A Chronological Daily Bible Study of the Old Testament 7-Day Sections with a Summary-Commentary, Discussion Questions, and a Practical Daily Application
The Obedience of Abram
12:1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go out from your country, your relatives, and your father’s household to the land that I will show you.
12:2 Then I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will make your name great, so that you will exemplify divine blessing.
12:3 I will bless those who bless you, but the one who treats you lightly I must curse, and all the families of the earth will bless one another by your name.”
12:4 So Abram left, just as the Lord had told him to do, and Lot went with him. (Now Abram was 75 years old when he departed from Haran.) 12:5 And Abram took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, and all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they left for the land of Canaan. They entered the land of Canaan.
12:6 Abram traveled through the land as far as the oak tree of Moreh at Shechem. (At that time the Canaanites were in the land.) 12:7 The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” So Abram built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.
Lord, I am Yours, please send me so that I may be Your conduit of blessing to others. Find me bold and courageous like Abram, surrendering comfort for obedience.
First Abram’s father Terah moved them from their home in Uz and then the Lord God instructed Abram to travel even further, leaving his remaining family and friends behind. He was to be completely dependent on God.
The patience of Abram reminds one of Noah; he labored and waited 100 years before God brought the rains that would float the Ark and waited another year on the Ark.
The Lord promised to reward Abram’s faithful obedience in great ways. He also promised to defend Abram.
Abram obeyed the Lord and took a huge entourage along with him; his immediate family, his extended family (Lot and others), their many physical possessions, and their servants “people acquired in Haran”.
They traveled to Canaan, which had been founded by the rebellious Ham and his equally rebellious descendants. The land, the ‘Promised Land’ was currently occupied by the Canaanites. The Lord God promised that land to Abram and his descendants but did not instruct him to take immediate possession thereof.
Abram traveled to a specific oak tree in a specific location, Shechem, a location to which Joshua would return in Joshua 24, and there the Lord appeared to him and he in reverence build an altar to the Lord.
Literal references to “oak tree” occur 20 times across the Old Testament and most of them refer to important moments; generally, moments of celebration, memorials, sacrifices, or worship.
Abram was already struggling with Sarai’s infertility yet he still stepped out in faith when the Lord God sent him. Abram’s leadership was powerful as many chose to follow him into lands unknown to them.
When has the Lord God asked you to go somewhere unfamiliar (not necessarily geographical but perhaps a different role in ministry or a different job or different social group) and you were already struggling some with an unmet desire that you believed to be on God’s list of good things? Have you found your patience with the Lord sometimes runs short? Does reading these texts chastise you to grow your patience?
The Lord God not only promised to bless Abram, He also promised to protect Him. The Lord uses not only the specific oak tree symbolism many times in the Old Testament but also uses “oak” to symbolize strength and “tree” as a metaphor and a physical reality throughout the Old and New Testament, including - of course - the Cross.
When have you stepped out in faith with the assurance that God would bless you, bless others through you, provide for you, and protect you – and He did? What has God used in your life as a symbolic rallying-point of faith? Is it a meaningful Bible-centered song, a geographical location, or perhaps even literally a tree?
Ask the Holy Spirit to challenge you with something new, and to empower you to be bold in action and in leadership, yet humble to stop and worship the Lord God every time He shows His presence to you.
Prayerfully demonstrate you faith in the Lord by partnering with Him to ‘go forth’ a little outside your comfort zone, trusting Him to bless you, bless others through you, to provide for you, and to protect you. Resist the temptation to place any limits on God. Share with a fellow believer how the Lord is causing or prompting you to ‘move’, and what He is doing or has done to show you that He is in it. Your ‘move’ may be out of one ministry and into another, a geographical move, an employment move, a discipleship move to increase your maturity, a church move for doctrinal or ministry-call reasons, a move from a living situation that distracts you from Him, or perhaps a move in your lifestyle toward a more righteous direction.
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12:8 Then he moved from there to the hill country east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and worshiped the Lord. 12:9 Abram continually journeyed by stages down to the Negev.
The Promised Blessing Jeopardized
12:10 There was a famine in the land, so Abram went down to Egypt to stay for a while because the famine was severe. 12:11 As he approached Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “Look, I know that you are a beautiful woman. 12:12 When the Egyptians see you they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will keep you alive. 12:13 So tell them you are my sister so that it may go well for me because of you and my life will be spared on account of you.”
