Introduction: Years ago, I had a man ask me a question that I clearly
remember even now: how can I know what God has in mind for my life?
What direction should I take? I’m sure many students of these studies
have the same question. How can we trust or even know the leading of
God in our life? Our study this week gives us examples of God’s
leading which may give us some answers. Let’s jump into our study!

  1. One Gained, One Lost

    1. Read Genesis 21:1-7. Remember last week we learned that
      Isaac’s name comes from the root of the Hebrew word
      meaning “to laugh?” What kind of laughing do we see now
      about this boy? (The laughter of disbelief turns to the
      laughter of joy!)

    2. Read Genesis 21:8-9. Ishmael is at least 15 years old now.
      Put yourself in his place, why would Ishmael make fun of
      Isaac? (Ishmael is the first born son. By tradition, he
      holds a special position. However, a big party is being
      given for Isaac, and I am sure Ishmael is feeling more
      than a little jealous. Making fun of Isaac helps to make
      Ishmael feel better.)

    3. Read Genesis 21:9-11. Why is Sarah making such a demand?
      (Now that she has a son, Hagar and Ishmael are unneeded
      and a threat to her and her son.)

      1. According to Sarah, Ishmael is whose son? (The son of
        a slave woman.)

        1. Is this true? (Not exactly. Hagar is also
          Abraham’s wife. Genesis 16:3. Sarah also
          neglects to mention that Ishmael is Abraham’s

      2. Abraham, showing weakness, let Sarah mistreat Hagar
        before. What do you think is going through his mind
        now? (Abraham is angry and upset. He loves his son.
        In addition, what Sarah proposes is contrary to the

    4. Read Genesis 21:12-13. How does God refer to Ishmael? (God
      says essentially what Sarah said!)

      1. How can God ask Abraham not to be upset about losing
        his first born son? (God says that He will bless

    5. Read Genesis 21:14-16. Abraham is rich. What do you think
      about Abraham sending his first born son and his second
      wife away with only food and water strapped to Hagar’s

      1. Where is the caravan of animals and soldiers that
        should accompany them and protect them? (The best
        spin I can put on this is that Abraham believed that
        God would protect Ishmael. Otherwise, this seems
        totally outrageous to me, totally inconsistent with a
        love for Ishmael and Hagar.)

    6. Read Genesis 21:17-19. Things turn out badly, as you might
      expect they would. Hagar thinks her son is going to die,
      and she begins to cry. Is Hagar praying to God for help?
      How about the boy – he is old enough to know to pray?

      1. Any reasons why they might not be praying? (Abraham,
        as a representative of God in their eyes, has treated
        them terribly.)

      2. Who initiates the help to Hagar and her son? (God
        does, just as He promised.)

      3. Consider how God “fixes” the problem. What lesson can
        you learn from this for your life? (The Bible
        Reader’s Companion points out that God opens Hagar’s
        eyes to an existing solution. He does not create a
        miracle, He just helps her to see the way out based
        on the resources already available to her.)

    7. Read Genesis 21:20. Is God trustworthy even when your
      whole world is coming apart? (Yes.)

  2. Two Lost

    1. Read Genesis 22:1-2. Put yourself in Abraham’s place. What
      reasons would you have to disobey this command from God?

      1. Notice how God describes Isaac in these verses. Is
        this supposed to increase the odds that Abraham will
        obey? (God emphasizes that this is (now) Abraham’s
        “only son” whom he “loves.” Talk about making things

      2. Read Leviticus 20:1-2 and Jeremiah 32:35. What is
        God’s view of sacrificing children?

        1. Why would God instruct Abraham to do just the
          opposite of His character?

      3. Read Genesis 21:12. What had God said would be the
        future of Isaac?

        1. What would this text trigger in your mind if you
          were Abraham? (That God had sent off my first-born son when he was a teen. I didn’t want
          that. I didn’t expect that. It broke my heart.
          And, God sending Ishmael away seemed contrary to
          the promise God made to me in Genesis 17:20. Is
          God now breaking His promise to me again?
          Depriving me of my only remaining son when he is
          very young?)

