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Sunday School is a vital part of any ministry. In it, one is able to experience a deeper knowledge of God’s Word. Here at “Word For Life Says,” I want to help you help others. Below you will find resources to help you prepare for your upcoming lessons and my personal summary notes that I use when teaching. May God bless you!
“God Made a Covenant with Abram”
Genesis 15:1-6, 17-21
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Please Note: All lesson verses and titles are based on International Sunday School Lesson/Uniform Series ©2013 by the Lesson Committee, but all content/commentary written within is original to wordforlifesays.com unless properly quoted/cited. I am glad you like to read my personal summary notes that I use when teaching, but as always you are encouraged to do your own studies as well. Blessings!)
Fear and uncertainty can act as a barrier when waiting on the revealed promises of God. Find out in today’s lesson how God addressed these issues with Abram when He made a covenant with him.
Genesis 15:1 “After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.”
“After these things.” Our lesson story picks up where another story left off. Lot, Abram’s nephew, and his family and his things, had all fallen victim to the raids that came against Sodom and Gomorrah by a coalition of opposing kings led by Chedorlaomer, king of Elam (Genesis 14). After Abram gathered his men he fought and recovered “all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people,” (Genesis 14:16). Upon his return was his famous encounter with Melchizedek, the king of Salem who was also a priest, whom when Abram was blessed by him, he gave him tithes of all.
The king of Sodom, whose army previously fled and fell to their demise either in the area of the slime pits or into the slime pits themselves, with some of the army running to and hiding in the mountain (Genesis 14:10), he now comes out at that time and offered Abram all the goods that he had rescued. Abram refused to accept anything from the king. He would depend, in faith, on God to increase him, and not the king.
After all this occurred, God came to Abram and speaks. And, the first three words He speaks to him in a vision is, “Fear not, Abram.”
Why the need for reassurance? Did Lot getting captured by raiding kings and the fight to get him back shake Abram up? Was there a little trepidation or hesitation over actually receiving the promises of God? God has already spoken to him no less than three times before this point regarding his promised blessings and increase (see Genesis 12:2-3, 7; 13:14-17). Was the waiting along with the contentions faced causing doubt or an unsure feeling about everything?
Fear will cause one to take their eyes off the faithfulness of God and focus more on the problems that try to attack the promises of God.
So, God encourages Abram, saying, “I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” Another way of looking at it is as if God is saying, “I am your protector and the fulfiller of the promise. And, if you have nothing else, you have Me. I am here for you. There’s no need to fear.”
After what was probably not only a fight for Lot’s life, but his own, and for fear of retaliation, I imagine these words from God are meant to soothe, encourage, and direct Abram to lean into his faith. He would need to muster that same faith he initially instituted in God, that faith which propelled him forward to leave home and follow God’s leading, causing him to completely trust in God. God is for those who trust in Him (2 Samuel 22:3; Psalm 3:3; 33:20; Proverbs 30:5).
I am “thy exceeding great reward.” Was the refusal of the recovered treasure weighing heavy on his mind? One can only speculate. But, God gave no wiggle room in the matter of Abram’s faith, nor ours. He lets him and us know that He is the greatest treasure one can have or hope to obtain. For any payback or compensation one can hope to have or receive – God is your greatest benefit!
Thus, do not fear Abram. God is here and He is in control of it all. This promise for all that are His comes from the Word: “Be not afraid of sudden fear, neither of the desolation of the wicked, when it cometh. For the LORD shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken,” (Proverbs 3:25-26).
Genesis 15:2-3 “And Abram said, Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir.”
Abram was rich in cattle, silver, and gold (see Genesis 13:2). Abram was rich in servants. He had at least 318 armed male servants (see Genesis 14:14). Abram was rich in promise and faith. But, there was one area of his life where he lacked. That one area that tied directly to the promises God spoke to him. He was “childless.”
Abram did not have a direct “heir” from his own body. Taking inventory of his life, his substance, and his future, the only answer he could see with his natural eyes and human thinking was for everything to come through his “steward, Eliezer of Damascus.”
The implications of having no biological heir were serious. Emotionally, the desire was there to have a child of their very own. One to love, nurture and raise. For many, they consider one of the greatest joys in life is having a baby of their own and the lack of one often leaves a void that yearns to be filled.
