Bible Reading: Genesis 18:16-33

Abraham’s guests were about to leave him and make their way to Sodom to execute judgment against that wicked city. Although the two angels went on their way to Sodom [see Genesis 18:22 & 19:1], the Lord continued to speak with Abraham and shared with him what He intended to do at Sodom.

The Lord revealed His plans to Abraham because He trusted him [see verse 19]. True intercession always begins with a revelation from God. God revealed to Abraham that He was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Immediately Abraham thought of his nephew Lot and was concerned for his welfare.

To intercede for others effectively we need God’s revelation, but we also need humility in approaching God. Abraham recognised that he was just dust and ashes and yet took it upon himself to speak to the Lord. There is almost a sense of “Who am I that I should plead with God?” Because God has given someone a revelation does not make that person more spiritual. Satan fell because of pride, and he will subtly seek to make intercessors proud because of the revelations that God gives them.

With a revelation and humility, Abraham approached the Lord boldly with his request. We find a similar boldness in Queen Esther, who faced the possibility of death for approaching the king without his permission but nevertheless approached him boldly. She said, “I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish” [Esther 4:16].

Abraham based his intercession on the character of God, asking the question, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” [Genesis 18:25], but he also misunderstood God, fearing that He might “sweep away” the city “and not spare” the righteous it. God is righteous and will not allow the righteous to be destroyed with the wicked. God is unwilling to see even one person suffer unjustly.

Abraham continued to plead with the Lord until he knew that Lot would be safe. Here is a picture of the intercessor’s burden. For many years, I prayed for my mother’s conversion until one day, God gave me the assurance that He had heard my prayer and that she would be saved. Although it was several more years before she came to Christ, the burden had lifted from me and by faith I knew that God had answered my prayers.


What are the four key elements in Abraham’s intercession for his nephew Lot?

Why do you think that God shared with Abraham what He was going to do in Sodom?

Have you ever experienced a burden to intercede before God on behalf of someone else? How did God lead you? If that prayer has not yet been answered will you continue to believe and trust God to do so in His time?


Bible Reading: Genesis 18:9-15

Following Abraham’s generous hospitality, his guests asked him about the whereabouts of Sarah. Sarah was not visible but could hear Abraham’s guests talking with him and confirming yet again that she would have a son and that it would be in one year’s time. Abraham and Sarah were well advanced in age and beyond the age of child bearing. Sarah response was to laugh inwardly when she heard what these guests said, and although there was no sound, the Lord heard her inward laugh.

When Jesus healed the paralytic man He said to him, “Son, your sins are forgiven you”. Some of the religious leaders were sitting nearby criticising Jesus and “reasoning within themselves.” They were saying that Jesus was speaking blasphemies and that only God could sins. “Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves” [Mark 2:6-8]. Even though they did not speak openly, Jesus knew exactly what they were thinking, and in the same way He knew that Sarah had laughed inwardly. He knows all our thoughts and the unspoken struggles of our heart.

The Lord challenged Abraham and asked why Sarah laughed. Sarah denied that she had laughed and told a lie because she was afraid. What was she afraid of? Was it fear that her inner thoughts and emotions would be exposed? The devil is known in the Bible as “the father of lies” [John 8:44] and one his greatest weapon is fear. For many people lies or exaggeration, which is a form of lying, are a sub-conscious form of protection from fear.

“By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised” [Hebrews 11:11], but she also battled with unbelief. Here is yet another example of God’s amazing grace. He recognises and commends her faith despite her unbelief.

God gave me some wonderful promises that I would be fully healed of cancer, and those promises have been severely challenged. Some days I have been full of faith, and other days I have struggled, but have found great relief when I recognised that I didn’t have to pretend and I could share my struggles with the Lord. God loves us to be honest and open with him about our struggles. He did not rebuke David when he poured out his complaint to the Lord, and a very honest man once said to Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief” [Mark 9:24].   


Do you sometimes tell lies to protect yourself? If it is sin to lie why do you find it necessary to tell lies?

Do you have a promise that God has given you, but still struggle with unbelief? How do you handle this?

Sometimes it is hard to share our inward struggles but God already knows them, so why not talk with Him about them?


Bible Reading: Genesis 18:1-15

As Abraham was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day, he saw three men standing nearby. He immediately recognised one of them as the Lord appearing in human form. The other two men with Him were angels who had come to execute judgment on Sodom.

