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Lesson 9: The Triumph of Faith *

Introduction: Years ago, I had a man ask me a question that I clearly remember even now: how can I know what God has in mind for my life? What direction should I take? I'm sure many students of these studies have the same question. How can we trust or even know the leading of God in our life? Our study this week gives us examples of God's leading which may give us some answers. Let's jump into our study!

  1. One Gained, One Lost

    1. Read Genesis 21:1-7. Remember last week we learned that Isaac's name comes from the root of the Hebrew word meaning "to laugh?" What kind of laughing do we see now about this boy? (The laughter of disbelief turns to the laughter of joy!)

    2. Read Genesis 21:8-9. Ishmael is at least 15 years old now. Put yourself in his place, why would Ishmael make fun of Isaac? (Ishmael is the first born son. By tradition, he holds a special position. However, a big party is being given for Isaac, and I am sure Ishmael is feeling more than a little jealous. Making fun of Isaac helps to make Ishmael feel better.)

    3. Read Genesis 21:9-11. Why is Sarah making such a demand? (Now that she has a son, Hagar and Ishmael are unneeded and a threat to her and her son.)

      1. According to Sarah, Ishmael is whose son? (The son of a slave woman.)

        1. Is this true? (Not exactly. Hagar is also Abraham's wife. Genesis 16:3. Sarah also neglects to mention that Ishmael is Abraham's son.)

      2. Abraham, showing weakness, let Sarah mistreat Hagar before. What do you think is going through his mind now? (Abraham is angry and upset. He loves his son. In addition, what Sarah proposes is contrary to the law.)

    4. Read Genesis 21:12-13. How does God refer to Ishmael? (God says essentially what Sarah said!)

      1. How can God ask Abraham not to be upset about losing his first born son? (God says that He will bless Ishmael.)

    5. Read Genesis 21:14-16. Abraham is rich. What do you think about Abraham sending his first born son and his second wife away with only food and water strapped to Hagar's back?

      1. Where is the caravan of animals and soldiers that should accompany them and protect them? (The best spin I can put on this is that Abraham believed that God would protect Ishmael. Otherwise, this seems totally outrageous to me, totally inconsistent with a love for Ishmael and Hagar.)

    6. Read Genesis 21:17-19. Things turn out badly, as you might expect they would. Hagar thinks her son is going to die, and she begins to cry. Is Hagar praying to God for help? How about the boy - he is old enough to know to pray?

      1. Any reasons why they might not be praying? (Abraham, as a representative of God in their eyes, has treated them terribly.)

      2. Who initiates the help to Hagar and her son? (God does, just as He promised.)

      3. Consider how God "fixes" the problem. What lesson can you learn from this for your life? (The Bible Reader's Companion points out that God opens Hagar's eyes to an existing solution. He does not create a miracle, He just helps her to see the way out based on the resources already available to her.)

    7. Read Genesis 21:20. Is God trustworthy even when your whole world is coming apart? (Yes.)

  2. Two Lost

    1. Read Genesis 22:1-2. Put yourself in Abraham's place. What reasons would you have to disobey this command from God?

      1. Notice how God describes Isaac in these verses. Is this supposed to increase the odds that Abraham will obey? (God emphasizes that this is (now) Abraham's "only son" whom he "loves." Talk about making things worse!)

      2. Read Leviticus 20:1-2 and Jeremiah 32:35. What is God's view of sacrificing children?

        1. Why would God instruct Abraham to do just the opposite of His character?

      3. Read Genesis 21:12. What had God said would be the future of Isaac?

        1. What would this text trigger in your mind if you were Abraham? (That God had sent off my first-born son when he was a teen. I didn't want that. I didn't expect that. It broke my heart. And, God sending Ishmael away seemed contrary to the promise God made to me in Genesis 17:20. Is God now breaking His promise to me again? Depriving me of my only remaining son when he is very young?)

      4. Abraham is 120 years old, he is rich and he is honored. His son is about to take charge of his fortune. Everything is going as planned. Could God really mean this now?

      5. Notice that Genesis 22:1 says that God tested Abraham. Read James 1:13-14. How do you reconcile these two texts? (The commentary on Genesis, Be Obedient, distinguishes between trials and temptations. Trials come from God for special reasons, temptations come from Satan to bring out the worst in us. It says temptations seem reasonable, but trials seem unreasonable.)

        1. If this commentary is right, what special reason would God have put Abraham through a trial? (Read 1 Peter 1:6-7. Abraham's faith had not been perfect so far.)

    2. Read Genesis 22:3-5. Do you think Abraham told Sarah before he left?

      1. What would he say when he returned and had killed her only son?

      2. Why does Abraham do this right away?

      3. How would you like a three day journey just to think about sacrificing your only, beloved, son?

      4. Why does Abraham tell his servants that "we will come back to you?"

    3. Read Genesis 22:6-8. Do you think that Abraham believes what he told Isaac? Or, is Abraham lying to give comfort to his son? (Read Genesis 18:14. I feel confident that a terrible struggle took place in Abraham's mind. Bottom line, I think Abraham just decided that God would work things out - nothing was too hard for God.)

    4. Read Genesis 22:9-10. At some point Abraham has to tell Isaac about God's instructions. What can we believe was Isaac's reaction? (He obviously agreed to this. He could have overpowered dad. He believed that his father knew the voice of God and he shared the faith of his father.)

      1. Had Abraham committed to do the terrible deed that violated all logic except the logic of obedience to God? (Yes. Unbelievable!)

      2. Was there any shred of logic to this? Was it pure trust in God? (Read Hebrews 11:17-19. Abraham had worked out the logic of reconciling the promises of God with this current command.)

    5. Read Genesis 22:11-12. Abraham passes the most intense test of faith. How can God say "Now I know," when God knows the future? (A fascinating commentary, Patriarchs and Prophets (chapter 13), compares this story to Job. In Job we find that the entire universe is watching the test of Job's faithfulness to God. Patriarchs and Prophets suggests the very same thing is happening here. Where Adam and Eve failed, Abraham proved to be faithful (with a much more terrible test). Thus, the "I know" might be a reference to the watching universe.)

    6. Read Genesis 22:13-14. Remember when I asked you whether Abraham was telling the truth to Isaac in Genesis 22:8 when he said "the Lord will provide?" Did God provide? (Yes!)

      1. Would you compare the ram to Jesus? (Just as this ram took the place of Isaac, and spared his life, so Jesus takes the place of our children, our parents and ourselves, and spares us from eternal death.)

    7. What does Abraham's story teach us about our heavenly Father who had no one to stay His hand when His Son, Jesus, died in our place?

    8. This story reveals God's love for us. Job is a lesson for us. So is this story. How many of our trials are in large part a blessing to others if we are faithful?

    9. What does this story teach us about the importance of works in our salvation by faith? What if Abraham had refused to do this? Failed this test? (Compare James 2:20-22 with Romans 4:1-3.)

    10. Friend, God's leading is sometimes difficult. Abraham lost his first born son, and then was told to kill his second son, the son through which the promise of his future greatness has been given. Will you determine to obey God wherever He leads? Will you be a shining example to others of obedience and blessing?

  3. Next week: The Price of Duplicity.
* Copr. 2006, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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