12:14 When Abram entered Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. 12:15 When Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. So Abram’s wife was taken into the household of Pharaoh, 12:16 and he did treat Abram well on account of her. Abram received sheep and cattle, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels.
12:17 But the Lord struck Pharaoh and his household with severe diseases because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. 12:18 So Pharaoh summoned Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why didn’t you tell me that she was your wife? 12:19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her to be my wife? Here is your wife! Take her and go!” 12:20 Pharaoh gave his men orders about Abram, and so they expelled him, along with his wife and all his possessions.
Lord, help us to learn from this text that when we misrepresent ourselves to others we may cause them to make wrong choice and may even lead them into harm.
Once again Abram paused in his busy travels to worship the Lord and to build an altar to Him.
The NET translator’s notes explain that Abram was in a nomadic mode, continuously moving through “the South [country],” and that “Negev is the name for the southern desert region in the land of Canaan.”
Because there were persistent drought conditions in the Negev Abrah decided to travel to Egypt in search of food and water for his family and entourage.
He apparently had some awareness of the practices of local leaders and feared for the safety of his family because Sarai was very beautiful.
If they knew her to be his wife they would make her a widow so they’d be free to overpower his people take her by force, but if he lied and said she was his sister than he might be able to better position himself (during negotiations) to escape once he announced she was actually his wife.
No knowing that Sarai was Abram’s wife Pharoah has her taken without negotiation and attempted to compensate Abram with a variety of animals and gifts.
The Lord God, always true to His Word, defended Abram’s family and struck “Pharaoh and his household with severe diseases because of Sarai”.
Pharoah was selectively-indignant at Abram for deceiving him, thereby causing him trouble with God, forgetting that he had kidnapped one whom he believed to be Abram’s sister with the intent of forcing her to be his wife.
He immediately set her free and expelled all of Abram’s entourage from Egypt.
The translator’s notes state that Sarai was indeed his sister. We were not previously told this in the prior Genesis text. His full disclosure would have been to say that she was both his sister and his wife, and his trust of the Lord God would have had him trust the Lord to protect them all.
Why would Pharaoh think it was OK to kidnap a man’s sister and force her to be his wife?
Even though Abram was foolish for not trusting the Lord God to provide and to protect, He kept His Word and defended Abram’s family. There was now established an animosity and master-slave mindset between Egypt and the descendants of Abram.
When has your misrepresentation of all of the facts and a mistrust of the Lord God, due to a fear of some sort, led to a misunderstanding?
Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how He has provided for and protected you in the past.
Today I will do something difficult that the Holy Spirit has been prompting me to do, I will trust Him to provide and to protect, and I will do all things with integrity so that none are led into harm because of me.
Be Specific _____________________________________________
Abram’s Solution to the Strife
13:1 So Abram went up from Egypt into the Negev. He took his wife and all his possessions with him, as well as Lot. 13:2 (Now Abram was very wealthy in livestock, silver, and gold.)
13:3 And he journeyed from place to place from the Negev as far as Bethel. He returned to the place where he had pitched his tent at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai. 13:4 This was the place where he had first built the altar, and there Abram worshiped the Lord.
13:5 Now Lot, who was traveling with Abram, also had flocks, herds, and tents. 13:6 But the land could not support them while they were living side by side. Because their possessions were so great, they were not able to live alongside one another. 13:7 So there were quarrels between Abram’s herdsmen and Lot’s herdsmen. (Now the Canaanites and the Perizzites were living in the land at that time.)
13:8 Abram said to Lot, “Let there be no quarreling between me and you, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are close relatives. 13:9 Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself now from me. If you go to the left, then I’ll go to the right, but if you go to the right, then I’ll go to the left.”
13:10 Lot looked up and saw the whole region of the Jordan. He noticed that all of it was well-watered (before the Lord obliterated Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, all the way to Zoar. 13:11a Lot chose for himself the whole region of the Jordan and traveled toward the east.
13:11b So the relatives separated from each other. 13:12 Abram settled in the land of Canaan, but Lot settled among the cities of the Jordan plain and pitched his tents next to Sodom. 13:13 (Now the people of Sodom were extremely wicked rebels against the Lord.)
