Story of the Old Testament - Lesson 3

By Glen Pemberton

Title: God Sets a Plan in Motion

Text: Genesis 12-50

Background Information for the Teacher


  1. To help the student grasp the basic story line of the Old Testament as it develops in Genesis 12-50.
  2. To introduce God’s mysterious plan for fixing the crisis of sin through the family of Abraham.
  3. To encourage the student to trust God with their lives (God can be trusted to keep his promises, even when it seems impossible).


  1. A Bible for each student.
  2. A chalkboard or marker board.
  3. Copies of Student Handout #3 (“God Sets a Plan in Motion”)


God sets a plan in motion to fix the crisis created by sin in Genesis 1-11. This plan consists of calling a single family into God’s service. God promises to give this family many descendants and land for the purpose of using them to bless the rest of the world. From the beginning, this plan was under threat. The family of Abram sometimes responded in trust to God’s plan and sometimes with a lack of trust. God, however, was determined to fix the problem of sin and work through this family.

Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class:

Introduction: (about 5 minutes)

  1. Welcome visitors, make any necessary announcements.
  2. Spend time taking prayer requests & leading the class in prayer.

Learning Experiences: (about 30 minutes)

  1. Review and set the stage for today’s study.

    1. Q. At the end of Genesis 2, what is the status of creation? A. “It was very good” (1:31)
    2. Q. At the end of Genesis 11, how is the world getting along? A. Terrible! Q. Why? What has gone wrong? A. The problem of sin!
    3. Summary: Last week, we saw that human sinfulness corrupted God’s “good” creation. Nonetheless, God was determined to fix the problems caused by sin and restore his relationship to humans. God did not walk away from his rebellious creation but involved himself in the problems. However, at the end of Genesis 11, it is not clear if God can or will ultimately fix the crisis created by sin.
    4. Preview: In Genesis 12, God sets a plan into motion that will ultimately resolve the problem of sin and its consequences.
  2. Body of the Lesson:
    1. God puts a plan into action by selecting a family, the family of Abram, and making certain promises to them.
    2. Draw five columns on the board. Write “Promises” as the title of the first column. (See Student Handout)
      1. Read Gen 12:1-3, 7. Q. What are the three major promises that God makes to Abram?
        1. Make a Great Nation (many descendants)
        2. Gift of Land
        3. Through you all the nations of the Earth will be blessed!
          1. The gift of land & descendants were not given to Abram for selfish purposes, but for the ultimate goal of blessing the world through Abram.
          2. How Abram and his family will be a blessing is not yet stated, but it does seem clear that this blessing is in response to the crisis of sin in Gen 1-11.
      2. These promises are repeated to Abram on many occasions (Read as many of the following texts as time permits [you might assign texts to different students to read aloud to move more quickly]. Note the basic promises in each text.)
        1. Gen 13:14-17
        2. Gen 15:1-6,17-20
        3. Gen 17:1-8,9-14
        4. Gen 22:15-18
      3. These promises are passed on to Abram’s family.
        1. To Abram’s son Isaac (Gen 26:1-5)
        2. To Abram’s grandson Jacob (28:1-4 [by Isaac]; 28:10-17 [by God])
      4. At the forefront of these promises (and this cannot be over-emphasized) is that God is setting into motion a plan to resolve the sin problem by calling one family into his service. God will bless the world, somehow, through the family of Abraham and Sarah.
    3. But this is only the beginning of the Story. Write as the title of the second column “Problems for the Promises”
      1. From the very beginning of God’s promises to the family of Abraham, the promises are under threat.
        1. The Promise of a Great nation & Many Descendants
          1. The women of the family struggle with infertility. Sarah and Rebekah are barren.
          2. The family is small and unimportant
        2. The Promise of Land: Presently the Canaanites live in the land and they have no intention of moving. There is no “For Sale” sign in their front yard!
