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Genesis 15:1-12 1
1 After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” 2 But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.” 4 Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” 5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness. 7 He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.” 8 But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?” 9 So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.” 10 Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. 11 Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away. 12 As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him.

lastwillBackground 2

In this chapter we have a solemn treaty between God and Abram concerning a covenant that was to be established between them. The covenant to be settled between God and Abram was a covenant of promises; accordingly, here is the list of promises:

  • A general assurance of God’s kindness and good-will to Abram (v. 1).
  • A particular declaration of the purposes of God’s love concerning him, in two things:
    • That he would give him numerous heirs (v. 2-6).
    • That he would give him Canaan for an inheritance (v. 7-21).

Either an estate without an heir, or an heir without an estate, would have been but a half comfort to Abram. But God ensures both to him; and that which made these two, the promised seed and the promised land, comforts indeed to this great believer was that they were both typical of those two invaluable blessings we receive, Christ and heaven.

Biblical Truth

Verse 1 ‘After this’ may mean some time later, rather than immediately. Abram had refused a reward from the King of Sodom. God promised Abram a much greater reward.

Verses 2-3 The Hebrew text here is difficult. A servant could inherit goods if his owner had no children. That was a custom. Such a servant was usually young. His master would adopt him as a son. We do not know anything about Eliezer. But perhaps he is the same man as Abram’s chief servant in chapter 24. If so, Eliezer was very loyal to his master.

Verse 4 It was not God’s plan that Eliezer would inherit. God wanted to bless people from every nation by means of Abram. God’s plan was that Jesus would be one of Abram’s descendants.

Verse 5 God promised that Abram would have his own child, grandchildren, and many great-grandchildren and so on.

Verse 6 Abram was not perfect, but he believed God. So God judged him as not sinful. We should believe that Jesus died for us. Then God will judge us as not sinful (Romans chapter 4).
This is a very important verse. We cannot please God because of our own efforts. We can only please God if we trust him. Paul repeats this verse in Galatians 3:6. And Hebrews 11:8-9 explains how Abram trusted God.

Verse 7 This verse is like Genesis 28:13 and Exodus 3:6. God showed Abram who God himself really is. God is always the only real God. There is no other real God. It was the same God who called Abram. It was the same God who guided Abram to the country called Canaan. And it was the same God who was making these promises to Abram. So, Abram could continue to trust God.

Verses 8-11 This was a special ceremony called the covenant. Enemies used to make a covenant at the end of a war. Each side made serious promises. They killed animals. But Abram’s covenant was different. He did not make this covenant with another man. Abram’s covenant was with God.

Verse 12 Abram was a friend of God. So, God told Abram about his plans (Genesis 18:17-19). God’s plans for Abram’s family were good, but there would be many terrible troubles. Abram waited for God to speak.

Items for Discussion

  • Explain in your own words, what a covenant between two parties is?
  • What makes a covenant work?
  • What do you think of the fact that Abrams selfish position of wanting an heir became a covenant between him and God?
  • What was Abrams role (duties) in keeping this covenant?
  • How might we apply these principles to our relationship to God today?


Matthew 21:28-31
28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. 31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.


This is not a parable to the disciples, but to the chief priests and elders of the people, whose heritage or fine credentials alone would not give them the right to continue to rule. Jesus tells the story of a son who says he will work and then does not as opposed to a son who says he will not but repents and does his father’s wishes. The former son represents the leadership of Israel who agreed to the covenant with God but rejected it. The latter son represents the tax collectors and harlots whose lives were sinful but who were willing to repent.

Biblical Truth 3

Jesus told a simple story to a group of leaders. He asked them to think about it. In the story, the man asked both his sons to go and to work in his vineyard. One son said that he would go. But he did not go. The other son said that he would not go. But later he did go. The leaders all agreed on the answer. The son who went was the son who obeyed his father. Therefore, that son did what his father wanted. What matters most is the action, not the promise.

In the opinion of those leaders, the men who collected taxes and the prostitutes were the most sinful people. But those people believed what John the Baptist taught. John taught the people the right way to live. They repented and they changed their lives. They began to serve God because of the things taught to them. The Jewish leaders had seen the effects in the lives of those people. However, those leaders still did not believe in John’s message and they did not repent. Therefore, those sinful people would go into the kingdom before the leaders of their religion. The way into the kingdom is by means of repentance and faith. If the leaders had believed John, they would have accepted Jesus.

Items for Discussion

  • How does the study title, “Promise or Performance” fit this parable?
  • Where in society today do we see this parable come to life?
  • Can religion ever be divorced from morality? Why or why not?
  • If you had to summarize “repentance” for someone, what would you say it is?
  • Why is it never too late to repent?

Discussion Challenge

  • What would the “attitude of repentance” look like in a modern day church?