I got the chance to lead our single ladies Bible Study this week! I thought I’d share my preparatory thoughts here.
Here’s the thing about the Bible. I’ve heard it said that it’s a love letter to me. But that’s not true. The authors of the Bible have never met me. They weren’t writing to me. They were writing to their own people, to their children’s children’s children, to the budding churches in Galatia, etc. Here’s the other thing about the Bible. It’s true and the “characters” in it really lived and things happened to them. It’s living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword. It’s relevant. It matters because it tells the story of a God Who Loves. It’s useful because the God of the Bible is the God of 2015. The Bible isn’t a love letter to me, but it is a commentary on God’s relationships with other humans that are kind of like me in that they are human and messed up and make the same mistakes again and again. We are alike in that we are created in His image for good things, yet we choose our own stupid things. We are alike in that God is in the business of redeeming us. Bless. Power. Amen.
So while the Bible isn’t a love letter to me (because I’m not living in the years BC nor am I living in Asia), the Bible is a letter of a loving God for me. We can learn about who God is through His relationships with people from the Bible just as we can learn about who God is through His relationships with people from our lives. We need each other because one human mind is not nearly enough to contain all that He is. So He hands out little nuggets of His goodness and holiness – His self – and we get to share them and pass them around and marvel at them.
Today we’re going to look at Abram, because I know the most about him and can totally relate to him even though we are very different people. For example, Abram tends to struggle with telling people his wife is really his sister. I tend to struggle with shouting, “ARE YOU SERIOUS!?” at my students when they disobey.
God revealed Himself to Abram in specific ways, ways that were relevant to who Abram was, where he lived, what his experiences were, his culture and his time period. The same God who hung out with Abram is the same God who hangs out with us. Which is why Abram’s story is one worth reading. It goes like this…
When Abram was 75 God told Him to get up and go. He didn’t tell him where he was going, he just said, “Go.” So Abram went. This is his tale…
What do you think of when you think of Abram/Abraham??
Why doesn’t God change our names anymore??
If you could change your name, what would you change it to??
In the first five chapters of Abe’s story (all the chapters are just too many), there are TWO big things we learn about God. First, He has a plan. Second, He wants us. Those are really good qualities to have in a deity.
First things first, God is a man with a plan. (Should we talk now about how some people are referring to God with feminine pronouns? Now’s not the time? Yes? No?)
THE MAN WITH A PLAN
Genesis 12:1 // Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.”
- “The land that I will show you.” God has a plan, He’s just not spilling the whole plan to Abe.
- If God showed us the whole plan our minds would be so blown we’d be rendered ineffectual. We would be so amazed we’d just sit in shock and awe forever and never get going with the plan. Also, compared to God our brains are so, so small. Also, we are humans and our skepticism is often high, while our attention span can be so low. If God had a plan for Abram, but didn’t let him in on the deets, we can trust that God has a plan for us, even when we feel clueless.
Genesis 13:1-4 // So Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the Negeb. Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold. And he journeyed on from the Negeb as far as Bethel to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place where he had made an altar at the first. And there Abram called upon the name of the Lord.
- Abe is literally right back where he started. Which sounds super discouraging and confusing. Sometimes God’s plans are as such. Sometimes we’re going along with God’s plans like, “Alright, God, I’m following you. You are the man with the plan. I trust you implicitly.” And then things start to get weird and we’re like, “Are you sure, God?” (see my blog post on questioning God) Then one day we look around and we’re like, “What the eff, God? I am literally right back where I started. I built that altar over there.”
Why do you think God led Abram back to the Negeb??
Note: this is where Abram and Lot split ways. Lot chose all the Jordan Valley. He then becomes a prisoner of war, soon finds himself defending angels from his gang rapey neighbors, and eventually is drunked into impregnating both his daughters. All part of the plan??
Genesis 15:1-6 // After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
- God gently reassured Abe in his time of doubt. Abe wasn’t so sure of the plan. He pointed out a bunch of things to God (again, see blog post) like God wasn’t aware of the situation. God reminded Abe of the plan – you will have a son and you will have a buttload of descendants.
