by Steve and Terri
Genesis 11:10 - Genesis 50
"Now the LORD had
said to Abram: Get out of your country, from your kindred and from your
fathers house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I
will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those
who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the
earth shall be blessed. "
Abram was a descendant of
Shem (Gen. 3:15), from whom the promised deliverer would come. Although idolatry was still
rampant after God scattered the people (Gen. 11:9), Shem and some of his descendants
remained true to the Most High God.
It is possible that Abram had
some kind of contact with Shem that influenced his decision to turn from idol worship to
the one, true, living God. This would have been a remarkable conversion since
archaeological records indicate that Terah was an idol maker. Ur was dedicated to the
worship of the moon god. That meant that every resident was a servant of the moon god. In
calling Abram out of Ur, God was calling him to a public repentance -- leaving the city
meant leaving your god. Idols were not
omnipresent, but territorial. Paganism is mans
initiative to make a god, but the Most High God came to Abram and revealed Himself to him
as: invisible, creator of all creation,
omnipresent, personal, and One who talks with man.
This was a stark contrast to all Abram had been taught of 'god' by his culture.
Gods command to Abram
was to leave his country and family and go to a land that He would show Abram -- after his
obedience. Abram, however, brought along both Terah, his father, and Lot, his orphaned
nephew. Their journey ended in Haran, another city dedicated to the moon god. The family
lived there until Terahs death.
Traveling with Lot to the
land of Canaan ("a land that I
will show you") revealed the
ancient custom of adoption by childless couples. Because barrenness was a stigma, couples
unable to bear children did one of three things: (1) adopted an orphaned relative; (2)
adopted a servant (Gen. 15:2,3); (3) took a second wife (concubine -- a woman without the
full rights of a wife) to bear children; the children of the concubine legally belonged to
the first wife (Gen. 16:1-3). Abram struggled to believe the true Gods promise to
bear a son and, thus, father a great nation. It took 25 years for God to cultivate
Abrams character and build his faith to father a great nation.
And so it was, at age 75
Abram took his wife Sarai (age 60), his nephew Lot, and all their servants and possessions
to the land of Canaan. This was a land polluted with the most perverse forms of idolatry
-- child sacrifices; prostitute priestesses and homosexual priests practiced gross sexual
sins in 'honor' of their vile gods. God appeared to Abram and promised the land of Canaan
to his descendants. (Gen. 12:7)
After a detour to Egypt (Gen.
12:10-20) where Abram brought trouble on himself again for not trusting God, he settled at
Bethel. Here Lot and Abram separated (Gen. 13) -- Lot to the well-watered Jordan plains
and Abram to the high country of Canaan.
Some years later, tribal wars
disrupted in the plains; Lot and his possessions were taken captive. Stirred by his
responsibility to his nephew, Abram and his servants recovered Lot and his goods, as well
as others from Sodom. It was here that Abram met Melchizedek, the King of Salem (peace),
who was also the priest of God Most High. They shared a covenant meal of bread and wine,
and Melchizedek blessed Abram. Abram, in turn, gave a tenth of the war booty to
After Lots rescue and
the encounter with Melchizedek, the LORD came to Abram in a vision, both to confirm His
promise of multiplied descendants and to initiate a blood covenant similar to the model
pact discussed in Lesson One (Gen. 15:4-21). "Abram believed in the LORD, and He counted it to him for
righteousness" (Gen. 15:6)
concerns Gods promise of an heir for Abram. This is a key verse that describes Abram
and Gods relationship; it is mentioned by Paul in his letters to both the Roman
(chapter 4) and Galatian (chapter 3) churches. The belief that Abram had
was not a mere mental acceptance of what God said, but a certainty, or assurance (Hebrew: aman) based on the kind of
relationship he had with God. Therefore, God
imputed (Hebrew: hashab) Abram to be righteous (Hebrew:
tsedaka), since he met Gods
standard. Indeed, Abram and God shared a
trusting interaction with each
other. Abrams acts of faith were done because he understood that God would do what
He promised; God also knew that Abram would keep his commitment and acted accordingly
(i.e., Gen. 18:16-33).
