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1 FIRST BAPTIST RAYTOWN ISRAEL AND THE MIDDLE EAST GENESIS 15:1-17; ROMANS 4:18-25 JUNE 23, 2013 PREPARATION > SPEND THE WEEK STUDYING GENESIS 15:1-17 AND ROMANS 4: Consult the commentary provided and any additional study tools to enhance your preparation. > DETERMINE which discussion points and questions will work best with your group. > PRAY for Pastor Brandon, the upcoming class time, your teaching, your class members, and their receptivity to the lesson. HIGHLIGHTS > BIBLICAL EMPHASIS: Abram is concerned that he is still childless, but receives a sign from God that he will have many descendents. God s promise in Genesis 12 is guaranteed by His covenant here with Abram, although it will not be fulfilled until after Abram s death. > LIFE APPLICATION: Entering into a covenant with God means taking on the identity of our covenant partner. Like Abram, we must receive the covenant by believing God and surrendering to Him, our Covenant Partner. INTRODUCTION As your group time begins, use this section to get the conversation going. What is the most significant promise you have made? Were you able to keep that promise? Why or why not? What determines whether we believe a promise made to us? 1 ISRAEL AND THE MIDDLE EAST FIRST BAPTIST RAYTOWN JUNE 23

2 TEACHING PLAN The source of a promise, the nature of the promise, or the time frame in which it was made affects our decision to trust the promise. Most of us would likely say we believe promises from God. Today, as we look again at Abraham, we will consider how willing we are to take God at His Word and surrender to His plan. UNDERSTANDING Unpack the biblical text to discover what Scripture says or means about a particular topic. > HAVE A VOLUNTEER READ GENESIS 15:1-3. Why did Abram doubt he would ever become a father? What indicates Abram had given up hope? While grateful for God s promises, Abram wondered about the value of the reward if he had no son to give it to. Abram had entered Canaan at 75 with Sarai, who was then 65 years old. Several years had passed and the couple remained childless. Abram may have wondered if he would ever have a son. It seems as though Abram had little hope God would actually fulfill His promises. Fear and worry were creeping into his heart. How would you expect God to respond to Abram as he struggled to believe and lamented his circumstances? What does God s kind response tell us about our Covenant Partner s character and grace? 2 ISRAEL AND THE MIDDLE EAST FIRST BAPTIST RAYTOWN JUNE 23

3 TEACHING PLAN > INVITE SOMEONE TO READ GENESIS 15:4-5. What reasons or personal experiences did Abram have to believe God s promise in verse 4? Why do you think God gave Abram the sign of the stars as a reminder of His promise? What makes God s promise in verse 5 so unbelievable? To illustrate and emphasize His promise of numerous descendants, God invited Abram to gaze at the night sky and try to count the stars. For the most part, Tuscaloosa is an area where the beauty of the night sky has to compete with artificial lights. As a result, we probably do not see as many stars as Abram did. Imagine standing in a field with no artificial lights to interfere. So many stars fill the sky that counting them is impossible. > ASK A VOLUNTEER TO READ GENESIS 15:6. What steps are involved in the process of moving from unbelief to belief? What evidence do we have of Abram believing God before now? Abram responded to God s promises by believing Him. This verse is the first appearance of believed in the Bible, but certainly not the first occurrence of Abram s faith. Abram s belief already had led him to leave his father and move to a land he had never seen. His belief had led him to worship God regularly and to allow Lot to choose the best land because Abram believed God would fulfill His promises. Although Abram could not understand how God could or would fulfill His promises, Abram trusted God. What is the relationship between belief and righteousness? 3 ISRAEL AND THE MIDDLE EAST FIRST BAPTIST RAYTOWN JUNE 23

