Call to Abram and Covenant with God

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Genesis 12
1The lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. 2I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. 3I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”
4So Abram departed as the lord had instructed, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran. 5He took his wife, Sarai, his nephew Lot, and all his wealth—his livestock and all the people he had taken into his household at Haran—and headed for the land of Canaan. When they arrived in Canaan, 6Abram traveled through the land as far as Shechem. There he set up camp beside the oak of Moreh. At that time, the area was inhabited by Canaanites.
7Then the lord appeared to Abram and said, “I will give this land to your descendants.” And Abram built an altar there and dedicated it to the lord, who had appeared to him. 8After that, Abram traveled south and set up camp in the hill country, with Bethel to the west and Ai to the east. There he built another altar and dedicated it to the lord, and he worshiped the lord. 9Then Abram continued traveling south by stages toward the Negev.
Abram and Sarai in Egypt
10At that time a severe famine struck the land of Canaan, forcing Abram to go down to Egypt, where he lived as a foreigner. 11As he was approaching the border of Egypt, Abram said to his wife, Sarai, “Look, you are a very beautiful woman. 12When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife. Let’s kill him; then we can have her!’ 13So please tell them you are my sister. Then they will spare my life and treat me well because of their interest in you.”
14And sure enough, when Abram arrived in Egypt, everyone noticed Sarai’s beauty. 15When the palace officials saw her, they sang her praises to Pharaoh, their king, and Sarai was taken into his palace. 16Then Pharaoh gave Abram many gifts because of her—sheep, goats, cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels.
17But the lord sent terrible plagues upon Pharaoh and his household because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. 18So Pharaoh summoned Abram and accused him sharply. “What have you done to me?” he demanded. “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? 19Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ and allow me to take her as my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and get out of here!” 20Pharaoh ordered some of his men to escort them, and he sent Abram out of the country, along with his wife and all his possessions.
Genesis 13
 
1So Abram left Egypt and traveled north into the Negev, along with his wife and Lot and all that they owned. 2(Abram was very rich in livestock, silver, and gold.) 3From the Negev, they continued traveling by stages toward Bethel, and they pitched their tents between Bethel and Ai, where they had camped before. 4This was the same place where Abram had built the altar, and there he worshiped the lord again.
5Lot, who was traveling with Abram, had also become very wealthy with flocks of sheep and goats, herds of cattle, and many tents. 6But the land could not support both Abram and Lot with all their flocks and herds living so close together. 7So disputes broke out between the herdsmen of Abram and Lot. (At that time Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land.)
8Finally Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not allow this conflict to come between us or our herdsmen. After all, we are close relatives! 9The whole countryside is open to you. Take your choice of any section of the land you want, and we will separate. If you want the land to the left, then I’ll take the land on the right. If you prefer the land on the right, then I’ll go to the left.”
10Lot took a long look at the fertile plains of the Jordan Valley in the direction of Zoar. The whole area was well watered everywhere, like the garden of the lord or the beautiful land of Egypt. (This was before the lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) 11Lot chose for himself the whole Jordan Valley to the east of them. He went there with his flocks and servants and parted company with his uncle Abram. 12So Abram settled in the land of Canaan, and Lot moved his tents to a place near Sodom and settled among the cities of the plain. 13But the people of this area were extremely wicked and constantly sinned against the lord.
14After Lot had gone, the lord said to Abram, “Look as far as you can see in every direction—north and south, east and west. 15I am giving all this land, as far as you can see, to you and your descendants as a permanent possession. 16And I will give you so many descendants that, like the dust of the earth, they cannot be counted! 17Go and walk through the land in every direction, for I am giving it to you.”
18So Abram moved his camp to Hebron and settled near the oak grove belonging to Mamre. There he built another altar to the lord.
Genesis 14
17After Abram returned from his victory over Kedorlaomer and all his allies, the king of Sodom went out to meet him in the valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).
18And Melchizedek, the king of Salem and a priest of God Most High, brought Abram some bread and wine. 19Melchizedek blessed Abram with this blessing:
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Creator of heaven and earth.
20And blessed be God Most High,
who has defeated your enemies for you.”
Then Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of all the goods he had recovered.
21The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give back my people who were captured. But you may keep for yourself all the goods you have recovered.”
22Abram replied to the king of Sodom, “I solemnly swear to the lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, 23that I will not take so much as a single thread or sandal thong from what belongs to you. Otherwise you might say, ‘I am the one who made Abram rich.’ 24I will accept only what my young warriors have already eaten, and I request that you give a fair share of the goods to my allies—Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre.”