- God told Abram that He was his shield. Could it be that God is our shield, too? God told Abram that his reward would be very great. Could it be that our reward will be very great, too?
- Of course God wouldn’t be our Lord if He didn’t bring a little sass. “Could the stars…. *scoff/giggle* like you could.” God is literally pointing out that Abram cannot even comprehend his blessings, his impact.
- God goes on to remind Abram of who He is and what He’s done (verse 7). He has been Abram’s guide. He has good things for him. Abram still isn’t sure. So God makes a covenant with Abram, the same kind of covenant Abe would make with any other guy. Abram lays out the carcasses of animals, half of each animal on either side of a walkway. The covenant was made when each party passed through the pathway of carcasses, swearing that they would uphold their end of the bargain or “may I meet the same end as these halved, dead animals.” In verse 17 we see God, as a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch, passing through the pieces. It seems God passes through as both parties. He makes his covenant with Abram. He does all the work, but Abram gets the land. What does that remind you of? (Hint: CROSS)
God told Abe straight up “for certain” that things were not going to be all rainbows and butterflies in verse 13 (READ). Where do you think this idea of easy breezy Jesus life comes from??
What do we gain from perpetuating/believing it??
What do we lose??
BELOVED, YOU ARE LOVED
The second biggie we can learn from God’s relationship with Abram (moving right along to chapter 17) is that God wants us. At least, He wanted Abram. And if He wanted Abram, it’s safe to assume He wants us. Why? Because the rest of the Bible exists and because His reasons for wanting Abram were as follows:
- Abram existed.
You exist. I exist. Therefore it stands to reason that God wants us, too. Even though that makes no sense because we’re kind of a hot mess. (Some of us hotter and/or messier than others.)
Genesis 17:1-8 // When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am the God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”
- God’s a bit repetitive here, but He is talking about the stuff that He’s going to give Abram/Abraham. Important, valuable things like nations. Abe is the start of it all, ya’ll. And God’s sticking around for the long haul, offering up himself to be not only Abe’s God, not only his offspring’s God, but our
- I think it’s pretty safe to say Abram’s list of marketable skills was pretty short in his ninety-ninth year of life. What did he have to offer God? Not much. What do I have to offer God? Probably less. (I really have an attention span problem and I’m pretty lazy.) But God wanted to hang out with Abram! He wanted to walk with him and make him better. He wanted to make him promises and “multiply him greatly.” Beloved Abram, you are loved.
- God sought Abram out. God appeared to him. Not the other way around.
- God changed Abram. He elevated him. He named him. He does the same for us.
- God is an eternal God. He wants to be our God forever.
How has God changed you??
Changed you on a name-change level??
What does a name change look like for us today??
Genesis 17:15-16 // And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, an she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”
- God is really serious about these nations.
- Abram had told Pharaoh that Sarai was his sister instead of his wife. Sarai was taken by a strange man for what we can only assume was sex. While Sarai was dealing with that, Abram was raking in the livestock (Genesis 12:16). When Sarai heard that God was going to give her a son, she laughed. She did not believe or have faith. In fact, she had so little faith she decided to take things into her own hands, giving her handmaid Hagar over to Abram for what we know was sex, attempting to fix their childlessness herself. It didn’t go how she planned because of feelings. Also trying to rush God’s plans is not a good idea. (Ishmeal/Ohio versus Isaac/DR) Sarai used Hagar like she had been used in Egypt. Abram was a liar (I can just see him saying, “It’s not technically a lie…”). Sarai was a faithless abused abuser. And these are the people God is blessing. Might there be hope for blessings for you and me?
What stands out to you about Abe’s story??
What attributes/characteristics of God that we learn from Abe’s story have shown up in your story??
Which would you like to see a bit more of??
God has a plan. Beloved, you are beloved. Do you believe it? If you do believe it, really deep down true believe it, what should change in your life? What in your life evidences that you do believe in His plan and in His love for you?