KEY VERSE 17:1,5

"When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, "I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless."

"No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations."

** ISHMAEL'S BIRTH (16:1-16)

1. a)  Why did Sarah and Abram think it was reasonable, and even God's will for Abram to take Hagar as a concubine?  

Sarai had born him no children.  It had been more than ten years after God called Abram and gave him his promises.  What Sarai suggested sounded like a good solution.

b)  What was wrong with this?

This was impatience and it was not God's way.  It was also unbelief.  

God would do it in his own way and on his own time.  Remember 15:4.  

In addition, Sarai was very sorry and ashamed that she couldn't bear Abram any child.  She loved Abram and knew how much he wanted a son.  She became fatalistic about herself and decided to make a sacrifice that is hard for any woman to make, verse 2.  

Sarai's counsel didn't come from prayer and faith.  She rationalized that this must be God's will since "The Lord has kept me from having children."  It came from fatalism and unbelief.  

Abram agreed and slept with Hagar and she conceived.  He should have listened to God here instead of his wife.  But he was impatient and wanted to satisfy his own subconscious desires.  He accepted Sarai's words.

We are responsible for our actions even if someone gives unwise counsel.

2. a)  What problem arose in Abram's family after Hagar became pregnant?

Hagar despised Sarai.  There was jealousy and competition.  Sarai blamed Abram for the problem.  Verse 5, "You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering.."  Human compromise always brings strife and division.  In addition, Hagar became proud after she became pregnant and looked down on Sarai.  See verse 4.

b)  How did Abram and Sarai deal with this problem?

Abram told Sarai to do whatever she thinks best.  Sarai mistreated Hagar, so she fled from her.  Sarai did not want any responsibility and neither did Abram.  Order in the family was broken and Hagar suffered because of this.

3. a)  Why did Hagar flee and why did she return?

Because Sarai had mistreated her.  See verse 4.  She returned because the angel of the Lord told her to go back and submit to Sarai.

b)  What did she learn about God?

She learned that God sees her.  God saw her affliction and troubled heart.  Verse 13, "She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: 'You are the God who sees me', for she said, 'I have seen the One who sees me.'"  

How sorrowful and tragic Abram would have been if Hagar carrying his own child perished in the desert.  But God helped Hagar.  He gave her direction in verse 9 and then said that he would bless her descendants, see verse 10.  How great our God is who sees and cares about one lonely slave woman.  Hagar met the God of Abram personally.  

Tragic times are the best times to meet God.  She believed God's promises and obeyed his command and he took care of her.  

Ishmael wasa child of compromie and a child of flesh.  He couldn't be the inheritor of God's eternal covenant.  Ishmael brought joy and sorrow to Abram and tension and unrest to Abram's household.

c)  What can we learn about God who helped Abram?

We do foolish things and counsel others to do foolish things, but God continues to help us and cover our sins so we may know ourselves and God.  God didn't try to correct Abram's problem right away.  He waited thirteen years.  God is never in a hurry.


4. a)  How old was Ishmael when God appeared to Abram again?

Thirteen years old.  See 16:16 and 17:1.

b)  What do you think Abram's life had been during those silent years?

1)  For those 13 years Abramlived thinking that God had answered his prayer for a son.  He didn't pray so urgently.  

2)  He enjoyed watching little Ishmael grow up into a strong and handsome teenager.  He had been busy being a father to Ishmael and busy keeping peace in his home.  

3)  He went through the motions of worship, but had no deep personal walk with God.  He became like a Sunday Christian.

4)  He forgot to look up at the stars.  He lost hope in God's promise because just having Ishmael was enough.  

5)  He became a family centered man.  

God's promises didn't seem to be realiistic or practical.

5. a)  How did God reveal himself to Abram?

He appeared to him and told him, "I am God Almighty...."

b)  In what respect had Abram's faith in the almighty power of God been lacking?

He had stopped believing God's promise.  After so many years without having a son from God, he didn't think God was going to keep his promise or could do so.  This is why he tried to have a son through Hagar.  Abram must be reminded that God is almighty.  He is sovereign.  God can do anything.  Abram limited God and gave into doubt.

c)  Why did God tell to "walk before me and be blameless"?

Abram's faith must grow.  Abram must live before God's eyes and grow spiritually.  God didn't want him to mreely be the father of one son.  He wanted him to grow spiritually into a fruitful man of God.  