4 TEACHING PLAN Righteousness typically refers to behavior conforming to a covenant agreement. Individuals joined together in a covenant took on themselves certain obligations to live according to the agreement and to demonstrate loyalty to the covenant partners. One who lived by the covenant expectations was considered righteous. In believing God, Abram lived by the expectations of his relationship with God. When God asked him to follow and trust, Abram believed God and entrusted his life to Him. > HAVE A VOLUNTEER READ GENESIS 15:7-21. What does verse 8 tell us about Abram s faith? Saving faith is not always perfect faith. Abram himself cried out to God a couple of verses later, immediately after God had just reminded him of the promise He would keep. After everything, Abram s heart is still saying, Yes, I believe You, but how will I know that You are going to come through? How did God answer Abram s question in verse 8? What is the significance of God s covenant with Abram? In that day, a covenant was made by two people passing through the cut-up pieces of animals arrayed on the ground, agreeing that if one party broke the covenant, then the fate of those animals should befall them as well. Both parties were subject to the penalty if they broke their promise to the other. Yet when God made the covenant with Abram in Genesis 15:17-21, we see something unique: God alone passed through the severed animals. God answered Abram s questions by assuming the full risk of the covenant. He walked through the animals as a sign of His faithfulness to Abram. In other words, if He didn t fulfill His promises, then His holiness and perfection could be chopped into pieces. In what ways can you identify with Abram s faith in this passage? 4 ISRAEL AND THE MIDDLE EAST FIRST BAPTIST RAYTOWN JUNE 23

5 TEACHING PLAN How can we know, like Abram, that we will possess all of God s amazing promises? > ASK A VOLUNTEER TO READ ROMANS 4: The Bible says that as he was reminded, Abram believed God. The Apostle Paul picks up on this concept in Romans 4:18-25, explaining to the church in Rome that from the earliest days, God has always credited righteousness to His covenant people through faith. We are not saved by moral accomplishment or religious exercise, but by hearing the promises of God and believing them. God looks at faith and credits it to us as righteousness. In Jesus Christ, God provided the way of salvation. He accomplished the work. We receive salvation only through faith in Jesus Christ and enjoy justification before God because of Jesus Christ. According to this passage, what has God promised us? Why might we struggle to believe His promises? How does belief in God s promise result in our righteousness? Abraham was convinced of God s ability to do as He promised. God has the integrity and power to be trusted with salvation. As Abraham was completely persuaded God can be trusted, so must we trust God to take care of us in salvation and in all other matters of life. How does our relationship and responsibility change once we place our faith in Jesus Christ for salvation? APPLICATION Help your group identify how the truths from the Scripture passage apply directly to their lives. As a community of believers, the people of First Baptist Raytown must encourage one another to live out the teaching 5 ISRAEL AND THE MIDDLE EAST FIRST BAPTIST RAYTOWN JUNE 23

6 TEACHING PLAN God has given them. Take a closer look at how we are part of God s covenant. What are some ways that your heart is like Abram s heart? In what ways are you struggling to take on the identity of your Covenant Partner? How does knowing that God always remains faithful to His Word help us through seasons when our faith is weak? How might we tangibly encourage one another to believe God and surrender to His plans this week and in the weeks ahead? PRAYER Close your group time in prayer together. Spend some time thanking God for His promises and His faithfulness to always uphold His end of the covenant, even when we are unfaithful. Take time to thank God for sending Jesus and declaring us His righteous children. FOLLOW UP This week, consider sending a follow-up to your group with some or all of the following: Questions to consider as they continue to reflect on what they learned this week: Are you trusting God s promises this week? In what ways are you daily reflecting on God s gift of Jesus as His ultimate promise fulfillment? A note of encouragement, following up on any specific prayer requests mentioned during your group time. The challenge to memorize Genesis 15:6. 6 ISRAEL AND THE MIDDLE EAST FIRST BAPTIST RAYTOWN JUNE 23

