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Bible Study

Genesis 15 – Questions and Answers

April 26, 2019

Thank you for studying the Word of God with me. Please join me in prayer for a moment, but then I urge you to continue a prayer of your own. Father, I ask that your powerful message from this passage will soak into our hearts today and fill us with courage to seek answers to our questions, and to trust your answers. 

Please turn in your Bible, or follow the link, to read Genesis 15. It’s a short passage today, but it is full of many life lessons. Read it slowly and carefully.

Sometimes fear comes after success
A mowed section of grass indicates the path to take into the trees ahead. The sun shines in the distance, but you can't see the destination.
Sometimes we are uncertain if we are following the right path, and our hearts fill with questions.

“After this”, (verse 1) the Lord came to Abram and told him not to be afraid. Let’s pause and remember what has just happened. Abram fought against 4 kings and won. He brought back the goods stolen from the King of Sodom, but bravely told him that he would not align with him. Abram fought with courage and won! He stood with honor and did the right thing! Why would God need to tell him to not be afraid now?

Well, because he is human. I can imagine what is going through Abram’s mind. Will those kings come back and retaliate against me? Why didn’t I align with the King of Sodom – he might fight against me now…

Abram heard from God. He experienced his powerful deliverance from his enemies. He stood on faith. And now when the battle is over, he is afraid. Crazy. We are so fickle as humans.

I’m so grateful for a God who knows and understands our weaknesses!

God came to Abram and said, “Do not be afraid. I am your shield.” He not only knew Abram’s emotions, but He knew what he was afraid of. A shield protects us from battle and only fails when it’s not in the right place. When God is our shield, He knows exactly where we need protected. He knows the enemy’s tactics and plan. We have nothing to fear.

Questions for God

Abram’s fear came from two sources: his enemies, and the unfulfilled promise. So, God didn’t stop with “I am your shield,” He also said, “and your very great reward.” What happens next encourages my heart even more than knowing I can stand behind God’s shield. Here’s my paraphrase of Abram’s words:

Ok, but God, you haven’t kept your promise, so how can I be sure of anything? You said I would have so many descendants that I wouldn’t be able to count them all, but I don’t even have a single one. Now whatever I have left when I die will go to my servant. Is that what you had in mind? I don’t get it.

God responded gently. He told him the promise again, and He answered Abram’s question! Wow. No, his servant is not his heir. There will be an heir from Abram’s own body. Abram should have known that – God promised offspring or descendants. The very definition of the word is clear. But maybe Abram has been trying to figure out if there’s a way he misunderstood, or way he missed the meaning. So, he asked.

This is so encouraging to me! God didn’t get angry with Abram. He told him the promise again. God understood Abram’s confusion. The promise was made a long time ago in human years. Why the wait? Notice that God didn’t explain the why, but He did go back over the promise again for Abram’s benefit, and made it completely clear what God intended to do.

So – when I’m doubting God’s promise, when I think I must have misunderstood, when I don’t understand why God hasn’t acted – I can ask! How comforting. My job is to believe Him – just like Abram did.

Clean before the Lord

When Abram believed, God credited it to him as righteousness. (vs. 6) Because Abram believed in God, God cleared Abram’s sin away and declared him pure. What an amazing free gift.  It wasn’t because Abram had perfect faith, in fact he still had more questions for God. No, he didn’t earn this gift, it was simply because of God’s great love for Abram.

As the conversation continued, Abram dared to ask how he could know that he will gain possession of the land. The promise just seemed too big, too incredible. Maybe he wanted a sign to help him know it would really come to pass.

I doubt Abram ever forgot the image God gave him.

Abram’s vision

God told him to get 5 animals: a ram, a heifer, a goat, a dove and a pigeon. He cut the large animals in two and arranged them in two lines, with half of each animal across from each other. In doing so, Abram is preparing a covenant ritual. The parties making the agreement together would walk between the severed animals, symbolically agreeing to the penalty of death for breaking the covenant.

Then Abram waited for God. As night came, he fell into a deep sleep and saw a vision of the future of his descendants. They would live as slaves in a foreign country. After 400 years of misery, God will punish the nation who enslaved them, and bring them into the land where Abram lived.

Then God’s Spirit passed between animal pieces, once again declaring the promise that this land would belong to Abram’s descendants. This time, he gave the boundaries of the promised land.

There is great significance to the fact that only God passed between the animal pieces. In doing so, He declared this to be a sacred promise that fell only to God’s responsibility. There was nothing for Abram to do – no way to earn it, nor lose it. God’s solemn word declared it.

I can’t imagine Abram’s thoughts upon waking. God gave his solemn promise. Abram would have descendants who would own the land on which he stood. But the fulfillment of that promise was hundreds of years away and would come after great cost to his family. There would truly be no way to absorb it all.  His destiny was firmly in God’s hands. But perhaps God had told him more than he really wanted to know.

The future

We know from the rest of the Bible, that God did exactly what He said He would do. Everything that He said would happen, did happen. The people of Israel were slaves to Egypt for 4 generations. God punished Egypt and brought the Israelites into the land described in Genesis 15.

And God blessed the world through Abram’s descendant, Jesus. Through Him, God still gives us righteousness in exchange for faith. Romans 4:18-25 says clearly that God will credit righteousness to those who believe in the God who raised Jesus from the dead.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8. It is because of his great love for you. Dare to believe it.

Questions for thought:
  • Group discussion: What is the difference between asking God questions and questioning God?
  • Application for your life: Are there questions you would like to ask God? Take your Bible and your notebook and spend some time alone with Him. Pour out your heart, and then listen.
  • For further study: Jeremiah 34:8-22 describes a covenant that was ratified by the ritual in today’s passage. When the people were not willing to keep their promise, God makes it clear what will happen to them.
  • The reason the smoking firepot and blazing torch are interpreted to be God’s Spirit is because of verses such as these: Exodus 3:2-4; 13:21; 19:16-19; 24:17

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