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Lesson 2: Abraham: The First Missionary *

Introduction: Everyone should be a missionary of some type, right? Perhaps you thought you were not good enough to share the good news about Jesus? Abraham is one of the most celebrated men in the Bible, and he is a giant of faith. But, Abraham had some issues that will give encouragement to those of us who realize our own flaws. We should not wait to advance God's kingdom until our flaws evaporate, for Abraham also teaches us about the blessings of advancing God's message. Let's jump into our Bible study of Abraham's story and consider the tension between being flawed and being blessed!

  1. Time to Move


    1. Read Genesis 12:1 and Genesis 12:4. Not too many of you reading this are seventy-five years old. However, Genesis 25:7 tells us that Abraham lived to be 175 years old. If we translated that into our current life span, seventy-five would look more like thirty-five years old. What considerations would you have if God gave you a command like this at thirty-five?


      1. Where did God say Abraham was going? (He did not say. Abraham is moving from the known to the completely unknown.)


    2. Read Genesis 12:2-3. A lot of people move to a new part of the country (or world) for a better job. What does God promise Abraham? (Clearly, Abraham is going to be an important man.)


      1. This promise to Abraham is well-known to Bible students. Do you think that God does similar things for His people today? I'm referring especially to the part about blessing us and cursing those who curse us. (Those who regularly read these lessons know that I often mention my flaws. But, many years ago, I noticed something astonishing. In my major religious liberty cases, bad things were regularly happening to my opponents. Key witnesses died, opposing lawyers were fired. My clients won all those cases. When I mentioned it to some other lawyers, they jokingly suggested that I should provide a written warning to future litigation opponents in religious liberty cases.)


    3. Read Genesis 12:5. "The people they had acquired." Is Abraham a slave owner? (The Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament says that these are the male and female slaves Abraham and Lot had acquired. It specifically rejects the translation "the souls they had acquired," which infers converts to Abraham's religion.)


    4. Read Genesis 12:6-7. What is God suggesting about the Canaanites? (That they will be moved from this land.)


      1. Let's discuss this. On the one hand we are told that those who curse Abraham will be cursed, we are told that Abraham has slaves, and we are told that he will displace the (I assume) native people who live in the land. This sounds like God favors His people over other people. If you agree, does this still happen today? Does God have favorites?


      2. Now look at the opposite side of the coin. We are told that God intended to bless those who blessed Abraham, and that all people would be blessed through him. How do you explain that God intends to bless everyone, but that certain people have bad things happen to them? (The general message in these verses is that those who choose God are blessed. Being blessed is not an absolute verdict on following God, for we all know good people who have bad things happen to them. Job is an example God used to teach us this point.)


  2. The Wife


    1. Read Genesis 12:10. Is all well in Abraham's life? (No. He is adversely affected by a famine.)


    2. Read Genesis 12:11-13. What do you think about Abraham's plan?


      1. How much faith in God does it reflect? (None.)


    3. Read Genesis 12:14-17. Again, we see that Abraham is favored and Pharaoh has diseases inflicted on him. Does this seem wrong to you?


    4. Read Genesis 12:18-20. Whose side do you take here? Who shows the superior character? Abraham who lied, or Pharaoh who sends Abraham off (with all of his stuff) as soon as he learns the truth about Sarah? (I suspect that most readers will sympathize with Pharaoh.)


      1. What is the lesson here? (Abraham obeyed God in accepting the call to mission. God sticks with Abraham even though he shows character flaws and gets in trouble by not trusting God.)


      2. Consider carefully God's actions. Would you do things differently if you were God? (Obviously, Abraham let God down. Just as obviously, God's promise to Abraham faces obstacles if his wife joins Pharaoh's harem. Since Abraham is not telling Pharaoh the truth, God brought the truth out through the infliction of diseases. Notice that God sticks with Abraham even when he fails God.)


  3. The Battle


    1. Read Genesis 14:1-4. What is the reason for the war? (The Kings of Sodom and Gomorrah rebelled against King Kedorlaomer of Elam.)


    2. Read Genesis 14:11-12. Who is collateral damage? (Lot and his possessions.)


    3. Read Genesis 14:13-14 and Genesis 14:17. Has God made good on his promise to Abraham? (Read Genesis 14:18-20. Yes, Melchizedek attributes the victory to God.)


    4. Read Genesis 14:16 and Genesis 14:21. How strong a bargaining hand does the King of Sodom possess? (Abraham just defeated the kings who defeated Sodom. Abraham could have done what he wanted.)


    5. Read Genesis 14:22-23. Why should Abraham care what this king thinks or says? (Abraham wants the world to think that God made him rich. We now see how Abraham is taking the blessings of God and using them to give glory to God. Abraham gives witness to the fact that God is Creator of heaven and earth.)


  4. Doubt


    1. Read Genesis 15:1-3. How does this compare to Genesis 12:2? (God has not yet fulfilled His promise.)


      1. What lessons do we learn from Abraham's complaint to God? (We should let God know about our concerns. That shows that we still think He is the solution to the problem. But, we also learn from Abraham's situation that we must be patient.)


    2. Read Genesis 15:4-5. If God has not fulfilled one promise, is getting a second and grander promise the answer? (Read Genesis 15:6. It was sufficient for Abraham and it should be for us. God showed Abraham favor, but He had not yet fulfilled an important part of His promise.)


    3. Read Genesis 15:7-8. Is Abraham a completely trusting guy? (No! He is asking for proof of the promise concerning land.)


    4. In the next several verses ( Genesis 15:9-15) God does two things. He enters into a formal contract with Abraham about the land (that is what the animal parts are about) and God describes the "near" future for Abraham's descendants.) Read Genesis 15:16. Why will the Amorites be displaced from their land? (They have not chosen God. When their sin reaches its "full measure" they will lose their land.)


      1. In the last few days the United States reached a new milestone in embracing sin. Does the rule that applied to the Amorites apply today to the United States and all other nations?


      2. Why do you think God formalized His promise to Abraham? Why draw up a "contract?"


  5. True Missionary Faith


    1. Read Hebrews 11:8-10. What is the true focus of Abraham's faith? (Not what happened during his life, but rather the New Jerusalem.)


      1. If life is not providing what we thought God promised, what should we do? (First, we need to look at our self. We should not look for perfection, given Abraham's issues. But, we should consider whether our actions created our problems. Second, we need to have the long view of God's blessings.)


    2. Read Hebrews 11:11-12. What is the key to Abraham's faith? ("He considered [God] faithful." The real question is whether we trust God. That is the point of the story of Job, a guy whose life was definitely not going as promised.)


    3. Read Hebrews 11:13-16. If we trust God, if we welcome His promise for the future, what will God do? (He will not be ashamed of us and He will prepare a city for us!)


    4. Friend, do you want God to prepare a city for you? We all have flaws. The question is whether we will choose God and trust Him? Will you agree to do that right now?


  6. Next week: The Unlikely Missionary.
* Copr. 2015, 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.

© 2015 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
Website by Blake Cameron, M.D.
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