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To the Descendants of Abram: Genesis 15:7–21

Saturday, September 28, 2013, 6:00
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To the Descendants of Abram

October 6, 2013

Lesson: Genesis 15:7–21

Key Verse: Genesis 15:18

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Introduction

We, as members of the Body of Christ, are being built up in Christ in righteousness, truth, and justice. We are dying to sin and developing a moral character that is ‘like’ Christ’s: “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night” (Ps. 1:1–2). The covenant of our Lord, given to Abraham, is carried out in the generations of today. True Christians are those who listen to the Word of God; and by the Spirit they are enabled to obey that Word, and therefore worship God as He so demands. Those who are sanctified in the righteousness of Christ are whose character and walk is that of the moral law of Jehovah. Wisdom teaches us that we are to “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). This is the child whose heart and soul are being made new, whose quality of life is becoming an honor to the King of kings. The King’s law reveals what the true character of the Christian is, whose behavior reveals the image of his Creator and Savior. Our Lord speaks of the moral character of his servant Abraham, saying, “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord” (Gen. 18:19). We are to be witnesses to the Gospel, that our children and children’s may hear the good news of Christ. Taught by the Holy Spirit from generation to generation, truth, righteousness, and justice are the marks of those whose moral lives are being tested and molded by the Law of Jehovah;

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Abram Believed God—Genesis 15:7–11

The Lord spoke to Abram, confirming his faith by having him remember the blessings he has received by His hand: “And (the Lord) said unto him, I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it.” The Lord, by His covenant, establishes a place of habitation, both for His people and for Himself. By establishing a place on earth for His people, God establishes the reality that His people will always have a place. He further establishes the reality of people that belong to Him, in declaring that He will abide with them forever. Paul writes to the congregation of Ephesus: “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone; in whom all the building is fitly framed together groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit” (Eph. 2:19–22).

Abram spoke to the Lord, asking for confirmation of His promise. Our Lord’s patience with us is overwhelming. May our faith in Christ be nurtured by the Spirit and all that will hear accept His Word without a measure of doubt. Abram desired to know for sure God’s promise: “whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?” Our Lord is patient with His people that their faith may be strengthened, whereby He will give us a good measure of understanding of His Word. Abram’s faith was built upon the instructions that the Lord gave him in the past. God did not give him a sign that contained objects with which he was not familiar.

“And he said unto him, ’Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.’” (Genesis 15:9). According to the Law, Abram began to set apart the animals for sacrifice before God, “and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another.” Matthew Henry wrote, “We do not read that God gave Abram particular directions how to manage these beasts and fowls, knowing that he was so well versed in the law and custom of sacrifices that he needed not any particular directions; or perhaps instructions were given him, which he carefully observed, thought they are not recorded: at least it was intimated to him that they must be prepared for the solemnity of ratifying a covenant; and he well knew the manner of preparing them. Abram took as God appointed him, though as yet he knew not how these things should become a sign to him. This was not the first instance of Abram’s implicit obedience. He divided the beasts in the midst, according to the ceremony used in confirming covenants, Jer. 34:18, where it is said, They cut the calf in twain, and passed between the parts.

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Discussion: How was Abram’s faith both encouraged and tested?

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The Seed of Abram—Genesis 15:12–16

The Lord spoke to Abram in the way of a dream: “And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram: and, lo, a horror of great darkness fell upon him. And (the Lord) said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them, and they shall afflict them four hundred years. And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.” Darkness is used of the Lord to keep Abram’s attention on the answer He is to give, that he may be assured that what God has promised He will keep: a surety that Abram’s seed will forever be in God’s care. Though judgment will come upon God’s people for their transgressions there will be a time when God’s longsuffering will reveal His marvelous grace, and, therefore, His deliverance. Four hundred years was a long time; however, God’s people had to be brought to recognize the depth of their transgression. Matthew Henry wrote that “The suffering state of Abram’s seed for a long time, (Gen. 15:13). Let not Abram flatter himself with the hopes of nothing but honour and prosperity in his family; no, he must know, of a surety, that which he was loth to believe, that the promised seed should be a persecuted seed. Note, God sends the worst first; we must first suffer, and then reign. He also lets us know the worst before it comes, that when it comes it may not be a surprise to us, (John 16:4).”

The Lord further taught Abram: “And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge; and afterward shall they come out with great substance. And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.” The heathen nation that will be a tool in the hand of the Lord for judgment toward His people, they will be judged and the people will know deliverance. Abram will know peace by living to “a good old age.” However, full deliverance for the people will not come until the Amorites will be judged for their iniquity. “The judging of the church’s enemies is God’s work: I will judge. God can do it, for he is the Lord; he will do it, for he is his people’s God, and he has said, Vengeance in mine, I will repay” (M. Henry). When Israel was delivered from Egypt, they came out “with great substance.” It is good to leave both the deliverance and care in the hand of the Lord.

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Discussion: How did the Lord give assurance to the faith of Abram?

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The Covenant Confirmed—Genesis 15:17–21

The Covenant between the Lord and Abram is further confirmed: “And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces.” M. Henry gives us this understanding: “The passing of the burning lamp confirmed the Covenant God had made. God continually persuades us that His promises are kept, that He is able to perform all that He has covenanted with His people. God’s promises are God’s gifts, and are so to be accounted. The possession is as sure, in due time, as if it were now actually delivered to them. What God has promised is as sure as if it were already done; hence, it is said, He that believes hath everlasting life (John 3:36), for he shall as surely go to heaven as if he were there already.”

Abram was assured of God’s covenant promises in receiving a place on earth, something he can touch: “In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: the Kenites, and the Keniszites, and the Kadmonites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Jebusites.” The Lord gives to His people a taste of that which is eternal and heavenly while they are on earth. There will always be a place on earth on which His people will dwell eternally. “The land granted is here described in its utmost extent because it was to be a type of the heavenly inheritance, where there is room enough: in our father’s house are many mansions. The present occupants are named, because their number, and strength, and long prescription, should be no hindrance to the accomplishment of this promise in its season, and to magnify God’s love to Abram and his seed, in giving to that one nation the possessions of many nations, so precious were they in his sight, and so honourable (Isa. 43:4)” (M. Henry).

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Discussion: How does God confirm His covenant to His people?

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Lessons are based on the International Sunday School Lessons for Christian Teaching, copyright © 2013 by the Committee on the Uniform Series.

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