Welcome to The Sofa Series. Our ultimate goal in the series is to not just understand more of the Bible, but through the series, get to know who God really is. Here on the sofa, you’ll pull up your comfiest chair, tuck your feet under your Snuggie, and dig into God’s Word. Here, we’re informal yet unafraid to dig into the hard-to-understand things in God’s Word. Here, all are welcome, regardless of how much you already know (or don’t!) about the Bible. Are you ready?
The Reading Plan: Week 2
We study: Abram’s Call and promise, his nephew Lot, Sodom and Gomorrah, the birth of Isaac, Isaac’s sacrifice.
Day 1: Genesis 12-13
Day 2: Genesis 14-15
Day 3: Genesis 16-17
Day 4: Genesis 18-19
Day 5: Genesis 20-22
There is an expression that says, “Time waits for no man.” It means that no one can stop or control time, no matter how badly they want something to slow down or hurry up. My son, for example, begs me to play video games but we have a house rule: no video games during the week. I’m sure to his 12-year old self, a week feels like forever until he gets to drag all of his controllers out again. A week really isn’t that long in the grand scheme of things. But Abram? Abram has been waiting decades for God to answer his deepest prayers. We watch as Sarai becomes impatient, Abram folds under pressure, and Hagar becomes an unwitting pawn in the game of parenthood.
These three chapters show us what happens when we think can control time because God isn’t moving as quickly as we’d like.
Day 2 Reading, Genesis 15:
The Lord’s Promise to Abram: We begin with a glimpse of an open conversation between Abram and God. God, who is supposed to be our ultimate provider, has given Abram everything he could ever want EXCEPT the one thing he DOES want – a child. We can almost hear the grief in his voice as God says, “Great is your reward,” and Abram’s brokenhearted reply is, “What good are your rewards if I don’t have anyone to leave them to as inheritance?” See, in those days, heirs were EVERYTHING. Bearing children was a blessing, and the more you had, the more blessed you were. Failing to produce children could be considered a curse. You were just useless if you couldn’t even father a child, and you’d be looked down upon by society.
God speaks to Abraham through a vision in Chapter 15,
“Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield,
your very great reward.”
2 But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”
4 Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” 5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
Without an heir of his own Abraham’s estate would be willed to his senior-most servant, in this case, Eliezer. Eliezer would be in charge of the day-to-day operations of Abraham’s household, which had become quite powerful. (Remember in Chapter 14, verse 14, when Abram had taken his army of men to rescue Lot?
“…He armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan.”
But God… don’t you love that expression. God had other plans for Abram. Here’s what I love about this chapter:
“Abram believed the Lord.”
Abram trusted God, and God credited him with righteousness. Down in verse 8, Abram asks of God in no uncertain terms, “How can I KNOW for SURE that you’ll keep your word?” It wasn’t that He didn’t trust God at that point, it’s that he was asking God for assurance. He wanted something solid. So when the LORD God asked Abram to cut up the sacrifice, that was a customary type of contract of the time. Two people would sacrifice an animal, each would pass between the two halves, and it would be the same as a signed contract today.
Look at vs 17:
When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking fireboat with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces.
There was Abram’s assurance – a signed contract from God himself that this would come to pass.
Point to ponder: We don’t know how many times – or if – Abram asked God for a child before this but we do know this: God wants us to reach out to Him, even in our brokenness.
Sometimes we forget to ask God for help, because we assume He knows. He knows, because He’s God. But He still wants us to talk to Him about it. What is God waiting for you to talk honestly with Him about today?
Day 3 Reading, Genesis 16-17 & Day 4 Reading, Genesis 18:
Hagar, Ishmael, Sarai, and Isaac: Oh Sarai. Bless your cotton-picking little heart. I know how you feel. When we first moved to our new state, and we prayed. And prayed. And prayed for certain things, and God just didn’t bring us what we wanted when we wanted it. I know, sweet lady, how heartbroken you feel when God doesn’t answer your prayers right away. And unfortunately, I know how tempting and how easy it is to give up on God because clearly his lack of response means He’s given up on you. But quietness from Heaven is never permission to take things into our own hands. Even if that quiet is 90 years long.
God promised Abraham that he would make him a father of many nations. But Abraham was old, and his wife was 90 and still had not conceived a child. So Abraham? Yep, you guessed it. He couldn’t wait on God anymore.
They could just take matters into their own hands. Abraham could just sleep with Sarah’s servant, and by law at the time, that child would belong to Sarah and Abraham. That had to be what God meant, right?
So Hagar conceived, and Sarah was heartbroken and bitter and jealous, and angry. Hagar conceived quickly which meant it wasn’t on Abram… it was on Sarah. And it did not help that Hagar mocked Sarah because of this. Can you even imagine? Sarah waited for a child forever, Hagar conceives immediately and mocks Sarah, who then abuses Hagar in return. And then Sarah says to Abram, “YOU are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms and now she knows she is pregnant and despises me…”
First of all, sweet sister Sarah. Man up. Abram didn’t sleep with her behind your back, it wasn’t a secret, YOU TOLD HIM TO DO IT. Remind you of anyone? (Hint: Go back to Genesis 3:12-13.)
“The woman you gave me, she made me do it.”
We humans are something else. Whew. Rocking the blame game for 3,000 years.
Here’s my next favorite verse for the week. Verse 8. The angel of the Lord finds Hagar near a spring, as she is running away from Sarai.
“Hagar, slave of Sarai; where have you come from and where are you going?”
He knew her name. He knew where she came from. He knew all about her. But He was sent to help. And He needed her to know that He knew her by name.
You know, God knows all about us. He sees us in our distress. He sees us in our darkest moments. Before Ishmael was even born, Sarah’s jealousy forced Hagar to leave, but the angel of the Lord met her in her darkest moment and promised her that God had a plan. There is always a plan.
For 13 more years, Hagar’s son Ishmael would live in front of Sarai, a daily reminder of her barren womb. And when God reminded them that He hadn’t forgotten about her, she had had enough of His empty promises. She’d lost hope in ever believing the dreams she’d waited 90 years to see fulfilled would ever come to fruition.
Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”
Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”
Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.”
But he [God] said, “Yes, you did laugh.”
To solidify the covenant, God changed Sarai’s Hebrew name to Sarah, and Abram’s name to Abraham. Sarai originally meant “princess” while Sarah meant “my princess” identifying the special relationship she and Abraham would now have as the mother to all of the promised land. Abram would change from “high father” (or “exalted father”) to “Father of Many”. He asked the entire male population under Abraham’s household to become circumcised, which Abram did immediately. Now I am clearly not a male, but I’ve seen what happens when our mostly-innocent puppy pounces in tender places on a male body. There is much wailing and doubling over in pain. No one undergoes pain in that area by choice. For Abram’s entire entourage to obey God in this manner showed both commitment on Abram’s part to God, trust in His plan, and the willingness of Abram’s people to submit to the will of the God.
Point to Ponder: Sarah laughed at God… but so did Abram. (See Chapter 18 vs 17.) Why did God call out Sarah for laughing, but not Abram?