For the O.T. Lesson 4, Abraham (40 minutes), click on the button:


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Hold on! This is a lot of material...  and the pace is brisk!

Hebrew words:

  • Avram (Abram) -- great (exalted) father
  • Avraham (Abraham) -- sounds like "father of many" (Ab[ram]-hamon)
  • Avram and Avraham are mentioned 345 times in the Bible:
    • He appears not only in Genesis 11-25, but also in Exodus-Joshua, 1 Kings-2 Chronicles, Nehemiah, Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Malachi.
    • He also appears in Acts, Romans, 2 Corinthians, Hebrews, James, and 1 Peter.
  • Sarah -- princess. (Note: in Genesis 11:29-17:15, she is Sarai, or "my princess.")
  • Yishma'el (Ishmael) -- "God hears" -- a natural response when at age 86 Abraham finally became a father.

Abraham, the man of faith:

  1. Faith keeps moving (Genesis 12)!
    1. Though the main application is to moving spiritually, still the question remains: Have I ever moved for spiritual reasons? How willing am I to step out of my comfort zone -- even literally stepping out?
    2. We go forward, or we go backward! Am I stepping out in faith?
    3. Where am I, spiritually?
      1. Ur? Spending time with worldly people, in worldly activities? Holding back?
      2. Haran? Gone only part-way to the faithful life God has called me to? In a compromise position?
      3. Canaan? Gone all the way? Delighting in radical decisions, willing to push myself, open to taking risks?
  2. Faith embraces God's promises.
    • The Triple Promise (Genesis 12:1ff):
      • Land -- fulfilled in Joshua 21:43.
      • Nation -- fulfilled in the Exodus. See Exodus 14; 19:6.
      • Spiritual -- fulfilled in Jesus Christ. See Psalm 117, Zechariah 8, Isaiah 49:6, etc.
      • This is a key passage for biblical study.
      • The theme of the whole Pentateuch (Genesis-Deuteronomy) is thepartial fulfillment of these promises.
    • Some N.T. promises:
      • 1 Corinthians 10:13; John 15:16; Mark 11:24; Matthew 28:20.
      • And many more!
  3. Faith acknowledges a higher order (Genesis 14).
    • Melchizedek was a priest and king entirely outside the visible people of God. He was "above" Abraham in that he received the tithe from him and he himself (the greater) blessed Abraham (the lesser).
    • In this respect Melchizedek was like the Messiah. See Psalm 110 and Hebrews 7.
    • He is also someone "outside the system" who is clearly in a right relationship with God.
  4. Faith believes the unbelievable (Genesis 15).
    • His faith is credited as righteousness even before he has been circumcised.
      • Paul bases his argument on justification by faith (Romans 4) on this point.
      • Note: This in no way means that circumcision (old covenant) or baptism (new covenant) was optional.
    • This does not mean a perfect faith.
      • Abraham tried to take short-cuts on more than one occasion (Genesis 15:2; 17:18).
      • Furthermore, on two occasions Abraham told a lie -- or, technically, a half-truth (12:13; 20:2).
    • Do we believe the unbelievable? For example, that we can change (1 Corinthians 6:9-11), or that this world will some day come to an end (2 Peter 3)?
  5. Faith is quick to obey (Genesis 17).
    • Psalm 119:60.
    • Don't procrastinate (procrastinare = Latin: pro [for] + cras [tomorrow)!
  6. Faith is authentic (18:25).
    • As Sodom and Gomorrah are about to be judged, Abraham cannot conceive of an unfair God. (Also, his relative Lot is there.)
    • For more on models of authentic prayer, study the Psalms.
  7. Faith trusts God with what is precious (Genesis 22).
    • Although God never accepted human sacrifice, Abraham was being tested. And he passed the test.
    • There are 10 parallels between the sacrifice of Isaac and the sacrifice of Jesus! (See more at the primary website.)
    • His faith and deeds were working together. See James 2:20-24.

In conclusion, to walk in Abraham's footsteps means:

  • To be on the move, and quite possibly lacking financial security.
  • To believe, even when the facts don't paint a pretty picture.
  • To obey, even with only partial understanding.
  • To walk by faith, not fear.
  • To live with a large and low horizon, with expansive hopes for the future.

Further study:

  • Biblical:
    • Romans 4:1-22
    • Hebrews 11:8-19
    • James 2:20-24
    • Sons of Abraham / daughters of Sarah: Matthew 3:9; Luke 1:55, 3:8; 19:9; Galatians 3:7; Hebrews 2:16. Notice that Christians are not necessary sons of Jacob (as the Jews were); perhaps "the Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16) refers only to Jewish Christians, and not to all Christians. For more on this, consult Jim McGuiggan's commentary on Romans.
    • Abraham as the "friend of God": 2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23.
  • Extrabiblical:
    • The Qur'an mentions Abraham in 21 chapters. The Muslim scriptures assume the reader knows who Abraham is; in fact, they assume the validity of the O.T. scriptures.
    • By the way, the Qur'an never says Abraham sacrificed Ishmael. Or Isaac. The son is not specified! The tradition that Ishmael was offered came later (after the origins of Islam in the 7th century).

Some things we learn about God:

  • The Lord will fulfill his promises, but he is in no rush. We get impatient after minutes. With God, decades fly past in the blink of an eye. (See Psalm 90.)
  • The Lord is a Just Judge, who wishes that all choose the right way. See also 1 Timothy 2:4 and Ezekiel 18.
  • Friendship with God is based on our personal willingness to obey.

For kids:

  • Lesson from Genesis 15:5-6 (and, time allowing, 22:1ff). Abraham:
    • Looked up. We get faith when we look up, turning to God, not getting sad about things happening to us down here.
    • Believed God's word. Even though he had no children and was very old, he trusted that God would not let him down.
    • Pleased God. God was very pleased with Abraham when he trusted, and did not give up. Especially since he never saw all the descendants God promised. (Adults: see Hebrews 11:39-40. Children will be addicted to instant gratification unless we train them to wait.)
      • He really believed. He was willing to give back to God what was never really his in the first place (22:1ff).
      • Faith means doing something.
      • Other chapters illustrating this point in Abraham's life: chapter 12 (leaving Haran), 17 (circumcision), 22 (offering Isaac).
  • If your family ever has to make a physical move, use Genesis 12 and compare Abraham's journey of faith with your own relocation. (We have had more than one family devotional sitting on the floor of a vacant house, striving to set our family move in spiritual context!)
  • Click for another children's online Bible study, God Tested Abraham.
  • For parents of step-children or half-siblings:
    • Study the lives of Abraham and his two sons, Ishmael and Isaac (Genesis 16+).
    • What are some of the painful experiences in Ishmael's family background?
    • How do you think Abraham's favoring Ishmael over Isaac affected his family?
    • How does it make you feel to know that many families in Old Testament times were complicated?
    • What perspective does this study yield to make you a better parent?
    • How does it empower you to overcome family dysfunction?

Key verses:

  • 12:3-- All the earth to be blessed through Abraham's seed.
  • 15:6-- Faith is credited as righteousness.
  • 18:25-- Men and women of faith have an implicit trust in God's fairness. Accordingly, prayer is genuine!