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From Failure to Direction


Genesis 15:1-6, 16:1-5, 17:1-22
Bible Studies for Life, Oct. 14


Our God is amazing. He is great enough to have created all that is, yet personal enough to know us and guide us in His perfect plan for us. Yet when we mistrust Him and go our own way, that is, when we fail in following Him, He is willing to forgive us, renew His call on us, and redirect us.

The story in our text marks a change in God’s dealing with people. From this point on not only does He reveal himself through individuals but through a nation of people, the descendants of Abram. The passage also reminds us to be patient with God’s timing when we are seeking to be in His will. We should not take matters into our own hands when God seems to delay.

The vision God gave Abram in chapter 15 is actually the fifth of nine times God had called Abram. In chapter 12 He had called Abram to move. Abram had trusted God then and obeyed. God does promise to reveal His purpose for us and direct us.

How we respond is vital. If we want to experience the blessing of being in God’s will we must …


Trust God - Genesis 15:4-6

God promised that Abram (“high father”) would be the father of a great nation. God used the images of dust, sand, and stars to describe how numerous his offspring would be. Abram, by that time an old man, had begun to despair that the promise could be fulfilled.

The only other male living in his home was a servant. God made it plain that the promise would begin through Abram’s own offspring. Because of his age, Abram would truly have to trust God. So must we whenever we believe we have found God’s will for our lives.

We rarely experience God’s best when we try to orchestrate things on our own.

The Bible says that because of his faith, Abram was considered to be righteous, which is right with God. As always, salvation is a matter of faith, not works.

Part of our problem is that we often feel we have to understand God’s plan for every moment of our lives when all we know is His will for the present moment. However, all we really need is trust for what we know now.

A person standing on the edge of a forest holding a flashlight does not need to see all the way to the other side. He simply needs to walk in the light he has now. As he does the light will go with him and he will eventually get to the other side. So God will progressively reveal His will.

Believing the right facts about God is important. However we should also trust God’s character. He will reveal His will to us through the Holy Spirit and through the Bible. Studying God’s Word, therefore, must be a priority.


Do not take matters into our own hands - Genesis 16:1-5

As Abram and Sarai grew older it seemed impossible they would have a son. Sarai, therefore, offered her servant, Hagar, to Abram so he could father a son with her.

A son named Ishmael was born, but he was not the promised heir, and conflict between the two women developed. Abram had a history of trying to “help God out” when God seemed to delay his answers (see Genesis 12:10-20, 20:1-18).

If God seems to delay it is ultimately to develop our lives and our faith. We must be patient until God does answer. We rarely experience God’s best when we try to orchestrate things on our own. We must also avoid the tendency to make our own plans then ask God to move in and bless them.

Abram’s relationship with Hagar was immoral and produced serious consequences. Ishmael became the father of the Arabs who have lived in conflict with the Israelites, the descendants of the true “promised son,” Isaac. We should think about the consequences of our decisions made outside of God’s best.


Refocus on God’s plan - Genesis 17:3-19

The story is truly amazing at this point. God forgave Abram and renewed the promise of a true heir. God changed Abram’s name to “Abraham” (“father of nations”). He changed Sarai’s name to “Sarah.” While both mean something like “princess,” before she was simply called a princess. Now she was a princess.

This is one of the most amazing characteristics of our God. Even when we fail and move out of His will, He will forgive and restore us. He did exactly that for Abraham, affirming the covenant to bless Abraham with a wonderful heir.

We now know that heir to be Isaac, but of course the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise was in the birth of Jesus Christ our Lord. God’s most notable servants can fail, as Abraham did. But God’s mercy is extended to all people who repent of their sins and trust Him.

Abraham’s return to God began with a sense of worship and awe toward God (verse 3). If we will see God, worship Him, pray and read His Word, we will encounter Him and be led in His will.

This chapter is filled with the evidences of God’s grace. It was God’s grace that caused Abram to be credited with God’s own righteousness. It was grace that restored Abram in spite of his failure. Grace provided the blessing of a great heritage and made him a key figure in the story of salvation.

God’s grace will do the same for us and give us direction in life, even after failure. God is still “the God of all grace” (1 Pt. 5:10). It is joyous when we as His children experience the “exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7).