Introduction: Hebrews 11:11-12 celebrates the faith of Abraham in the
promise that he would have many descendants. The reality of the
marriage between Abram and Sarah, and their relationship to God,
seems a little different than the perfect picture of faith. It makes
us scratch our head. What should we conclude about this? The writer
of Hebrews had his blinders on? Or, that God is more merciful and
generous to us in our marriage decisions and our relationship with
Him than we might think? Let’s dive into our study this week and find

  1. The Wait

    1. Read Genesis 12:2-3. Abram was 75 years old ( Genesis 12:4)
      when he was first promised by God to become a “great
      nation.” Put yourself in Abram’s sandals: when would you
      expect that promise to be fulfilled? (Soon, given his

      1. How important a promise would you guess this was in
        Abram’s culture? (Very.)

    2. Read Genesis 15:1-3. If you owe someone money, are you
      conscious of this when you see them? Is it the first
      thing that comes to your mind?

      1. Abram is now 85, ten years have passed since God
        promised him (at 75) to “become a great nation.” Why
        does God, no doubt remembering His promise, tell
        Abram that his faithfulness to God is a “great

      2. Evaluate Abram’s response: is this the response of
        faith? Abram immediately tells God He has not kept
        His promise and the arrangements have been made to
        have his chief servant inherit Abram’s “great
        reward.” (There are two levels of faith. The first is
        accepting and patiently waiting. The second is
        challenging God to keep His promise. Both look to God
        as the One who is able to perform. The “non-faith”
        response is simply to ignore God because you no
        longer think He is a factor.)

    3. Read Genesis 15:4-6. What did God say to Abram that
      revived His faith in the promise?

    4. Read Genesis 17:15-17. How many years have now passed
      without God fulfilling His promise? (25 years!)

      1. What stage of “faith” has Abraham now reached? (He is
        at the edge of simply ignoring God. He laughs at the
        promise because it seemingly had no value.)

      2. What do failed promises do to a marriage?

      3. Why would God wait so long? What purpose does a 25+
        year delay serve? (This is one of those areas in
        which it is difficult (at least for me) to understand
        the mind of God. A son, Isaac, was born to them.
        Isaac’s name means “to laugh,” and thus he was a
        perpetual reminder to Abraham and Sarah (who also
        laughed in derision ( Genesis 18:10-12) of the
        reliability (if not speed) of God’s promises to

        1. Read Hebrews 11:12. Does the fact that God
          waited until this couple was “as good as dead”
          to give them the promised child help explain the
          wait? (This is a recurring pattern in God’s
          dealings with humans. He waits until it is
          impossible, and then He does the impossible – so
          that no one is confused about God’s role in the

    5. Read Genesis 17:18-21. What does God do here to make the
      promise more real? (He actually names the son Abraham and
      Sarah will have and gives a specific time period.)

  2. The Work

    1. Read Genesis 16:1-2. Abraham was 85, so this was ten years
      after God’s promise of a son, and fifteen years before
      Isaac would be born. What do you think about Sarah’s
      statement that “The Lord has kept me from having
      children?” (At first blush, this seems completely at odds
      with God’s promise. But, go back and reconsider the
      promises that God has made to Abraham so far. God does
      not mention who will be the mother – He only mentions
      Abraham as the father!)

      1. Considering that Sarah has not been named as the
        mother, in what kind of light does this put her
        offer? (Since God has kept her (or so it seems to
        her) from fulfilling His promise, “perhaps” God has
        in mind some other woman to fulfill the promise.
        Sarah seems to be unselfish, impatient, and willing
        to help God.)

      2. Read Proverbs 3:5-6. How does Sarah’s suggestion run
        afoul of this proverb? (The Bible commentary “Be
        Obedient” says “faith is living without scheming.”
        The pattern of God is that He works with human
        partners to fulfill His work on earth. The line
        between being “God’s helper” and “scheming” is not
        always a real bright line.)

    2. Re-read Genesis 16:2. Recall that last week Adam listened
      to Eve and ate the fruit. What lesson do we see repeated
      here? (Listening to your wife’s advice may be is contrary
      to God’s will and harmful to your spiritual health.)

      1. Let’s take a small detour right here. Read Genesis
        12:10-20. Whose great idea was it to lie to Pharaoh?

      2. What lesson do we learn for our marriages from the
        advice given by these two? (Our spouse is our helper
        and our closest human friend. But, that does not mean
        we should turn off our brain when they offer advice.
        We need to be sure our decisions are consistent with
        the advice of our closest heavenly Friend!)

    3. Read Genesis 16:3-4a. At this point are Abraham and Sarah
      congratulating themselves on doing God’s will? (Sarah’s
      advice worked. No doubt during the “praise and prayer”
      time in church they would have stood up and told how they
      partnered with God to have this wonderful child.)

    4. Read Genesis 16:4-5. What has happened to Sarah’s
      unselfish attitude?

      1. Is Sarah right? Is Abraham responsible for “the
        wrong” Sarah was suffering?

      2. How would you anticipate that God would judge between
        the two of them?

    5. Read Genesis 16:6. Evaluate the actions of this couple
      now? (Abraham deserts his leadership position. Sarah
      abuses Hagar. Neither spouse is acting like a follower of

    6. Read Romans 4:18-21. Is this how you would have described
      this sequence of events?

      1. How do you explain Paul’s statement? (The New Bible
        Commentary says Paul’s point is “not that Abraham was
        a perfect person or never had any doubts at all, but
        that his heart attitude was consistently one of faith
        and hope in the promise of God.”)

  3. The Promise Fulfilled

    1. Read Genesis 21:1-3. The text is about the birth of
      Isaac. But, what other fact keeps being repeated in these
      verses? (That God kept His promise!)

      1. What does that teach us about trusting God? (God’s
        timetable may be much different than ours. However,
        God keeps his promises.)

      2. What does this teach us about marriage? (Remain
        faithful to your spouse and your God. It may seem
        difficult, but the alternatives are worse.)

    2. Read Genesis 21:6-7. What kind of attitude does Sarah
      have? (She feels vindicated. Against all odds, she
      finally has a son.)

  4. Tested Again

    1. Read Genesis 21:8-10. What kind of attitude do we see in:

      1. Ishmael? (Ishmael was jealous and mocked Isaac. I’m
        not surprised.)

      2. Sarah? (Now that she has a son, she will let no one
        “steal his thunder” or get in his way.)

    2. Genesis 21:10 contains more advice from Sarah. Would you
      take it if you were Abraham?

    3. Read Genesis 21:11-13. How does it feel to be Abraham
      right now?

      1. Do you think he wishes that he never had Ishmael?

      2. God, amazingly, supports Sarah’s demands. What does
        God say to Abraham to comfort him? (That Ishmael will
        live and be a great nation.)

    4. Read Genesis 22:1-2. Put yourself in Abraham’s place. What
      impact does the fate of Ishmael have on your thinking?
      (This is where Abraham’s name is entitled to be chiseled
      in stone in the “faith chapter” (Hebrews 11). I would have
      been very worried because God let Ishmael go. I had the
      heartbreak of that! Now this command!)

      1. Read Hebrews 11:17-19. How did Abraham work this out
        in his mind? (That God would raise Isaac to life.)

    5. Friend, sometimes our spouse gives us good advice.
      Sometimes not. Our heavenly Father is always with us –
      even when it seems He is not. Will you trust Him?

  5. Next week: Isaac and Rebekah: Rearing Rivals.