Jacob and Esau, by faith?
2. Read the entire chapter. What do you learn about Jacob and Rebekah from this story? Who was responsible for the deception?
3. How do the two blessings differ (27:27-29 and 39-40)?
4. How do you see God’s sovereignty in this situation? (See also Genesis 25:22-23).
5. How do you keep “bitterness” from creeping in when someone has treated you unfairly? How should you handle an unfair situation?
6. How have you seen God take an unfair situation and bring good out of it?
7. What are some examples of strong desires that might cause us to give up what really matters?
Isaac was a man who loved God. By faith he blessed his two sons. Even though the blessings were not as Isaac had planned, they were indeed as God had planned. He was grieved at the deception, but nonetheless accepted what happened. Can we do the same? Can we accept what God’s plan is even if it contradicts what we think is right? God is in control. We can rest in that, no matter what surprises life has in store for us.
“Lord, thank you for Isaac’s example. He accepted his circumstances as from You and didn’t fight it. Help me to trust you in the midst of situations that I don’t like or think are unfair to me. Help me see through your eyes and accept with grace what You have allowed to happen in Your sovereignty.”
Meditate on Isaiah 55:8-9. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts. Neither are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
1Edith Schaeffer, "What Is My Mess of Pottage?" Christianity Today (March 14, 1975), p. 50.
If I were going to pick men and women to help carry out an enormous promise, would I choose men who were liars, who were willing to deceive those closest to them, who were self-centered? I think not. However, strangely enough, that’s exactly what God did. He reminds us that His ways are not our ways. He has different reasoning in choosing men through whom He would carry out His promise to Abraham. I admit that I don’t understand God’s thinking, but I am so thankful that He did choose imperfect men and women to fulfill His plan. That gives me great hope that God could use even me, an imperfect sinner. Last week as we studied the life of Isaac, we saw how Jacob stole his brother’s blessing. Jacob had a deceitful heart. Yet as we study his life this week, we will see how God used him to carry out His promise to Abraham. As you look back over the previous weeks, every character we have studied so far in Hebrews 11, other than Abel and Enoch, had something negative in their lives. They were not perfect, yet God called them men and women of faith. Be encouraged that God uses imperfect people, and be reminded that our mistakes don’t disqualify us from living by faith and being called faithful.
“Lord, I know I am far from perfect, and I have made many mistakes in my life. Thank you for reminding me that my mistakes do not have to render me unusable. Teach me from Jacob’s life. Encourage my heart as I see how you worked in and through his life.”
1. Why was Jacob sent away? How does Rebekah’s dishonesty with Isaac show itself again?
2. What was included in Isaac’s blessing of Jacob?
3. Why would this have been a good time for God to appear to Jacob?
4. What was God’s purpose in the dream? What did He promise Jacob
5. How was this encounter with God a turning point in Jacob’s life?
6. Was Jacob bargaining with God here? What do you think the intent of his heart was in verses 20-22?
7. What has God used to get your attention?
8. How have you seen God encourage you after you’ve “blown it”?
1. Describe Jacob’s relationship with Rachel. What stands out to you?
2. How did Laban change in his interaction and dealings with Jacob over time?
3. We are told in 29:31 that Rachel was barren. How did Jacob and Rachel handle this according to Genesis 30:1-4? What were their different perspectives on her barrenness? Where did each place blame?
4. What are some lessons for life that we can learn from this passage?
5. Jacob waited many years for the wife he loved. Is there something you are waiting for, and if so, how are you handling the waiting?
6. When life doesn’t go as you had hoped, how do you respond? How should you respond?
All three wives of the men God promised many descendants to (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) were barren. How did each man respond to this situation and what were the results according to Genesis 16:1-6; 25:19-21; and 30:1-4?
1. As you read these passages, list Jacob’s children in the order they were born under each wife or maidservant. This is the origination of the twelve tribes of Israel (Jacob’s sons).