        3. The Promise of being a Blessing to the Nations is not happening. The family of Abram is hardly a blessing to anyone they encounter, much less the world!
      2. Summary: So, in these chapters, we have the story of promises and the counter theme of threats to the promises.
    4. Often, even in the face of all the problems & challenges, Abram and his family respond with great faith in God. (Write in the third column, “Acts of Faith”)
      1. When God tells Abram to leave his homeland and go to Canaan - he goes! (Gen 12:40)
      2. When God tells Abram he will have many descendants - he believes! (Gen 15:6)
      3. When God tells Abram to circumcise all the males of his household - he does it! (Gen 17:23)
    5. But frequently, the greatest threat to God’s promises is, in fact, Abram and his family. (Write on the board, “Acts of Unfaith”)
      1. Frequently, Abram and his family do not trust God to do what he has promised to do. Consequently, they take things into their own hands. For example,
        1. Twice Abraham pawns off his wife Sarah as his sister (Gen 12:10-13:1; 20:1-18). Q. Why would Abraham do this? A. Fear (lack of trust in God’s help) and possibly to get rid of an infertile wife and take a new and fertile wife. (Isaac does the same thing with his wife Rebekah [Gen 26:6-11])
        2. Sarah gets Abraham to use Hagar as a surrogate mother, against God’s plan that Sarah will give birth to a son (16:1-16)
        3. Both Abraham and Sarah laugh at God’s promise of a child (17:15-19; 18:9-15)
      2. These same types of problems are also found in Abraham’s son and grandchildren:
        1. Isaac’s family is completely dysfunctional. Parents play favorites (Gen 25:27-28) and the brothers scheme against each other (Gen 25:29- 34; 27:1-46)
        2. Jacob’s family is also dysfunctional. Jacob tricks his brother Esau out of his birthright as firstborn (Gen 25:29-34; 27:1-45). He tricks Laban out of his flocks (Gen 30:25-43). He has twelve sons as the result of a “reproduction contest” for Jacob’s love between his two wives Rachel and Leah (29:32) Jacob plays favorites with his wives and his sons (Gen 37:3).
      3. One has to wonder how God could ever work through this family to “bless the world” - but God is determined and in every act of unfaith continues to work his plan. (It is a source of hope to us all that God selects and uses imperfect people for his purposes.)
  3. Conclusion: Finally, at the end of Genesis, there are several key developments in the story (fifth column).
    1. The family has begun to grow (46:26-27) and is now beginning to multiply like rabbits (47:27). (Draw the student’s attention to the first promise: Great nation, many descendants.)
    2. The family has relocated from the “Promised Land” to Egypt due to a famine. How the family will receive the “promised land” when they do not even live there anymore is a mystery.
    3. The family is beginning to work a blessing to the rest of the world.
      1. Joseph blesses Egypt and all the land through his government of the Egyptian resources during the famine.
      2. Jacob blesses Pharaoh (47:7-10)
      3. But this blessing, is not yet reversing all the problems created by sin in Gen 3-11!
  4. Summary: At the end of Genesis it is clear that God is working a plan, but that plan is only in its infancy. Further, from a human point of view, one wonders how God’s plan will ever overcome all the obstacles.


(about 7 minutes; select one or more of the following topics)

  1. The one thing, above all else, that God asked of Abraham was trust: Trust me to do what I promise for you. Q. Why do you think Abraham and his family found it so difficult to trust God? (discuss) Q. Why do you think we have such a difficult time trusting God with our lives?
  2. Q. Why do you think God selected the family of Abraham and Sarah? They were not “super righteous” people who never did wrong, so why them? (discuss) Q. How does this make you feel about the possibility of God using your life in his service?
  3. Q. What do you learn about God in these chapters?

Assignment: (about 1 minute)

Read Exodus 1-2 and 11


Prayer that:

  1. Thanks God for putting a plan into motion to save us from sin.
  2. Acknowledges our own difficulty in trusting God with our lives.
  3. Asks God to help us trust him fully.

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