God Allows Us to Choose
Explore the Bible Series
January 13, 2008
Background Passage: Genesis 12:1-14:24
Lesson Passage: Genesis 12:1-9; 13:8-13
Introduction: Other than the Lord Jesus, Abraham may be the most important figure in the Bible. The Abrahamic thread runs through both the Old and New Testaments. The ancient Jews traced their religious and ethnic identity to him, and New Testament writers, like the Apostle Paul, used Abraham as an example of justification by faith. Indeed, Paul’s treatment of justification centers on the patriarch’s religious experience (See Romans 4:1f and Galatians 3:1f). In the Epistle to the Hebrews, the author included Abraham in the great catalog of the faithful. This lesson focuses on the issue of faith as it relates to the example of this great Old Testament figure.
Readers from the Reformed tradition may bristle a bit at the title of the LifeWay lesson, “God Allows Us to Choose.” This scope of this brief lesson outline prohibits any detailed analysis of the tensions in the Calvinist/Arminian debate; however, most evangelicals, I think, can find some common ground on the issue of faith. Properly understood, this title proves helpful and accurate.
Surely most would agree that Abraham received a wonderful gift
of grace from the Lord. The Old
Testament makes clear that Abraham came from a pagan people, and the gracious
covenant of God came to Abraham quite unexpectedly and undeservedly.
Furthermore, the Lord gave this man an important command, “Go from your country
and your kindred and your father’s house to the land I will show you.” Abraham responded to God’s command and
traveled, with his family, to the
This particular text, historical (not theological) in
nature, does not deal with the internal workings of the Holy Spirit in
Abraham’s heart; instead, it depicts the historical events that led to the
patriarch’s pilgrimage to
As we approach the lesson, perhaps a word about the tension between faith and doubt might prove helpful. We will, of course, find that Abraham’s faith did not always remain strong. He loved and trusted the Lord, but, at times, his faith staggered in the face of some grievous tests and trials. Like Abraham, our faith does not always remain strong. Sometimes doubt troubles even spiritual giants like Abraham, David, Jeremiah, Micah, John the Baptist, Augustine, Martin Luther, C.H. Spurgeon, and Jonathan Edwards. Frankly, I distrust those who seem to have all the answers, to all the questions, all the time. Indifference, not doubt, is the opposite of faith. Abraham struggled sometimes, and we will observe some of those struggles in this lesson; nevertheless, the patriarch’s passion for God, in time, overcame his doubts. That is always the case with God’s true people. Do you, at times, wrestle with a wavering faith? Welcome to the human race!
I. God’s Grace and Promise to Abram (12:1-9)
unexpected grace to Abram (v. 1): Please note that God had not yet changed the
patriarch’s name to Abraham (Abram means “exalted father”). At the time of his
call, Abram lived, with is extended family, in
B. God’s promises to Abram (vv. 2-3)
will make you a great nation”: Initially, God fulfilled this promise in the
2. “I will bless you and make your name great”: Millions (perhaps billions) of modern people trace their religious heritage to Abraham: Jews, Christians, and Moslems.
3. “you will be a blessing”: This phrase has a messianic tone. Through Abraham, the blessing of God’s Son would come to the world.
4. “I will bless those who bless you…”: There is a narrowness to God’s grace. The “Door of the Sheepfold” opened to mankind through the seed of Abraham (See John 10:1). God’s redemptive work came to mankind through the descendant (Jesus) of Abraham.
5. “…in you all the families of the earth will be blessed”: God’s gracious blessing does not center exclusively on one people; rather, in Abraham, all the nations of the earth would be blessed.
obedience to God (vv. 4-9): Abram, accompanied by his nephew, left
II. Two Tests of Abram’s Faith (12:10-13:18)
famine in Canaan (12:10-20): after Abram’s initial pilgrimage through the land
of promise, a terrible famine struck
dispute between Abram and
wealth (vv. 1-7): Abram was a wealthy man, by ancient Middle Eastern
standards. While this wealth might seem
like a great blessing, it also occasioned a dispute between Abram’s herdsmen
resolution of the dispute (vv. 8-13): The reference to the Perezzites and
Canaanites may indicate that these people observed the conduct of Abram. Rather than suffer disgrace before ungodly
men, Abram elected to give choice of the land to his nephew. Lot, compelled by the fertility of the
contentment with Lot’s choice (vv. 14-18): Abram did not allow
III. Another Test of Abram’s Faith (14:1-24)
War of the Kings (vv. 1-12): For the first time in the Scriptures, “secular”
history intersects with the sacred narrative.
Genesis describes a lengthy, bloody war between two powerful
confederations. Chedorlaomer, king of
heroic action (vv. 13-16): Abram received word of
and Melchizedek (vv. 17-24): Genesis introduces this mysterious character,
Melchizedek, rather abruptly. The text
identifies him as the king of
1. He was a king and priest.
2. He was king of righteousness and peace.
3. He received the offering (tithe) of Abram.
4. He had no father, mother, or genealogy, having neither beginning nor end.
5. He continued as a priest forever (therefore, his priesthood predated and superseded the Aaronic priesthood).