13:14 After Lot had departed, the Lord said to Abram, “Look from the place where you stand to the north, south, east, and west. 13:15 I will give all the land that you see to you and your descendants forever. 13:16 And I will make your descendants like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone is able to count the dust of the earth, then your descendants also can be counted. 13:17 Get up and walk throughout the land, for I will give it to you.”
13:18 So Abram moved his tents and went to live by the oaks of Mamre in Hebron, and he built an altar to the Lord there.
Lord, may I learn anew about grace toward ‘family’ [In the NT the parallel context for ‘family’ is not biological or legal but rather speaks of fellow-believers.]. May I trust in Your provision when confronted with conflict about limited resources so that I am not so fearful that I engage in conflict. Lord, I ask that you write on my heart the lesson you have for me which illustrates the important difference between Lot and Abram.
By the time that Abram had been expelled from Egypt the Lord God had blessed him with many possessions, some even from the Egyptian Pharoah.
Abram returned to the formerly drought-stricken Negev, and after some additional nomadic life returned to the location when God had “met” him and where he had erected an altar, where he again worshiped the Lord.
His entourage had continued to grow as the flocks and people multiplied and the time came where Lot’s herdsmen and Abram’s quarreled due to limited areas of fertile grazing apart from those in use by the current residents “... the Canaanites and the Perizzitesh.
Abram gave Lot the first choice of and he took the best-watered most-fertile he could see in the Jordan valley to the East.
Lot responded to Abram’s generosity in Gen. 13:10-11a by choosing with his eyes, selecting the best-watered area, even though it was dangerously close to the infamously sin-filled city of Sodom.
Abram then settled in Canaan.
The Lord God spoke to Abram (waiting until the selfish-Lot has departed) and promised him all of the land, and that he would have “... descendants [in number] like the dust of the earth.”
The Lord told Abram to “walk” or move about the land which He would give him and Abram did so – pausing in Mamre in Hebron to build another altar to God.
Although Abram had made some poor choices the Lord God continued to keep His promise. Lot demonstrated a reliance on the flesh rather than on the Lord which place him and those with him in both spiritual and physical harms-way.
Despite his wife Sarai being kidnapped, being expelled from Egypt, and his circular travels in the Negev, Abram still took time to worship the Lord. How often have you found this response among self-declared Christians in the midst of difficulty? While Lot rushed off to claim the best looking land Abram chose to seek the path chosen for him by the Lord God. What have those choices looked like in your life?
The text observes that the Jordan valley was at that time still “... well- watered, like the garden of the Lord”. It also notes that this is “(before the Lord obliterated Sodom and Gomorrah)”. Lot made a decision to unnecessarily locate his people near a spiritually and physically dangerous place because he wanted the best looking land – is that the mark of a good leader?
When were you been caught in a struggle with fellow-believers for resources? Did someone, you or another, modeled their response after Abram and gave the first choice to the other? Did you choose a way that looked good but that would repeatedly test your obedience to God ‘dancing too close to the fire’ or choosing the way that leads toward righteousness? What happened?
Ask the Holy Spirit to remind you of the Lord God’s promise to protect and to provide, to bless and to multiply. Ask the Holy Spirit to challenge your choice-making – to reflect a desire toward righteous rather than constant temptation.
I agree to pursue an opportunity for the Lord God to bless another though my sacrifice in order to multiply those in His eternal family. As I walk through this act of faith I will remember to pause and to worship the Lord frequently. I will share with a fellow believer a choice with which I have struggled, one where I may choose to go where the challenge will constantly be between ‘how close to the fire can I dance without getting burned’ and ‘how righteous can I live’. I will ask them to pray in-agreement that I will honor the Lord in my choices and I will intentionally open the windows and doors to the Holy Spirit so that He may enlighten and refresh my thinking.
Be Specific _________________________________________________
The Blessing of Victory for God’s People
14:1 At that time Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Kedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of nations 14:2 went to war against Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). 14:3 These last five kings joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea). 14:4 For twelve years they had served Kedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled. 14:5 In the fourteenth year, Kedorlaomer and the kings who were his allies came and defeated the Rephaites in Ashteroth Karnaim, the Zuzites in Ham, the Emites in Shaveh Kiriathaim, 14:6 and the Horites in their hill country of Seir, as far as El Paran, which is near the desert. 14:7 Then they attacked En Mishpat (that is, Kadesh) again, and they conquered all the territory of the Amalekites, as well as the Amorites who were living in Hazazon Tamar.