2. Now go back through each birth and list why Rachel and Leah named each child the way they did.
3. How would you describe the relationship between Leah and Rachel?
4. How do you see God’s involvement in each woman’s life?
5. What insight does Rachel’s bargaining with Leah for Reuben’s mandrakes in Genesis 30:14-16 give into Rachel’s heart?
I wish I could say that I readily accept God’s hand in every situation He places in my life, but, in all honesty, I cannot. Yes, I usually get to that point, but only after going through a process of emotions. When I’m disappointed or my hopes have been crushed, my first inclination is not to jump up and down and say, “Praise the Lord.” To the contrary, I tend to start out with negative emotions, such as discouragement, self-pity, anger, doubt, and on and on. (You get the idea.) I have learned that it is okay to be honest with God about how I feel, but I can’t stop there. I must give my emotions to the Lord and let Him take them. I tell Him how I’m feeling specifically. If I’m angry with Him, or questioning what He’s doing, I’m honest with Him. I cry. I speak my mind. But then He brings me to the place where I ask Him to take my emotions and replace them with His peace that He is in control.
Will you be impatient and take things into your own hands? Will you become angry with God and others? Or will you quietly trust in His perfect timing and His perfect will?
The story of Jacob spans many chapters in the book of Genesis. Because of time limitation, we will not be able to study every chapter. Genesis 30:25-43 tells us the story of the increasing tension between Jacob and Laban. After faithfully serving Laban for 14 years in return for his daughters, Leah and Rachel, Jacob requested that he be released of further responsibility and allowed to take his family and return to his home land. Laban urged him to stay, discerning that God had blessed him because of Jacob. Pressed further, Jacob agreed to stay, but only after driving a hard bargain concerning wages and other provisions. Laban agreed, but in his crafty nature, he later changed the terms of agreement after it was in place (Gen. 30:35-36). Jacob responded in his own devious way, resulting in increasing wealth for himself at Laban’s expense (30:37-43). The situation was clearly worsening, so Jacob, following God’s prompting (31:3, 11-13), resolved to return to Canaan. When Laban discovered that Jacob had secretly fled with his family, Laban pursued them. Rachel had stolen her father’s household idols, but was able to conceal them from Laban. Even though Laban had accused Jacob of the theft, he could find no proof that Jacob had indeed taken the idols (31:31:17-42). Finally, they made a covenant with one another, and Laban returned home, and Jacob headed out for his home land (31:43-55). This is where we pick up the story.
1. Why was this a good time for God to appear to Jacob again?
2. What do you learn about Jacob and his relationship with God from his prayer in verses 9-12?
3. What are some possible reasons why God caused Jacob to limp in verses 24-32?
4. How did this encounter impact Jacob’s life?
5. What does it mean to “wrestle with God?”
6. Have you “wrestled with God” about something? What were the results?
1. What two things do we learn about Jacob at the end of his life from this verse?
2. We now move ahead in our story to the end of Jacob’s life after he was reunited with Joseph in Egypt. What was unique about Manasseh and Ephraim? (See also Gen. 41:51-51.)
3. Why was his adoption of Manasseh and Ephraim as his own significant?
4. In verses 15-16, how does Jacob view God at this point in his life?
5. How do you see God’s sovereign hand at work in what happened here?
6. Jacob’s life was dominated by struggle with people (his father Isaac, his brother Esau, his father-in-law Laban, his wives, and God). What would you say has dominated your life?
7. Jacob (Israel) reversed the order of the blessing on Joseph’s two sons. Joseph tried to stop him but Jacob knew what he was doing. When you struggle with asking God “why” when things don’t make sense, what verses do you cling to?
Jacob started off a little shaky in his life. He deceived his brother under his mother’s direction, but against his better judgment. He was forced to flee his home to avoid his brother’s wrath. But once again, God brought good out of a bad situation. By leaving his home and going to his mother’s relatives, he met his wives, and most importantly, he met God. Jacob’s life was indeed a spiritual journey, but one that should encourage us as we see God’s hand on him every step of the way. He started out as a deceiving, self-centered young man. But once he came face to face with God, his life was never the same again. Even his name had to be changed because of his life change. God took an imperfect man, changed him, and used him to fulfill His promise to Abraham. And at the end of his life, he was worshipping God. That’s how it should be.
