Genesis Week 6 – Promises from Abraham to Isaac

Thank you for reading Genesis with us! Here are the readings for this week:

Readings this week:
Genesis 23:1-26:33
□ 23 – Death of Sarah
□ 24 – Isaac and Rebekah
□ 25:1-18 – Death of Abraham
□ 25:19-34 – Jacob and Esau
□ 26:1-33 – Isaac and King Abimelech

Main Topic – Promises from Abraham to Isaac
In this transitional section of Genesis, God’s covenant promises are passed from Abraham to Isaac. Sarah passes away, and Abraham focuses his attention on finding a wife for his son Isaac. The story of Abraham’s family continues in the account of Isaac, and the birth of his sons Esau and Jacob. Isaac not only receives the promises of God given to Abraham, he also inherits some of Abraham’s weaknesses. In this section, we want to focus on how the promises to Abraham are passed on to the next generation.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

1. The Death of Sarah (Gen 23) – Sarah is buried near Hebron/Mamre. What is the significance of this location? Consider Abraham’s history here (Gen 13:18, 18:1). How is Abraham regarded in the community? How is God fulfilling His promises?

2. A Wife for Isaac (Gen 24) – Abraham is very insistent that Isaac not marry a local Canaanite girl. Why is this such a matter of grave concern for him, what is the issue here? (see Ex 34:16, Deut 7:3-4) How do we see faith in the actions of Abraham, his servant, Isaac, and in Rebekah?

3. Conflict in the Household (Gen 25) – Isaac shares in Abraham’s faith and promises, and also his household drama. How many parallels can you identify between the two households? (ie. barren wife, long wait for children, children who fight, division in the household, famine, lying, etc.)

4. God’s Faithfulness Even When… (Gen 26) – What covenant promises are confirmed to Isaac? (26:3-4) Then what does Isaac do? (26:7-11) Nevertheless, God blesses Isaac abundantly! (26:12-16) Why are these two stories set next to each other? What does this suggest about God’s faithfulness to his covenant promises? 

Genesis – Covenants and a Map

Thank you for reading Genesis with us! This week I’m sending an extra email with study resources and a map. Genesis begins in the garden of Eden, takes us to Babel (ie. Babylon), and then with Abram we journey from Haran to Canaan to Egypt and back again. It’s time for a map!

Rassmussen, Carl. Atlas of the Bible. Zondervan, 2010.

We also have recently encountered the Old Testament concept of a “covenant”. God makes a covenant agreement with Noah after the flood (Genesis 9) and then with Abram (Genesis 15). In our modern world we do not use the word covenant the way it was used back then – we generally use it only for home owner’s association documents that specify what you can and cannot do (and then people promptly ignore most of it and continue parking boats or campers in their driveways, etc.)

A covenant in the era of the Bible could be made at an individual, tribal, or national level. The example that is most useful to us is that of an international treaty, an alliance between nations. Every covenant treaty-alliance was structured like a legal document with a title, a historical prologue, the obligations of each party, the list of witnesses, and the curses and blessings that were to fall on each party as they upheld (or broke) their agreement. The whole act of treaty-making was sealed in a ratification ceremony involving the taking of oaths and sacrifices. Keep this in mind as you read Genesis 15 (and 17), and even as you later read Exodus 20-24 and the covenant God made with Moses and the people of Israel when the law was given, and the New Covenant made by the blood of Christ.

For more on covenants, read Sandra Richter’s Epic of Eden, chapter 3 and check out this Bible Project video on covenants:

Genesis Week 5 – Promises Fulfilled

Thank you for reading Genesis with us! Here are the readings for this week:

Genesis 17:1 – 22:24
□ 17 – Covenant and Circumcision
□ 18-19 – Sodom & Gomorrah
□ 20 – Abraham and King Abimelech
□ 21 – Birth of Isaac
□ 22 – Abraham Tested

Main Topic – Promises Fulfilled
This section of Genesis opens with God reaffirming His promises to Abram, changing his name to Abraham, and marking this special covenant with a new sign. God’s intention to bless the nations through Abraham is evident in all the readings this week – as Abraham intercedes for Sodom and Gomorrah and later brings blessings on the Philistine King Abimelech. We see the miraculous birth of Isaac and later Abraham’s offering of Isaac. Throughout, God’s faithfulness is clear, He keeps His promises and hears the prayers of His people.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion
1. The Covenant (Gen. 17) – What are the covenant promises God restates here? How do Abraham and Sarah respond to the promise? God’s promise demands a response from Abraham. What is the requirement? Why do you think this sign is chosen or uniquely appropriate?


2. Abraham Intercedes (Gen 18) – God’s judgement against Sodom and Gomorrah is sure, but Abraham intercedes six times asking the Lord to spare the righteous. What lessons can we learn about the nature of prayer from this?


3. Sodom and Gomorrah Destroyed (Gen 19) – Lot has been living in Sodom for more than 20 years (since Gen 13). How has he been influenced? Why might he have stayed? What happens to his wife? Why do you think this story is included in the story of Abraham?


4. Isaac is Born (Gen 21) – After waiting 25 years, Abraham is given a son. With Isaac’s birth comes rejoicing, but also conflict with Hagar’s son Ishmael. What happens to Hagar as she is sent away? What promises does God make regarding Ishmael?


5. Abraham is Tested (Gen 22) – God wants complete faith from His people, regardless of the odds. God tests Abraham again, and this time Abraham is determined to obey. What deliberate steps of obedience does he take here? How does God intervene? What promises are repeated at the end of the chapter?

