God appeared to and spoke to a man who was a gentile (there were no Jewish people at that time) who likely worshipped idols and came from a family who worshipped idols (read Joshua 24:2-4). Evidently, this man was a religious man so when God appeared to him, he took Gods revelation of Himself and His message seriously. Abram took Gods revelation of Himself and His message so seriously that we4000 years laterare directly impacted by this mans ability to trust God. His trust in God was so great that the best the finest Christian can hope for is to equal his trust. Never can anyone surpass his confidence in God. As much as he did (including his willingness to sacrifice his promised son), Abram is (a) the God-chosen example of faith and (b) the continuing example that great confidence in God results in a committed obedience.
God had a strange, unusual way to begin implementing His solution to the human sin dilemma. God took a man who came from a background of worshipping multiple gods (who existed only in the worshippers thinking). God made promises to him that resulted in a departure from Ur with part of his family, and then later leaving his family in Haran. He placed himself in danger by living among the people in Canaan. Initially, Abraham left a more civilized place to become a nomad in a less civilized place.
The recorded promises given to Abram are first found in Genesis 12:1-3. The key promise that is prerequisite to becoming a great nation and having a great (enduring) name was the fact that he would have a child (son). It is through that child (son) that all families of the earth (not just one nation) would be blessed.
When Abram acted on the promises of Genesis 12:1-3, he was a childless 75 years old. That meant his wife, Sarai (also his half sister), was a childless 65 years old. They were an old, couple (by any standards) to expect a child. At that age, would not having a child be a miracle?
With the help of this mysterious God, Abram regarded a birth as a possible situation. It would be an unusual situation, but a possible situation. If Abram had sufficient confidence to leave Ur for this mysterious God who was not represented by images or worshipped in special places, why not trust this God to help him have a child?
When God appeared in Genesis 15, scripture does not say how old Abram and Sarai were. However, enough time passed for Abram to have doubts. He wanted God to accept his servant, Eliezer, as his heir so the promises could move forward. God said, Noyou will be the father. The child will be your child.
Again, Abram believed God. God credited Abrams faith as righteousness (Genesis 15:6). Sarai was not pregnant. There was no visible evidence that Gods promise would become reality. Abram trusted God because God was God. He would do what He promised because He was God. Visibly, Abram was no closer to being a great nation with countless descendants than he was when God first promised. Yet, Abram confirmed his trust in Gods promises by renewing his agreement with God. It was this type of trust that God accredited Abram with being righteous.
When Abram was 99 years old (see Genesis 17:1) [24 years after the Genesis 12 promises], God came to Abram declaring He would keep His promise to make Abram a father. Nothing had happened for 24 years! Now it was clearly physically impossible! He was almost 100 and his wife was almost 90. Nothing had happened for almost 25 years. He and Sarai were as childless as they were when they first married.
To confirm the covenant that God would keep His promise (within the next year), three things should happen. Abram was to change his name from Abram to Abraham (father of a multitude). Sarais name was to be changed to Sarah (princess). Every male servant, Abraham, and Ishmael (see Genesis 17:22-27) were circumcised immediatelywith no modern surgical instruments and no modern drugs available! Men, how much trust would be required for you to be circumcised when you were 99 and your only son when he was 13?
The idea that Abraham would have a child by Sarah then was so incredible that Sarah laughed at the idea (Genesis 18:9-15). At this moment, there was no evidence to Sarah that she was pregnant. Abraham had no visible reason to think anything had changed. Yet, in a year, Isaac was a born reality. When Isaac was born, Abraham was 100 years old (see Genesis 21:4, 5).
If you began a nation that had never existed, would you begin with a 100-year-old father, a 90-year-old mother, and a baby? Would you begin with only one son? Would you produce only twins with the next generation? Would you defy social custom by producing 12 sons through the youngest twin? Would you accept the most effeminate of the twins and produce the sons through four women?
God does not do things as we would do them. When God did something, He was clearly at worknot people!
For Thought and Discussion
1. Discus the circumstances surrounding Gods first appearance to Abram. Abram was and is what two things?
2. What was the key promise? Through the child, God would do what?
3. Discuss the events of Genesis 15. Why did Abram trust God?
4. Discuss the events of Genesis 17. What three things were to confirm the covenant?
5. Discuss the unusual things done to begin a new nation.
Link to Teacher's Guide Lesson 2
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