14:8 Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) went out and prepared for battle. In the Valley of Siddim they met 14:9 Kedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of nations, Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar. Four kings fought against five. 14:10 Now the Valley of Siddim was full of tar pits. When the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, they fell into them, but some survivors fled to the hills. 14:11 The four victorious kings took all the possessions and food of Sodom and Gomorrah and left. 14:12 They also took Abram’s nephew Lot and his possessions when they left, for Lot was living in Sodom.
14:13 A fugitive came and told Abram the Hebrew. Now Abram was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, the brother of Eshcol and Aner. (All these were allied by treaty with Abram.)
14:14 When Abram heard that his nephew had been taken captive, he mobilized his 318 trained men who had been born in his household, and he pursued the invaders as far as Dan.
14:15 Then, during the night, Abram divided his forces against them and defeated them. He chased them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus.
14:16 He retrieved all the stolen property. He also brought back his nephew Lot and his possessions, as well as the women and the rest of the people.
14:17 After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet Abram in the Valley of Shaveh (known as the King’s Valley).
14:18 Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (Now he was the priest of the Most High God.)
14:19 He blessed Abram, saying, Blessed be Abram by the Most High God, Creator of heaven and earth. 14:20a Worthy of praise is the Most High God, who delivered your enemies into your hand.
14:20b Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of everything.
14:21 Then the king of Sodom said to Abram, Give me the people and take the possessions for yourself. 14:22 But Abram replied to the king of Sodom, I raise my hand to the Lord, the Most High God, Creator of heaven and earth, and vow 14:23 that I will take nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the strap of a sandal. That way you can never say, It is I who made Abram rich.
14:24 I will take nothing except compensation for what the young men have eaten. As for the share of the men who went with me – Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre – let them take their share.
Lord, many times our decision to choose the proximity of people prone to conflict and rebellion may result in danger to ourselves. My we consider carefully your message here. You have promised to defend those who love and obey You and not to bless disobedience. May this piece of Biblical history be written on our hearts for those moments when we falter and doubt You. Lord, may I be found as humble and as willing to fore-go the riches of this world, as was Abram, so that I may remain especially-free of the influence of people-of-rebellion (like the king of Sodom) to better serve You.
Not many generations after Noah humankind had fragmented into warring fiefdoms, in this case one king had pressured others into paying tribute or protection money in exchange for freedom from attack – by him.
Several of the kings decided that they would no longer pay tribute and they rebelled. The dominant king gathered the kings who remained loyal to him and attacked, conquering the others, and expanding their territory - carrying off many spoils.
During this adventure the kings of the chronically-sinful city-states of Sodom and of Gomorrah fell into the tar pits and perished.
Swept up in the conquest of the invading kings was Abram’s nephew, Lot, who was taken along with his family and resources.
Families/people-groups/tribes had developed alliances in order to defend themselves against others, Abram was allied with Mamre the Amorite, Eshcol, and Aner. As soon as he heard of Lot’s capture he triggered an allied response.
It is notable that their fighting-force was small, as was that of those involved in the prior battle in which Lot was swept-up - these were not the more epic battles of thousands that would come later.
Abram’s 318 men not only defeated the enemy, they divided - for a strategic advantage - and then pursued the fleeing enemy to retrieve what had been stolen – especially Lot and his family.
In the text of Genesis 14:10 it seemed that the former king of Sodom had perished in the tar pits, together with the king of Gomorrah “When the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, they fell into them, but some survivors fled to the hills.” The phrase “some survivors” could have intended that the kings were survivors, though they were defeated, and some other survivors “fled to the hills”, or it could mean that the phrase “some survivors” along with “fell” indicates that the kings died and some survivors lived and fled to the hills. If the latter is correct then another man had apparently been quickly enthroned as the new king of Sodom as he meets Abram-the-liberator in the valley.
“Melchizedek king of Salem ...” is a somewhat challenging character to identify. The name also appears in Psalm 110. The NET translator’s notes suggest he was a Canaanite priest used to renew the promise to Abram. Psalm 110 refers to him as an “eternal priest in the order of Melchizedek”.