The blood sacrifice that the
LORD commanded Abram to offer was to be split in covenant fashion (Gen. 15:8-21).
Later, with Abram in a deep sleep (a good position for resting and/or receiving), God
confirmed His promises for Abrams seed (Gen. 15:13-16, 18-21) by taking sovereign
responsibility for the ceremonial walk between the pieces of the sacrificed animals --
Abram could do nothing.
Gods next initiative
came when Abram was ninety-nine years old. The commandments concerning circumcision were
given , and Abram and Sarais names were changed to Abraham and Sarah (Gen.
17:5-15). His restatement of a promised son for the two 'oldsters' brought Abraham
down on his face with laughter (Gen. 17:17). Choosing to remind Abram of his
laughter, God named Abram and Sarahs son Isaac (Hebrew: yitschak - 'he
laughs'). Later, when she was listening from inside the tent as the LORD and Abram shared
a meal, Sarah also had a good laugh at the mention of the son she was to bear (Gen.
It should be noted that
Abraham and Sarah were not only able to miraculously reproduce, but also the rejuvenation
went far enough to restore Sarahs beauty as well. King Abimelech of Gerar thought so
-- he took her into his collection of wives, thinking she was Abrahams sister. He
gave her back unharmed, with apologies, when the LORD intervened. Not bad for a ninety
year old woman!
A few years later, the LORD
tested Abraham by commanding him to take his son Isaac, "whom you love," into the land of Moriah to offer him as a burnt sacrifice (Gen.
22). Abraham obediently took Isaac and the split wood and made the trip. When Isaac
asked him about a lamb for burnt offering, Abraham replied, "My son, God will provide (Hebrew: ra-ah -- 'see to it') himself a lamb" (Gen. 22:8). Abrahams test ended when God stopped him
from slaying his son, accepting a ram in Isaacs place. What was important to God was
that Abraham did not withhold (Hebrew: chasak - 'spare') his son and that he revered (Hebrew: yar - 'stand
in awe') the LORD above all.
The covenant that God made
and established with Abraham closely parallels the Lesson One model:
God initiated and imposed a
covenant. Gen. 12:1-3
Abraham represented himself
and his descendants. Gen. 12:2; 17:7-8
God and Abraham pledged
loyalty. Gen. 15:1, 6
God would protect Abraham in
all circumstances. (Gen. 12:3, 17; 14:14-16, 18-20; chapter 20)
God initiated blood sacrifice
and the sign of circumcision (cutting of the representatives flesh). (Gen. 15:8-21;
God ate a covenant meal with
Abraham. Gen. 18:8
Abram had his name changed to
Abraham, and God was known as the "God of Abraham." (Gen. 17:4, 5; 32:9)
ABRAHAMIC COVENANT CONFIRMED
Isaac was a quiet man of
peace. Perhaps the greatest thing he did was to go up to Mount Moriah with his father as a
youth and willingly offer himself to God as a burnt offering.
At age 37 Isaacs mother
died. After three years of loneliness, Abraham arranged to find a wife for him. Sending
his oldest and most trusted servant back to Mesopotamia where his brothers family
lived, God supernaturally provided a wife for Isaac (Gen. 24). She was
Abrahams niece. It was 20 years before Isaac and Rebekah had any children. While
pregnant, the LORD spoke to Rebekah an important prophecy:
"Two nations are in
your womb, two peoples shall be separated from your body; one people shall be stronger
than the other; and the older shall serve the younger." (Gen. 25:23)
Always the firstborn took a
double portion of the inheritance and was head over the patriarchal families. With this
family, however, something else was passed on -- the blessing spoken to Abraham back in
Ur. When the twins, Jacob and Esau, where born and began to grow, it was a divided
household. After Jacob and Esau were born, the LORD appeared to Isaac and confirmed the
Abrahamic covenant (Gen. 26:24,25).
