The Uniform Series text we’re studying for Sunday, October 21 is Genesis 18:9-15 and Genesis 21:1-7, God’s promise of a child, Isaac, to Sarah, and the birth of Isaac. Here are a few questions we might want to consider before or during class:
In v10, the speaker says to Abraham “your wife Sarah will have a son” rather than “you will have a son.” Is this significant? How? Why?
Sarah laughs in v12 “within herself”; in Genesis 21:6 Sarah announces that “God has brought laughter for me.” Is the laughter in 18:12 the same or different from the laughter in 21:6? How? What does laughter seem to mean in this story, do we think? When, under what circumstances, do we laugh? How is Sarah’s laughter like our own? Different from ours?
The conversation in vv13-15 might be read as taking place more than one way. How do we read it? [That is, who is speaking to whom, where, out loud or silently, etc. in each speech? Who is “He” in v15?] What difference does the way we read these verses make for how we think of God’s relationship to Abraham? To Sarah? Of the relationship between Abraham and Sarah? What difference does that make for what we take as the message of this text? Why is that?
In v15, Sarah denies laughing “because she was afraid.” What was Sarah afraid of, do we think? Why would that lead her to deny laughing? What does this episode tell us about people, or ourselves? [More personal: Have we ever been afraid in this way? Have we ever been afraid in our relationship with God? When? How did that work out – or has it yet?]
How are Abraham and Sarah’s circumstances similar to ours? How are they different? How would we describe their response to their circumstances? (E.g., “patient,” “having faith,” “confused,” …) Where do we see this in the text? Do Abraham and Sarah serve as role models for us? How? Why do we say this? How would our behavior change if we followed the example of Abraham and Sarah? Would that be a change for the better for us, do we think? Why do we say this?
Why does Isaac’s birth occur so late in Abraham’s and Sarah’s life, do we think? Why do we think this? (For instance, do our ideas about this come from something in the text? Explanations we’ve heard in the past? …) How do our answers to this question matter for us? That is, what do they tell us about ourselves, our understanding of God, or our way of dealing with negative experiences?
Our lesson planners encourage us to see the birth of Isaac to Abraham and Sarah as a manifestation of God’s grace and power; to value patience, seeing God’s activity as taking place on a divine rather than human timetable; to pray for faith to sustain our waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promised blessings.
We might want to think about what happens if we think of this story as demonstrating one pattern or model for God’s work in people’s lives.
A few recent news stories that might be relevant to this week’s study: