Sunday, October 25, 2015

How do we know God keeps his promises?

This was the outline for the lesson on 2015-10-25, on Genesis 15.


Last week, we saw Abram was set apart by God, promised land and descendants and the blessing of all the families of the world; and he was called by God to leave his family, leave his hometown, leave everything and go. And he went.

After that, he went to Egypt and was kicked out with more than he went in with.

Then he and Lot had to separate because they had so many flocks & heards that they couldn’t stay in the same place. Lot chose the low country around the Jordan River, and Abram took the hill country on the west. When a bunch of kings where Lot was living rebelled against the kings they were paying tribute to, the other kings came and took Lot and all off as captives. When Abram rescued them, he gave a tithe to Melchizedek (remember him from when we studied Hebrews), but refused to accept anything from the king of Sodom.

That brings us to today’s chapter.

The promise of children

  • READ 15:1
  • READ 15:2–3
  • READ 15:4–5
  • ASK When God appears, why does he always say, “Fear not”? (Because he’s not a teddy bear — he’s the creator of everything — immense power — so it’s natural to be afraid.)
  • ASK What does Abram ask God about? (How he can have children: He was 75 when he started exploring Canaan, and Sarai was 65, and now it’s more years down the road.) ASK Why does he ask twice? (Because he was having a hard time believing God’s promise.)
  • SAY It is okay to go to God with your complaint. God doesn’t give Abram a hard time for asking repeatedly, and if something is weighing on your heart, you are free to take it to him over and over.
  • Could Abram count the stars? What if he had a good view of the Milky Way — about 100,000,000,000 stars that look like a ribbon across the sky. If he could count the Milky Way at 1 star per second, it would take him 3,100 years to count them all. That was God’s promise to Abram. And if you are trusting in Abram’s God, one of those stars stands for you.
  • READ 15:6
  • This is one of the most important verses in the whole Old Testament. It’s quoted 4 times in the New Testament. (2 times in Romans, 1 time in Galatians, 1 time in James)
  • “Counted,” “credited,” “reckoned.” These words all mean the same thing. It’s an accounting term: Abram believed God, and God put it on his books as righteousness.
    • ASK What did Abram do? (Believe God)
    • ASK What did God do? (count Abram’s belief as righteousness)
    • ASK What does righteousness mean? (Always doing the right thing)
    • ASK Did Abram do the right thing for the rest of his life? (No. In the very next chapter, he takes his wifes handmaid as a concubine, and they have a child who is not related to the promise. And in chapter 20, he tells another king that Sarai is not his wife. Abram’s track record for actual righteousness after this point isn’t very good.)
    • SAY But consider where he came from: He worshipped false gods before he was called, and now he believes the God who called him. He’s moving in the right direction.
      • You should always be confessing your sins and repenting of them.
      • But once in a while — not constantly — you should make an assessment of where you are spiritually.
      • As a friend used to say, “If you’re constantly taking your pulse, you’ve lost the use of one hand.”

The covenant

  • READ 15:7
  • READ 15:8
  • READ 15:9–11
  • God is getting ready to answer Abram’s question.
  • READ 15:12–14
  • READ 15:15–16
  • So here is God’s promise to Abram spelled out in some detail. This is what is going to happen through the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
  • ASK How long is it going to take for God to fulfill the promise to Abram? (400 years)
  • ASK Will everything that happens in that 400 years be good? (Of course not: slavery and mistreatment)
  • ASK When they leave the land they have been slaves in, will they just go off to die in the desert? (No, they will come out with “great possessions”)
  • ASK What is another reason for the delay? (So the sins of the Amorites will be complete)
    • Will God judge the Amorites unjustly? (No. They will deserve their punishment.)

The guarantee

  • READ 15:17
  • And I thought the visions Ezekiel had were weird.
  • What’s going on here?
    • Fire & smoke: The same things God led the people of Israel with when they exited Egypt.
    • But why the parade between the cut-up animals?
    • READ Jeremiah 34:18: “And the men who transgressed my covenant and did not keep the terms of the covenant that they made before me, I will make them like the calf that they cut in two and passed between its parts.”
    • This idea of passing through the animals to make a sign of the covenant was deeply ingrained in all the cultures around, i.e., not just the descendants of Abram.
      • Ruth said it to Naomi when she promised go with her — and Ruth wasn’t an Israelite. (Ruth 1:17)
      • Solomon said it when he had just been coronated and one of his brothers was positioning himself as a rival to the throne. (1 Kings 2:23)
      • Even Jezebel said it, swearing by her false gods when she swore to kill Elijah (1 Kings 19:2)
    • What God is saying when the torch and the smoking oven pass between the carcasses is, “This is so serious that if it does not come to pass, I will be cut up like these animals.
    • This is God committing himself to the path along which all the familiies of the whole world (12:3) will be blessed through a descendant of Abram. ASK Who is this descendant of Abram? (Jesus)
  • SAY This is how we know God keeps his promise to save us: He has staked his own life on it.
  • SAY And to love us, Jesus took the punishment for our sins on himself, so that, like Abraham, we can be counted righteous by grace, through faith.

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