Community Group Study “Genesis: God’s Unconditional Promise”
Before your community group meets:
Read Genesis 15:1-21 and list out 8-12 observations from the text like who is making the promise, what is Abram doing during the covenant ceremony, what people groups are mentioned, etc.
What are God’s first words to Abram and how does this highlight something we’ve already learned about Abram?
How does Abram express his doubt of God’s promise and blessing? What does God do reassure him?
Who is the active participant in the “covenant ceremony” in Genesis 15:9-21 and what does that show us about the nature of the covenant God made? If you have a study bible or access to one, this would be a great time to use it.
We have seen Abram’s relationship with God deepening over the last few chapters of Genesis. Abram was called by God to be blessed and set apart so that God would make a people for himself from Abram and use them to bless the world. God chose Abram, despite his childlessness and his pagan ancestors and his struggle with fear. In fact, in all these things, God is glorified and exalted in how he works in and through the imperfections of Abram. Abram is coming off a military victory and a spiritual victory. God worked through him defeat the Chedolaomer kings and rescue Lot and Abram stood firm in the face of temptation as the king of Sodom offered him material blessing to attempt to hook him into their sinful culture (Genesis 13:13, 14:21).
God again reveals more about himself and his promised blessing to Abram in our text. God addresses Abram’s internal emotions of fear and Abram responds by opening up to God about his doubts and fears. To Abram, God’s promise has not gone to plan… Abram remains childless and the only heir in his house is a servant named Eliezer. Abram’s fear and doubt centered on his perception of God’s delay in fulfilling his promise shown in his lack of a son.
Note how God responds to Abram’s honest expression of his heart. God reminds Abram of his promise and gives him more clarity on how it will come to pass.
Take a moment and read Genesis 15:4-6. God reassures Abram that his promised son will come and then gives him a vivid image of how vast the people of Abram will be… “go count the stars”. God brings up Abram’s fear, Abram in return expresses his doubt and God responds in leading Abram to deeper belief and trust.
In this passage of scripture we also get a more detailed explanation of how God will bring about his promise of blessing. God reenacts a covenant ceremony with Abram but changes one key feature. A covenant is a relationship based contract and in the Ancient Near East two people making a covenant would seal the covenant by dividing animals in half and walking down the row between them as a way to say “if I break my end of the deal, may what happened to these animals happen to me”. The big change is that God alone… not Abram goes down the row showing us the unconditional nature of God’s promise. This covenant would not be a “scratch my back and I will scratch yours”… it is God saying “I will give you a son and this land, it will not be accomplished because of your worth or works.” This covenant foreshadows the New Covenant, if restored relationship with God depended on our ability or worth we’d be lost forever.
At your community group:
Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.
How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week?
Scripture and Discussion Questions:
Read Genesis 15:1-6. How does this interaction model a growing relationship for Abram with God? What doubts does he express and how does God answer them?
Read Genesis 15:7-11 and 15:17
In this culture when making a big promise, covenant or business deal… people would do something we’d find somewhat odd today. They’d take an animal and cut it in two and place the two halves on different sides of a path. The two people would then walk between the animals together as a way of saying “If I break my promise this is what should happen to me”… Kind of like saying “Im telling the truth and if not may God strike me down with lightning!”
Summarize the difference between conditional and unconditional covenants. Which one is this and why does this covenant need to be that way?
What do we learn about the nature of God’s relationship with Abram based on these verses?
Read Genesis 15:12-16, how does God foreshadow Abram’s future family and what will God do to remove the obstacle of the Canaanites in the land?
Read Genesis 16:1-16 and write down 10-12 observations from the text.
Whose voice does Abram listen to and does it lead Abram to deeper trust in God or self reliance?
Historians tell us that this arrangement with Hagar was a cultural acceptable practice, how are followers of Jesus similarly tempted today follow cultural norms over God today?
Who does Hagar turn to in her distress and what name does she give God?