Genesis week 4 – Abram and the Nations

Thank you for reading Genesis with us! Here are the readings for this week:

Genesis 11:27-16:16
o  11:27-12:20 – Call of Abram
o  13 – Separation from Lot
o  14 – The Rescue of Lot
o  15 – The Covenant
o  16 – Abram and Hagar

Main Topic – Abram and the Nations

If Genesis 1-11 is the cosmic story of God and humankind, then Genesis 12 marks a turning point and the story narrows in focus to the story of God in relationship with one man, Abram. Abram will eventually become a family and then a nation, whose mission it is to be a blessing to all the nations and peoples of the earth. Our story this week opens with God calling Abram, giving him instructions, and making big promises. Sometimes Abram has great faith. Sometimes he struggles and makes poor decisions. As we watch Abram’s life unfold, consider how our personal faith journeys often have similar highs and lows.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

1. Calling and Promises, Time in Egypt (Gen 12) – How does God promise to bless Abram? What does God ask of Abram? How does Abram respond? What challenges, costs, emotions might have been involved for Abram? What decisions does Abram make in Egypt? What does this reveal about his faith? How does God intervene to ensure His promises are fulfilled?

2.    Abram and Lot (Gen 13-14) – What decisions does Abram make regarding Lot? What does this reveal about his faith? How does the Lord affirm Abram’s faith and His promises again?

3.    Abram and Covenant (Gen 15) – How is Abram’s faith as chapter 15 opens? How does the Lord affirm his promises? Consider how Abram’s response of faith in 15:6 is celebrated in Romans 4:1-25 and Galatians 3:1-9. Finally, what do you know about this strange covenant ceremony?

4.    Abram and Hagar (Gen 16) – Abram’s remarkable encounter with God has not cured his faith struggles. What happens with Hagar, and what are the consequences?

5. Personal Reflection – Look back over Genesis 12-16. How does Abram’s unstable faith remind you of your own journey? How do these chapters show God’s commitment to His promises in spite of human failures?

Also, check out The Bible Project video on Genesis 12-50 below.

The Surprises of 2017

I had no idea.  I’ve been thinking about how life with God is such an adventure.  Last January 1st I spent time reflecting on the previous year, and in prayer.  God gave me Hebrews 11:8 as a theme verse for the year.  Then on January 2nd I read this in My Utmost for His highest:

Heb118 I didn’t know what was next.  I wasn’t expecting anything unusual really.  Then in March I spent a weekend with Sandy Richter, and two weeks later I knelt on the grave of Paul in Rome and the words that came out of my mouth were, “Lord, help me be faithful to preach the Word, in season and out of season.”  (Is the Word ever out-of-season?!)  In April I applied to seminary, in May I was accepted at Asbury, in June I stood in the pulpit on a Sunday morning as a guest speaker for the first time, and in September I started classes.  A year ago seminary was not on my To Do List, and here I am one semester into the game.

I still don’t know what’s next, other than the Inductive Study of Mark class I registered for this spring.  I really am enjoying being in seminary, but I don’t have an end game… In fact, not knowing “why” makes school a continual faith exercise… I am here because I am obedient, not because I have a plan.  As long as I check-in with The Master Planner on a regular basis, He will certainly keep me headed in the right direction.

My verse for 2018 is Isaiah 43:19 “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”  I wonder what the new year holds… I wonder if I am already standing ankle deep in the rising river waters?  Last January I didn’t give my theme verse much thought, this year I am paying attention!

Tell your story – How has God been busy in your life this last year?

The Magnificent Obsession

Five stars – absolutely!  I highly recommend Anne Graham Lotz’s book The Magnificent Obsession: Embracing the God-Filled Life.  It’s a LotzCoverpersonal look at the life of Abraham from when God called him to leave Haran until Abraham sent a servant back to Haran to get a wife for Isaac.

If you can, I would take a full nine weeks to work through each chapter, reading the parallel text in Genesis, and making time to discuss what you are learning with a friend or small group.  The text needs to be digested slowly.  Our book club’s biggest problem was that we only had a few hours to talk about all the things in the book that had impacted us!

I was fascinated to see how members of our group were affected by different phases of Abraham’s life:

  • Women enduring a season of upheaval and change were challenged to let go and leave it all behind and follow God through periods of uncertainty,
  • Mothers of prodigal children were challenged to “lay down their Isaac” and let God be in control (in fact, we were all challenged to let God be in control!!),
  • Women in mourning over the loss of a spouse, a marriage, or years in the wilderness found comfort and hope while reflecting on the faithfulness of God and particularly the death of Sarah,
  • Some of us, prone to impatience, were challenged to not run ahead of God with our plans (remember Hagar and Ishmael?) but to walk patiently beside Him and wait for His timing and His plan, and
  • Others were challenged to go deeper with God, to “Wake Up!” earlier, pray more diligently and specifically, and seek to know Him persistently and consistently.

Find time to read Anne’s book this year.  You will not regret it!

Sarah – Agree or Disagree?

Agree or Disagree?

“Without a doubt, Sarah is the most important woman in the Old Testament. She is the equivalent in the Old Testament of the Virgin Mary in the New Testament. She expressed her pursuit of the magnificent obsession in a supporting role. I don’t believe for a minute that Abraham would have become the man he did without her support and encouragement.”

“What makes Sarah remarkable is that devoted her life to Abraham, giving him her support and encouragement through good times and bad so that he could wholeheartedly abandon himself to God and His call.”

– Anne Graham Lotz, The Magnificent Obsession, pg.213-214