“I am the sovereign God.
Walk before me and be blameless.”
Genesis 17:1b-c (NET)
When my daughter was a year old, my husband got a job in West Texas. At that time, we were living in Houston with both of our families nearby. Despite being a native Texan, this area of the state was quite foreign to me. I imagined a greener, hillier place with at least a few trees. If you have even been there, you know this is not the case! I had to adjust to a desert with tumbleweeds blowing down the streets and alleys. Even worse, the move uprooted me; I was now without any family or friends nearby with only a small child as my primary daytime companion.
This week before we begin a study of the book of Judges itself, we back up in time to set the stage for the era of the judges. We begin with the father of Israel, Abraham. He, too, left his homeland and journeyed into the unknown because God called him to do so. When I think of Abraham’s situation, I realize how much more difficult that would have been than mine—no map, no pictures, no preview visit, no trips back home!
More Light: As you go through today’s lesson, use a Bible map or atlas to find the locations mentioned.
As we begin looking at the roots of the Jewish nation, let’s begin by reading what Stephen said about Abraham in the New Testament. Read Acts 7:2-3.
1. Where was Abraham living when God first appeared to him? (This is in Iraq today.) What did God call him to do?
Read Genesis 11:27-12:8. (Abraham’s original name was Abram.)
2. By comparing what you read in Acts with this passage, you will notice that Abram had not completely obeyed God’s word to him. How was his obedience incomplete? In other words, what part of God’s instructions did he fail to do?
I find this so encouraging! Although Abraham is known as a great man of faith, he didn’t begin that way; rather, he grew in faith through the years. After he moved to Haran, God appeared to him again.
3. List the promises that God gave him in Gen. 12:1-8. What was the condition for God to fulfill them?
Put yourself in Abraham’s place. This move must have been similar to the moves of the early pioneers who struck out across America in covered wagons. If you have ever been to the Middle East, you have probably seen the tents of the Bedouins, the nomads who move from place to place. Picture Abraham and his family in that kind of situation.
Read Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-10.
4. What was the key to Abraham’s obedience according to Hebrews 11:8-10? Define true faith according to Hebrews 11:1.
Imagine traveling a road that is unmarked and unmapped. Your only guide is a person who claims to know where he is going. (There is a chance that you do not have to imagine this if you have had this experience with your husband or father.) The key to getting to the right destination is the wisdom and knowledge of the guide. If he knows the way, you do not have to be concerned because you can trust in the one who is directing you. So it was with Abraham; he trusted that God knew the place and the way and would not mislead him.
Too often we mistakenly think that we are in control and know where we are going in life; however, only God knows the future. Only God can direct us to the place where He wants to bless us, just as He did Abraham. He calls us to obey and follow.
5. Sharing Question: Describe the circumstances or situation in your life right now in which it is most difficult for you to trust God. Perhaps you feel that he is leading you into the darkness where you do not know the way. How does this relate to Hebrews 11:1? (Be honest with where you are in life with your group, knowing this is a safe place to be transparent.)
6. Responding to God: Ask God to give you the faith to trust him. Express the specific situation and leave the answer with him. Write out your prayer below.
Yesterday we saw that God made some pretty big promises to Abram. Let’s read the accounts of other situations when God spoke to him.
7. Read Gen. 13:14-18. Compare these promises with those in Gen. 12:1-3.
More Light: Use any commentaries which you have or find online resources and read about the promises to Abraham in Gen. 12:1-3.
8. Read Gen. 15:1-6. About which promise was Abram questioning God? What was God’s response?
Abram was eighty-four- years old at this point and had been in the land ten years. (See Gen. 12:4.)
9. How does this help you understand why he was skeptical that God would answer his prayer?
Sometimes we pray and pray and begin to think that God has deserted us and is not answering our prayers. Sometimes the problem is just the timing; God’s answer is coming, but we lack the faith to wait.
10. Consider the parable that Jesus taught in Luke 18:1-7. What principle do you learn from this parable that you can apply to the circumstances or situation that you mentioned yesterday in question #5?
11. Sharing question: Share about a time in your own life when God’s timing was different from yours. Did you trust God or take matters into your own hands? What was the outcome?
12. Responding to God: Spend a few minutes quietly sitting in God’s presence. Be still and listen for his voice. Ask him to show you any situation in your life today in which you are being impatient rather than waiting on his perfect timing. Confess that lack of faith, knowing that he forgives. Write down your thoughts or prayer below.