God has never been removed from His creation, and although we understand that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” in human form, He also appeared in human form at various times in the Old Testament. Theologians call an appearance of the Lord in human form a theophany. The Lord appeared to Jacob at Peniel and wrestled with him all night, causing Jacob to say, “I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved” [Genesis 32:30].  The Lord also appeared to Joshua by Jericho, causing Joshua to worship Him [Joshua 5:13-15]. The Lord receives the worship of men but angels are not worshipped.

Abraham’s first response when he recognised the Lord was to bow with his face to ground in a posture of worship. Worship is an attitude of the heart that honours God for who He is. We see the same response from the apostle John in the Book of Revelation. When John saw the risen, glorified Christ, he “fell at His feet as one dead” [Revelation 1:17]. Here is the fear of the Lord. It is not an unhealthy fear, but is awesome reverence and respect for God. It recognises our own, human fallibility, and God’s greatness. It was the fear of the Lord that both restrained Joseph from sinning and brought David to repentance. It is not possible to have true worship without reverence. It might be exciting and full of joy but it will always be reverent.

After worshipping the Lord, Abraham honoured his guests with generous hospitality. He fed them with a special meal, using the best and most tender of calves together with butter, milk and fresh baked cakes. Worship and generosity go together like twins. Worship and hospitality are both acts of giving rather than receiving, and both require the giving of our best. There was no “using up the leftovers” in Abraham’s hospitality, and even if we don’t have much we can still honour God and men by giving the best that we have. 

Remember the promise of Jesus, “give and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you” [Luke 6:38 ESV].


Why did God create worship? For whose benefit is it, and why is it so important?

Why do you think that people do not place more emphasis on the Biblical teaching about the fear of the Lord?

Why does giving generously require a step of faith? In what way does giving open the way for God to set us free from poverty? 


Bible Reading: Genesis 17:9-27

God had renewed His covenant with Abraham [Genesis 17:6-8]. The sign of that covenant for Abraham and his descendants would be circumcision. There are several reasons why circumcision was important. Firstly, it was a sign of obedience to God in all matters. Secondly, it was a sign of belonging to God’s covenant people. Thirdly, it was a symbol of cutting off the sin of the old life, of purifying the heart and dedicating yourself to God. Sadly, it later led to pride and the assumption that because a person was circumcised they could demand God’s favour.

Circumcision like baptism in the New Testament is meaningless without faith. Circumcision became a real issue on the early Church where some Jewish believers demanded that Christians should be circumcised. What they seemed to forget was that the Christian message was now a new covenant.

In the New Testament, baptism replaces circumcision, but as with circumcision it is of no value without faith.

Many years ago, I heard man preach about the cross as the great circumcising knife of God, and remarkably at a later time, heard a young girl speak about the cross in a similar way. Her elder sister brought Tini to our home, rescuing her from horrendous physical and sexual abuse. She was just 13 years old when she came to us. We put her into school but later had to leave Indonesia and so we continued to pay for her to stay in a Christian boarding school. In the following years, I visited Tini several times each year, and on one occasion, when she was 18, I saw her carrying a notebook with the words, “Lessons I have learned from Jesus since mama and papa went back to England”. I borrowed her notebook and read a remarkable page that was simply entitled “The Cross”. This is what Tini had written:

“I see the cross in three ways. Firstly, it is the place where Jesus died for me. Secondly, it is the place where I died with Jesus. Thirdly, I see the cross as a knife. If you hold it from the top it is the shape of sword. God wants to take this knife, and cut away everything in my heart that does not please Him. The Bible says, ‘…beware of the mutilation. For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh’ [Philippians 3:3]. Without the knife there is no circumcision, and without the cross there is no circumcision of the heart.”

What a beautiful revelation to an 18-year-old girl!


What does the cross mean to you personally?

What do you think is the meaning of circumcision of the heart?

Why do we tend to put so much emphasis on outward things rather than the inner issues of the heart?     


Bible Reading: Genesis 17:1-8

Thirteen years elapsed since there was any recorded conversation between God and Abram. I wonder what Abram’s relationship with God, if any, was like in that time, and whether Abram had forgotten what God had promised him? Was Abram, like Simon Peter after he denied Jesus, full of regrets? We know that Abram was enjoying his relationship with his son Ishmael, and can see his total acceptance of Ishmael in Genesis 17:18. One thing that is clear is that, whatever had happened to Abram over the past 13 years, God had not forgotten Abram.