An ‘eternal priest’ may refer to one who serves the one true God of eternity and/or one whose own eternity is assured because of one’s faith has met God’s standard. Melchizedek has appeared on the list of characters described as literal appearances of Christ in the Old Testament.
Melchizedek rightly contextualizes Abram’s victory as the Lord God’s victory - realized through his servant Abram - and he declares the Lord worthy of praise; thus Abram gives an offering of “... a tenth of everything” to him as a faithful priestly servant of God.
The Enemy then sent the rebellious and unrepentantly-sinful king of Sodom to Abram, asking for his people back – as thanks he offered the same possessions that had been stolen then recovered to Abram. Abram discerned the trap and declared that he will keep nothing he did not earn so there was no encumbrance.
Abram did allow the others in their shared alliance to “... take their share”, apparently the others were not leaders for the Lord God – so they had no need to avoid the appearance of compromise.
Lot knew that Sodom was a city-state prone to rebellion against God and in a state of disharmony with its aggressive and domineering neighbors, yet still he still chose to settle his family in that region. There is nothing new about alliances, evil men plotting to take what is not theirs, and wars motivated on one side by greed and on the other by the desire to preserve freedom. The Apostle Paul followed the model of Abram, choosing to labor as a tentmaker so that he could speak the truth without fear of financial threat from the ungodly.
Just as unbelievers may be blessed when in the proximity of believers, whom the Lord God has chosen to bless - thereby benefiting from some of that blessing - is not the corollary true? Do you agree with Abram’s decision to go to war to rescue Lot? Abram’s offer of “... a tenth of everything” was an instinctive act of respect for and support of a messenger from God. How might we respond as New Testament Christians?
The rebellion against the oppression of their neighboring city-state appears to have been ill-conceived. Not only did they not recognize the military superiority of their enemy but they also appeared to have little awareness of dangers in their own back yard (the tar pits). Do modern-day Christians stand together when one of the ‘family’ is improperly attacked? The Enemy, the obvious ‘god’ of the lives of the kings of Sodom and of Gomorrah, acted quickly to try to compromise Abram – but Abram avoided becoming ensnared.
When have you suffered because of a conflict involving a person or group – a conflict you neither started nor voluntarily joined, but you were caught-up in it because you were somehow near to them physically and/or through a business, personal, or other association? When have you come alongside someone who has been improperly attacked? When have you been used of God to assist someone only to have a compromising offer made on the pretext of thanks? (It could be money of which you have cause to believe the source was sinful, alcohol or drugs, sexual favors, a special favor which would require an abuse of the person’s otherwise legitimate access to a business or government or other organization, or the perhaps property of others.)
Ask the Holy Spirit to find you teachable as He shows you the potential negative consequences of some of your associations. Listen as He helps you to discern what is important enough to fight for and what is not. Give the Holy Spirit permission to warn you more loudly when you may be drifting into a compromising situation as a result of a kindness you have done.
Make a list of business, personal, and other associations. List the positives and negatives. Rate them on a risk-scale as to probability of conflict with others. Prayerfully assess if your association is wise or if it exposes you to temptation or other unnecessary threats. I agree to join with a spiritually-mature fellow believer and to make a list of the people and/or things of which we believe to be worth (in a Biblically-faithful context as New Testament Christians) a ‘fight’; this may mean a verbal confrontation, a legal confrontation, a political action, physical self-defense (or physical intervention in the defense of another), and even war. We will pray over our lists several times a day for several days and then revisit them, then we will share them with a spiritual leader (deacon-elder, elder, pastor, counseling-elder, etc.) for their perspective, and again we will gather with our partner in the exercise to finalize our lists. Prayerfully assess some of the circumstances where you have been, or are currently, helping others. Invite the Holy Spirit to directly, or indirectly through a spiritually mature friend, show you if there are any compromises slipped into your life by the Enemy using that person or those people. Refuse to accept those compromising things and be fulfilled and joy-filled that you have been used of the Lord as His instrument of blessing.
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15:1 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram! I am your shield and the one who will reward you in great abundance.”