Genesis 15 was a turning point in Abraham’s life. At this time he believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness (v. 6). What is righteousness? Righteousness is “conformity to all that [God] commands or appoints.”1
13. Copy Gen. 15:6.
14. Responding to God: Ask God if you have truly conformed to ALL that he commands. Open your heart before him so that you hear his answer. Write down your thoughts.
More Light: Look up Gen 15:6 in several translations. If you don’t have other translations at home, go to online resources such as bible.org, which has every verse in a number of translations.
The fourth chapter of Romans uses Gen. 15:6 to prove Paul’s argument to the Jews that faith alone places us in right relationship with God. Neither Abraham nor any of us can be totally righteous because we do not always align ourselves with God’s best.
Read Romans 4:2-8.
15. Paul says that Abraham didn’t earn God’s righteousness through his goodness and works; rather, it was solely based on his faith. What are some works or actions one might do in the hopes that God would accept or love her more?
We cannot gain God’s favor with our works because we can never be good enough. We can try as hard as we can, but we will always fall short of the perfection of God. It’s not a matter of tipping the scales to your side, of having more on the good side than the bad. All sin, small or large, separates us from God. If there is even one sin on that side of the scales, the scales are tipped to that side. However, we learn good news from the faith of Abraham: God accepts our faith in Jesus to take all sins off of the scales, and he replaces our failures with his perfection. He gives us the gift of life in him so that we become his children and live with him forever.
16. Responding to God: Where are you in the journey of faith? Do you trust that Jesus is God who came to earth to give you his righteousness or do you believe that your own goodness is enough for God’s acceptance? Talk to God honestly about your situation. If you are confused in any way, talk to your leader or someone else in your group. All of us have been on a similar journey.
Seeing clearly through the darkness begins at the point of trusting Jesus to give you his righteousness because he carried the penalty of your sins on the cross. He then gives you eyes to see through the darkness around you and the power to live differently than you did before. He gives you his Spirit to live within you to guide you through the darkness into his love.
17. Responding to God: Write a prayer or poem expressing your thanks to God for the gift of his righteousness.
Yesterday we saw that Abraham’s faith was the basis of his relationship with God. As we continue to move forward in time, let’s review the promises that God gave him.
18. Review the promises God gave to Abraham, which you listed in #7 of this week’s study. What additional promises did God give Abram in Gen. 15:13-16?
After God’s appearance in Gen. 15, Abram decided to help God make good his promise of a son. Abram quite happily agreed to his wife’s plan to father a child by her maid. At the age of 86, Abram’s son Ishmael was born.
Read Gen. 17:1-8, 15-22.
19. Compare the promises in Gen. 17:2-8 with those you have seen in the other verses that you have considered in this lesson.
20. What did God promise Abraham about his heirs (Gen. 17:15-22)?
More Light: Read what others say about Gen. 17:15-22 in your resources.
Abraham’s son Isaac became the father of Jacob, later renamed Israel. The nation he founded inherited the promises given to Isaac; these promises form the basis for understanding so much of the history of the Jews, including the book of Judges.
21. Read 1 Peter 1:3-5. God has given us an inheritance as well. How does Peter describe our inheritance?
22. Sharing question: Have you ever inherited anything? Besides simply gaining the money, land, or stuff itself, what did it mean to you that someone chose to give you something of herself or himself?
23. Responding to God: Write a prayer or poem expressing your emotions, knowing that God has chosen you as his heir and that someday your inheritance in heaven will be revealed.
Reread Gen. 17:1, our memory verse for this week. We are calling these verses Light for Today. Use your cards to carry with you or paste on your mirror. Although these are God’s words to Abraham, he is God Almighty or the Sovereign God in our lives as well. The name reveals something about God. It is interesting that He used that name for the first time here when He wanted Abram to believe something almost impossible to believe.
Read Hebrews 11:11-12.
24. What about this situation required God to reveal himself as God Almighty or the Sovereign God? In other words, why might Abraham and Sarah have needed that reassurance at this time in their lives?
More Light: Use a concordance or online resource to find other verses that refer to God by this name, God Almighty or the Sovereign God (NET). 2
25. Responding to God: Is there a situation in your life right now where you need to know that God is God Almighty or that He is sovereign? Write a prayer to God expressing your faith in Him that He has the power to do the impossible. Praise him as God Almighty!
