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Abraham (Part 1)

The Bible doesn’t work like a Facebook highlight reel or a Greatest Hits album. When you read the Bible, you get to see the Truth – the good, the bad and the ugly.

greatesthits

 

Abraham accomplished a little of each while he was on earth.

He became the Father of Many Nations after God called him out of his homeland with the promise of a new land and many children. Abraham displayed great faith in his journey, but it wasn’t without some bumps in the road.

Genesis 12:1-4 (NIV)
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

2 “I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”

4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran.

God got Abraham’s attention when he was 75 years old and still living at home with his parents. God told Abraham to leave his father’s household and go to the land that He would give him, the land where all of his descendants would live.

The cool thing is that Abraham left home!

The crazy thing is that he was 75 years old and childless.

But Abraham decided to trust God and set out on the journey of a lifetime.

So far the story of Abraham and his wife, Sarah, had been about infertility, but they were willing to see what God was going to do with the next chapter of their story.

God made a promise to Abraham that he would be the father of many. He told him to go out and count the stars if he could, and that would be how many descendants Abraham would have.

Abraham was chosen to be the father of the Hebrew Nation, the Jewish people, who would come to also be known as the Israelites, but first he would endure some waiting and wondering.

Waiting and Wondering

On the journey away from home, Abraham wondered if maybe God’s promise about being the father of many didn’t include a natural born son. Maybe it meant he would leave his inheritance to a faithful servant who was like a son.

So God made the promise a little more clear.

Genesis 15:4-6 (NIV)
4 Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” 5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

God assured Abraham that he would have a son – his own flesh and blood, and God had already promised to give him land as well, land that his son would inherit. These were two valuable promises to a man providing for his wife and hoping for a son to carry on the family name.

Ten years later, and still not pregnant, Sarah wondered if maybe she could assist God in fulfilling His promise to Abraham. She came up with a desperate idea that would make Abraham a baby daddy.

Genesis 16:1-2 (NIV)
Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; 2 so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”

Abram agreed to what Sarai said.

Sarah hoped that Hagar could produce a son for Abraham. It was a common practice at the time, but it wasn’t a God-honoring practice.

Abraham quickly and quietly married Hagar, and they conceived a child. This was Sarah’s plan, and it worked, but do you think it made her happy?

Genesis 16:3-5 (NIV)
3 So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. 4 He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.

When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. 5 Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.”

Sarah quickly realized her mistake. But rather than repenting and dealing with the reality of the mess she made, she became jealous of Hagar. Her resentment and hatred built up, and she pointed the finger at Abraham and tightened her fist against Hagar.

Abraham and Sarah both took their eyes off God.

They took their eyes off the promise, and in the process they brought hostility to their home, divided their marriage, and forgot to value Hagar as a child of God.

Hagar decided to leave the whole mess. (Can you blame her?) She ran to the desert, pregnant and alone. But God saw her and heard her crying. He spoke a blessing over her baby boy, and Hagar found enough strength from Abraham and Sarah’s God to go back home and give birth to Ishmael. His name means “God hears.”

More Waiting

Thirteen years later, in the middle of this mess, God got Abraham’s attention again.

Genesis 17:1-5 (NIV)
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. 2 Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”

3 Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, 4 “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5 No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.

God gave him a new name. (I’ve been calling him Abraham all along, but his name was originally Abram.) God changed his name from Abram, “exalted father” to Abraham, “father of many.”

God gave Sarah a new name, too. Up to this point, she may have been feeling a bit invisible, maybe even forgotten by God.

He kept speaking to Abraham, not to her.
She was still childless, although I’m sure she prayed for a child for over 50 years.
God allowed her servant to become pregnant and have a baby boy.
Her name, Sarai, means “quarrelsome,” which is exactly how she was feeling.

But God gave Sarai her new name, His blessing and His promise for her.

Genesis 17:15-16 (NIV)
15 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”

Her Name: Sarah means “princess of many”
Her Blessing: She will become a mother of kings
Her Promise: She will become pregnant and have Abraham’s baby – a baby boy!

God clarified the promise and breathed hope back into Abraham & Sarah’s story.

Genesis 17:17-19 (NIV)
17 Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”

19 Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.

I’m sure Abraham wanted to trust God in this, but instead, he laughed, and so did Sarah.  God named their promised son Isaac which means “he laughs.”

Genesis 18:14 (NIV)
“Is anything too hard for the Lord?”

I love that God asked this question.