15:2 But Abram said, “O sovereign Lord, what will you give me since I continue to be childless, and my heir is Eliezer of Damascus?” 15:3 Abram added, “Since you have not given me a descendant, then look, one born in my house will be my heir!”
15:4 But look, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but instead a son who comes from your own body will be your heir.”
15:5 The Lord took him outside and said, “Gaze into the sky and count the stars – if you are able to count them!” Then he said to him, “So will your descendants be.”
15:6 Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord considered his response of faith as proof of genuine loyalty.
Lord, your covenant with me through Jesus is the completed/perfected version of Your covenant with Abram, thank you! Lord, I praise and thank you for these verses, they remind me of Your faithfulness over the generations.
Once again the faith and trust of Abram was rewarded by a vision from the Lord God to bless him.
Abram, still tortured by his state of childlessness by Sarai, questioned the Lord’s promise - as without a son his death will result in a non-blood heir inheriting all that he had gathered - and bring an end to his family lineage.
Eliezer appeared to be the default heir, as per tradition he was the only son born in Abram’s house, though not to Abram.
The Lord God corrected Abram’s misconception and assured him that His promise would be kept, no matter what Abram’s limited imagination may yet have comprehended.
The Lord once-again showed Abram a symbolic representation of the numeric size of his descendents.
Abram’s response in-belief was blessed as “... the Lord considered his response of faith as proof of genuine loyalty.” The terms used were parallel with those describing a New Testament surrender in-faith to the Lordship of Christ.
Abram’s obsession with a son appeared to be growing and his questioning of the Lord God created an opportunity for the Enemy to do some mischief later on. The Lord did not condemn Abram for his initial unbelief but patiently corrected him. Our God is a patient God.
The Lord God renewed His promise to Abram several times yet Abram still questioned Him, have you observed a similar demandingness of the Lord in your life, or in that of others? Close your eyes, or perhaps go outside on a cloudless night, and imagine that you are Abram being taken outside of his tent and shown the stars and promised that your descendants would be as numerous as the stars. Describe your sense of the feelings that must have flooded Abram’s senses.
When Abram doubted God’s promise did that remind you of Eve when the serpent challenged her to doubt God? The Lord God counted Abram’s belief “... in the Lord” as faith, so the pattern of God’s requirement of faith for salvation is not new to the New Testament.
When you find yourself questioning the Lord God; does He really love me, will He really provide for me, will He really protect me, where does your mind wander? When you believed in Jesus, what was the primary thing that caused you to finally recognize Him for Who He is and that caused you to choose to surrender to His Lordship?
Ask the Holy Spirit to impress upon you a profound and constant awareness God’s perfect knowledge and perfect power so that you stand in awe - stripped of any doubt. Ask the Holy Spirit to remind you where and how the Lord God led you to believe.
Make a list of the promises that you believe that you have received from God, write next to them the cases where God has already fulfilled some of them, and pray that you will recognize them as the others are fulfilled – and that you will praise God for the past, present, and future. Share with some fellow believers the circumstances leading to your decision to believe and to surrender in faith. Celebrate together and give praise to the Lord God.
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15:7 The Lord said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” 15:8 But Abram said, “O sovereign Lord, by what can I know that I am to possess it?”
15:9 The Lord said to him, “Take for me a heifer, a goat, and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.” 15:10 So Abram took all these for him and then cut them in two and placed each half opposite the other, but he did not cut the birds in half. 15:11 When birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.
15:12 When the sun went down, Abram fell sound asleep, and great terror overwhelmed him. 15:13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign country. They will be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years. 15:14 But I will execute judgment on the nation that they will serve. Afterward they will come out with many possessions. 15:15 But as for you, you will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 15:16 In the fourth generation your descendants will return here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its limit.”
15:17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking firepot with a flaming torch passed between the animal parts.
15:17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking firepot with a flaming torch passed between the animal parts.
15:18 That day the Lord made a covenant with Abram: “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates River –
15:19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 15:20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 15:21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and Jebusites.”
Lord, teach me to never doubt or to question You. What You say you always do.
Abram continued to harbor some doubts as to the working-out of the Lord God’s promise. It is unclear if he was actually doubting God or was just confused as he could not see the details of the path to its fulfillment.