Read Gen. 21:1-2.
26. How do you see God’s faithfulness revealed in these verses?
If we studied Abraham’s life in detail, we would see him grow in faith as God was faithful and proved himself capable of fulfilling his promises. Our faith grows, also, as God stretches us through life experiences. Sadly, we are often so focused on ourselves that we do not recognize God’s work in our lives. I look back on my youth, and now I can see the hand of God upon me, but then all I could see was me. I failed to see clearly through the darkness because I wasn’t focused on what was beyond the present.
27. Sharing question: Relate how you now see God at work during a difficult period when you found it hard to believe that God was doing anything at the time.
28. Responding to God: Write a prayer or a poem of thanks that God is faithful and almighty. Make it personal to a situation you face today.
Seeing in the darkness depends on faith in God. We must trust Him to know what is best for us and follow him even into the wilderness without maps, without water, without companions.
Each week at the end of our study, we will read the story of a woman who has experienced some truth from our lesson. Some of the names are real and some have been changed to protect the innocent (or the guilty as the story may reveal). You will also see an optional section which includes some parenting applications. Your group will not discuss either of these sections.
Twelve years ago, I watched as my husband of twenty years drove away for what I thought would be a normal day of work. That day, he did not return home. Shortly after, I learned that he had no intention of coming home again. To make matters worse, he was residing over two thousand miles away from Dallas. Being reared in a very small rural town, I never would have imagined that I would be left alone in a large city without the comfort of family nearby. I soon realized that I was to be solely responsible for the emotional care of two children, and that they too must be required to bear this loss. To add to the dilemma, I had no car, no job, nor had I worked for many years. It was a local Christian psychologist who would help me acknowledge my state of abandonment. I realized that my life had dealt events that I would never have chosen for myself.
It was not surprising and seemed quite natural that I would turn to the faith of my family to rely on for support and strength. Being raised in a very devout Christian family was a support that I never had realized was so strong a force in my life. Soon I also learned that as a single woman I would face many obstacles along the way of life. Each time fear would overcome my heart, it would be through prayer, God’s word, and Christian friends that I would find the strength to travel on. Each time that I relied on God, my faith would only grow stronger. My faith became an action, not a feeling. God became the protection over my life and the guardian of my heart. No, he was not someone I could physically touch or see, but by faith, I knew I could rely on his presence. Whenever I would measure my obstacles against the size of God, I would take refuge in the sight of all that He is and has provided for us. I claimed God’s promise that as his child, I could run into his loving arms and find a safe haven and resting place.
As I look back on this journey of faith in God, I see no ashes or shambles. I see a cross and a loving relationship that has been cultivated and nourished. Jesus has revealed Himself to me each day. Yes, I had many days of raging waters, but my Jesus was there to carry me and bring into his safe bosom of love and rest. He can conquer the wildest storm. He has carried me through a valley so low into a love relationship with himself that is the treasure of my heart and life.
I am reminded of a scripture that was one of my favorites during this time. Matthew 11:28-30 reads, “Come unto me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
From time to time all families must endure loss and difficulties of life. God is so ready to not just stand beside us, but he is ready to carry us through the storm. God has been faithful to me; I have a responsibility to be faithful to him.
It is so helpful as a mother to remember that Abraham became a man of faith. Through the difficult experiences and the trials that God allowed, he learned that he could trust God and that God could make his promises come true. We have to grow into the faith of Abraham if we are to be the mothers that God intends us to be. Each time that God proves himself to us it grows our faith.
When I was a new mother, I used to pray that Jesus would return before my children became teenagers. I remembered some difficult years for my mother when my sister and I were that age, and so I wasn’t looking forward to dealing with that as a mother. However, by the time my daughter and son were teens, I had grown in my faith and had learned to trust them to God. If they became rebellious, I decided that I would accept and trust that God was in control and had the ability to bring them home again. I am very thankful that the teenage years never presented the problems that I envisioned, but I used those early years to prepare myself spiritually for the prospect of some hard years ahead.
Are you prepared for rebellion, for illness, or for trials in the lives of your children? Begin now by praying for them and asking God to grow your faith so that you are ready to trust him with your children. He loves them more than you do and he knows what is best for them. Believe God’s word: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
Say a prayer entrusting your children to God, believing that he knows best about them.
1 Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1991), 892.
2 If you go to bible.org and search for that phrase, it will list the verses for you. Some will not apply but many will.