Genesis 15 First: The Lord had already promised Abraham to make him into a great nation and to bless him as he left Mesopotamia for the unknown country. “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. (Gen. 12:2.) The Lord had also promised to give the land of Canaan to his offspring (12:7). Ten years have passed since those promises.
Verses 1-4. Eliezer was a servant from Damascus. The name Eliezer means “a man who is helped by God”.
• What was surprising in the Lord’s words in verse one? (What did the Lord mean with the shield or the reward?)
• What did Abraham mean with his words in verses 2-3? (Why was his will like that? Why didn’t he let Lot inherit his estate? Think about different options.)
• How did Abraham now understand the promise that Lord gave him in Mesopotamia ten years earlier considering the blessing and the offspring?
• Is it possible to match verses 2-3 with the following words from Romans: “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations (…) without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead (…) Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.” (Rom. 4:18-21).
• Why didn’t God admonish Abraham for lack of faith but patiently repeated his promise to him?
• Can you see anything in common in these verses with the struggle with faith in your own heart?
Verses 5-8. The thing that one’s faith can be credited to him as righteousness is now mentioned in the Bible for the very first time. “Credit as righteous” was a term used in the court as the judge declared someone innocent.
• What did the stars in the sky look like as Abraham looked at them?
• What things made it hard to trust the promises God had given to Abraham?
• On what basis was Abraham able to believe in such an incredible promise?
• How can we notice that Abraham was credited as righteous by faith, not by deed?
• How can we know that we have the right kind of faith that will lead us to Heaven?
• Why does God, in this situation, say about himself like He does in verse 7?
• At which point did Abraham himself understand that he was righteous, innocent in the face of God?
• What does the question in verse 8 tell us about Abraham?
Verses 9-12 and 17. This is an ancient way to make a covenant. The carcasses were cut in two and the parties to the covenant passed between the pieces. That was the habit still at Jeremiah’s time, over 1000 years later (Jer. 34: 18-19). In verse 17 the covenant is mentioned again.
• What is the atmosphere like in verses 11 and 12 and why? (What made it dreadful?)
• Compare this covenant with the “new” one Jesus made with his followers. Is there anything similar in those? How do they differ from each other? (Give your answer outside this text.)
• What was the meaning of the blazing torch in that situation (verse 17)?
• How does crediting someone righteous belong together with sacrificing carcasses?
• Why is the sacrifice with blood needed to make a covenant between sinful man and God?
Verses 13-16. In the Bible the concept “debt of sin” is important. Jesus called sin a debt as he taught how to pray to our Father in Heaven. Amorites, also called Canaanites, increased their debt of sin with unmoral sex life and child sacrifice.
• Imagine God saying to you: “For 400 years your descendants will be living in Siberia and be enslaved, but then I will let them go.” How would you accept that prophecy?
• Why did God want to tell Abraham about the slavery time in Egypt in advance?
• What might Abraham have thought when God gave him the promise in verse 15?
• Why couldn’t Abraham’s descendants get the promised land straight away? See verse 16.
• Why is the word “debt” a good description of people’s sins?
• What do you think about the debt of sin when you look at your country’s people?
Verses 19-21. The people mentioned here lived in Canaan at those days.
• Israel has owned the whole land mentioned in verses 18-21 only in David’s and Salomon’s days. Is that promise still valid? Why is it or why is it not?
• What kind of an answer did Abraham get to his question in verse 8?
• What kind of misunderstandings are there about righteousness among modern Christians? Finally: this is Paul’s explanation of this chapter: “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness (…) to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.” (Rom. 4: 3-5.) So, Abraham was not credited as righteous because of his good deeds but despite his bad deeds.