Joseph had a lot of things going his way in life at first. He was handsome. He was the first son born to Jacob through Rachel, and therefore, he was his father’s favorite son. He had great dreams that made him feel good about himself. But then one day his entire life changed. Can you imagine how it must have felt to know your brothers hated you so much that they would sell you out of their lives? He was forced to leave the comfortable life he had known, full of love from his parents, and go forth into the unknown. How frightening that must have been for a boy of 17. Yet, God had His hand on Joseph. God had a divine purpose for this young man. Joseph didn’t know why God had chosen this path for his life until the very end, yet he never seemed to waver. God was always in control. Joseph kept his eyes on God, and He used Joseph greatly. What an encouragement to us. Let God use you where you are. Let Him use you in the hard times, as well as the good times.
The story of Joseph spans many chapters, Genesis 37-50. We could actually do an entire study just on the life of Joseph, but because of time limitation, we will just focus on the key events in his life.
“Lord, thank you for the lessons you teach me through Joseph’s life. Encourage me through his life to seek you more intimately and to trust you for every situation that comes into my life. Keep me mindful that you are always in control.”
1. How would you describe Joseph’s relationship with his brothers?
2. Could Joseph have prevented the jealousy of his brothers? Why or why not?
3. How would you describe his relationship with his father Jacob?
4. In verses 21-27 Reuben and Judah came to Joseph’s defense. Why would these two, of all the brothers, try to save Joseph?
5. How do you see God’s sovereign hand at work throughout this chapter?
6. How do you see God’s hand at work in your own life?
Chapter 38 seems like an “interruption” to our story of Joseph in Egypt, but it is a narrative of what took place back in Canaan during this time, especially concerning the life of Judah. We pick up our narrative of Joseph in Chapter 39.
1. How did God use Joseph’s captivity for good (vv. 1-6)?
2. How was Joseph able to resist the temptation of Potiphar’s wife day after day (vv. 7-18)?
3. Joseph was falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife, and Potiphar believed his wife over Joseph, resulting in his imprisonment. Yet, how did God use this for good?
4. What was one “mistake” that Joseph made that perhaps could have prevented the false accusation against him?
5. What does it mean that the Lord was “with Joseph”?
6. Does God’s favor mean prosperity? Why or why not?
7. Have you ever been falsely accused? How did you handle it? What resulted from it?
We will not be able to look at every verse of every chapter, so I will try to summarize as we skim the following chapters.
1. The king’s cupbearer and baker offended him, resulting in their being thrown into prison with Joseph. What do you learn about Joseph from the way he responded to them in prison?
2. The rest of the chapter tells of their dreams, Joseph’s interpretation of the dreams, and how the interpretations were later fulfilled. In Genesis 40:14-15 and 20-23, how was life once again “unfair” to Joseph?
Genesis 41:1-8 tells us of Pharaoh’s dream and his inability to find someone able to interpret it. In verses 9-14, the cupbearer finally remembers Joseph and his interpretation of their dreams in prison, and Pharaoh called for Joseph to come and interpret his dream. Joseph interpreted the king’s dreams, which foretold of the coming seven years of great abundance in Egypt (41:29) and the following seven years of famine (41:29). Joseph proceeded to tell Pharaoh what should be done (41:32-37).
3. Why did Pharaoh place Joseph in charge of Egypt (41:38-45)?
4. How old was Joseph at this point (41:46)?
5. How had God worked in Joseph’s life during his captivity (see 40:8 and 41:16)?
6. How can you keep a proper perspective when you know you have been “wronged” by others and you are paying the unjustified consequences?
1. Jacob sent his sons, with the exception of Benjamin, to Egypt to buy grain during the famine. When his brothers came before Joseph, why didn’t he just tell them who he was and why do you think he recognized them but they did not recognize him?
