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October 21 lesson: Abraham and Sarah Birth God’s People

October 15, 2018
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Abraham and Sarah Birth God’s People

Fall Quarter: God’s World and God’s People
Unit 2: God Destroys and Re-Creates

Sunday school lesson for the week of October 21, 2018
By Dr. Nita Crump

Lesson Scripture: Genesis 18:9-15, 21:1-7
Key Verses: Genesis 21:1

Purpose: To open ourselves to blessing even when our timetable seems at odds with God.

Life takes time. Have you ever noticed that? For most of us, life takes 70 to 90 years of living.  Our culture teaches that life can and should move very fast. In the last 100 years, we’ve gone from a relatively calm, slower-paced lifestyle to one in which we’re expected to make decisions instantly based on information that flows faster than the eyes can read and the mind can process.  Being held up in a drive through for more than a minute brings waves of impatience because we’re in such a hurry. Days are jam-packed, and we move from one activity to another without ceasing, hoping to find a few minutes to sit down and breathe, but rarely doing so. We feel compelled to move as fast as we can to accomplish an activity so that there’s more room in our schedule for more activities and we rush, rush, rush until we are at the point of dropping and then we wonder why we aren’t satisfied with life. We forget two things about life that today’s lesson may help us remember.

First, we have all the time we need to do what God is calling us to do. I hope you’ve read the scripture related to this lesson. Let me suggest that you go back and read all of chapter 18.  Chapter 18 begins with three strangers appearing outside Abraham’s tent. It’s the hottest part of the day, a time when no one wants to be busy doing anything in the heat. But hospitality required Abraham to act. He couldn’t pretend to not see the strangers standing there. When he saw the men, he ran to them, welcomed them, and invited them to rest and be refreshed by a meal. Preparing a meal was not an easy task in those days. Bread had to be baked from scratch. Meat had to be prepared from scratch, which meant taking a living calf, preparing it for cooking, then cooking the fresh meat over a fire in the hottest part of the day. Abraham could have slipped into his tent and found something else to busy himself with, hoping that the strangers would continue their journey instead of stopping. Abraham knew that God expected him to be hospitable, so he made the time to do what God wanted done. The strangers were welcomed and well fed, and in return Abraham and Sarah heard the promise that Sarah would have a son the next year. 

Abraham had time to do what God wanted done, not because he suddenly found more time, but because he rearranged his priorities so that what God wanted done became more important that what he thought needed to be done. 

Second, God’s schedule and our schedule may or may not be the same. We’re told more than once in scripture that God’s time is different than human, worldly time. This story is an example of how God’s time didn’t match what the humans expected. God had promised to make Abraham the father of more people than could be counted. When that didn’t happen according to Abraham’s and Sarah’s schedules, they tried to help God keep his promise. The resulting child was Ishmael, a son for Abraham, but not the son God meant when he made the promise. When the strangers show up and remind Abraham of the promise and tell him that it will be fulfilled within a year, Sarah is doubtful of the wisdom of the strangers. There is no more time to have children for her. Her body is well past the time of conceiving, nurturing, and giving birth to a child. We know the rest of the story. God, in his infinite wisdom, created a way for Sarah to give birth even in her advanced age. The birth was just in time – God’s time. 

Often, the hardest answer to a prayer one can receive is the answer to wait. Waiting, and patience, are not necessarily easy positions for most humans to take. I remember praying daily for a friend to find salvation. I prayed for nearly 10 years. Finally, the day came when I received an answer to my prayer. Was my first thought gratitude and celebration? No. My first thought was a complaint that God had taken so long to answer my prayer. In this case, as in every case, God’s time was not my time, but God’s time was the perfect time.

There are two more things we can learn from this story. We can learn that God doesn’t mind us expressing our doubts. I believe he would rather us give voice to our doubts instead of hiding them in our hearts. Sarah doubted so much that she laughed at the very idea of having children in her advanced stage of life. One of my favorite verses is Mark 9:24: “The father instantly cried out, ‘I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief.’” (NLT) I think that we should be honest with God and express our reasons for unbelief openly because, as we do, we create a space for him to do just what the father in Mark asked – help us with our unbelief.

We can also learn that God keeps his promises regardless of whether we believe or not. God’s faithfulness is not dependent on our belief and is not stymied by our doubts. When God makes a promise, God keeps his promise. In his time, not ours. 

Life takes time. Make sure to make time for the things of God. 

(Information in this lesson was drawn from The New Application Commentary, Genesis, From biblical text…to contemporary life, John H. Walton, p 441-471, 491-506 and the Teacher’s Edition of the Adult Bible Studies, Uniform Series, International Bible Lessons for Christian Teaching.)

Dr. Nita Crump serves as Director of Connectional Ministries. Contact her at nitac@sgaumc.com.

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