International Sunday School Lesson for October 6, 2013
Scripture Text: Genesis 15:7-21
Purpose: To imagine what God promises for our future
Background: Genesis 12:1-7; 13; 15:7-21; 17:8
Genesis 15:7-21 (CEB)
7 He said to Abram, "I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land as your possession."
8 But Abram said, "Lord God, how do I know that I will actually possess it?"
9 He said, "Bring me a three-year-old female calf, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a dove, and a young pigeon." 10 He took all of these animals, split them in half, and laid the halves facing each other, but he didn’t split the birds. 11 When vultures swooped down on the carcasses, Abram waved them off. 12 After the sun set, Abram slept deeply. A terrifying and deep darkness settled over him.
13 Then the Lord said to Abram, "Have no doubt that your descendants will live as immigrants in a land that isn’t their own, where they will be oppressed slaves for four hundred years. 14 But after I punish the nation they serve, they will leave it with great wealth. 15 As for you, you will join your ancestors in peace and be buried after a good long life.16 The fourth generation will return here since the Amorites’ wrongdoing won’t have reached its peak until then."
17 After the sun had set and darkness had deepened, a smoking vessel with a fiery flame passed between the split-open animals. 18 That day the Lord cut a covenant with Abram: "To your descendants I give this land, from Egypt’s river to the great Euphrates, 19 together with the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites."
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
When was the last time you and God were in a discussion and you questioned His promises? God had made several promises to Abram when he brought him out of Ur and Haran.
Abraham had been obedient to God’s call on his life and moved his family and all of his possessions to this new land. Now after several years and wars with local kings Abraham was growing skeptical about the heritage that God had promised. He and Sarah his wife were growing old, it was 25 years ago that God had promised and heir, now he was approaching 100 and Sarah 90. Abraham decides to take matters into his own hand and adopts his household servant Eliezer, a man from Damascus. Certainly Abraham had been obedient in most areas, although he did lie about Sarah being his sister, in order to save his own life in Egypt. Eliezer would be the one who could be a father to a great nation.
You can not blame Abraham for his unbelief, it had been some time and still God had not provided a son for Abraham and Sarah. Abraham is quick to point this out to God Gen. 15:2 But Abram said, "Lord God, what can you possibly give me, since I still have no children? The head of my household is Eliezer, a man from Damascus." 3 He continued, "Since you haven’t given me any children, the head of my household will be my heir." To Abraham this seemed like a solution to the problem. I am sure he felt like he was letting God off the hook.
Now, it did not take God long to reply to this proclamation by Abraham, Gen 15:4 The Lord’s word came immediately to him, "This man will not be your heir. Your heir will definitely be your very own biological child." 5 Then he brought Abram outside and said, "Look up at the sky and count the stars if you think you can count them. He continued, "This is how many children you will have." 6 Abram trusted the Lord, and the Lord recognized Abram’s high moral character.
The above encounter takes place just prior to our lesson text. Abraham is still expressing some doubts about God’s ability to deliver on His promises. God’s response was an act of worship for Abraham to carry out. The commands were very specific. Abraham's obedience was challenged once more, but he obeyed in every detail. That shows the quality of Abraham’s faith, and His faith is counted as righteousness.
Even after the sacrifice was arranged as God had instructed, it was still necessary for Abraham to fight off the vultures that tried to ruin the covenant. That reminds me that faith sometime requires us to do our part, in order for God to do His part. The Lord God reassured Abraham about his posterity, and the amount of time that will be required for His promises and covenant to become fact. The geographical boundaries would not come to pass until David and Solomon’s united kingdoms, some 1500 years later.
The question becomes for me, is my faith strong enough to confront God about His promises? And am I willing to fight off the vultures until God reveals himself to me? I agree with Thomas Aquinas who said, “To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible. I urge you to get close enough to have a dialog with God.