The Lord used a powerful and stark illustration to drive home His point – that there would be difficult times and Abram would not see their conclusion – but the Lord God would keep His promise.
The Lord prophesied the Egyptian slavery and the eventual freedom, He also noted that the Amorites were in-process and that He was allowing their rebellion against Him to play-out.
The “... smoking firepot with a flaming torch” which passed between the divided animal parts was an illustration drawn from a local custom with which Abram would have been familiar – the Suzerin Treaty. The custom was that the victor in battle would do the same and then make the losers walk between the parts. He would then declare what the loser would be required to do and what not allowed to do – failure to obey resulting in the same being done to them as to the animals. In this case it was the Lord God, in the form of the flame, Who was pledging Himself to His covenant with Abram.
Abram still doesn’t get it and continued to pester the Lord God for confirmation, and He patiently instructed him one more time. Use of the Suzerin Treaty was to say that He was unlike all the false gods, He would not turn away from His Word, and He would be willing to give Himself in death on behalf of His people (those with an eternally saving relationship) so that their disobedience to Him would not result in their destruction.
The Lord described both the geographical boundaries of the convenental lands and the tribes which would be displaced in order that His promise would be fulfilled.
He described both the geographical boundaries of the convenental lands and how the tribes would be displaced in order that His promise would be fulfilled.
God knew that it was important to persuade Abram that He was irreversibly committed to the covenant He had presented – given Abram’s repeated doubts did it not seem necessary? Abram’s apparent desire to stuff God into a man-sized box seems to predispose him to a bad decision in the future. Have you experienced this?
God used highly visual communication tools to be certain that there was no mistaking His intentions on the part of Abram. Knowing the challenges ahead Abram continued to go wherever God led.
When have you struggled to get someone to understand the promise that you were making to them? What kinds of illustrations have you used that you believe would be both familiar to them and would effectively make your point? When has God asked you to do something new, or to persist in what you are already doing for Him, and you have obeyed even though you knew the going would be tough.
Ask the Holy Spirit to find you receptive as He tries to lead you to a clearer understanding of His message to you. Ask the Holy Spirit to build you up in courage.
Prayerfully select a Biblical teaching, either the literal Word or some doctrine that has been taught in your hearing or reading, which you have had some difficulty understanding. (While the Word is always true, the interpretation of and/or application from it may be flawed. The doctrinal teaching may be fundamentally flawed or true. In either case ask the Lord to give you an illustration which will assist you in your understanding, then share it with another believer. Prayerfully identify something God wants you to persist in, or to begin newly, then journal or describe to a fellow believer the challenges that you know this will bring. Pray for courage and then commit to the Lord that you will persevere.
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The Birth of Ishmael
16:1 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had not given birth to any children, but she had an Egyptian servant named Hagar. 16:2 So Sarai said to Abram, “Since the Lord has prevented me from having children, have sexual relations with my servant. Perhaps I can have a family by her.” Abram did what Sarai told him.
16:3 So after Abram had lived in Canaan for ten years, Sarai, Abram’s wife, gave Hagar, her Egyptian servant, to her husband to be his wife. 16:4 He had sexual relations with Hagar, and she became pregnant. Once Hagar realized she was pregnant, she despised Sarai. 16:5 Then Sarai said to Abram, “You have brought this wrong on me! I allowed my servant to have sexual relations with you, but when she realized that she was pregnant, she despised me. May the Lord judge between you and me!”
16:6 Abram said to Sarai, “Since your servant is under your authority, do to her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai treated Hagar harshly, so she ran away from Sarai.
16:7 The Lord’s angel found Hagar near a spring of water in the desert – the spring that is along the road to Shur. 16:8 He said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?” She replied, “I’m running away from my mistress, Sarai.”
16:9 Then the Lord’s angel said to her, “Return to your mistress and submit to her authority. 16:10 I will greatly multiply your descendants,” the Lord’s angel added, “so that they will be too numerous to count.” 16:11 Then the Lord’s angel said to her,
“You are now pregnant and are about to give birth to a son. You are to name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard your painful groans.
16:12 He will be a wild donkey of a man. He will be hostile to everyone, and everyone will be hostile to him. He will live away from his brothers.”
16:13 So Hagar named the Lord who spoke to her, “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “Here I have seen one who sees me!” 16:14 That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi. (It is located between Kadesh and Bered.)
