The Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 15)

Abraham Study Guide (Week 5)

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.  (Genesis 15:6)

But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. (Romans 4:23-25)

OPENING THOUGHT

We continue to see the man of faith, Abram, grow in his walk with the LORD. Starting out as a worshipper of false gods who was probably considered cursed, Abram trusted God by going wherever He told him to go. Even though we saw Abram show a lack of faith by selling his wife to Pharaoh to save himself, God remained faithful.

Now, after the major military conflict of last week, we see a different side of Abram. He is exhausted and afraid. He’s fearful that God will not follow through with His promise of giving Abram an offspring. Though his questioning of God displays a degree of doubt or lack of faith, God does not chide Abram; instead, the LORD lovingly gives Abram a visual and physical covenant.

This covenant is today called the Abrahamic Covenant. It is one in the series of major promises and agreements that the LORD makes with His beloved people. Through the animal sacrifice, God made an official agreement with Abram, with no conditions on Abram’s part. God took full responsibility for the fulfillment of the covenant. Today, the Abrahamic Covenant reminds us of the New Covenant in Christ. Just as the covenant with Abram was sealed with a sacrifice, the New Covenant was sealed with the ultimate sacrifice, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is only because of that sacrifice that both Abram and us are now counted as righteous.

Read verse 1 and discuss the following.

  1. Following the warfare of chapter 14, Abram is weary and fearful, but God graciously responds by promising to be his shield and reward. Can you remember a time when you were exhausted and anxious? How did the LORD bring you through that time?

Read verses 2-5 and discuss the following.

  1. Abram is honest with God about his frustration of not yet having an offspring. God’s response shows that He is big enough to handle our doubts and questions. What are some doubt or questions that you have wrestled with concerning God? How has the LORD helped you with those things?

Read verse 6 and discuss the following.

  1. Abram had faith in God, and the LORD counted Abram as righteous. How is this a picture of the gospel today?

Read verses 7-11 and discuss the following.

  1. Abram wants visual proof of God’s trustworthiness, and God prepares a covenant ceremony. How is this similar to our observance of Lord’s Supper? How does it relate to the gospel?

Read verses 12-16 and discuss the following.

  1. God warns Abram that his descendants will only inherit the land after much suffering. How does God often use suffering to refine and sanctify His people? Do you have personal examples of this?

Read verses 17-21 and discuss the following.

  1. God alone completes the covenant by walking through the animals, taking the responsibility of upholding the covenant completely upon Himself (as well as the punishment if it is not upheld). How does this allude to the gospel?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Recall Jesus’ death in your place for your breaking of God’s cov­enant. Believe and thank Him for the forgiveness of your sins, whether for the first time or thousandth time.
  • Consider any fears, worries, or doubts. Bring them honestly before God in pray, trusting that He is big enough to handle our questions and doubts.
  • Pray for brothers and sisters to have strength during times of fear, anxiety, and doubt.
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Abraham and Lot (Genesis 13)

Abraham Study Guide (Week 3)

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Then Abram said to Lot, “Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen.” (Genesis 13:8)

The LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever.” (Genesis 13:14-15)

For we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

OPENING THOUGHT

As we enter the second chapter of Abram’s story, we have already seen him show tremendous faith and a moment of faithlessness. He followed God without hesitation, leaving behind his comfort, security, and other gods. Abram trusted that the LORD would continue to bless him, just as He promised. Then we read that Abram showed a stunning lack of faith by resorting to deception in order to save himself. He traded his wife to Pharaoh rather than trust the provision of God. Abram has shown both faith and the lack thereof, while God remains continuously faithful.

Now we will read about Abram acting in faith once again. When the lack of space causes strife between the herdsmen of Abram and Lot, Abram easily could have forced his nephew to find another place to call home; however, he graciously allows Lot to have first choice of the land. Lot chooses the alluring Jordan Valley, while Abram goes into Canaan. Here, we see two drastically different behaviors between the two men. Lot acted upon his sight. He saw that the land was beautiful; therefore, he took it. Abram, however, waited upon the LORD. God tells Abram to look upon the land and to trust that it will belong to his offspring.

