Genesis 13-18 – Life of Abraham, Part 1

Original Outline by Chris Cooksey

Subject: What do you do when you don’t believe God will give you good things?

  • Gen. 12-14 – Initial promises leading up to doubt
  • Gen. 15-18 – Abram dealing with doubt
  • Abraham is going to wrestle through the idea of whether or not God is really who he says he is and how he is going to respond in light of his doubt

Genesis 12 – The initial promise

  • 12:1-5 (Read) – Promise to make Abe a great nation
    • All other promises come from this one somehow
    • 12:4-5 – Abe’s response – Takes family and leaves

Genesis 13 – Build up to frustration

  • 13:1-7 – (Summarize) Abram and Lot need to split up because the land couldn’t support them. They had too much stuff.
  • 13:8-9 – (Read) – Abram gives Lot the choice. What does Lot choose?
  • 13:10-13 – (Read) – Sees the fertile plains…goes for it!
    • Lot – Selfish. Looking out for himself.
      • Focus: Self & the present

DQ: This focus on self and the present can reflect a number of beliefs about God. What do you guys think Lot’s focus on himself and the present reflect about who he thinks God is?

    • Abram – Sacrificial. Focused on Heaven/God’s promises
      • God had promised to give his descendants land (12:7). Abram believed God would come through
  • 13:14-18 – (Read) – Promise to give Abe Canaan
    • 13:18 – Abe’s response – Moves to Mamre, builds alter to the Lord

DQ: Abram displays immediate and total obedience to God. Not something that is normal. Don’t normally see people this obedient to God. What are some things that Abram probably believed about God that enabled him to respond the way he did?

  • Summarize 14 – Lot gets captured in war, Abram risks his neck to rescue him
  • Genesis 15-18 – Abram’s faith put to the test
    • Abram is about the experience the conflict of what he says he believes about God and doubt. The question of what do we do when we start to doubt who God says he is or when it doesn’t seem like he is going to do what he said he would?

Genesis 15 – Wrestling with who God is through prayer

  • 15:1-8 (Read) – Abram starts to doubt
    • “O Sovereign Lord, what good are all your blessings when I don’t even have a son? Since you’ve given me no children, Eliezer of Damascus, a servant in my household, will inherit all my wealth…how can I be sure that I will actually possess it?”
      • Abram is super wealthy, God has blessed him a lot and given him many promises, most of which are supposed to be promises that extend past his lifetime. The problem: Abram still has no kid. His stuff is just going to his servant.
        • All of God’s promises thus far are dependent on the idea that Abe has a kid. It’s not just that having a kid would be nice, but it’s necessary!

DQ: Here we have the first interaction between Abram and God where we see Abram not express anything other than complete trust in God. What are some things we notice about Abram’s response here? How does Abram handle his doubt?

    • Abram is up front with God about how he feels
      • Be honest with God about what we are thinking and feeling and our doubt
    • Trust God over his feelings and focuses on what he has promised
    • Remembers who God is – Gen. 15:2, 8 – “Sovereign Lord…”
      • Abram twice addresses God as “Sovereign Lord…” Abram is wrestling with who he knows God to be and what he feels towards God. Fighting to believe who God is
      • This seems to be heart of the issue. “You made me this promise and it hasn’t happened yet. Are you actually able to come through on this?”
  • Packer – “Meditation is the activity of calling to mind, and thinking over, and dwelling on, and applying to oneself, the various things that one knows about the works and ways and purposes and promises of God…it is, indeed, often a matter of arguing with oneself, reasoning oneself out of moods of doubt and unbelief into a clear apprehension of God’s power and grace.”
    • Meditation – Not emptying your mind, but filling it with truth about God.
    • There is often an aspect of arguing with yourself. This is what Abraham is doing. “I know you are Sovereign, but I’m having trouble lining that up with what I see…”
  • Other common responses
    • Anger – Frustration towards God because we feel let down by him.
      • “You promised to give me ___ and haven’t. Why haven’t you come through on this thing yet? You missed your window…”
        • Abraham had every right to feel this way. Whoever had kids when they were 100 and their wife was 90? Abraham waited 24 years to have Isaac!
      • “Don’t you see that this thing is good? Why does it seem like you don’t want to give me this thing or do this? How would this not be good???”
      • “This part of my life will never change…”

DQ: Something I believed for a while was that I couldn’t tell God that I was angry with him. Why do you think someone might believe that?

  • Discouragement – Acceptance of doubt. Often followed by accepting that there is no hope for change either. Feeling let down about something.
    • “I’m never going to be able to _____.”
    • “God is never going to give me ____…”
    • “I’ve been faithful, God. Why are there no results yet???”
  • Entitlement – “I deserve this.” Abram had been incredibly faithful. Sacrificial, generous, had risked his life saving Lot.
    • “God, I’ve done all these good things. Shouldn’t you have come through by now?
    • “I’ve been such a good person. I’ve been obedient and have followed everything you told me to do. Why haven’t you given me ___ yet? Don’t I deserve it???”
    • “I guess my life won’t be what I really hoped it would…I guess I’ll just have to settle for something less…”

DQ: Not everyone is super in touch with their emotions. I personally have to think about what I’m feeling before I can actually identify it. What are some ways that we can identify feeling discouragement?

