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Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 41 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 2: Abram and Sarah: Faith Tested and Tried *
Introduction: Hebrews 11:11-12 celebrates the faith of Abraham in the
promise that he would have many descendants. The reality of the
marriage between Abram and Sarah, and their relationship to God,
seems a little different than the perfect picture of faith. It makes
us scratch our head. What should we conclude about this? The writer
of Hebrews had his blinders on? Or, that God is more merciful and
generous to us in our marriage decisions and our relationship with
Him than we might think? Let's dive into our study this week and find
- The Wait
- Read Genesis 12:2-3. Abram was 75 years old ( Genesis 12:4)
when he was first promised by God to become a "great
nation." Put yourself in Abram's sandals: when would you
expect that promise to be fulfilled? (Soon, given his
- How important a promise would you guess this was in
Abram's culture? (Very.)
- Read Genesis 15:1-3. If you owe someone money, are you
conscious of this when you see them? Is it the first
thing that comes to your mind?
- Abram is now 85, ten years have passed since God
promised him (at 75) to "become a great nation." Why
does God, no doubt remembering His promise, tell
Abram that his faithfulness to God is a "great
- Evaluate Abram's response: is this the response of
faith? Abram immediately tells God He has not kept
His promise and the arrangements have been made to
have his chief servant inherit Abram's "great
reward." (There are two levels of faith. The first is
accepting and patiently waiting. The second is
challenging God to keep His promise. Both look to God
as the One who is able to perform. The "non-faith"
response is simply to ignore God because you no
longer think He is a factor.)
- Read Genesis 15:4-6. What did God say to Abram that
revived His faith in the promise?
- Read Genesis 17:15-17. How many years have now passed
without God fulfilling His promise? (25 years!)
- What stage of "faith" has Abraham now reached? (He is
at the edge of simply ignoring God. He laughs at the
promise because it seemingly had no value.)
- What do failed promises do to a marriage?
- Why would God wait so long? What purpose does a 25+
year delay serve? (This is one of those areas in
which it is difficult (at least for me) to understand
the mind of God. A son, Isaac, was born to them.
Isaac's name means "to laugh," and thus he was a
perpetual reminder to Abraham and Sarah (who also
laughed in derision ( Genesis 18:10-12) of the
reliability (if not speed) of God's promises to
- Read Hebrews 11:12. Does the fact that God
waited until this couple was "as good as dead"
to give them the promised child help explain the
wait? (This is a recurring pattern in God's
dealings with humans. He waits until it is
impossible, and then He does the impossible - so
that no one is confused about God's role in the
- Read Genesis 17:18-21. What does God do here to make the
promise more real? (He actually names the son Abraham and
Sarah will have and gives a specific time period.)
- The Work
- Read Genesis 16:1-2. Abraham was 85, so this was ten years
after God's promise of a son, and fifteen years before
Isaac would be born. What do you think about Sarah's
statement that "The Lord has kept me from having
children?" (At first blush, this seems completely at odds
with God's promise. But, go back and reconsider the
promises that God has made to Abraham so far. God does
not mention who will be the mother - He only mentions
Abraham as the father!)
- Considering that Sarah has not been named as the
mother, in what kind of light does this put her
offer? (Since God has kept her (or so it seems to
her) from fulfilling His promise, "perhaps" God has
in mind some other woman to fulfill the promise.
Sarah seems to be unselfish, impatient, and willing
to help God.)
- Read Proverbs 3:5-6. How does Sarah's suggestion run
afoul of this proverb? (The Bible commentary "Be
Obedient" says "faith is living without scheming."
The pattern of God is that He works with human
partners to fulfill His work on earth. The line
between being "God's helper" and "scheming" is not
always a real bright line.)
- Re-read Genesis 16:2. Recall that last week Adam listened
to Eve and ate the fruit. What lesson do we see repeated
here? (Listening to your wife's advice may be is contrary
to God's will and harmful to your spiritual health.)
- Let's take a small detour right here. Read Genesis
12:10-20. Whose great idea was it to lie to Pharaoh?
- What lesson do we learn for our marriages from the
advice given by these two? (Our spouse is our helper
and our closest human friend. But, that does not mean
we should turn off our brain when they offer advice.
We need to be sure our decisions are consistent with
the advice of our closest heavenly Friend!)
- Read Genesis 16:3-4a. At this point are Abraham and Sarah
congratulating themselves on doing God's will? (Sarah's
advice worked. No doubt during the "praise and prayer"
time in church they would have stood up and told how they
partnered with God to have this wonderful child.)
- Read Genesis 16:4-5. What has happened to Sarah's
- Is Sarah right? Is Abraham responsible for "the
wrong" Sarah was suffering?
- How would you anticipate that God would judge between
the two of them?
- Read Genesis 16:6. Evaluate the actions of this couple
now? (Abraham deserts his leadership position. Sarah
abuses Hagar. Neither spouse is acting like a follower of
- Read Romans 4:18-21. Is this how you would have described
this sequence of events?
- How do you explain Paul's statement? (The New Bible
Commentary says Paul's point is "not that Abraham was
a perfect person or never had any doubts at all, but
that his heart attitude was consistently one of faith
and hope in the promise of God.")
- The Promise Fulfilled
- Read Genesis 21:1-3. The text is about the birth of
Isaac. But, what other fact keeps being repeated in these
verses? (That God kept His promise!)
- What does that teach us about trusting God? (God's
timetable may be much different than ours. However,
God keeps his promises.)
- What does this teach us about marriage? (Remain
faithful to your spouse and your God. It may seem
difficult, but the alternatives are worse.)
- Read Genesis 21:6-7. What kind of attitude does Sarah
have? (She feels vindicated. Against all odds, she
finally has a son.)
- Tested Again
- Read Genesis 21:8-10. What kind of attitude do we see in:
- Ishmael? (Ishmael was jealous and mocked Isaac. I'm
- Sarah? (Now that she has a son, she will let no one
"steal his thunder" or get in his way.)
- Genesis 21:10 contains more advice from Sarah. Would you
take it if you were Abraham?
- Read Genesis 21:11-13. How does it feel to be Abraham
- Do you think he wishes that he never had Ishmael?
- God, amazingly, supports Sarah's demands. What does
God say to Abraham to comfort him? (That Ishmael will
live and be a great nation.)
- Read Genesis 22:1-2. Put yourself in Abraham's place. What
impact does the fate of Ishmael have on your thinking?
(This is where Abraham's name is entitled to be chiseled
in stone in the "faith chapter" (Hebrews 11). I would have
been very worried because God let Ishmael go. I had the
heartbreak of that! Now this command!)
- Read Hebrews 11:17-19. How did Abraham work this out
in his mind? (That God would raise Isaac to life.)
- Friend, sometimes our spouse gives us good advice.
Sometimes not. Our heavenly Father is always with us -
even when it seems He is not. Will you trust Him?
- Next week: Isaac and Rebekah: Rearing Rivals.
* Copr. 2007, 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.