Tim Meathrel 11am 10th February 2013

St John’s Small Group Study Notes

From Tim’s sermon on February 10th 2013

Passage: Genesis 17:1-16

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Start with a recap of our series so far. What has been the story so far. What have been the key points or themes that have come out for you from Gen 11-Gen 15? What has God said to you so far?

Story of Abraham introduces an important spiritual principle which we see repeated again and again in Scripture but also in out lives. The principle is that “God initiates, we respond”

Q. What other biblical examples can you think of where this principle applies? How does this principle apply in salvation, spiritual growth and calling? Do you have any experience of this principle in your life which you could share with the group?

Genesis 17 is a great example of this principle at work. Look at 1. The God who initiates and 2. The response of his people

The God who initiates – the who, what and why?

Who is our God? Two key things which this passage reveals about our God:

The God who appears v1

There are only 6 occasions in Genesis where God appear to a person. They are significant occasion to a significant people. Often that’s how we think God operates. We think that he only shows up at significant times and only to special people because that’s the pattern we see as we read through the OT. But in the NT a different pattern emerges. As we enter a new era of salvation history God promises to draw near to those who draw near to him as Eph 2:18 reminds us, we all have access to our heavenly Father through Jesus by the Holy Spirit.

God who reveals himself

In 17:1 God reveals himself as “God almighty” trans. ‘el Shaddai’. Scholars think that the word Shaddai has the concept of a mountain or rock. So this title emphasises the might of God but it emphasises the might of God in contrast to human helplessness. So fuller translation might be: God who is powerful when we are weakest.

Q. What are the implications of these truths for how you personally relate to God? How can we learn to draw near to God?


What does God initiate?

God appears to Abram and initiates a covenant (2nd part? Renewing covenant following mistakes of Gen 16?) with three aspects: the promise of land; the promise of kings as his descendants; the promise of blessing to all nations.

Why does God initiate the covenant?

Q. Why do you think that God initiated this covenant? In your groups consider the big picture of salvation history from creation and fall through to Jesus. How does Abraham and this covenant fit in?

So what God initiated with one man changed the world. Just one person whose obedience to God’s initiation changed the world by paving the way for Jesus to come. Church history is full of stories of people who’ve responded to the prompting and initiating of God and have changed our nation and world. Egs Wilberforce, Hudson Taylor and the Cambridge 7.

Q. What is God initiating in you right now? What has God been initiating over a period of time?


The response of his people

How then are we to respond when God initiates something in our lives? What should our response be to such an amazing God to the God who has initiated a wonderful way to save his people, who chooses to involve us in his plans and purposes and who prompts and initiates so that we might become a blessing to the world around us?

Three simple truths that come from this passage:


In 17:3 Abraham falls face down before God. Falling down is a position of worship, a position of submission and surrender. Worship is sometimes easy when life is good or as God draws near. But there are some of us who need to learn to praise God in all the seasons of life because worship is the appropriate response to who God is, and God never changes so he deserves our worship whether we feel like it or not.

Q. Have you ever had to make this sacrifice of worship? How did it change you/your perspective/your circumstances?


When God initiates things in our lives it can often take a long time for it to bear fruit. When God makes a promise there is often a delay before that promise is fulfilled. For Abraham God’s initiation of the covenant came in stages over a long period of time. The same can be true of us and we need to learn to wait for Gods timing for Him to fulfil what he has promised.

A danger: Gen 16 – God wants to initiate Issacs and not Ishmaels. Ishmael was born out of frustration and all Abram and Sarai created was a mess. Sadly, we can do the same in our lives through not waiting and we can easily end up creating a mess. If God has spoken then we need to trust that he is able to fulfil his promises but also know that he’ll do it in his time.

Q. Does anyone in the group have example of positive and negative experiences of waiting for God to fulfil his promises. What can you learn from these experiences?


The only thing that God demands of Abraham for his part of the covenant is obedience and that obedience had an outward sign – circumcision. Circumcision was an outward expression of the inner reality of the heart and was the mark or sign of the old covenant. So Abraham’s part of the covenant was obedience in the secret place of his heart but also a public witness to who God is and what he had done.

Q. In your life, does the inner reality of your life with God have an outward expression in public declaration? What stops us from making public declarations of our faith in eg the workplace?


13th Feb 2013 Posted in: News, Sermon Notes by Fran Varley 0

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