I plan on focusing my lesson on this question: Was Abraham really a historical person or would we do better to understand him as a metaphor for the human condition?
I’m kidding, of course. (I figured there was no way on earth a lesson on the Abrahamic covenant could compete with last week’s lesson on the flood without a really provocative opening line.)
–Read Genesis 17:1-9.
–V1: Note how old Abraham was when the covenant was given. Why?
–V1: the word translated as â€˜beforeâ€™ is the same word translated as â€˜beforeâ€™ in v18, where it seems to have the connotation of . . . what, exactly? What does this word suggest and what would it mean, therefore, to walk before the Lord?
–V1: â€˜perfectâ€™ has the connotation of â€œcomplete, whole, entire, sound.â€? Point: The Lord isnâ€™t asking him to do something impossible, or for the future, but something now. If you read the verse as, â€œwalk before me, and be thou complete/whole/entire/sound,â€? what is it that the Lord is asking Abram to do and how is this relevant to us?
–V2: Point: the covenant isnâ€™t new (the JST and Moses clarify this); it is given anew.
–V5: His name is changed. There is a difference of opinions among scholars as to whether:
(a) Abram and Abraham are variants with the same meaning.
(b) The first means â€˜exalted fatherâ€™ (as in, â€˜the Father is exaltedâ€™) and the second means â€˜father of nations.â€™ (The same is true for Sarai/Sarah, where they may also be variants or could mean â€˜princessâ€™ and â€˜noblewoman.â€™)
(c) The inclusion of the Heb letter â€˜hehâ€™ in both changed names serves as an abbreviation for the name of God.
In either case, name changing is a common element of covenant making. What do you think we could learn from the idea of a new name in association with covenant making?
–Cf. taking on the name of Christ at baptism.
–It suggests that taking on a covenant alters your basic identity.
–In the ancient world, to have the power to name something was to have power over the thing/person, so it suggests that when we covenant with God we are acknowledging Godâ€™s authority over us.
–V6: This is the 4th repetition of the idea of abundant progeny in all of six verses total, yet this is only one aspect of the covenant. Why do you think that it is getting so much attention at this point? (Perhaps because it would be the part that would require the most faith on Abrahamâ€™s part?)
–V8: Promised lands are a frequent part of covenant making but perhaps not immediately relevant to us. In what ways might it be relevant to us?
–Read v15-16. Note that the Lord makes it specific that the covenant extends to and includes Sarah. Note the repetition of the idea of her being blessed.
–Big picture: timeframe. The Lord will fulfill the covenants, but not anytime soon.
–Background: Abraham is praying about what to do because his own father is continuing in idolatry.
–Read v6-11, thinking about what you learn here that you didnâ€™t find in Genesis.
–What do you find here but not in Genesis?
–V6: â€˜a strange land.â€™ Presumably, the Lord could have given him a nice, quiet, out-of-the-way place, but instead plunked him down on the main highway of the ancient world (cf. the Saints in Utah). What could we learn from this that is relevant to today?
–V7: Why do you think the Lord uses the description found in v7? How would you summarize it? What is the point of it?
–Read v12. It may be the most important thing to know about the entire covenant: Abraham was earnestly seeking the Lord!
Abrahamic Covenant after Abraham
–1 Nephi 15:18: Part of covenant will be fulfilled in latter days.
–D & C 132:30-31: Fulfillment in latter days.
–D & C 103:17: Those who are not literally Abrahamâ€™s seed are adopted into it as they accept the gospel.
–We are unique among Christians for our emphasis on covenants (baptism and temple; according to the GDTM, baptism and temple sealing contain the fullness of the Abrahamic covenant). What difference do covenants make?
â€œAbraham is a model for us in other important ways. For example, Abrahamâ€™s faithfulness in all things qualified him to receive revelation for his family; indeed, he often spoke with the Lord â€œface to face.â€? (Abr. 3:11.) The blessing of revelation is one that all should seek for. Righteous men and women find that they have the spirit of revelation to direct their families and to aid them in their other responsibilities. But, like Abraham, we must seek to qualify for such revelation by setting our lives in order and by becoming acquainted with the Lord through frequent and regular conversations with him.â€?– Spencer W. Kimball, â€œThe Example of Abraham,â€? Ensign, June 1975, 3.