Abram walked by faith; Lot walked by sight. They each represent the only two ways of living life: operating upon our own wants and desires or upon the will of God. C. S. Lewis said it well: “There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘All right, then, have it your way.’” Which are you?

Read verses 1-4 and discuss the following.

  1. After being faithless in Egypt, God brings Abram back to the altar he built in Bethel. This signified a new beginning for Abram. Can you recall a time when God took you back to the start of something in life because your process had been in the wrong direction?

Read verses 5-7 and discuss the following.

  1. Because of the increasing wealth of Abram and Lot, the land could no longer support both of them. Can you recall moments when success or abundance led to conflict?

Read verses 8-13 and discuss the following.

  1. Lot chose the Jordan Valley because of its visual beauty; however, we know that it was near the evil city of Sodom, which God would eventually destroy. Are there things that you have found appealing that are ultimately destructive? How is sin always a bait-and-switch?
  2. Abram submitted the choice of land to Lot, knowing that God would still provide. Have you ever similarly yielded in a conflict, trusting God to work things out?

Read verses 14-18 and discuss the following.

  1. Abram yields to Lot, trusting God to bless him, and the LORD is faithful to care for him. Can you remember a time when you trusted the LORD in a situation and witnessed His provision?
  2. Abram responded to God’s word by worshipping. Do you regularly worship God in response to His faithfulness toward you? How does the gospel lead us to worshipping everyday?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Consider times when you have walked by faith and when you walked by sight. Thank the LORD for His faithfulness during both types of seasons.
  • Commit to praying for yourself and other brothers and sisters for deeper walks of faith in Christ.
  • Consider how you worship each day in response to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Pray for a deeper gratitude, expressed through worship, for the grace that God has given.

The Failure of Abraham (Genesis 12:10-20)

Abraham Study Guide (Week 2)

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. (Genesis 12:10)

But the LORD afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. (Genesis 12:17)

If we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.  (2 Timothy 2:13)

OPENING THOUGHT

Last week, we read how Abram came to know the LORD. Though he was originally a cursed pagan, God spoke to him, giving him a command and a promise. God told Abram to go to a land that God would show him and that He would bless Abram greatly. Trusting the LORD, Abram obeyed, not knowing where God would take him. Thus, Abram displayed great faith in God. He simply trusted the LORD and left behind the security and comfort of his extended family.

Because Abram showed such astounding faith already, it is difficult for us to imagine things going south for him, especially as quickly as they do. In this section of Scripture, we read that God brings Abram to a new land only to face a severe famine. The famine causes Abram to journey into Egypt. Out of fear for his own life, Abram deceives the Egyptians into believing that Sarai is not his wife. This means that within the same chapter of Abram showing great faith in the LORD, he also sells his wife to Pharaoh in order to save his own skin.

It is shocking to see Abram sin so quickly after following the LORD, yet Bible never shies away from people’s sin. It repeatedly makes it clear that our “heroes” of the faith were deeply flawed and sinful people. If we read the Bible as a book of morality lessons and fables, accounts such as this will be hard to understand. However, if we realize that the only true hero of the Bible is God, then we will begin to see how vast the grace of God truly is! Simply put, we are no different than Abram. Each of us has moments of failure and success during our walk with God. Fortunately, “if we are faithless, he remains faithful.” In Christ, we have grace, even in the midst of our sins and failures.

Read verse 10 and answer discuss the following.

  • Seemingly immediately after faithfully beginning his walk with God, Abram find himself in a new land, facing a severe famine. Have you faced a similar hardship (perhaps one that came while you were faithfully obeying God as well)? Can you recall evidence of God’s faithfulness during that time?

Read verses 11-13 and discuss the following. 

  • Abram plotted to deceive the Egyptians using his wife. Because no one sins in isolation, we always hurt someone else by sinning. Consider some of the ways that your sin has negatively impacted others around you.
  • We learn in Genesis 20:12 that Abram wasn’t technically lying because Sarai was his half-sister. Are half-truths (or white lies) any less sinful than blatant falsehoods? Why or why not.

Read verses 14-16 and discuss the following.  