After all, children are considered to be a “heritage of the LORD,” (Psalm 127:3) and it was considered a blessing to have them (see Psalm 128:3 and 144:12). When God told Abram that he personally would be the father of a “great nation” (Genesis 112:2), I imagined he expected that blessing to be manifested by now in his life – yet, currently, he was still without, still feeling the emotional void.
Materialistically, and heritage-wise, the need for an heir was very real. All that Abram accrued and will gain has to be passed on to someone else when his time comes to depart from this earth. The responsibility of everything and everyone now in his ownership, and what is to come as a result of the promises given, needed that leading successor who would care for it all.
Prior to this, Abram was not only promised descendants (Genesis 12:2), but that they would be as great as the “dust of the earth” in number (Genesis 13:16). His seed would be too numerous to count.
He was not only given the promise of actual descendants in great number, but they would have a great inheritance of land (see Genesis 12:7; 13:14-17). None of which he can physically see at the moment because biologically, he is “childless.” The only thing, or should I say, the only person he currently has in his reserves, in hopes of carrying everything he has, is through “Eliezer of Damascus.”
His only hope as far as he can see is “one born in mine house” as the heir and not one born from his own body. But God was about to shake up what Abram believed now and give him something greater to look forward to.
Genesis 15:4-5 “And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.”
“This shall not be thine heir.” Basically, God is saying, “Negatory! That plan is not a go for Me.” How Abram is viewing this big plan of God’s coming to pass is different than the way God views it.
Why is that? Why do we view things so differently than God does?
There are a few reasons for that, but ultimately it all goes back to God is omniscient, and we are not. He knows all things (1 John 3:20) past, present, and future. Thus, He is able to promise with complete assurance that everything will happen according to His plan. Opposite of that, mankind has tethered his reality to time, life, and the experiences and knowledge of those experiences they were predisposed to and exposed to.
Since God is not tethered by these limitations that man deals with, He is able, on a grand and larger scale, to see beyond it all. God knows it all and what He knows is far more superior in how anyone of us thinks a promise should come out.
So, to counter Abram’s assumption of whom he believes the “heir” should or could be God shows him what He has in mind. Something so grand that all of history will point back to this moment of promise and realize it was nothing but God that brought it to pass.
To the childless Abram God speaks His plan: “He that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.” This well-advanced man of age was going to produce an “heir” from his own body. The promise God gave Abram originated with Abram, it was going to going to be procreated by Abram, and it was going to multiply, grow, and be fruitful through Abram. Not his servant.
To give Abram another visual representation (much like the dust of earth analogy mentioned before) of what He had in mind, God, “brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them . . .”
“Look now toward heaven.” Can I paraphrase and say, “Gain a higher vision for your life.” Abram’s thinking mentality for his future was still consumed with his right now situation. God wanted him to visualize more. While Abram was trying to figure out how 1 Abram + 1 Sarai was going to = a great nation, God had already done the math and was already on the move to show him a blessing so great that he won’t be able to count them: “tell the stars, if thou be able to number them . . . So shall thy seed be.”
God lovingly exhibited the stars before Abram as a display of the greatness of the promise He had for him and used that demonstration of the heavenly view to center his eyes of faith on what will be, through God’s intervention and blessing, instead of what his present is currently speaking.
Genesis 15:6 “And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”
“And he believed in the LORD.” Abram’s faith in God was alive and active. He “believed” everything God spoke to him was true and was going to come to pass.
Previously, I published an article titled, Do More Than Pray – Believe, and I wrote:
“Sometimes in life, I think we tend to downplay the importance of our faith and what we believe. We hear about it so much that I think as Christians we have become desensitized to its power in both our spiritual and our natural lives. This is not what it should be since we are told in four verses of the Bible, “The just shall live by his faith,” (Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38, KJV).
Our faith, our belief should be the marker for everything in our lives. Not just for salvation, but for every action and prayer. We know all the right words to say and all the proper “Christian” motions to make, but is our faith alive and put into full force action?” (Word For Life Says; I urge you to read the entire article for steps to build your faith and belief in the promises of God.)
