Introduction: Do you doubt God’s promises to you? Does your doubt make you feel bad about yourself? Our study this week reveals that a man praised for his faith in God’s promises was in reality someone who wrestled with doubt. What we will see is that regardless of Abram’s doubt, God remains faithful to him. Let’s plunge into our study of the Bible and learn more!

I. Belief

A. Read Genesis 15:1-3. Put yourself in Abram’s place. You have done what God told you to do in leaving your home and moving to Canaan so that there is room for you to become a “great nation” (Genesis 12:2). Do God’s words ring hollow (seem insubstantial) to you since you have no child? (Yes, of course. Why has he moved? It seems for no reason.)

B. Read Genesis 15:4. How does God react to a human challenging His promise? (God understands. He responds with a specific message.)

C. Read Genesis 15:5. God had previously (Genesis 13:16) promised Abram that his descendants would be “as the dust of the earth.” Focusing the promise on the stars instead of the dirt makes the promise even grander. Have you had someone seem to break their promise to you, and when you challenge them, they make a more spectacular promise? How do you react to that?

D. Read Genesis 15:6. In this context, how would you define faith in God? (It is a belief in God’s word that defies the reality you see.)

1. Now the most important question. Did God tell Abram the truth? (Yes! We know now that God’s grand promise was correct.)

2. Let’s look at Abram a minute. Recall in last week’s lesson Abram consistently lied about his relationship with Sara because he did not trust God to save his life from pagan rulers. What has happened to Abram?

a. Is there a logical way to explain this that does not require a spiritual renewal for Abram? (Abram might well believe God when God speaks directly to him. However, when Abram has to apply the logic of God’s promise in the face of the reality of powerful pagans, he fails.)

b. Is this a problem in our lives? Likely God does not speak to us directly. When we apply God’s promises in the Bible in a different context do we fail?

E. Read Genesis 15:7-8. Wait a minute! Is Abram believing God about owning this land? (No. Abram essentially says, “How will I know that you are telling me the truth?”)

F. Read Romans 4:2-4. Romans presents Abram’s faith in the most positive light. What encouragement does that give to us? (If Romans had cited Genesis 15:8 instead, and said that “Abram required proof from God,” we would have looked at this differently. The encouragement to me is that even Abram reflected the kind of tendencies that we find in ourselves. But, God looked at Abram in the most favorable way possible.)

G. Skim over Genesis 15:9-21. God performs a covenant ceremony, something similar to giving a written contract today. What does it say about the character of God that He is willing to give Abram a formal contract to provide proof of His promise? (God goes to great lengths to encourage us.)

II. Unbelief

A. Read Genesis 16:2. Sarah blames God for her lack of children. She claims God “prevented” her from having children. Do you think this is true?

1. If God is in charge of all things, does responsibility land at His feet?

2. Notice Sarah’s solution, that Abram should have a child with Hagar, Sarah’s maid servant. Is she doubting God’s promise to Abram? Did God ever promise her that she would be the mother of a great nation? (Read Genesis 17:15-16. This promise to Sarah comes later. I could find no prior promise. For that reason, Sarah could believe this was consistent with God’s promise to Abram.)

a. Should anything trouble you about Sarah’s conclusion that she should help God out with His promise? (We just studied the Noah story where God partners with humans to accomplish His will. The difference here is that God requested the partnership with Noah, and he suggested no plan of this nature to Abram and Sarah. Instead, it was contrary to His plan. See Genesis 2:24.)

b. Read Galatians 4:21-23. How does Paul view this? (He views this through the lens of righteousness by faith. Sarah is working out the solution, she is not simply trusting God.)

B. Read Genesis 16:3-5. Men, what should you do when your wife suggests a bad idea?

1. Sarah claims that she is the victim here. Who has wronged her? Abram? God? Hagar?

2. Didn’t Sarah’s plan go as she hoped? Had she simply failed to consider how Hagar would react? (Notice that Sarah says to Abram that the wrong is on him. She asks God to judge between Abram and her. This shows that she blames Abram rather than God or Hagar.)

C. Read Genesis 17:5-7. Is this a promise that Abram has heard before?

1. This time God changes Abram’s name to mean “father of a host.” Is this embarrassing since Abram is only the father of one child through Hagar?

2. Why do you think that God keeps restating the promise and not fulfilling it?

D. Read Genesis 17:9-11. We learned earlier about the formal contract God entered into with Abram. Why a second contract involving the same subject matter? Why would this contract involve marking Abraham and his male descendants?

E. We have been discussing why God keeps restating His promise instead of fulfilling it. The deeper question is “Who is the one who seems to be lacking in faith?” How does this story deal with Abram’s repeated failures of faith? (One answer is that God delays fulfilling His promise in the hope that Abraham’s faith will strengthen. Marking Abraham in this place reinforces the promise that God made to him. It is a constant reminder of the promise.)

III. Faith Fulfilled – Almost

A. Read Genesis 18:10-14. What advantage to God exists in waiting to fulfill His promise until a time that it becomes humanly impossible? That it becomes a laughing matter from a human point of view? (Read Deuteronomy 8:17-18. This is another potential answer why fulfilling the promise has been delayed. We see repeated references in the Bible to God waiting until the last minute to make it clear that He is responsible for the win, not humans.)

1. Notice that this time God gives a specific time-line. Why?

B. Read Genesis 18:17-19. Why did God think it important to share the judgment that He was about to bring upon Sodom and Gomorrah? (It is important to share not only the love side, but also the judgment side of God with our children. God knows that He will fulfill His promise to Abraham and He makes decisions based on that certainty.)

IV. Sodom and Gomorrah

A. Read Genesis 13:10 and Genesis 18:20-21. What has happened to a place that is like the Garden of Eden? (It is involved in “grave” sin.)

B. Abraham intercedes for Sodom, the place where Lot lives. Read Genesis 18:32-33. How do Abraham and God show mercy towards Sodom? (They agree that if only ten righteous people are found there, the place will not be destroyed.)

1. Consider God’s attitude and how you can be a blessing to others by being righteous?

C. Read Genesis 19:1-5. How widespread is evil in Sodom?

1. What is the nature of the sin described in these verses? (Read Jude 1:7. It is popular today to argue that the problem with Sodom was general sinfulness and not “sexual immorality” and “unnatural desire.” No doubt there was general sinfulness, but the Bible is very clear about the most prominent sin of that city.)

D. Read Genesis 19:23-25. The sun comes up in the morning, just like any other day in Sodom, a place like Eden. What did God want Abraham to teach his descendants about Sodom?

E. Friend, is God trustworthy? Does He keep His word? Will you ask the Holy Spirit to help you, like Abram, to grow in your faith?

V. Next week: The Promise.

Copr. 2022, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. If you normally receive this lesson by e-mail, but it is lost one week, you can find it by clicking on this link: Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you study.