  • Abram’s deception works perfectly, and things go well with him because he sold his wife to Pharaoh. Do prosperity or good fortune always indicate God’s approval? Have you ever sinned and seemingly prospered from it rather than being punished?

Read verse 17 and discuss the following. 

  • God faithfully intervened into Abram’s affairs by keeping his promise to Abram. Can you recall a specific time in your life when God worked faithfully even though you were faithless?

Read verses 18-20 and discuss the following. 

  • By grace, Abram leaves Egypt wealthier than when he entered, even though he sinned. He was blessed rather than punished. How is this similar to the good news of Jesus?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Consider some of the sinful failures in your life. Take some time to thank God specifically for the grace given during those times.
  • Commit to pray for faithfulness and grace in the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Did Homosexuality Cause the Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah?

Since I will be preaching Genesis 19 this week, it seems like a great time to discuss the reason for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Often, this chapter of the Bible is used as a warning text against the sinfulness of homosexuality as many view homosexuality as the primary cause for its desolation. But is that accurate? Was homosexuality really the foundation for Sodom’s annihilation?

Land of the Free, Home of Extremes

In discussing this topic, it is important to understand that there exist two equally common, erroneous, but also opposing answers to the proposed question.

First, let us view the negative answer to the question, which asserts that Sodom was not destroyed because of homosexuality. To support this claim, some will argue that the men of Sodom did not practice homosexuality at all; rather, God judged Sodom for being inhospitable to travelers. Such belief can only be supported via a grandiose reinterpreting of Genesis 19. It is clearly present in the text that the men of Sodom were intent on having sex with the two angels that were visiting Lot. Others, however, will admit that the Sodomites practiced homosexuality but claim that God did not judge such as sin. Instead, God judged Sodom for various other sins, like rape, pride, and gluttony. Because they refuse to hold homosexuality as a sin, they reinterpret the Bible to support their wants and desires.

On the other hand, some people will answer the question in the affirmative, claiming that God did destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because of their homosexual practices. To some degree, there really is not a problem with this answer until you begin to dig down into the subtext beneath it. Many people would answer the question in this manner, but the underlying presumption would be that Sodom was only, or primarily, destroyed because of homosexuality. This is where we must take care. Though the Bible clearly declares homosexuality to be sinful, it was not exclusively the sin for which Sodom was judged. We must be equally careful not to reinterpret Scripture into saying something that it never meant to say.

Though both of these answers are on the opposite end of the spectrum, they can be equally incorrect in how they interpret the Bible. For many, changing the meaning of something that is blatantly stated is clearly wrong, but few recognize the subtle danger of misplaced emphasis. Thus, in order to develop a proper answer to the question, we must consider what the Bible claims the sin of Sodom to be.

The Sins of Sodom

As we discuss what the Bible calls the sins of Sodom, I would turn your attention primarily to Genesis 19 and Ezekiel 16:49-50. These texts most clearly show the transgressions of Sodom and Gomorrah.

1. Homosexuality & Sexual Immorality

Here is the most obvious and most discussed of Sodom’s sins. Despite what some may claim, the Bible definitively declares homosexuality to be a sin. By this point, the biblical arguments for why it is sin have already been done by people who are much more studied than I. Yet for the sake of covering bases, let me present the evidence with much brevity. Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 both specifically state the sinfulness of homosexuality. As for the New Testament, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Timothy 1:10, and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 all directly mention homosexuality as a sin. The greatest claim, of course, is that Jesus affirmed marriage to be between one man and one woman, citing Genesis 2 in His reasoning.[1]

Yet in the discussion of homosexuality, we often overlook another grievous sexual sin that Sodom was guilty of: rape and abuse. To be fair, we are never explicitly told that the men of Sodom ever raped anyone; however, because of their bloodthirsty desire for the two angels in Genesis 19, we can logically assume that such behavior was not abnormal for them. It perplexes me that the Sodomites were so clearly desiring to violate the angels, yet the topic of rape is rarely discussed from said text. Sodom was guilty of a plethora of sexual sin, including rape and homosexuality. It is wrong to think of Sodom as being a “free love” hippy-ish society where love abounded for anyone and anything… until God came along and ruined their fun. Instead, the Bible portrays Sodom as a city full of predators hungry for victims.