And, Abram didn’t just believe, but he believed “in the LORD;” He believed in God! Not just in the promises He said He would perform, but Abram believed, with an unchanging heart, in God! Where one’s faith is centered lies at the core of all they believe, and for Abram, that faith not only took his feet out of the land of Ur, but it caused his heart to be tied in total trust to God.
Romans gives us this picture of Abram’s faith: “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God, And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform,” (Romans 4:20-21). He didn’t see it, but Abram’s heart was totally convinced that God is who He said He is and He was going to do everything He said He would do.
“And he counted it to him for righteous.” The heart of all true “righteousness” is belief in God. Because he believed; because he had a faith relationship with God; because he placed himself, his life, and his future in total confidence in God, and moved and ordered his life in that way – it is through that obedient faith he is accepted and received by God and God credits it to him as being righteous.
With the whole of Abram fixed on God as the center of his life, everything else took their rightful place behind Him. His faith in God realigned his thinking and his choices and his living. God was his filter for everything and every move. Thus God, through grace (yes, grace in the Old Testament), imputed “righteousness” to him (compare Romans 4:3). As one puts money in their bank account and it is added to their credit, so too did God for Abram, when through his faith and belief in God, He [God] put it on his [Abram’s] spiritual account and He “counted it to him for righteousness.”
The verses in between this section of our printed text and the next that is not covered in today’s lesson hold valuable information for how we get from one part to the other. Verses 7-16 talk more of God’s plan for Abram and his seed after him.
In verse 7, God reiterates that He is the same God who called him out of Ur of the Chaldees and that there was a promised land that Abram would inherit and his descendants would possess. And, in verse 8 Abram wanted to know more details about how this was going to come to pass.
In verses 9-11, Abram was directed to divide certain animals as a covenant offering. They were going to be used in the enacting of this covenant God was making with Abram (more on this later).
After the which, a deep sleep fell upon Abram (vs. 12) and God spoke to him concerning his seed, their inheritance, their future bondage in Egypt, and their deliverance and possession of the land (vss. 13-16).
Picking back up in our printed lesson text we see the purpose for the divided animals and their use.
Genesis 15:17 “And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces.”
With the covenant offerings still divided on the ground, Abram saw a vision of what would represent the presence of God in the form of a “smoking furnace and a burning lamp” walking between the pieces. God not only told him of the promises but demonstrated through this sign that He was in the midst of it and would work it according to His perfect will.
This is God’s covenant with Abram. He is the one who enacted it and the fulfilling of it would fully rest on Him and His promise.
How do we know this?
This sort of covenant usually involved both parties of said agreement to pass in the midst of the divided animals. But God didn’t have Abram pass through. Only the symbol of His presence strode down the middle of those divided parts indicating He alone is responsible for this covenant. Not Abram, or at times, his wayward descendants. This covenant was initiated by God, endorsed by God, and it would be carried out and completed by God and according to His holy plan.
God’s promises to Abram are sure. What He says goes. Period. That’s it – end of discussion.
Genesis 15:18-21 “In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims, And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.”
God then names off a list of many nations. Although they may be many in number and cities, the place where they currently dwell is no longer for them. They may live there right now, temporarily, but God is giving and has given the permanent residence of those lands to Abram and his seed as part of the covenant. “In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land.”
We see it beginning to be filled through the conquest of Joshua beginning at Jericho and through other events in history; and even in the time of King David (fourteen generations later, see Matthew 1:17), when “David defeated Hadadezer king of Zobah as far as Hamath, as he went to establish his power by the river Euphrates,” (1 Chronicles 18:3, NKJV) gaining part of the land noted in the promise above.
As nation after nation was listed, the realm of God’s promise grew in the eyes of Abram. It was going to happen. Signed, sealed, and delivered by God for His people. No wonder it’s called the Promised Land, for that’s exactly what it is and that’s exactly what God did.
For all the promises of God, wait. For He will surely keep and fulfil everything He has spoken. God’s promises never fail (see Joshua 21:45; 1 Kings 8:56).
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Draw the Scene: God Made a Covenant with Abram Draw the Scene
Memory Verse: God Made a Covenant with Abram Memory Verse
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Below are ideas for torch crafts if you want to implement them into your lesson as a craft. Enjoy!
Snack “Torch” Idea
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