Suddenly God reveals Himself again to Abram in a stunning way. Abram was 99 years of age and for the first time in the Bible, God appears as “the Almighty God” [verse 1]. There are different Hebrew names for God and each one reveals a different attribute or aspect of His character. This is the first of 48 times in the Bible that God is called “El Shaddai” or the Almighty, all-powerful God. The root of El Shaddai emphasises God’s might over against the frailty of man and is used to encourage people who are hard-pressed and need assurance [see Genesis 49:25]. This Almighty God is able to supply all our needs and is the giver of grace. 

God appears to Abram as El Shaddai because His covenant promise remains unchanged and He will give grace to Abram and Sarai and provide the son that He promised. The only thing that God requires of Abram is that he walks with him and is blameless [verse 1]. The word blameless is the Hebrew word “Tamiym” which means to be complete, whole, upright in one’s conduct, innocent, sincere, honest and to show integrity.

God wants to renew His covenant with this man who has made some serious mistakes. He gives both Abram and Sarai a new name, and new names signify a new beginning. The name Abram means “exalted father,” but now he is given the name Abraham meaning “Father of a Multitude.” Both Sarai and Sarah mean “princess.” God changed her name, though not its meaning, so that she too would realise that she is a part of this covenant. God has not rejected them because of their mistakes or reminded them of their past failures. This is a new day, and it is time to move forward into all the good things that God is planning for them. 


Have the promises that God spoke to you in the past but never seemed to be fulfilled become distant memories as you have settled down and become comfortable? What should you do about this? 

What is your need to today? Will you draw near to El Shaddai, the God who is able to meet you today at your point need?   

Why is that we tend to live in the past, whether it be past successes or past failures? What hinders you from letting go of the past? Will you trust God for a new beginning and take the necessary steps to move forward?


Bible Reading: Genesis 16:5-16

Abram and Sarai do not come out this incident with Hagar smelling of roses! Hagar despises Sarai, Sarai blames Abram, Abram puts the ball back in Sarai’s court, and Sarai treats Hagar badly. The words “dealt harshly” in verse 6 means to afflict or to beat. Not a pretty picture, but then, that is what happens when we do things in a fleshly way and not in God’s way.

I feel sorry for Hagar. She has been used and abused and no human being deserves that. In her desperation, Hagar had taken Ishmael and run away from Sarai. God loves Hagar and does not give up on her or forsake her and it is a real lesson in God’s grace to see how He deals with Hagar.

Firstly, when she was in need God met her. He found her by a spring of water in the wilderness on the way to Shur. Shur was close to the border of Egypt. Hagar was going back home to Egypt. She must have been exhausted because she was pregnant but had walked more than eighty miles. Hagar had been used, beaten, was exhausted and pregnant, and yet in her need God came looking for her. God loves and cares about broken people.

Secondly, when she was rebellious God challenged her. If God knows everything then why did He ask Hagar where she had come from and where she was going? He knew, but He wanted to hear it from Hagar, and Hagar told Him the truth that she was running away. I am not sure that she really wanted to hear what God said next. He told her to go back to Sarai and to submit to her. After what she had been through, Hagar might have felt justified in disagreeing with God, but God knew that Hagar needed to face Sarai, the cause of her problem, and to work on her attitude towards her. Running away from our problems rarely solves them but with God’s help we can face them.

Thirdly, when she was obedient God blessed her. We know that she went back because it was Abram who named her son Ishmael [verse 15]. Hagar is one of those rare people in the Bible who gave God a name. She called Him “Lahai Roi” which literally means, “You God see me.” Whatever might happen to her in the future Hagar would never forget that God sees her.


What does it mean to you that God is constantly watching you and also watching over you? How should this affect your behaviour?

Why do you think God continues to bless Abram and Sarai and praise them for their faith in spite of the way in which they dealt with Hagar?

Hagar gave God a name. What name would you give to God in the light of your experience with Him?

Is there a situation that you have run away from and which hinders your on-going walk with God? What do you think God wants you to do about it?


