Lesson 4

An Everlasting Covenant

(Exodus 3, Genesis 15 & 17)
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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!

  1. I AM


    1. 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?


    2. 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.)


      1. 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.)


    3. Read Exodus 3:14. Is this a sufficient answer?


      1. What do you understand this name(the Hebrew is YHWH (Yahweh))to mean?


      2. 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.)


      3. 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?


  2. El Shaddai


    1. 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.)


      1. 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.)


      2. 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?


      3. 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?


        1. 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.)


        2. 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?")


      4. 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.")


        1. Last week we discussed this idea of "walking" with God. What did we decide it meant to live a life that "walked" with God?


        2. Has God's goal for His people changed over the years? Is this His goal for you?


  3. Abraham


    1. Let's continue reading: Genesis 17:3-6. What is Abram's reaction to hearing that God Almighty is speaking to him?


      1. 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 this?


        1. What do you think about this name change?


        2. 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 Giant.")


      2. Are these empty words from God?


        1. How strong are God's words? (See Genesis 1:3 - Creation was spoken into existence.)


      3. 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 agree?


    2. 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 Canaan.)


      1. 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.)


    3. Read Genesis 17:9-10. What is Abraham promising God? (What a deal: lose a little skin, get a lot of land!)


      1. Is that it?


    4. 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.)


      1. 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 covenant?


        1. 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.)


    5. 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 agreement.)


      1. 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.)

    1. 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 me.)


    2. 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?


  1. Next Week: Children of the Promise

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Lessons on The Promise: God's Everlasting Covenant

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