Come Follow Me: Genesis 12–17; Abraham 1–2 “To Be a Greater Follower of Righteousness”

February 7–13

Genesis 12–17; Abraham 1–2

“To Be a Greater Follower of Righteousness”

 

These verses that are covered in this lesson are among the most controversial and studied scriptures in word history. These describe the division between the Jews and the followers of Islam, which is ongoing issue in the world today. It also discusses the use of women in ways that most of us would find uncomfortable by today’s standards. Be sensitive to this in teaching this lesson, and try to protect from an wholly masculine lens when engaged in class discussions.

 

Recent Considerations

On 20 January  2022, the church released a new pamphlet, that urges Understanding Between Muslims and Latter-day Saints. This link includes links to the pamphlet as well as YouTube videos of Elders Bednar and Gong discussion the importance of religious freedom and religious tolerance.  As Elder Bednar said: “We feel badly and misrepresented when a news report notes that someone who committed a grievous crime was a Latter-day Saint… In a similar way, to suggest that all Muslims are tied to grievous crimes here in the U.S. or elsewhere in the world is just as inaccurate and offensive to Muslims. Muslims disavow any such actions, just as Latter-day Saints do. Every major religion has extremists who misinterpret the teachings of their own religion or who seek to do wrong in the name of religion.”

 

In the spirit of this week’s lesson, consider:

How can I be a better member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by defending religious freedom for all?

How can support of those of other faiths help us to “To Be a Greater Follower of Righteousness”?

 

Ask rhetorically, then ask again:

The manual invites class members to share their impressions “and complete a sentence like the following: “Abraham taught me_______ ” or “Sarah taught me________ .”

 

In order to complete these sentences, a summary of Genesis 12-15, as well as Abraham 1-2 would be beneficial. As such, consider the following:

 

*Age: Modern culture places youth as a means of beauty. How can Sarah be seen as beautiful at the approximate age of 65? Derek Kidner, a British Old Testament scholar write that:

“Sarai’s sixties would therefore presumably correspond with our thirties or forties and her ninety years at Isaac’s birth with perhaps our late fifties.” Kidner, Genesis, Leicester & Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1967, p 117

 

*Context: Abraham’s throwing Sarai “under the bus.”  

Abraham was afraid for his life. Both he and Sarai were! They were both afraid of starving to death or being killed in the wilderness. When in trying circumstance, none of are likely to make perfectly righteous choice for survival.  Have we not all been in difficult situations wherein we needed to do something creative or very difficult in order to survive? For example:

 

In Abraham2, 24-25 we even see that the Lord instructs Abraham to tell Sarai to … be less that wholly honest:

“Let her say unto the Egyptians, she is thy sister, and thy soul shall live.”

Abraham then tells Sarai that the Lord has told him that she should sacrifice herself. After all, she is Abraham’s half sister, and she is beautiful. If they arrive and she is taken into the king’s household—as concubine—(because it is naïve to think they she was simply kept there without harm)—then the Lord promises that Abraham’s life will be spared.

Professor Mary Evans puts it this way:

“It may be thought that Abram was careless of his wife’s safety and that the only thing that counted for her as a woman was her looks. However, the pair apparently saw themselves as fleeing from certain death in the Canaanite famine and assumed that Sarah’s unusual beauty meant that she was likely to be taken anyway. The only question was whether Abram himself could survive. As a husband he would not; as a brother he might.” – Mary J. Evans, “Women,” Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch, InterVarsity Press, 2003,. 897-904

 

*Consider this:

(?) Could Sarai have born children that were fathered by the Egyptian pharaoh or his sons?

We know that Sarai gave her servant Hagar to Abraham in order to fulfill the covenant of Abraham having seed. Jewish tradition teaches that Hagar was a princess – perhaps even the daughter of the Pharaoh, and was given to Sarai, saying “It is better that my daughter should be a servant in the house of such a woman than mistress in another house” (“Jewish Encyclopedia, Hagar”. Jewishencyclopedia.com)

 

(?) What does this teach us about the position of royalty within the bible? Does royalty mean protection and abundance?

(?) What does this mean to us? As members of “The royal house of Israel” – will we be protected or always live abundantly?

 

We know that Hagar fall pregnant with Abraham’s son and this son is named Ishmael.

We also know that Sarai’s name is changed to Sarah, and she too, finally bares a son, Isaac.

We know that Hagar is chased into the wilderness with her son.

 

(?) What does this teach us about patience? What does this teach us about kindness and helping strangers? What does this teach us about trusting in the Lord? Keep in mind, Sarah was kept as a concubine for a time, and Hagar and her son nearly died of thirst and starvation. What does this teach us about trauma and those living with trauma today?

 

 

Back to the manual:

(?) “complete a sentence like the following: “Abraham taught me_______ ” or “Sarah taught me________ .”

 

Have a class member or members read Genesis 15:1–6 and Abraham 1:1–19. Considering these verses, and in line with the manual, ask, or ask a class member to prepare a statement in advance:

 

(?) How can we demonstrate our faith when our righteous desires are not yet fulfilled as we would like them to be?

 

(?) How has the Savior has supported you in a situations where you were not blessed with your desires as quickly as you would have liked or needed?

 

Abrahamic Covenant

 

(?) Re-state the previous question: What does this mean to us? As members of “The royal house of Israel” – will we be protected or always live abundantly?

 

State: Though our circumstances might not appear “royal”, we are blessed by the Abrahamic covenant.

 

Have a class member read: Abraham 2:6–11

 

(?) What is promised in the Abrahamic covenant?

(bless all the faithful with truth, priesthood ordinances, exaltation, and eternal increase.)

 

Have someone read from the manual:

“The covenant God made with Abraham and later affirmed with Isaac and Jacob is of transcendent significance. … The Lord appeared in these latter days to renew that Abrahamic covenant. … With this renewal, we have received, as did they of old, the holy priesthood and the everlasting gospel. We have the right to receive the fulness of the gospel, enjoy the blessings of the priesthood, and qualify for God’s greatest blessing—that of eternal life” (“Covenants,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2011, 87–88).

 

What are the ways these things are manifested to us personally today? (The Holy Ghost upon baptism is available to men and women, patriarchal blessings, temple initiatory. Keep in mind that Abraham’s “increase” was not limited to having biological children, but also when he left Egypt, he left with property enough to survive and thrive.)

 

(?) Consider: what might “eternal increase” include?

 

(?) Consider: How can women make use of the priesthood blessings of Melchizedek in their lives? Must a male priesthood holder always be present?

 

(?) Consider: How can we be better at not judging others for their individual circumstances?

 

(?) Consider: How can we each be a greater follower of righteousness in own own individual circumstances?

 

 

Spunky

Spunky lives in Queensland, Australia. She loves travel and aims to visit as many church branches and wards in the world as possible.

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2 Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    Thank you, Spunky! The Abraham/Sarah/Hagar story is just crazy. I appreciate your sensitive questions, particularly the one about the trauma these women endured. I especially love looking to Hagar, as many Black women have done, as a model for someone who is dealing with unimaginable hardship and exploitation, but in the midst of it, sees God, names God, and finds a way to survive.

  2. Thanks for taking on this difficult content. These stories don’t fit at all into the category of “inspirational stories” from my perspective looking at them from my culture and time period. I find it hard to find spiritual content in such accounts. I love how you used this lesson as a way to exercise empathy.

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