      4. Abraham is 120 years old, he is rich and he is
        honored. His son is about to take charge of his
        fortune. Everything is going as planned. Could God
        really mean this now?

      5. Notice that Genesis 22:1 says that God tested
        Abraham. Read James 1:13-14. How do you reconcile
        these two texts? (The commentary on Genesis, Be
        Obedient, distinguishes between trials and
        temptations. Trials come from God for special
        reasons, temptations come from Satan to bring out the
        worst in us. It says temptations seem reasonable, but
        trials seem unreasonable.)

        1. If this commentary is right, what special reason
          would God have put Abraham through a trial?
          (Read 1 Peter 1:6-7. Abraham’s faith had not
          been perfect so far.)

    2. Read Genesis 22:3-5. Do you think Abraham told Sarah
      before he left?

      1. What would he say when he returned and had killed her
        only son?

      2. Why does Abraham do this right away?

      3. How would you like a three day journey just to think
        about sacrificing your only, beloved, son?

      4. Why does Abraham tell his servants that “we will come
        back to you?”

    3. Read Genesis 22:6-8. Do you think that Abraham believes
      what he told Isaac? Or, is Abraham lying to give comfort
      to his son? (Read Genesis 18:14. I feel confident that a
      terrible struggle took place in Abraham’s mind. Bottom
      line, I think Abraham just decided that God would work
      things out – nothing was too hard for God.)

    4. Read Genesis 22:9-10. At some point Abraham has to tell
      Isaac about God’s instructions. What can we believe was
      Isaac’s reaction? (He obviously agreed to this. He could
      have overpowered dad. He believed that his father knew the
      voice of God and he shared the faith of his father.)

      1. Had Abraham committed to do the terrible deed that
        violated all logic except the logic of obedience to
        God? (Yes. Unbelievable!)

      2. Was there any shred of logic to this? Was it pure
        trust in God? (Read Hebrews 11:17-19. Abraham had
        worked out the logic of reconciling the promises of
        God with this current command.)

    5. Read Genesis 22:11-12. Abraham passes the most intense
      test of faith. How can God say “Now I know,” when God
      knows the future? (A fascinating commentary, Patriarchs
      and Prophets (chapter 13), compares this story to Job. In
      Job we find that the entire universe is watching the test
      of Job’s faithfulness to God. Patriarchs and Prophets
      suggests the very same thing is happening here. Where Adam
      and Eve failed, Abraham proved to be faithful (with a much
      more terrible test). Thus, the “I know” might be a
      reference to the watching universe.)

    6. Read Genesis 22:13-14. Remember when I asked you whether
      Abraham was telling the truth to Isaac in Genesis 22:8
      when he said “the Lord will provide?” Did God provide?

      1. Would you compare the ram to Jesus? (Just as this ram
        took the place of Isaac, and spared his life, so
        Jesus takes the place of our children, our parents
        and ourselves, and spares us from eternal death.)

    7. What does Abraham’s story teach us about our heavenly
      Father who had no one to stay His hand when His Son,
      Jesus, died in our place?

    8. This story reveals God’s love for us. Job is a lesson for
      us. So is this story. How many of our trials are in large
      part a blessing to others if we are faithful?

    9. What does this story teach us about the importance of
      works in our salvation by faith? What if Abraham had
      refused to do this? Failed this test? (Compare James 2:20-22 with Romans 4:1-3.)

    10. Friend, God’s leading is sometimes difficult. Abraham lost
      his first born son, and then was told to kill his second
      son, the son through which the promise of his future
      greatness has been given. Will you determine to obey God
      wherever He leads? Will you be a shining example to
      others of obedience and blessing?

  3. Next week: The Price of Duplicity.