7 FIRST BAPTIST RAYTOWN ISRAEL AND THE MIDDLE EAST GENESIS 15:1-17; ROMANS 4:18-25 COMMENTARY GENESIS 15: :1. Abram s role as a prophet is shown here. Visions were one of two standard means (the other was dreams) by which the Lord revealed His word to people. The only other patriarch who is said to have received a vision was Jacob. The vision s content included a command (Do not be afraid), an assurance (I am your shield), and a promise (your very great reward). The Lord would reward him richly. 15:2-3. Neither God s protection nor His reward seemed important to elderly Abram since all his goods would go to Eliezer of Damascus, a slave born in his house. Engaging in something of a pity party, Abram made seven references to himself (in the Hebrew) in the space of 22 Hebrew words and twice utters the complaint that he was childless. 15:4-5. Ignoring Abram s apparent lack of gratitude, the Lord gave Abram one of the great promises of the Bible; the elderly patriarch would produce an heir from his own body. God then made the breathtaking promise that Abram s offspring would be as numerous as the stars. 15:6. Old and childless, Abram believed the Lord, that is, he affirmed that God is dependable. God credited it to him as righteousness, that is, He judged or accounted that Abram measured up to the standard, conformed to the norm. Abram s faith and God s gracious response to it served as a paradigm of the Christian experience in three different New Testament books (Rm 4:3; Gal 3:6; Jms 2:23). 15:7. For the third time in Abram s life (12:1; 13:14-17), Yahweh addressed the issue of land. Here Yahweh linked His name and His past leadership in Abram s life to the promise of land. He reminded Abram that the same God who had faithfully brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans would just as surely give him this land to possess. 7 ISRAEL AND THE MIDDLE EAST FIRST BAPTIST RAYTOWN JUNE 23

8 COMMENTARY 15:8. Abram, the shrewd businessman who had once dealt with earth s mightiest human the pharaoh of Egypt (12:14-19) now negotiated with the Lord God. How can he be assured of God s promise? Verse 9 provides the answer. 15:9. God provided assurance in the form of a solemn commitment ceremony. The cow, female goat, and ram were mammals later authorized for sacrifice in the law of Moses; however, this is the only time that three-year-olds specimens in the prime of their lives were used. Turtledoves and young pigeons were permitted for certain Israelite sacrifices (Lv 5:7). The ceremony here differs from other sacred rituals in the Old Testament involving animals in that no animal parts were burned. 15: In an act unparalleled in the Old Testament, Abram split the animals down the middle and laid the pieces opposite each other, creating a clear central lane flanked by the carcass portions. The birds, being smaller, were not cut up; probably, one was placed on each site of this lane. 15: 12. Since days were reckoned in that culture from sunset to sunset, the events of verses occurred at the end of the day that began in verse 1. Abram s deep sleep recalls the one Adam experienced when the Lord created Eve (2:21). 15: Here the Lord revealed to Abram the prophet an outline of the events of Genesis 46 through Exodus 13. Like Abram himself, his promised offspring would live as foreigners. The land that did not belong to them was Egypt, where they would be enslaved and oppressed (Ex 1:11-14) for approximately 400 years (more precisely, 430 years; Ex 12:40). God would judge the nation they served through a series of ten miraculous plagues (Ex 7:14-12:30), after which they would go out with many possessions (Ex 12:35-36). Though Abram would not live to see these events, he would go to his 8 ISRAEL AND THE MIDDLE EAST FIRST BAPTIST RAYTOWN JUNE 23

9 COMMENTARY fathers in peace die a peaceful death and be buried at the ripe old age of 175 (25:7). Abram s descendants would return to the land in the fourth generation, that is, after four hundred years in Egypt; in this case, each generation seems to be one hundred years, Abram s age when Isaac was born (21:5). The Lord also hinted at the purpose of the return of Abram s descendants to the promised land. In large part Israel s return to Canaan would bring God s judgment on the iniquity of the Amorites. 15:17. When the sun had set, the Lord caused a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch to appear and pass between the divided animals. Both elements symbolized essential aspects of God; the smoke perhaps representing divine inscrutability, and the flame God s power. By going between the divided carcasses, the Lord was solemnly obligating Himself to fulfill the terms of the covenant symbolically indicating that He would Himself be split asunder if He failed to carry out His promises. 15: The second explicit covenant in the Bible between God and a person (9:9-17) is established here with Abram, obliging God to provide the patriarch with offspring and a geographic inheritance for them that began in the south with the brook of Egypt (either the Wadi el Arish or the Shihor River the easternmost branch of the Nile in Egypt s delta region) and extended as far north as the Euphrates River. The list of ten different people groups here is the longest list of Canaan s inhabitants in the Torah. This is the only list to include the Kenites, Kenizzites, and Kadmonites; the Kenites and Kenizzites were probably groups living in the Negev that coexisted peacefully with the Israelites. Perhaps the Kadmonites were the same as the Qedemites, a desert-dwelling enemy of Israel. ROMANS 4: ISRAEL AND THE MIDDLE EAST FIRST BAPTIST RAYTOWN JUNE 23

