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Sabbath School Lessons on The Promise - God's Everlasting Covenant
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About the Author
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 4: An Everlasting Covenant *
Introduction: Parents, think back to the time when you were naming
your children. Was there a name you absolutely would not give your
child because you knew someone with that name? You could not, for
example, name the child after an old boyfriend or old girlfriend,
right? Among people I know, it is unusual for parents to give a child
a name specifically because of its meaning. Most parents choose the
name based on whether they like the sound or the looks of the name.
Nevertheless, our avoidance of certain names shows that we pay some
attention to name associations. The Hebrews gave their children names
based on meaning, rather than the sound or look of the name. This
week we turn our attention to names and the covenant God seeks with
us. Let's jump in!
- I AM
- Read Exodus 3:11. God has just told Moses that he is the
one to lead the Hebrews out of slavery in Egypt. What is
Moses' reaction to his nomination for this duty?
- Read Exodus 3:13. Why does Moses ask this question of God?
(Moses first says to God, "Who am I to do this?" Now he
seems to say to God, "Who are you?" Moses tells God the
people will want to know who, exactly, is this God that
says He will free them from slavery.)
- What is Moses really saying to God? Do you think the
people are just curious about God's name? Or, is it
deeper than that? (What they want to know is whether
this God (among the many that they knew) was more
important than the Egyptian gods.)
- Read Exodus 3:14. Is this a sufficient answer?
- What do you understand this name(the Hebrew is YHWH
- Does this answer the Hebrews real question? (Which
was "Can you beat up those other gods?) What do you
think? (The word YHWH means several things, but "to
be" is one of them. By this God was declaring His
superiority over other gods.)
- As I have read various commentaries on what Yahweh
meant in the Hebrew, it strikes me that much of this
can be understood from the English translation of "I
AM WHO I AM." Put yourself in the place of the Hebrew
slaves. How would "I AM WHO I AM" appear to be
superior to idol, animal or nature worship?
- El Shaddai
- Read Genesis 17:1-2. What is God's reason for calling on
Abram? (He wanted to talk about the contract (the
covenant) between the two of them.)
- Why do you think the text starts mentioning that
Abram was 99 years old? (The contract had to do with
"greatly" increasing the number of Abram's
descendants. Since Abram was now almost one hundred
years old, noting his age was an important point.)
- Abram had been complaining about the "descendants"
issue. ( Genesis 15:1-5)Was it reasonable for God to
take the time to discuss with Abram how their
contract was coming along?
- God starts out the conversation by introducing
Himself. "God Almighty" is the translation for the
Hebrew "Eel-Shaday" (El Shaddai). What does this name
mean to you?
- How would this name give comfort and be
meaningful to Abram? (God Almighty means God can
do anything. Abram needs God to do quite a lot
to give him many descendants at his age.)
- Is there any downside to this name "God
Almighty?" (If God is so mighty, Abram might ask
himself, "Why am I almost 100 years old and only
have one son by my maid?")
- Right after God introduces Himself to Abram, He notes
what He has in mind for Abram. What is that? ("Walk
before me and be blameless.")
- Last week we discussed this idea of "walking"
with God. What did we decide it meant to live a
life that "walked" with God?
- Has God's goal for His people changed over the
years? Is this His goal for you?
- Let's continue reading: Genesis 17:3-6. What is Abram's
reaction to hearing that God Almighty is speaking to him?
- God changes Abram's name to Abraham, which is a
change in meaning from "high father" to "populous" -
"father of a multitude." What is God's purpose in
- What do you think about this name change?
- What do you think Abram thought? (This is a
little tricky. I'm not sure I would appreciate
this. Let's say I am four feet tall and God
comes to me and says, "I'm changing your name to
- Are these empty words from God?
- How strong are God's words? (See Genesis 1:3 -
Creation was spoken into existence.)
- Have you ever heard someone say, "Just telling
someone you are praying for them is not nearly as
good as actually doing something for them." Do you
- Read Genesis 17:7-8. We learned in an earlier lesson that
a covenant is similar to a contract. A contract requires
promises (and performance) on both sides. What is God
promising to Abraham? (That He will be his God and the God
of his descendants and that He will give them the land of
- How does God's prior promise of many descendants fit
into this picture? (God promises not simply to be the
God of the descendants, but having many descendants
would be essential to possessing the land of Canaan.)
- Read Genesis 17:9-10. What is Abraham promising God? (What
a deal: lose a little skin, get a lot of land!)
- Is that it?
- Read Genesis 17:11. What, really, was Abraham promising
God? (Circumcision was simply the sign of the covenant. It
was like the rainbow that we discussed last week.)
- Read Genesis 18:19. The Bible discusses the sign of
the covenant for quite a few verses before we get to
an actual discussion of what is required of Abraham
and his descendants. What is their part of the
- Is this all works? Or, is there any grace here?
("For I have chosen him" sounds like grace to
me. However, God clearly expects Abraham to
"keep the way of the Lord." This sounds like
another "walking" issue to me.)
- We know the rainbow was a sign of the covenant that there
would not be another world-wide flood. Now we find that
circumcision is a covenant sign. Is there more to
Abraham's side of this covenant than what we find in
Genesis 18:19? (In Genesis 17:2, God tells Abram that He
is about to "confirm my covenant," which means we also
have to look back in the Bible to find the terms of the
- Our lesson points out that God approached Abraham in
three stages with the covenant. The first stage was
Genesis 12:1-5, the second was Genesis 15:1-7 and the
third stage was those verses in Genesis 17 we just
studied. As you look back over Genesis 12 and 15,
what did God ask Abram to do? (In Genesis 12 God
asked Abram to follow Him to an unknown land. In
Genesis 15 (especially, verse 6), God asked Abram to
believe Him. Thus, Abram's part of the contract was
to believe and follow God.)
- We discussed last week why God would chose the rainbow as
a sign of His covenant with Noah. We decided it was
because rainbows appeared at the time of rain - thus
providing a reminder of the promise at the critical time.
Why do you think God chose circumcision as a sign of His
covenant with Abram? (God's promise was that he would have
many descendants. It seems just like the rainbow idea to
- Friend, the Almighty I AM still desires to enter into
covenant agreements with His people. In these agreements
He gives us more than we could earn on our own. However,
God has high standards for us. Will you answer God's call
to enter into a special relationship with Him?
- Next Week: Children of the Promise
* Copr. 2003, 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.