God's people must be holy as God is holy.  God's people must grow so that they can bear the fruit of the spirit.  The saddest thing is for God's people is to stop growing an to be complacent.  There are stages of Christian growth.  It is called the sactification process.  We must grow from a baby Christian into a fully mature Christian.

What do you want to be?  Do you want to be a good father?  Do you want to be a good husband?  Yes.  You will be.  But you must stop there.  You must have God's vision for yourself and grow up in spirit endlessly.  God wants you to be a spiritual general who can take care of many wandering souls.  When we stop growing, God rebukes us.

God wants us to be blameless in his sight.  God did not want Abram to be content as Ishmael's father.  He wanted him to believe God's promise to make him into a great nation for his glory.  Most of all, he wanted Abram to firmly believe that God would surely fulfill his promises through him because God is Almighty.

6. a)  How did Abram respond?

Abram fell facedown.

b)  What did this mean?

It means that he repented.  He knew that God was right and that he could not say anything to justify himself.  So he said nothing.

7. a)  Why did God change Abram's name to Abraham?

To help Abraham to hold onto God's vision upon him, that is to be a father of many nation, instead of a noble father to Ishmael.  God changed Abram into Abraham so that Abraham might accept God's great will and purpose for him as a father of many nations.

b)  What is the significance of this change?

Abram means "noble father" or "exalted father."  Abraham menas "father of many nations."  

God wanted to bless the whole world through Abraham.  Abraham was not only to be a physical father.  He would also be a spiritual father of many nations.  This was God's determination to change Abram from a family centered man to a father of many nations.

Abraham's inner faith must grow to have God's thinking and God's vision for himself.  Since God had already promised it, he would do it.  Abraham needed to accept and believe that it would be done and had been done just as God said it would.

"...for I have made you a father of many nations."  Already in God's sight, it had been accomplished.

God's vision and plan for yourself is far bigger than your own plan.  Do you believe this?  Then, accept God's vision for yourself, that is to be a father of many nations.  Numerous children of God will come through you and you will be a blessing.  God wants to save numerous people through you.

8. a)  How did God affirm and expand the covenant promises?

He affirmed it with the words, "I will" which are repeated five times in verses 6-8.  Alreay in God's sight he had done it.  

God expanded the covenant promises.  They became more specific: "I will make you very fruitful... I will make nations of you... and kings will come from you."  

God also promised to be Abraham's God and the God of his descendants after him, "....and I will be their God."  This is a great comfort.  In order to make Abraham a source of blessing to the whole world, God renewed his covenant with him.  

God wanted to raise a covenant people who would be the source of blessing for all the people of the earth.  Through this covenant people, God would send a Savior.  

God wanted his covenant people to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.  See Exodus 19:4-6.  God wanted the good news of forgiveness and salvation to spread through the Savior so that all the nations on earth might be blessed.  

What is God's greatest blessing?  The forgiveness of sins and a restored relationship with God.  God sent Jesus, Abraham's offspring, for this purpose.  This is the blessing which God has made available to all nations through the preaching of the gospel by his people.

b)  What is significant about an "everlasting covenant" and "everlasting possession"?

The Almighty God is an everlasting, eternal God so God's covenant with Abraham is an everlasting covenant.  God's primary purpose is to restore paradise to man.  

Everlasting is forever.  Through faith in Jesus Christ we are brought into an everlasting covenant with God to be his people and he is our God.  

God promised to give the land, the whole ladn of Canaan as an everlasting possession.  This is a picture of the heavenly kingdom which is given to us an everlasting possession, our inheritance forever.  See 1Peter 1:3-5.


9. a)  What did God tell Abraham to do as a sign and seal of the covenant? (9-14)

To circumcise himself and every male among him who are eight days or more old.  This included not only native born Israelites, but those bought with money from a foreigner -- those not of Abraham's offspring.  If any male had not bee circumcised in the flesh, he would be cut off from God's people.  This is breaking of the covenant.  So God wanted Abraham's acceptance of the covenant and its promises to be very concrete.

This circumcision was a sign that they were God's people.

This circumcision refers to repentance meaning that we cut off our sinful fleshly and worldly desires.  Those who have this sign have God's covenant. 

