Teaching Notes are Bible studies we taught before GraceLife Ministries began publishing articles online in 1995. Some were presented as sermons, others as group studies.
Our hope is that these older studies will be a blessing to you in your life and ministry. Please use them in any way God leads you.
These teaching notes are from a series of studies about the Book of Genesis.
[These notes are from a study from almost 45 years ago.]
“After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. And Abram said, Lord God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir. And, behold, the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.”
Sometime after the victory Abram received the “word of the Lord” in a vision. God told him not to be afraid because He is Abram’s shield and “exceeding great reward.” Apparently, Abram was afraid for some reason. It may have been the natural depression that often follows “high” experiences (like a battle). It might. have been that Abram feared retaliation from the armies of the defeated kings.
Heavy on Abram’s mind was an heir to his estate. He questioned God (Lord God) about this. He believed that his servant, Eliezer of Damascus, would inherit everything.
Eliezer (’ĕlî‘ezer), which means “God is help,” was the chief servant of Abram. Since Abram had no children, the chief servant would be the heir. This was possibly a custom of that time.
God was very direct in pointing out that Eliezer would not be the heir. Abram would father a child that would become his heir.
Next, God took Abram outside and used the stars in the sky to give him an understanding of the bigness of God’s promise.
I wonder if God gets irritated when I don’t understand or have doubts and He keeps having to work with me slowly and painstakingly?
“And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”
Abram believed what God told him and it was credited (counted) as righteousness. This was not the imputing of salvation-righteousness. Abram had already received the grace-gift. Here Abram was making the pilgrimage of faith and each step was “right” and taken note of by God.
“And he said unto him, I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it. And he said, Lord God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?”
God reminded Abram of past promises which were still in effect. God was also reminding Abram of the bigger picture – the purpose for which Abram had been chosen. He was to take possession of the land God had given him.
Right after a step of faith, Abram questioned how he could know that what God had promised would happen. All believers do that at different points in their journey of faith. We trust and then doubt or wonder how.
“And he said unto him, Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon. And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not. And when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away.”
God is so patient. He doesn’t scold Abram or get angry. He understands Abram’s humanity and the difficulty he was having in walking by faith and in the Spirit.
God was going to do something special. Abram was to bring five animals to God:
- a three-year-old heifer
- a three-year-old she goat
- a three-year-old ram
- a turtledove
- a young pigeon
There was probably some significance to why the animals were chosen. The fact that the heifer, goat and ram were to be three-years-old also must have had some significance. The dove usually symbolized peace and the pigeon was to be young (ḡōwzāl).
Abram got the animals and birds and brought them to God. He cut the animals in half and arranged the halves opposite each other, but he didn’t cut the birds in half.
Birds of prey were very bold creatures that lived off dead flesh as well as living beings. Abram had his hands full driving them away from the carcasses.
I wonder why this is even mentioned? What is the importance of these birds flying in for a meal? In other places, birds were used to portray Satan and his co-workers. The interpretation of this may play a part. (see Parable of Sower, Matthew 13; Mark 4; Luke 8)
“And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him. And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.”
“And when the sun was going down …” Abram had been up since the night before driving birds of prey away from the animal carcasses. He may have been doing that for more than 18 hours. His faith in God and trust in Him was probably being tested.
God put Abram to sleep. A great darkness fell upon Abram and God told Abram of a terrible time when Abram’s descendants would be strangers in a foreign land where they would be enslaved and afflicted four hundred years. That nation would be punished by God and the descendants would leave with great possessions. They would return to the promised land when the iniquity (sin) of the Amorites had reached its full measure.
Abram would die before that would happen and be buried in a good old age.
“And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces. In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims, And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.”
After it got dark, a smoking fire pot with a blazing torch passed between the pieces. it was a custom of that day to complete a covenant (contract, agreement) through the divided sacrifice. Both parties were responsible to keep the agreement. If one failed to keep their part, the other person was freed from their part.
However, God passed through alone. Abram was asleep. God alone is responsible for doing what He said. Abram and his descendants would reap the benefits. No matter what Abram or his descendants did, God would keep the covenant.
God then defined the land area involved in the covenant – from the river of Egypt unto the great river Euphrates. Israel has never extended to the full borders of its promise.
To whom the land belonged at that time was also mentioned.
We will look at Genesis Chapter 16 in the next part of our special series.
[Thank you for reading these teaching notes from almost 45 years ago. My prayer is they will be a blessing to you and your life and ministry.]