Antony Spencer 6.30pm 3rd February 2013

ST JOHN’S SMALL GROUP STUDY NOTES

From Antony’s sermon on 3rd February 2013

Passage: Genesis 15:1-21

Click here for a printer friendly version

Worship

If you have an astronomical picture to hand use it to imagine yourself in Abram’s position as he tried to number the stars as is described in verse 5.   http://hubblesite.org/gallery/ is a good web page for images.  Use that to worship God.

 

Introduction

In Verse 1 God says, “Do not be afraid, Abram.  I am your shield, your very great reward.”

Discuss:  What reward are you looking for in life?

Let’s explore what God declaration is meant for Abram and what it might mean for us.

Question 1: Do not fearDiscuss what might Abram be fearful about?  Possibilities:

  • Abram just having spoken boldly to the King of Sodom … delayed reaction.
  • ‘Do not fear’ is often repeated when there is an encounter with God or with an angel – it can be fearful.  God the ‘all matey’ –v- God the almighty
  • Abram aware of his vulnerability.  The forces at work are bigger than we are.  Governments, etc.  God says to those who belong to Him ‘do not fear’.

Invitation: Do an inventory of fear in your life.  What sort of things are you fearful about?  If there’s fear use it as an opportunity to seek more of God’s love.

Verses from 1 John 4 (Message) ‘God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. 17This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. 18There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love. ‘

Question 2: I am your shield.  You need a shield for protection. God is described frequently as a shield. Look for example at Psalm 7:10

Protection from hostile forces.  Context – warring tribes etc.  Also spiritual forces … Lord’s pray deliver us from evil.  Ephesians 6:16 ‘In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.’

Protection from our own wrong choices.  Abraham made a wrong choice in what he said to Abimelech concerning Sarah (sister and not wife) … God prevented Abimelech from sinning.  Many occasions when God has protected me – I recall …Head out of a train window … what I now recognise as the Spirit of God.

Invitation:  What are the hostile forces at work in the world or in your circumstances?  Even as you name these know the security of the Lord as your shield and protector.  Don’t step away from His protection- your faith is your shield.

Question 3:your very great Reward.

Abram immediately makes clear what the reward he is looking for is – a reward which he doubts God will give him.  What reward is that?

It’s really interesting that Abram is looking for the personal implication of God’s reward.  What will God do to benefit my story – he says?  That’s often the cry of our hearts; ‘what’s in it for me God – what will you do for me?’  Amazingly, what’s on offer is that Abram will be part of Gods’ story.  The promise of a child for Abram is part of Gods’ story … it will bless Abram, it will fulfil Abram but it is part of God’s story.

So the Sovereign Lord meets Abram where he is – a childless man – and repeats the promise of a son to be borne to him in his old age.  I love the fact that God meets us where we are and not where he would like us to be.  God meets us where we are and uses a language that we understand to speak to us.

Abrams’ response was to believe God.  Great verse 6 shows the importance of this belief …  Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.’   A significant verse taken up in the NT because this refers to being made right with God (righteousness) as a gift from God.  ‘Righteousness is a guarantee of salvation and acquittal on the day of judgement’.

Check out the way that the NT uses this reference in Hebrews 8:11-19 and James 2:18-24.  How would you summarise its meaning?

Discuss:  Where do you think areas of unbelief can arise in our day and age?

The Sovereign Lord continued to meet Abram where he was (v7) –this time as a landless man – and repeats the promise that the land from Egypt to the Euphrates will be a possession for his descendants (v18-21).  (Only in Solomon’s reign did the kingdom approximate to these boundaries).

Abram asks again how he can know that this will be true (v8).   There follows a remarkable account of God using the language of covenant (which was a language well understood in Abram’s day) to affirm and attest the seriousness of His promise.

3 year old heifer, goat, ram cut into 2 and arranged opposite each other.  Dove and young pigeon also.   Explain covenant custom (v9 and 10):

  • 2 parties pledged their loving kindness to one another,
  • Walking in a figure of eight round the halved animals  ending up in the other man’s positio

Abram fell into a deep sleep (v12)– God tells Abram some things that will happen.  What are these promises?

We read in the NT that God’s ways are not our ways and that’s certainly clear here Here’s the promise of land to a landless man, declaration that his offspring will be taken away from the land and ill-treated for 400 years and then return to the land again.  Does this sequence of events surprise you?  The point is though that this is not Abram’s story but it is His Story. God’s story

God himself makes the agreement – a serious and solemn undertaking. (v17 smoke and fire =God)

Conclusion

Notice how Abram dialogues with God …asking questions, expecting answers.  Discuss: Do you expect God to speak to you where you are and in a language you understand?  Is it your pattern to ask God questions and seek His view point?

Notice too that the real meaning of God’s declaration in verse 1 is that God Himself is Abram’s reward as he is invited to be part of God and His Story.   That seems to me to be an important thing for us to realise too … God’s purposes are bigger than just satisfying our desires – good though they may be.  Our reward is God Himself … not the blessings or benefits that may accompany that.  He calls us to be part of His story which may play out very differently from what we might think … not in a bad way but in God’s way.  Discuss: What difference does God being our reward make to our view of the twists and turns and uncertainties of life?

5th Feb 2013 Posted in: News, Sermon Notes by Fran Varley 1

One Response

  1. Jon Foster says:

    Astronomy Picture of the Day from NASA (apod.nasa.gov) is also a good one. Set it as your homepage for a regular prompt to worship in that way!

Leave a comment on this post:




Please Fill in the captcha so we can verify you're Human * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

Copyright © 2011. St John's Church, Harborne, Birmingham. Registered Charity No 1132862. Terms and Conditions. User Login. Photo/image credits.