ABRAHAMIC COVENANT CONFIRMED
The tension between Jacob and
Esau boiled throughout their upbringing. Finally, the struggles climaxed when Jacob
deceived his blind and aged father into giving him the patriarchal blessing traditionally
due only to the eldest. Enraged, Esau threatened to kill him. Jacob fled for his life to
his mothers homeland in the East. Before he left, however, Isaac willingly gave Jacob the full blessing of Abraham
(Gen. 28:3,4). To confirm this blessing, God met Jacob in a dream on his way east,
thus fulfilling the prophecy given to Rebekah when she carried the twins (Gen. 28:10-22).
Jacob, however, reaped a
bitter life because of the deception he sowed as a young man. Many years of grief were
brought on by two wives and two concubines when he only loved one, his cousin Rachel.
Years of barrenness agonized Rachel until she finally birthed Joseph. Her second child,
Benjamin, was delivered on her death bed. In sorrow over the only wife he loved, Jacob
favored Joseph and Benjamin, causing jealousy and envy among the other ten brothers.
During this time, Jacob left
Mesopotamia to return to his homeland. Fearing Esau, he sought God alone one night and met
God face to face (Gen. 32). Humbled by this awesome
experience, God changed his name from Jacob (deceiver) to Israel (prince with God).
As the tribe settled into its
life in Canaan, the ten brothers' jealousy over Joseph mounted. Finally, they sold the
favored brother to slave traders and convinced their father that Joseph had been killed by
a wild beast. Grief again overtook Jacob.
Forcibly and cruelly
separated from his family at age seventeen and sold as a slave in Egypt, the Bible records
no bitterness from Joseph. What the Bible does say is that "the LORD was with Joseph and he was a
successful man . . ." (Gen.
39:2). God gave Joseph favor, and he became Potiphars chief steward. Tragedy
struck again, however, and Joseph was thrown in the dungeon, falsely accused of trying to
seduce Potiphars wife.
While imprisoned, Joseph
interpreted the dreams of two men, the Pharaohs butler and baker. As the man being
released from prison was leaving, Joseph asked him to remember him, but the butler never
did until years later.
Twelve years as a slave and
in jail molded Joseph into a man that God could use in an international crisis. Suddenly
Joseph was ordered to appear before Pharaoh to interpret his dreams. For this moment he
had come to Egypt. God gave Joseph the interpretations, and Pharaoh made Joseph second
ruler over Egypt to organize a plan for the coming famine.
Seven years later the famine
swept over the world, just as Pharaohs dream predicted. People came to Egypt from
everywhere to buy the food that Joseph had reserved in giant storage facilities. One of
the families seeking help was Jacobs tribe. Joseph forgave his brothers and then
brought the entire tribe of Israel to live in Egypt. At the end of Jacobs life he
blessed each of his sons (Gen. 49:1-28), and passed the Abrahamic blessing on to
the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:8-12). "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between
his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people" (Gen. 49:10). Each son named a tribe; thus,
began the 12 tribes of Israel.
Along with the
Covenant of Creation, the Abrahamic Covenant is the
foundation of the entire Bible, and the beginning of the Gospel:
scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the nations by faith, preached the gospel to
Abraham beforehand, saying, In You all the nations shall be blessed. " (Galatians 3:8)
The nations were to be
blessed through Abrahams "seed"
(Gen. 22:18). The ultimate seed is
"Now to Abraham
and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, And to seeds, as of
many, but as of one, And to your Seed, who is Christ. "(Galatians 3:16)
The Abrahamic Covenant,
fulfilled in Jesus Christ, is entered by faith:
". . . Abraham
believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Therefore know
that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham . . . So then those who are of
faith are blessed with believing Abraham." (Galatians 3:6, 7, 9)