Bible Reading: Genesis 16:16-17:1; Romans 4:13-25

When Ishmael was born Abram was 86 years old, and the very next verse in the Bible says that Abram was 99 years old. There is a 13 gap in God’s biography of Abram. What was happening to Abram in that unrecorded 13 years of his life?

We find the answer to this question in chapter four of Paul’s letter to the Romans. God was waiting until Abram and Sarai’s bodies were physically unable to conceive a child. The word’s Paul uses in Romans chapter four to describe this are “his own body, already dead (since he was about a 100 years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb” [verse 19]. God always keeps His promises, and Abram believed that. Abram did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief and was fully convinced that what God had promised he was able to perform [verses 20,21]. God, however, was waiting so that Abram and Sarai could not do it themselves or repeat their mistake of trying to help God do what He had promised! There was a 13 year wait until it became impossible for Abram, except by faith.

I was well acquainted with a medical doctor who shared with me about a 30-year gap on his life. Bill came from a strong Christian background and walked with God as a young man, but then lost his way spiritually whilst in medical school. He went on to become a good doctor, living a good moral life, but not in a relationship with God. One day, his sister in Canada felt an urge from God to fast and pray for her brother, and to continue to do so until the Holy Spirit told her that her brother was back with the Lord. On a Saturday afternoon, the doctor went into his study to watch the Scotland and England rugby match. His testimony is that as he turned on the television the presence of God became so powerful in his study that he had to turn off the television and kneel before the Lord. He surrendered his life afresh to the Lord after 30 years in a spiritual wilderness. That same evening his sister called him from Canada and asked her brother how it felt to be back and walking with God.

God is not in a hurry and knows exactly what He is doing. In Bill’s case, God waited for 30 years and in Abram’s life, He waited 13 years, so that man would not be able to boast in His presence that he had done it.


Why did God wait 13 years after Abram’s mistake before speaking to him again?

How did Abram not become discouraged during that 13-year gap in his life?

Have you ever felt that God has abandoned you? Have you thought that because God doesn’t seem to speak to you means that He is not watching over you? Would you trust God today where you cannot see and believe that what He has promised He will do in His time?



 Bible Reading: Genesis 16:1-4; Hebrews 6:9-12

God has clearly spoken to Abram and told him that he is going to have a son and an heir. Abram believes that this would happen because God had ratified His promise by covenant. Abram’s wife, Sarai, is impatient, and wants to help God in this matter, by suggesting that Abraham sleep with Sarai’s maid. This maid, Hagar, is an Egyptian, and probably one of the people who joined with Abram when he was in Egypt whilst out of God’s will. It was the custom in Abram’s time for a couple unable to conceive to use a surrogate mother to give them a baby. It may have been the custom but it was never the way that God intended a person to have a child. In Hebrews 6:12 we read that the promises of God are inherited through faith and patience.

The words “obtain children by her” in verse 2 literally mean “a multitude of nations” in Hebrew. It wasn’t that Abram and Sarai didn’t believe God’s promise that from Abram would come multitudes of people, but rather having received God’s promise they wanted to make it happen in their way and time and not wait for God’s time. It is a subtle temptation to try and work out what God has promised in our own way.

In 1978, my wife and I came back from what had been a brutally difficult first assignment in a fanatical Muslim situation. The five years of that first term had exhausted us, but a short time after we arrived back in England, someone prophesied that we would return to a different, cooler, mountain area where there would less stress. We believed that this word came from the Holy Spirit. A few weeks later, our mission organisation asked us to move to the north of Pakistan, in the cool foothills of the Himalayas to re-open its mission-work in that region. We immediately agreed to move to that area, but then serious objections came from the team we had been working with in Indonesia. We had little choice but to return to Indonesia, but a serious road accident, before we were due to return Indonesia, meant that I had to travel back to Indonesia without my wife. The team in Indonesia felt it unwise for me to return alone to the strongly Muslim island where we had previously lived and asked me go to a place called Lawang in East Java. When I reached Lawang, I was amazed to discover that it was nearly 4,000 feet above sea level and in the shadow of the 10,000 foot high Mount Arjuna. God’s promise was correct but we had wrongly jumped at the first opportunity to make it happen. If God has given you a promise then let Him work it out and do not run ahead of Him.


What do you need to do with a promise that God has give you if you have not yet seen it fulfilled?

What are some of the different ways that we try to do God’s work for Him instead of letting Him do it through us in His way.