2. Lack of Hospitality

This one may sound strange to us, but hospitality is a biblical command. Leviticus 19:34 states, “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” In the New Testament, Peter commands us to “show hospitality to one another without grumbling.”[2] Paul urges us to “contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”[3] Furthermore, elders and deacons are required to be hospitable in leading the church.[4] Because hospitality is a friendly and generous reception of visitors or strangers, who should be more inclined to hospitality than those to whom God has been exceedingly generous? God, therefore, expects hospitality to flow from His people since the lack of hospitality signifies a lack of love. Once again, the Bible does not explicitly state that Sodom lacked hospitality; however, it is evident by their treatment of the two angels in Genesis 19. Or to put it another way, attempted rape is certainly not a means of showing hospitality.

3. Pride

We now move into sins that are not seen in Genesis 19 but are explicitly stated in Ezekiel 16. The first is pride. Sinful pride occurs when we value ourselves too highly. The book of Proverbs repeatedly warns about the dangers of being prideful.[5] In his book Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis even goes so far as to claim that pride is the great sin. But why is pride so bad? Ultimately, pride is sin because it is a form of idolatry. In being prideful, we essentially worship ourselves or give ourselves credit rather than God. Pride is about usurping the glory of God. We are often proud because we long for glory; specifically, we long for God’s glory. In fact, the first sin within the Bible was a sin of pride. The serpent deceived Eve into eating the fruit because he said that upon eating it she would be like God. Sodom apparently was no different.

4. Gluttony

The people of Sodom were guilty of being gluttons. In my opinion, this is likely the great sleeping sin of the United States. Throughout the Bible, gluttony is considered a serious transgression. Proverbs declares, “And put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite”[6] and “Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.”[7] We often have no problem with calling drunkenness or drug usage a sin; however, the Bible frequently mentions gluttons in the same category, and alongside, drunkards. Both gluttony and drunkenness are matters of self-control, which is a fruit of the Spirit for Christians.[8] Though over-consumption of food is primarily of the body, it reveals the heart. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:12, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be dominated by anything.” Food itself is not a sin. After all, God created flavors and taste buds for enjoying food, yet being mastered by food or eating to excess certainly is sin.

5. Prosperous Ease, Without Aiding the Poor and Needy

Ezekiel’s final item in Sodom’s list of sins is quite interesting. He claims that the Sodomites had “prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.” Evidently, Sodom was a very wealthy city. The end of Genesis 14 gives us a hint of the city’s wealth when the king of Sodom offers the treasures of the city to Abraham. Of course, wealth, similar to food, is not innately sinful. Throughout the Bible, we find a wide range of people who were quite rich; however, we must notice carefully the qualifying statement: “but did not aid the poor and needy.” God was not angry at Sodom because they were rich but because they did nothing to help the poor and needy with their riches. The subject of aiding the poor is common to the Bible. Proverbs 14:31 states, “Whoever oppresses the poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.” Jesus even claims that how we treat the least around us is how we treat Him.[9] Each person is made in the image of God and, therefore, valuable. Though prosperity is not a sin, failing to use our prosperity to aid the poor and needy certainly is.

The End of the Matter

So let’s revisit the original question in order to provide a definitive answer. Did homosexuality cause the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah? Yes, but it was far from being the only reason. They were rapists, gluttons, proud, inhospitable, and stingy as well. We would also do well to understand that God used Sodom as an example for the seriousness of sin.[10] They did not need to commit a multitude of sin to deserve God’s wrath. Gluttony, pride, homosexuality, or any other lone sin was enough to separate them from God, and the chances are that each of us has committed at least one of the sins listed above. We, therefore, have no moral high ground on Sodom. We only have Christ, the One who has taken the punishment for all of our sins. So when considering Sodom, let us be thankful for the mercy and grace of God in sparing us from Sodom’s fate.

[1] Mark 10:2-12

[2] 1 Peter 4:9

[3] Romans 12:13

[4] 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8

[5] Proverbs 16:5; 16:18; 29:23

[6] Proverbs 23:2

[7] Proverbs 23:20-21

[8] Galatians 5:23

[9] Matthew 25:40

[10] Jude 7