16:15 So Hagar gave birth to Abram’s son, whom Abram named Ishmael. 16:16 (Now Abram was 86 years old when Hagar gave birth to Ishmael.)
Lord, may I learn from this to never get out ahead of Your perfectly-timed plan for me. May this text help me to understand that a child born as a result of disobedience to You will also be born into many forms of conflict; may I be kind, prayerful, and understanding.
Abram and Sarai become impatient and decided together to have Abram mate with Sarai’s servant, Hagar (who was functionally her property, therefore legally an extension of her).
Once Hagar was pregnant Abram naturally paid her extra attention and makes certain that she is well cared for – thereby provoking Hagar to consider herself considerably more than a mere servant – provoking Sarai to become indignant.
Sarai confronted Abram, blaming him for her improper attitude, and demanded that the Lord God judge who was right or wrong.
Abram responded to Sarai’s jealous challenge by acknowledging her owner-master relationship with Hagar. Sarai then mistreated Hagar who fled.
“The Lord’s angel ...” greeted Hagar and instructed her to return to Sarai. He also delivered the Lord God’s message that her descendants would be many and that she was to name him Ishmael (the God Who hears).
She is given a prophesy that Ishmael and his descendants would live apart from traditional people, often wandering, and often in sociological conflict due to different styles, temperament, and traditions.
She obediently returned and gave birth. Abram obeyed the instruction of the angel and named the child Ishmael.
Despite the Lord God’s promise that Abram’s descendants would come from Abram and Sarai, Sarai – like Eve – decided to go her own way, and Abram – like Adam – followed her lead. (This appears to be the first recorded case of a “surrogate mother”.) The frustration and anger Hagar felt became a desire for freedom at any cost – and Ishmael lived that life of separateness and disconnectedness with his extended family.
Have you ever grown tired of the waiting and acted in a manner less than honoring to the Lord God in order to speed things along? Are you, or is someone whom you know well, a child of conflict and rebellion? How has that impacted your life?
Hagar was caught in the middle. She would have been in trouble had she said no to Sarai’s request to mate with Abram but then was in trouble because she did. Of course her newfound less-than-humble attitude was a significant factor as well. The Lord God’s promise to Abram partially extended to his child with Hagar, and although that was not the original intent, the Lord was faithful – even when Abram was not.
Have you, or someone you know, received a special blessing and then been misunderstood when you/they celebrated it perhaps a little too much? When has then Lord God offered to bless something but you took a short cut so that when the blessing came it was distorted somehow? (e.g. Perhaps the Lord God promised to bless a new ministry but you took a short cut and placed a new believer in a role of leadership, despite Biblical warnings to not do so, and as a result the ministry grew but was plagued with conflicts centered around that person?)
Ask the Holy Spirit to use you, along with this text, to teach someone younger in the faith, and to remind you of the important principles which the Lord God wants all of His children to learn, remember, and apply. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you where you may be drifting off of the path He has for you.
Prayerfully seek an opportunity to teach someone younger in the faith that the Lord God’s timing is perfect and what He has promised He will fulfill in His time and in His way. If He wants our help He will ask for it. Also, teach them about humility in the face of blessing so that their celebration is full but not disrespectful of others. As you teach remember that the lesson applies equally to you. Prayerfully review the choices that you are making. With the help of the Holy Spirit discern one area where you are trying to accomplish in your flesh that which God has said He will do. Confess and repent (turn away from) that and patiently wait on the Lord – being faithful in the small things along the way.
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All Bible text is from the NET unless otherwise indicated - http://bible.org
Note 1: These Studies often rely upon the guidance of the NET Translators from their associated notes. Careful attention has been given to cite that source where it has been quoted directly or closely paraphrased. Feedback is encouraged where credit has not been sufficiently assigned.
Note 2: When NET text is quoted in commentary and discussion all pronouns referring to God are capitalized, though they are lower-case in the original NET text.
Commentary text is from David M. Colburn, D.Min. unless otherwise noted.
Copyright © 2012 by David M. Colburn. This is a BibleSeven Study. Prepared by David M. Colburn and edited for bible.org in August of 2012. This text may be used for non-profit educational purposes only, with credit; all other usage requires prior written consent of the author.