Bible Study Notes Rev. Betsy Perkins
God’s Covenant with Abram
God had made Abram promises in chapter 12 as He commanded Abram to travel to the land that God would show him. So far, Abram’s response to God has been obedience and building altars to call on the name of the LORD. But now God and Abram speak together in a vision. The previous promises are formalized by God into a covenant with Abram.
A Great Reward, Descendants and Land (15:1-6):
o What is the LORD’s first message to Abram when He appears to him in a vision? How do the LORD’s words speak to the situation Abram has just been in?
o How does Abram respond? What does it mean to Abram that he does not have a son?
o What visual confirmation does the LORD provide Abram in regard to the promise of descendants? How does Abram respond?
o Read Romans 4:1-3, 9-16. What is the point Paul is making with the use of Genesis 15:6?
o Read James 2:20-24. What is the point James is making with the use of Genesis 15:6?
“For Jews and Christians, faith is not merely a matter of trust, but of trust in a particular person. We sometimes refer to ‘people of faith’ or to someone ‘coming to faith’ as if it is the faith that matters. It is not the faith that matters but the person in whom you have faith. Faith is useless if misplaced, and doubt doesn’t matter so much if you are doubting the right person. In his account of the development of Christian witness in China and the demands it placed on his faith, the nineteenth-century missionary pioneer Hudson Taylor commented on how people pray, ‘Lord, increase our faith’ despite Jesus’ rebuke of his disciples for that prayer. In effect, he observes, Jesus said it is not great faith you need but faith in a great God. Faith as small as a grain of mustard seed is sufficient if correctly located. Abraham did not merely believe; ‘He believed in Yahweh.’” John Goldingay
o In what ways have you found the statement above to be true in your own life?
The Covenant Promise (15:7-21):
o Formal legal covenants of the ancient Near East always begin with the one making the agreement identifying himself and including some historical background. Who is making this covenant agreement? What is the significant history?
o Genesis 15:6 just said that Abram believed the LORD, but what does his response in 15:8 indicate? Why does Abram continue to have trouble believing God’s promise? Why is it sometimes difficult for us to trust God’s promises?
o Abram’s request for assurance leads the LORD to enact a legal ritual to formalize an agreement, called “to cut a covenant,” which was not uncommon in Abram’s day. Why is the ritual described in this way? What is the meaning of the ritual?
o How are we to understand the smoking firepot and blazing torch? What do you think Abram’s reaction would have been? What reactions have you had when God made or fulfilled a promise?
o Compare 15:12 and 2:21. Is the similarity a coincidence or is there some connection?
o God’s promise in 15:13-16 has good-news/bad-news components. What are they?
o God promise of the land to Abraham does not eliminate God’s commitment to be fair and merciful to all people. How does God work out the seeming conflict of these two commitments?
o In what ways does God continue to have seemingly conflicting commitments today?
o The tense of the verb ‘give’ in 15:18 is different than the previous promises God has made to Abram (12:1-3, 12:7, 13:14-17, 15:4-5). How is that significant?
o What does Genesis 15 reveal about us as human beings?
o What does Genesis 15 reveal about God?
In light of this passage and our discussion, what one truth about God and about yourself stand out as something to “take to heart” this week?
Are there steps you will take, by God’s grace, to more fully apply it to your life?
Resources: Robert Alter, Genesis, 1996
John Goldingay, Genesis for Everyone, 2010
Max Lucado, Life Lessons with Max Lucado: Book of Genesis, 1997