In the coming weeks, we will begin to discuss the stories about God’s covenant with the peoples we will eventually know as Israel, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. These covenant stories are important because they establish one of the central themes of the Hebrew Scripture: “You will be my people and I will be your God.” A version of this phrase shows up soon after our story for today (Genesis 17:8), the first of many times in the Old Testament. In short, our stories about covenant trace how the people of Israel become God’s people, how they learn to belong to God.
In today’s story from Genesis 15:1-6, the word of the Lord comes to Abraham in a vision. A conversation ensues during which Abraham expresses concern that he has no children: “you have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my household is to be my heir” (15:3). God responds that Abraham will have descendants as great as the stars in the sky. Abraham believes and God “reckons it to him as righteousness” (15:6).
Hear the Word
Share the story of God’s covenant with Abraham from Genesis 15:1-6 (Actually Abram, make sure you tell your students that God later changes Abram’s and Sarai’s names. Abram becomes Abraham in 17:5; Sarai becomes Sarah in 17:15. We aren’t covering the story of the name change this time around because it makes the story too long for us).
You can also read “God Promises a Wonderful Blessing: Abraham Trusts God” from the Children of God Storybook Bible beginning on page 18.
Many of our other children’s storybook Bibles have this story. Find your favorite. Remember to look for versions of the story that emphasize covenant.
Respond to the Word
1. Stargazing and Constellations: Make tubes of paper from black cardstock. On a small square of paper (dark tissue paper would likely work well), have your students carefully make holes with a toothpick or hole/star puncher (in the supply closet). Tape or rubber band the paper to the end of your tube. Older children might like to make a constellations (you can show them some pictures of different constellations or draw a simple picture of the big dipper on your white board). Decorate the outside and write “You will be as numerous as the stars in the sky”–Genesis 15:5 on the outside.
2. Make and/or decorate stars: There are a bunch of ideas for making and decorating your own starts. You can decorate some of the paper stars in the supply closet (they are on the back shelf) or make craft stick stars (scroll down to see this one), or sun catcher glitter stars (if you’re in the mood for messy). For older children, you can make one of the folded stars here (use the printed origami paper in the supply closet). Wonder together about how Abraham and Sarah felt about God’s promises (hint: you can look at some of the later stories in Genesis 15-18). I wonder if Abraham and Sarah thought about God’s promises every time they looked at the night sky.
3. Footprints following God (young children): Abraham and Sarah knew that God’s promises were good. At the end of our passage it says that Abraham believed God’s promises and God counted it as righteousness. When you trust God, you go wherever God asks you to go. Use the roll of brown bulletin paper (supply closet near the nursery) to trace each child’s foot. Allow them to decorate the footprint and write “I will follow God” on each foot print.
4. God’s Promises: Journal about God’s promises (there will be many of these in our Old Testament stories, so this is a good time to start reflecting on the promises we have seen so far, Noah/all of creation and Abraham and Sarah) What did it mean to be God’s people? What does it mean to belong to God? Reflect on why Abraham believed God’s promises, even though he didn’t have a child until he was almost 100 years old. What has God promised to us? Which of these promises is most important to you? How do we know that we can trust God?
In lieu of journaling, younger children might enjoy writing a postcard from Abraham telling a friend about God’s promises. Bonus: If you would like, students can “send” their postcards to the church and I can put them on our Advent bulletin board as we head toward the time of the year when we remember the fulfillment of God’s biggest promise in Jesus.
5. Act it out: You can find a skit for God’s Promises to Abraham here. It’s straight from the Bible and a great way to get your kids to tell the story after you have done so.
6. Music: Sing Father Abraham with the children in your class. If the weather is nice, get outside and get moving! You can also sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Have your kids lay down on the ground as though they are looking up at the stars in the sky. Ask them to close their eyes and imagine that they are looking at the same stars that Abraham and Sarah saw so long ago.
Close with a Feast and Prayer