Into the Lesson
Several years ago, a Christian singer made her song “El Shaddai” a top tune. The words recited many of the biblical names of God, and so the song has remained popular for devotional and worship occasions. Obtain a recording of that song (by any artist) and play it for the class as your study session begins.
Say, “When God comes to Abram in verse 1 of today’s text in Genesis 17, El Shaddai is the way God identifies himself. ‘Almighty God’ or ‘God Almighty’ are the common ways that that name is translated into English.” Highlight that concept by asking, “Why is this name that God chooses for himself especially appropriate on the occasion of Genesis 17?” (Use the commentary to enhance your students’ responses.)
Into the Word
Say, “Abram’s given name reflects the optimism of his parents and perhaps the work of the Holy Spirit. Abram’s name means ‘exalted father,’ yet for more than 80 years he fathered no children at all. For such a childless one to be-come a father, indeed an ‘exalted father,’ shows the grace and power of God the Father.”
Give a half sheet of paper and a pencil to each student. Ask students to write “Exalted Father” at the top of their papers. Then instruct students to make a list indicating how Abram became “Father of ,” using today’s text or their own general knowledge of Abraham, his life, and his physical and spiritual heritage.
Give students one example: “Father of Isaac, “from verse 17 of today’s text. Indicate to the class that they can coin their own labels if they can explain their reasoning. Here are other such designations, from the text and elsewhere:
“Father of the Century” (v. 1 and Abram’s age); “Father of the Covenant” (v. 2); “Father of Many Nations”(v. 4); “Father of a Multitude” (per lesson writer’s note on Abram’s new God-given name); “Father of Kings” (v. 6); “Father of the Everlasting Covenant” (v. 7); “Father of the Land” (v. 8); “Father of Laughter” (v. 17 and Isaac’s name); “Father of the Faithful” (traditional); “Father of Division”(based on later animosity of the descendants of the two sons); “Father of Twenty-First-Century Conflict” (based on tensions and hatreds between various religious factions today).
Give students eight to ten minutes to compile their lists, then compare and contrast lists. Be sure to get explanation for any that are unclear to you or appear to be unclear to others.
Ask, “If you had a faith like Abraham’s. what would you do for God?” Accept general answers, then give each student a printed sheet with these completion statements:
(1) “By faith [student’s name], when called to , obeyed and.”
(2) “By faith [student’s name], when God tested him/her, offered .” (3) “By faith [student’s name], was looking forward to”
Read Hebrews 11:8-19 to the class and suggest that they use this passage as a pattern for their responses.
As an alternative activity, label Abraham’s faith as a “countercultural faith.” Read Hebrews11:8-19 and ask, “What exactly did Abraham believe about God that is unlike the common belief system of the twenty-first century?” Accept reasonable responses, but insert the following answers if they are not identified by the group: (1)Abraham believed God was capable of giving life to a dead body; (2) Abraham believed that no matter where he was that God would provide for his needs; (3) Abraham believed God was capable of overcoming the laws of nature; (4) Abraham believed he did not have to understand fully everything about God and His will.
Finish the discussion by asking, “How is your belief system? Is it culturally biased, or is it culturally free?” (If your class uses the student books, consider the Abraham’s Child activity as a concluding experience.)