DQ: Discouragement can be really crippling and can hinder our ability to relate to God and other people. What do you guys think are some ways that discouragement might affect our relationship with God or other people?

DQ: Not dealing with doubt is dangerous. It will leak into other areas of our lives in really subtle ways. How do you think someone might be affected if they didn’t deal with their doubt? What might their life look like?

  • Started off dealing with the promise to make Abram into a great nation. Then talks about possessing the land in verse 8! Emotions like anger, doubt, discouragement not taken to God will affect our belief in his other promises, what we think about God and what we think about ourselves!
  • Abram caves to doubt

Genesis 16 – Giving into doubt

  • 16:1-4a – (Read) – Still can’t have kids. Sarai takes things into her hands
    • 16:1 – “God hasn’t given me children, and really probably won’t.”
      • Sarai comes up with a plan
    • Our doubt:
      • “Maybe there’s something wrong with me…”
      • “God has forgotten about me…”
      • “Maybe I got my hopes up and God meant something else…”
      • “God is being too slow/isn’t who I thought he was…”
      • Sometimes we let these drive us to alternatives to God’s plans, or what we “think” God’s plan is
    • 16:2-3 – The plan: Sarai raises children through Hagar
      • Abram has been waiting at least 10 years for a kid!
      • 13:12 – Abraham settles in Canaan
      • 16:3 – This happened 10 years after Abram had settled in the land of Canaan. At this point, Abram is 86 years old (16:16)!
  • 16:4b-6 – (Read) – Whoops…
    • What Sarai planned happened, but things didn’t turn out like she thought!
      • Hagar treats Sarai with contempt! Definitely not what Sarai had planned
      • Sarai gets upset and blame shifts – “This is all your fault.”
      • Maybe this has happened to us. We planned something and it wasn’t nearly as good as we thought it was.
    • Part of the problem with Sarai’s plan is that what she thinks is good has been distorted because of sin. We have a hard time understanding that God wants to give us legitimately good things because we have a hard time understanding what “really good” really is
  • Our plans don’t always go according to plan because we aren’t powerful enough to ensure that they will go the way we want them to
    • What we think qualifies as God’s promises being fulfilled vs what God considers fulfilling his promises are often two different things
  • Technically, God would have been justified in letting this be the fulfillment of his promise. He had promised to make Abram into a great nation and could have done so through Ishmael.
    • Chapter 17 – God desires to give his people really good things, not just technically fulfill his promises, and that just because we doubt God’s promises doesn’t mean he will take them back

Genesis 17-18 – Act on what you know about God, not feelings

  • 17:1-14 – (Read) – Is God reneging on his promise? Is he adding conditions?
    • 17:1-2, 14 – Sound like God is adding conditions before he will come through, whereas previously, his covenants had been unconditional
      • Is God adding new conditions?
        • 17:11 – Circumcision = a sign of the covenant. Not going back on promise to Abraham. Setting a condition on others who want to partake in the covenant with Abraham.
  • 17:15-16 – (Read) – God says Sarah will bear Abe a son
  • 17:17-18, 18:12 – Abraham & Sarah are skeptical. Both laugh at God
    • Sometimes that promises of God seem laughable. Doesn’t seem to fit with reality. 90 year old men/women don’t have kids.
      • Guinness Book of World Records – Oldest woman to have a kid was 60! Sarah is 30 years past that!
    • Because of what Abraham and Sarah believed about God, despite their skepticism, they were able to continue acting/obeying despite how outrageous God’s promise seemed. These are the things we need to remember!
      • 17:23-25 – On that very day!
        • Despite doubt, Abraham still acted immediately!
  • Quitting – Some people respond this way. Just totally give up on God. Decide it’s not worth the wait or they don’t believe God will actually give them good things
  • Bitterness – Unresolved anger/disappointment towards God. Can often practically be the same as quitting.
    • “God isn’t actually a God of his word.” “I’m mad that God hasn’t given me what I think I need or should have.”
    • Quitting & Bitterness – I thought God was going to give me good things. Why am I still so unhappy?
    • Abraham may have felt some of these things. The reason he was able to continue to move forward, and scripture makes this clear, is because of the fact that his focus was on heaven.
  • Hebrews 11:8-10, 13-16 – Abraham’s focus was on a better home
    • Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed by God.”
    • “All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. Obviously people who say such things are looking for a country they can call their own. If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”
      • Promises God made Abraham were fulfilled, just not all in his lifetime
        • Does end up having a son…
      • Abraham knew he didn’t belong on earth. What Abraham was focused on “a better place.”
        • The city God had prepared for him
        • When God withholds something from us, It seems like it’s always because he has something better for us
      • God does want to give us good things, but we weren’t made for this world, so anything in this world pales in comparison to what God will give us in heaven.
        • Philippians 3:7-8 – “I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…”
        • What we consider valuable is worthless compared to the glory of knowing God. God desires us to experience that. When you die, you won’t even think about the things you once thought were awesome because of how good and awesome it will be to be in God’s presence