10. a)  How did God bless Sarah?

He changed her name from Sarai to Sarah.  She would be the mother of nations.  Sarah must also have God's vision for herself and her offspring since she would mother Abraham's offering.  See verse 16.

b)  What was Abraham's response?  Why?

See verses 17-18.  It was one of unbelief.  He thought about Ishmael.  He was too concerned about Ishmael.  Verse 18.

c)  What specific promise did God give concerning his family?

See verse 21.  God would establish his covenant through Isaac whom Sarah would bear to Abraham by this time next year.

d)  Why did God choose to give the spiritual blessing to Isaac instead of Ishmael?

Isaac is the promised son from God.  He is in God's plan.  Ishmael was born out of compromise from sin.  

When we live a compromised life, God can't bless our compromise.  God wants us to live by faith, not compromise.  Real blessings come from God, not from human calculation.

11. a)  How did Abraham demonstrate his belief in God and in God's promises?

On that very day he circumcised himself, Ishmael and all those males born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household.

b)  Why might this have been difficult for him?

Because he loved to enjoy family centered life with Ishmael.  Because Ishmael was too cute in his eyes.

Through this act he was cutting away every sin of his past, especially his small citizen's desire to be an exalted father to Ishmael.  

He denied his small desire and accepted God's desire upon him and made a firm decision to live as a father of many nations.  Instead of enjoying family centered life, he made a firm decision to be a servant of God embracing many dying souls with God's heart.

We must cut away our own plans and human attachments and put our hope in God.  There are only two ways of life.  One is to be an Abram, an exalted father.  The other is to be an Abraham, a father of many nations.  

Being an Abram is like a faithful husband to his wife, a hard working father who supports his family faithfully or a faithful employee for his company etc.  

These people are not necessary bad.  But because of such a small citizen's dream, they end up rejecting God's vision and hope for them.  

Fundamentally, these lives are the cursed life styles by God.  God created men to be men of mission for God.  And God provided them food to eat when they served God's mission.  

But after transgression, men could not serve God's mission, because the ground did not yield crops for them any more but thorns and thistles since God had cursed the ground.  So instead of serving mission for God, they had to work hard to get three meals a day.  They had no room to think of glorious mission for the glory of God because they had to plow the ground to secure their lives.  So they lost God's mission because of transgression.  Because of Adam's transgression, man fell down from a man of mission for God's glory to a man of life for his own life.  

But from Abraham God wanted to restore man's position from a man of life to a man of mission.  Through accepting God's calling for us to be an Abraham, we can restore our position and live blessed life not cursed life.  This is possible only through Jesus.  

Those who do not accept God's mission live under God's curse.  Their lives are meaningless.  They finish their lives with no fruit.

Being an Abraham is to accept God's vision for him or her and live accordingly.  It is to accept God's vison and hope for him or her and be a servant of God.  It is to be a source of blessing for many. It is to live a man of mission for many souls to be saved, instead of seeking for his or her own security or selfish gain.  

Which way do you want?  Do you want to live only for three meals a day to support your family?  Or do you want to live the life of God's servant with God's vision and hope in your mind?  Jesus calls you, "Come, follow me.  I will make you fishers of men."  "From now on you will catch men."

cf.  The meaning of circumcision.  See Romans 2:28-29; Jeremiah 4:4; and Deuteronomy 10:16.

c)  What kind of faith does God want his servants to have?

1)  God wants his servants to have absolute faith in his word of promise.  

2)  God wants us to have obedient faith.  

3)  He wants us to accept his ways and plans over our plans.  Isaiah 55:8,9 

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord.  "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."


"On that very day" shows Abraham's absolute obedience and trust in the Lord.  This act of obedience was a clear sign that Abraham believed that God is Almighty.  He made a decision to walk before God in complete trust and obedience.  He made a decision to live the life of a father of many nations with God's hope and vision for himself.

11. a)  What can we learn in these two chapters about God and his ways of working?

1)  God is patient, bears our weaknesses, wants us to grow and remember his promises.  

2)  God wants us to have his hope and vision for our lives.

3)  God wants us to repent and "circumcise our hearts" and get rid of any unbelief or clinging to our old lifestyle and way of thinking.

I learn that God never quits on his people. God's calling is irrevocable.  The God of Abraham is the God of hope.



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