Throughout Bible Basics, I encourage you to ask yourself questions while reading the Bible.

– What do you learn about God?
– What do you learn about yourself and your relationship with God?

When you interact with the Bible, the questions go both ways. Sometimes God’s Word will ask a question of you like, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” or “Do you really trust me?”

Chapter 21 tells us how this chapter ends, and while it’s great, it’s not the end of the story.

Genesis 21:1-3 (NIV)
Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. 2 Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. 3 Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him.

This will always be God’s response:

He will do what He has promised. Nothing is too hard for Him.

Bible Lessons, Old Testament, Uncategorized

One Helpful Word about Eve

If you could describe yourself with just one word, what would it be?

just one Word-jamielanedesigns

God uses just one word to describe the first woman in Genesis 2, but what He has to say about Adam before Eve was created gives insight into the one word He chooses.

Only once in the Creation story does God declare that “it is NOT GOOD.” After 6 consecutive days of creating and declaring, “it was good,” God forms the first man with His own hands and then declares, “it is not good for the man to be alone.”

Before God created the first woman, He was pleased with how His creation turned out. He formed the earth and sky, and then He filled them up. Everything was made to fulfill a purpose, and that was good.

So it is a stark contrast for God to declare that something is “NOT GOOD.”

Genesis 2:18 (NIV)
The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Adam needed a “helper.” Some Bible translations say, “helpmeet,” but what does that word even mean?

You’re already learning to ask two important questions in Bible study:
What do I learn about God?
What do I learn about myself & my relationship with God?

Another valuable question in Bible study is:
What does this word mean? What did it mean in the original text?

The Old Testament text was written in Hebrew, so it can be helpful to use a resource like www.blueletterbible.org where you can search the meaning of a specific word.

Helper = EZER

The Hebrew word for “helper” here is ezer (ay’-zer), and it’s worth looking into how it’s used in the Bible:

Ezer describes Eve’s role as helper in Genesis 2.

Ezer also describes God’s role as Israel’s strong helper in times of trouble. It’s used 16 times in the Old Testament; here’s one example: Deuteronomy 33:29.

Ezer is also used as a powerful Hebrew military word meaning warrior.

It makes sense that God would use military language to describe Eve’s role and to mobilize her into action. God created Eve with a mission.

Continue reading “One Helpful Word about Eve”

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Think like a Beginner

Bible Basics started when I met a group of friends who wanted to study the Bible but weren’t sure where to begin.  When it came to looking up a book, chapter and verse, they felt lost.  Weekend sermons left them confused when the pastor would refer to a Bible story “everyone knows,” but they weren’t familiar with it.  They were unsure about a lot of things, but they hadn’t found a safe place to seek help.  When it came to Bible study, they were beginners.

So I offered a 4-day boot camp to do sort of a crash course in Bible basics.  This Bible Basics Boot Camp turned out to be a fun way to develop their muscles when it came to lifting the Sword of God’s Word  (Hebrews 4:12), and it launched a study that now meets once a week.

I have a heart for beginners.

I have a heart for beginners.  I taught middle school Language Arts for a while. It could never compare to teaching true beginners in a kindergarten class, but a student’s first year of middle school is a year that feels like starting over with locker combinations, changing hormones, new friendships and insecurities about whether or not school is cool anymore.  Middle school students are their own brand of beginners who are so much fun to teach when you treat them with respect like they’re in high school but give them grace like they’re still in elementary school.  My job as their teacher was to get them all caught up on grammar and writing skills so that they could be confident as they progressed through school.

So I thought about these ladies as beginners when it came to Bible study, and I determined to help get them all caught up.  There are some basic truths and Bible stories that everyone assumes all Christians already know, like the 10 Commandments or the Lord’s Prayer.  But some of my new friends didn’t grow up in church, and some of them were never taught to study the Bible on their own.  They were beginning to feel behind with no hope of catching up.  So I took the Bible stories I’d learned through Sunday School songs and flannel graphs, the study tools I’d learned in college, and the experience I’d gained as a teacher and came up with a Bible study that would cover the major Old Testament stories while drawing connections to Jesus in the New Testament.

Bible Basics has become a way to get caught up on Bible stories and study tools that were missed somewhere along the way.  My hope is to help everyone feel comfortable and confident navigating their own Bibles so that they can get closer to Jesus.  I think Jesus has a heart for beginners, too.  He spent most of His ministry years teaching 12 friends who weren’t sure where to begin, but who were willing to follow Him and learn from Him.