Genesis 15

1Some time later, the lord spoke to Abram in a vision and said to him, “Do not be afraid, Abram, for I will protect you, and your reward will be great.”
2But Abram replied, “O Sovereign lord, what good are all your blessings when I don’t even have a son? Since you’ve given me no children, Eliezer of Damascus, a servant in my household, will inherit all my wealth. 3You have given me no descendants of my own, so one of my servants will be my heir.”
4Then the lord said to him, “No, your servant will not be your heir, for you will have a son of your own who will be your heir.” 5Then the lord took Abram outside and said to him, “Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have!”
6And Abram believed the lord, and the lord counted him as righteous because of his faith.
7Then the lord told him, “I am the lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land as your possession.”
8But Abram replied, “O Sovereign lord, how can I be sure that I will actually possess it?”
9The lord told him, “Bring me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10So Abram presented all these to him and killed them. Then he cut each animal down the middle and laid the halves side by side; he did not, however, cut the birds in half. 11Some vultures swooped down to eat the carcasses, but Abram chased them away.
12As the sun was going down, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a terrifying darkness came down over him. 13Then the lord said to Abram, “You can be sure that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign land, where they will be oppressed as slaves for 400 years. 14But I will punish the nation that enslaves them, and in the end they will come away with great wealth. 15(As for you, you will die in peace and be buried at a ripe old age.) 16After four generations your descendants will return here to this land, for the sins of the Amorites do not yet warrant their destruction.”
17After the sun went down and darkness fell, Abram saw a smoking firepot and a flaming torch pass between the halves of the carcasses. 18So the lord made a covenant with Abram that day and said, “I have given this land to your descendants, all the way from the border of Egypt to the great Euphrates River—19the land now occupied by the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and Jebusites.”
Genesis 16
1Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had not been able to bear children for him. But she had an Egyptian servant named Hagar. 2So Sarai said to Abram, “The lord has prevented me from having children. Go and sleep with my servant. Perhaps I can have children through her.” And Abram agreed with Sarai’s proposal. 3So Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian servant and gave her to Abram as a wife. (This happened ten years after Abram had settled in the land of Canaan.)
4So Abram had sexual relations with Hagar, and she became pregnant. But when Hagar knew she was pregnant, she began to treat her mistress, Sarai, with contempt. 5Then Sarai said to Abram, “This is all your fault! I put my servant into your arms, but now that she’s pregnant she treats me with contempt. The lord will show who’s wrong—you or me!”
6Abram replied, “Look, she is your servant, so deal with her as you see fit.” Then Sarai treated Hagar so harshly that she finally ran away.
7The angel of the lord found Hagar beside a spring of water in the wilderness, along the road to Shur. 8The angel said to her, “Hagar, Sarai’s servant, where have you come from, and where are you going?”
“I’m running away from my mistress, Sarai,” she replied.
9The angel of the lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her authority.” 10Then he added, “I will give you more descendants than you can count.”
11And the angel also said, “You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son. You are to name him Ishmael (which means ‘God hears’), for the lord has heard your cry of distress. 12This son of yours will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives.”
13Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the lord, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the God who sees me.” She also said, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?” 14So that well was named Beer-lahai-roi (which means “well of the Living One who sees me”). It can still be found between Kadesh and Bered.
15So Hagar gave Abram a son, and Abram named him Ishmael. 16Abram was eighty-six years old when Ishmael was born.
Genesis 17

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the lord appeared to him and said, “I am El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty.’ Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life. 2I will make a covenant with you, by which I will guarantee to give you countless descendants.”

3At this, Abram fell face down on the ground. Then God said to him, 4“This is my covenant with you: I will make you the father of a multitude of nations! 5What’s more, I am changing your name. It will no longer be Abram. Instead, you will be called Abraham, for you will be the father of many nations. 6I will make you extremely fruitful. Your descendants will become many nations, and kings will be among them!
7“I will confirm my covenant with you and your descendants after you, from generation to generation. This is the everlasting covenant: I will always be your God and the God of your descendants after you. 8And I will give the entire land of Canaan, where you now live as a foreigner, to you and your descendants. It will be their possession forever, and I will be their God.”
 
9Then God said to Abraham, “Your responsibility is to obey the terms of the covenant. You and all your descendants have this continual responsibility. 10This is the covenant that you and your descendants must keep: Each male among you must be circumcised. 11You must cut off the flesh of your foreskin as a sign of the covenant between me and you. 12From generation to generation, every male child must be circumcised on the eighth day after his birth. This applies not only to members of your family but also to the servants born in your household and the foreign-born servants whom you have purchased. 13All must be circumcised. Your bodies will bear the mark of my everlasting covenant. 14Any male who fails to be circumcised will be cut off from the covenant family for breaking the covenant.”
Sarai Is Named Sarah
15Then God said to Abraham, “Regarding Sarai, your wife—her name will no longer be Sarai. From now on her name will be Sarah. 16And I will bless her and give you a son from her! Yes, I will bless her richly, and she will become the mother of many nations. Kings of nations will be among her descendants.”
17Then Abraham bowed down to the ground, but he laughed to himself in disbelief. “How could I become a father at the age of 100?” he thought. “And how can Sarah have a baby when she is ninety years old?” 18So Abraham said to God, “May Ishmael live under your special blessing!”
19But God replied, “No—Sarah, your wife, will give birth to a son for you. You will name him Isaac, and I will confirm my covenant with him and his descendants as an everlasting covenant. 20As for Ishmael, I will bless him also, just as you have asked. I will make him extremely fruitful and multiply his descendants. He will become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. 21But my covenant will be confirmed with Isaac, who will be born to you and Sarah about this time next year.” 22When God had finished speaking, he left Abraham.
23On that very day Abraham took his son, Ishmael, and every male in his household, including those born there and those he had bought. Then he circumcised them, cutting off their foreskins, just as God had told him. 24Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised, 25and Ishmael, his son, was thirteen. 26Both Abraham and his son, Ishmael, were circumcised on that same day, 27along with all the other men and boys of the household, whether they were born there or bought as servants. All were circumcised with him.
Response Questions:  A covenant is a binding pact between God and God’s people.  God initiates the covenant and stipulates all the provisions.  People have the choice of accepting or rejecting it, but not of offering alternative plans or conditions. 
1)  When God calls Abram, what does God promise him in the covenant? 
2) What is Abram to do in response to God’s call?

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