Questions to Consider
1. Briefly review lessons 11 and 12 (links above).
2. Read Genesis 16:16 and 17:1. How many years passed between the birth of Ishmael and the appearance of the Lord in 17:1?
3. Compare 17:1-8 with Genesis 15:1-6. Write out the stipulations of the Abrahamic Covenant. Think further ahead into Old Testament history (Exodus-ish). What is God laying the foundation for here with Abraham? How does Abraham serving as the “cornerstone” as it were, of the nation of Israel point ahead to Christ as the cornerstone of Christianity?
4. What was the sign that a person was under the Abrahamic Covenant? (17:9-14) What were the “policies and procedures” regarding circumcision in this passage? Are Christian men today required by Scripture to be circumcised? What is the New Testament sign that a person is in Christ and under the new covenant of grace?
5. Why do you think both the covenant and the sign of the covenant were male-centric? Why didn’t God make the covenant with Abraham and Sarah? Why circumcision, which was specifically male-only, instead of something like ear-piercing which could have also been performed on females?
6. Why did God change Abram’s name to Abraham (17:5), and Sarai’s name to Sarah (17:15)? What did their former and new names mean? Why didn’t God change Hagar’s name?
7. Compare and contrast Abraham’s reaction to the news of Sarah’s impending pregnancy (17:15-18) to Sarah’s reaction to this news (18:10-12). How were their reactions similar? How were they different? How did God respond to Abraham’s reaction? (17:19-21) To Sarah’s? (18:13-15) From God’s individualized responses to each of them, what can you infer about the differences between Abraham’s and Sarah’s thoughts and concerns about the upcoming pregnancy? Why do you think God picked the name Isaac for their son? (see footnote on 17:9, Genesis 21:5-7)
8. Examine more closely Sarah’s response to the news of her impending pregnancy in 18:11-15. Recall or review (lesson 11) Sarah’s failure to trust God. How does her initial reaction here again demonstrate that she did not believe God’s word, or trust God’s character to keep His promise?
9. Verse 18:12 begins with the word “So”, indicating that the reason Sarah reacted the way she did was because of the information in verse 11. What circumstances (11) were Sarah’s reaction (12) based on? Did she have more faith in the her circumstances and her own personal experience, or in God and His Word? In that moment, was her faith rightly or wrongly placed? Examine Hebrews 11:11. Even though Sarah initially failed to trust God and wrongly placed greater faith in her circumstances and experiences, did her heart, her faith, and her trust remain that way?
10. Carefully examine 18:1-10. What can we learn about the customs of Middle Eastern hospitality at that time? What were some of Sarah’s duties and appropriate behaviors in welcoming guests according to her culture?
11. Review the verses in this passage that specifically talk about Sarah. What else can we learn about her character or her faith that set a good, or bad, example for us as Christian women today?
“Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Even though Sarah’s initial reaction to God and His Word was one of unbelief and distrust, God brought her along and grew her into someone who was commended for her faith in Hebrews 11 (often called the “roll call of the faithful” or “the Hall of Faith”). Think back over your walk with the Lord. Can you think of a Scripture you once rejected in disbelief or rebellion that you now embrace and obey? A life situation in which God grew your faith in Him? What circumstances, Scriptures, or people did God use to bring you along from unbelief to belief, disobedience to obedience, distrust to trust? Spend some time in prayer thanking God for growing you through that situation.
Suggested Memory Verse
Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.