International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday December 11, 2011
Scripture Text: Genesis 15:1-6, 12-18 (NRSV)
Purpose: To learn to trust God will deliver on his promises on his schedule
(1)After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” (2)But Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” (3)And Abram said, “You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.” (4)But the word of the LORD came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.” (5)He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” (6)And he believed the LORD; and the LORD reckoned it to him as righteousness.
(12)As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him. (13)Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know this for certain, that your offspring shall be aliens in a land that is not theirs, and shall be slaves there, and they shall be oppressed for four hundred years; (14)but I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. (15)As for yourself, you shall go to your ancestors in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. (16)And they shall come back here in the fourth generation; for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” (17)When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. (18)On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates,
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
Abram finds himself in a place a lot of us come to. We doubt God's ability to deliver on His promises. He has been promised a great multitude of offspring, but so far the only offspring in his household is from a slave that was picked up in Damascus, as he journeyed to this land that God had promised him. Furthermore, both him and his wife were at an age where child bearing seems very unlikely.
As our minds wander at what the LORD told Abram, we wonder what if Abram had believed from the start and NOT used Sarai's slave Hagar, and Ishmael had never been born. Or was that the LORD'S plan all along, two great nations of people from the loins of Abram? I guess there is always the question of whether it is God's will, or does God allow things outside of His will to happen?
In our modern day environment, I doubt Abram or Sarai would be rebuked for taking some initiative in trying within their own power to achieve what God had promised. Waiting on God is never easy, it is sort of liking wanting a new car, but not being willing to save in advance; we want the car now and are more than willing to pay the interest to a bank in order to get it now. Abram and Sarai doubted the LORD's ability to deliver on His promise, so a price is paid. Unfortunately just as we have been blessed through Abram's descendents we are also troubled by descendents of Ishmael that claim Abram as their father and despise both Jew and Christian today.
Not sure if the next part of our lesson comes from the foreseen disobedience or if that was God's plan all along. Abram's descendants would encounter trouble in the future that would last for four hundred years. That of course was the slavery in Egypt that Moses would lead them out of. One cannot help but wonder what kind of a world we would live in today if Abram had waited on the LORD.
God's has a plan for each of us, when we deviate from that plan or fail to listen, God works around our failure, but He is always trying to get us back to a place where He can reveal Himself to us anew; if not through Abraham, Isaac or Jacob, then through Joseph and Moses, then David and eventually through the Christ Child. “God's will be done on earth as it is in Heaven” sounds simple enough, if only we believed.
You might note that the very last part of our lesson has been fulfilled, that the descendents of Abram, do occupy that land between Egypt and the Euphrates, but not the descendants of Isaac, they have but a small piece of that ground.