Here's an at-home bible study to do with your household or friends. Many of the questions are accessible to all ages. There's a household activity at the end.
1. What are some examples of promises you've made? Which promises were the most important ones? What did you do different in those promises to show that they were important?
2. Read Genesis 12:1-3. This is the first time God speaks to Abram. What does God tell Abram to do? What all did God promise Abram?
3. How do you respond when someone makes a promise to you?
4. Read Genesis 12:6-7. Abram moved like God told him. What does God add to the promises? How does Abram respond?
5. Read Genesis 13:14-18. God speaks to Abram a third time. What beautiful image does God use to describe the promise this time? How does Abram respond? Why do you think Abram repeatedly responds this way?
6. What promises has God made you? How has God reassured you of these promises over the years?
7. Read Genesis 15:1-6. Abram is between 75 and 85 years old. Why doesn't Abram believe God's promise? What beautiful image does God use to reassure Abram? Why do you think this causes Abram to believe God?
For Adults: If you have time, read all of Genesis 15. Abram oscillates between doubt and belief and doubt again. God reassures him with dramatic action. This was known as a blood covenant, a legally-binding promise that said if the promises aren't fulfilled, may the failing party become like the animals on the ground. Have you ever reinforced a promise through legal action? Why did you need a legal act? Why do you think God uses a legal act to reinforce this promise?
8. Have you ever given someone something as a sign or symbol of your promise? Why do promises need signs?
9. Read Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16. Covenants are often described as promises with a sign. What sign does God give Abram and Sarai to remind them of the covenant?
10. If you look at these new names, God simply added the "h" sound to each. The "h" sound was the last part of one of God's names in Hebrew. When do people still give others part of their name when making promises today? What makes sharing your name powerful?
For Adults: If you have time, read all of Genesis 17. God attaches another sign to this covenant. What do you think of this new sign? Do you know of promises today that have elaborate signs such as this attached to them? Do you think Abraham will ever forget God's promise now?
11. Read Genesis 18:9-15. Abraham is now 99 years old, and Sarah is 90. This is the first time Sarah overhears God speaking to Abraham. Why do you think God let Sarah overhear this part of the promise? Why do you think Sarah laughed?
12. Abraham also laughed in Genesis 17:17-19. There, God instructs Abraham to name his son "Isaac", which means "laughter". Why is "laughter" important to God's promise?
13. Read Genesis 22:15-18. This is the seventh and final time God repeats the promise. What elements of the promise reappear here? Why do you think God repeated the promise seven times?
For Adults: If you have time read all of Genesis 22:1-18. Have your promises ever been tested? Why would someone feel the need to test a promise? God knows Abraham inside and out; why do you think God tests Abraham after all these years?
Think of an important promise in your household. One that everyone shares. Maybe it's to always love one another. Maybe you love the movie "Lilo & Stitch", where they say "Ohana means family. Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten." Whatever your group promise is, work together to make a sign or symbol of this promise. Put this sign in a prominent place where it will be easily and regularly seen by everyone in the house.
1. God takes a while to fulfill one of the most important parts of the promise: a child. At one point, Sarai gets impatient and convinces Abram to take matters into their own hands. They agree that Abram will have a child through Sarai's servant Hagar. What do you think God thinks of this scheme? How would you react if you were God?
2. Read Genesis 16:7-13. Sarai and Abram's scheme doesn't go exactly as planned, and Hagar runs away in fear of Sarai's anger. How does God respond to the results of this scheme?
3. Read Genesis 17:18-21. God is clear that the promise to Abraham extends to Sarah's future child, and not to Ishmael. Why do you think God wouldn't give the promise to Ishmael? But what does God add to the original promise based on Abraham's plead for Ishmael? Do you think God responds to you like he did to Abraham?
4. After Sarah gives birth, she again gets angry about Ishmael, afraid he'll inherit what now should belong to Isaac. She forces Abraham to kick Hagar and Ishmael out permanently. Read Genesis 21:11-14. Why does God say he blesses Ishmael?
5. Abraham was told the first time God made the promise and the last time God repeated the promise that through him all nations would be blessed. Both Isaac and Ishmael are blessed because of Abraham's relationship to God. How might your relationship to God bless other people?