2. Why do you think Joseph responded to his brothers in the way he did?
3. Describe what his brothers were feeling in verses 21-23?
In Genesis 42:29-38, the brothers returned to Canaan to retrieve their younger brother Benjamin, having left Simeon back in Egypt. Jacob first refused to let them take Benjamin, but after all the grain was eaten, he sent his sons back to Egypt with Benjamin (43:1-15). When Joseph saw Benjamin, he responded with emotion (43:16-34). In Genesis 44, Joseph sent his brothers back to Canaan and played a little trickery on them. He “threatened” to keep Benjamin as his slave, and Judah pleaded with him to keep him instead of Benjamin. This brings us to Chapter 45, when Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers.
4. What was Joseph’s perspective on what his brothers had done to him when he was seventeen?
5. What emotions were his brothers most likely experiencing when they realized this was indeed Joseph?
6. How do you view painful or hurtful events in your life? How have hurtful events molded your life?
7. How is one able to gain the type of perspective that Joseph had about his life?
Read the entirety of Genesis 42-45. Trace Joseph’s actions throughout these chapters toward his brothers. Why did he do what he did?
In Genesis 46-47 Jacob moved his family to Egypt. God once again spoke to him, encouraging him to not be afraid to go to Egypt and reminding him of His promise to make him a great nation (Gen. 46:1-4). Genesis 48-49 records Jacob’s final days. Today we look at Joseph’s last days after his father Jacob died.
1. How did Joseph show his faith in God’s promise to Abraham?
2. How has Joseph changed in his relationship with God and his family since he was a young boy?
3. What stands out to you about Joseph’s life and the way he dealt with life?
4. How old was Joseph when he died (v. 22)?
5. How does harboring an unforgiving spirit affect us?
6. What makes it difficult to trust God’s sovereignty?
Joseph had a divine purpose. His life was not always easy and was filled with ups and downs. Yet Joseph found favor with God and he allowed God to use him wherever he went. Where does God want to use you? What is His divine purpose for your life? Are you focused on Him, or are you focused on your circumstances and the situation in which you find yourself? Let God use you to accomplish His divine purpose through you.
1 R. Kent Hughes, Genesis: Beginning and Blessing (Wheaton: Crossway, 2004), 473.
Faith is how we begin the Christian life, and it sustains us throughout. As believers in Christ, we are not given the option as to how we should walk. It is clearly stated in 2 Corinthians 5:7, “for we walk by faith, not by sight.” And in Colossians 2:6, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord (by faith), so walk in Him (by faith).” So what effect does living by faith have on your life?For me, it deepens my walk with God because I have to depend on Him, not myself. I have to depend on His provision and His sovereignty, not my own methods and plans. It causes me to love Him more deeply as I see Him working in my life and the circumstances around me.
I pray that as a result of this study your relationship with the Lord has grown deeper and your faith has grown stronger. Let us be women who please God by living by faith.
Barker, Kenneth L. and John R. Kohlenberger III. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994.
Barton, Bruce, et al. Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 1997.
Chambers, Oswald. My Utmost for His Highest. Uhrichsville, OH: Barbour Publishing, 1963.
________. Still Higher for His Highest. Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade, 1970.
Constable, Thomas. “Genesis.” in The Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas L. Constable. CD-ROM. May 2004 Edition.
Dyer, Charles and Eugene Merrill. Nelson’s Old Testament Survey. Nashville, Thomas Nelson, 2001.
Hughes, R. Kent. Genesis: Beginning and Blessing. Wheaton: Crossway, 2004.
Kuhn, Isobel. In the Arena. Robesonia, PA: Overseas Missionary Fellowship, 1984.
MacArthur, John. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary on Hebrews. Chicago: Moody Press, 1983.
Ross, Allen P. “Genesis.” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament. ed. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck. Wheaton: Victor Books, 1985.
Schaeffer, Edith. "What Is My Mess of Pottage?" in Christianity Today. March 14, 1975.
Thomas, W. H. Griffith. Genesis. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1946.
Wiersbe, Warren W. The Bible Exposition Commentary: Pentateuch. Colorado Springs: Cook, 2001.
________. Wiersbe's Expository Outlines on the Old Testament. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1993.