In the light of this story of Abram, Sarai and Hagar, how would you interpret the words, “without Me you can do nothing” in John 15:5?


 Bible Reading: Genesis 15:8-21

“God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” [Numbers 23:19]

God had just promised Abram that he would gain possession of the land that God had brought him to, and that it would be his inheritance [verse 7]. Abram seemed a little unsure of this and asked how he would know that this would really happen. God responded by using a familiar, ancient custom – a covenant – to solemnly ratify the promise that He had already made to Abram in Genesis 12:2,3,7.

To establish a covenant in Abram’s day, usually the two parties would walk between the pieces of sacrificial animals, saying, in effect, “May what has happened to these creatures happen to me if I break the covenant”. That is how solemn the covenant was – it was irrevocable. This however, is not a covenant between two equal parties, but between the sovereign God and a man. Symbols of God, a smoking oven and a burning torch, passed between the pieces but Abram did not. This was God making an irrevocable covenant with no conditions. It was independent of Abram, and God would fulfil it in His time.

An old hymn says, “God is working His purposes out as year succeeds to year”. His covenant to give Abram and his descendants the land has not yet been fully fulfilled. The land that God promised Abraham clearly stated in Genesis 15:18-21 and covers about 300,000 square miles. It is a far greater area than the nation of Israel has ever occupied, but in the future kingdom it will be all theirs. When God makes a promise it will to come pass in His time.

The birds of prey [vultures] came down on the carcasses and Abram had to drive them away [verse 11]. The enemy will do anything to distract us from the purposes of God but we must be alert, resist the enemy, drive him away and stand on what God has promised.

The word covenant is the same as the word testament. We now have a New Testament or covenant. God has promised in His new covenant the forgiveness of sins and life in Jesus – not just in Jesus, but Jesus in us! He promised the land to Abram and his descendants and that will come to pass. To us in Christ, the blood of the cross, He promises the kingdom – we are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ. Like Abram we stand on God’s irrevocable promise and look for a city whose builder and maker is God [Hebrews 11:10].


Would you spend today thanking God for the irrevocable covenant that He has made with you that was ratified and sealed by Christ’s own blood?


Bible Reading: Genesis 15:1-6; Psalm 91:1-16

After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” [Genesis 15:1]

We don’t know why it was that God assured Abram not to be afraid. It might have been a fear of the king of Sodom coming to attack him as a result of Abram’s refusal to give him what he wanted. His wealth could be a problem to him. Also, Abram had a chief servant named Eliezer, who originally came from Damascus [15:2-3]. According to custom, if Abram died without an heir, then his eldest servant would inherit everything.

This is the first time Do not be afraid is recorded in the Bible. God’s answer to Abram’s fear is the promise to protect him and to reward him. God rewards him for his faith. Abram is a man of faith. He demonstrated his faith by his actions, but it was his faith, not his actions that made him right with God [verse 6]. A definition of faith is an inner confidence that God is who he says He is, and will do what He says He will do. For Abram it has been a journey of faith. Now God shows Abram the next step in this faith walk. Abram’s own son will be his heir. What a reward for having walked thus far by faith. Faith increases as we exercise it. My wife and I have to trust God for large sums of money and sometimes people say to me that they wish they had the faith we have. Faith normally begins small like a mustard seed and people forget that we began by trusting God for small amounts. It is ever increasing faith!

God doesn’t just promise to reward Abram but also to protect him. There are some wonderful pictures of God’s protection in the Bible. God is our shield, our strong tower of safety, and our refuge. He is our rock of safety.

When we lived in a fanatical Muslim village in Indonesia, we used to pray each night before sleeping using these words, “Lord put a wall of fire around this house and an angel to guard the door”. Over the years, every home in the village was broken into and robbed except our home. Several years after we moved away from that village I returned and met a man who asked me about our house. He said that he was a thief and one night approached our home with the intention to rob us. As he approached the house he saw a huge man standing at the front door and ran away in fear. God had been protecting us.


Is there something that you are afraid of? Ask God to protect you in the same way that He promised to protect Abraham.

David is writing Psalm 91, but suddenly it is God, not the Psalmist who is speaking in verses 14-16. What does He promise? What are the keys to enjoying those promises [see verse 1-2]? Will you claim those promises for yourself?

God rewards faith. What has God put in your heart to believe Him for?