10 COMMENTARY 4:18. As the way of salvation, faith involves a constant trust in God s ability to do as He promised. Abraham s persevering faith in the face of adversity helped Paul define faith. Against all hope reminds us Abraham and Sarah were far beyond typical childbearing years. Yet he believed. Again, the word for believed is from the same root word as the word for faith. God had made a promise: Abraham would become the father of many nations. In spite of his and Sarah s advanced age, Abraham believed in God. 4:19. Without the perspective of trusting faith, Abraham had no reason to believe he would father anyone, much less a multitude. He was about a hundred years old and Sarah s womb was dead. They had no way to force God s promise. The entire situation was up to God. All Abraham could do was believe. 4:20. Not only did Abraham not waver through unbelief, but also he was strengthened in his faith. Trusting in good works as the way of salvation has the effect of making us focus on ourselves. Relying on God through faith means we are putting the focus solely on Him, which strengthens our relationship with Him. Through his faith in God, Abraham trusted more deeply and in this way gave glory to God. 4:21. Note carefully the emphasis of this verse. If any part of the salvation equation relied on Abraham, then he would have worked to make it a reality. Instead he was fully persuaded of God s ability to do as He promised. God has the integrity and the power to be trusted with salvation. As Abraham was completely persuaded God can be trusted, so we also must trust God to take care of us in salvation and in all other matters of life. 4:22. Paul had driven home the point that Abraham had done nothing but trust God. Works were not part of the equation, and to stay with the mathematical language for a moment this verse falls on the other side of the equal sign. Abraham s faith 10 ISRAEL AND THE MIDDLE EAST FIRST BAPTIST RAYTOWN JUNE 23

11 COMMENTARY was credited to him as righteousness. The main question Paul dealt with in Romans was how a person can attain righteousness. How can a person have a right standing before God? The answer is by faith. We cannot attain this right standing in our strength, but we can receive it as a gracious gift from God through faith. 4:23. Paul, as a Pharisee, had spent a great deal of his life believing God offered salvation only to a few special people. In his life with Christ, however, Paul began to realize God makes the offer of salvation available to all people. We have seen the principle of the Jew first and also the Greek applied to sin and to salvation (see Rom. 2:9-11). Once again in this verse, Paul repeated that the offer to justify a person was not reserved for one person or one race. The offer was not for him alone. 4:24. Paul was writing to both Jews and Greeks in the Roman church; so when he wrote but also for us, he included members of both races. The offer is universally available. To be credited is an accounting term, and here it means we will be rendered righteous. A person will be rendered righteous in the same way it occurred for Abraham. We too must believe in Him. The resurrection is a major theme in the Christian faith, and Paul sounded that note here. When God raised Jesus from the dead, He was validating the sacrifice Jesus made. As living Lord, Jesus is ready to give salvation to all who believe. 4:25. This verse serves as a summary of the gospel. He was delivered over is in the passive voice, and means God presented His Son as a sacrifice for our sins. The proof of the effectiveness of Jesus sacrifice is found in the resurrection. Death and resurrection are forever bound together. When God raised Jesus, He proved the offer of justification is real. 11 ISRAEL AND THE MIDDLE EAST FIRST BAPTIST RAYTOWN JUNE 23

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