*These are my own working notes*
Let me begin by saying the notes that I will be posting each month on ‘What
She Said” are my own working documents. They are some of what I will use as
I help the PW Bible Study Leaders in my own church prepare to teach Dale
Lindsay Morgan’s lessons in their individual circles. They are not intended
to be a negative criticism of Dr. Morgan’s work. Rather it is merely my
intent to add some thoughts and insights that I believe to be important. I
also encourage you to refer to Steve Bryant’s comments which, this year, are
also complimentary to the PW study, and not an alternative curriculum.
Parenthetically, I also want to say that it has been my joy and delight to
work with the women of our congregation. It’s been exciting to watch them
lead their friends in the study of God’s Word. So, I hope these notes will
also give you a ‘feel” for what I’m attempting to do.
‘What She Said” begins with an excellent question ‘What do you look for in
a Bible study?” The study then provides a list of answers that were
compiled by PW. What I look for, however, is a bit different. I look for a
Bible study that attempts clearly to state and apply the clear meaning of
the text under consideration. I am not so much interested in what other
people have to say about the text as I am in what the text itself says. To
put it another way, I study Scripture to hear what God has revealed about
himself and about his plan to restore a broken creation. Equally as
important, I want the study to help me apply what I have learned to my own
life how I fit into God’s plan, and what the changes are that I need to make
in my everyday life as a result of what I have learned.
*Note #1 The Fall*
The first lesson in ‘What She Said” is about Sarah and Hagar.
We are told correctly that Genesis means beginnings. We are also told
correctly that ‘Genesis is a book about creation and blessings.” All this
is true! But, there’s more. Genesis also says some important things about
God, himself, and about what theologians call ‘the fall” our foreparents’
choice to disobey God, and what happened as a result.
The Bible is the story of God’s good creation, how we messed it up, and how
God has been at work in history to put the pieces back together again.
Unfortunately, however, a great deal of contemporary Christian thinking
leaves out the fall and its cataclysmic consequences. The pattern becomes
God creates everything good, and we need to learn how to ‘live into” the
goodness of God’s created order.
So, my first ‘random note” would insist that any serious consideration of
anything beyond the first couple of chapters of Genesis must be understood
in terms of the terrible consequences of human sin human hostility toward
God, and conflict with one another.
Without consideration of ‘the Fall,” the story of Sarah and Hagar makes
little or no sense.
Genesis IS the story of ‘beginnings!” It is the story of God’s gracious
plan to restore his fallen and corrupted creation to what he intends for it
*Note #2 In the story of Sarah and Abraham God begins to reveal his
redemptive plan, and how he intends to accomplish it through a people he
will set apart for that purpose*
We are taught in Genesis that God begins to reveal his plan in the choice of
Abraham and Sarah. They are to be the parents of a holy (i.e. set apart by
God for a particular purpose) people.
So, before you read the passages on which Lesson 1 is constructed, I suggest
that you first read Genesis 12. There you will read about God’s intention to
make Abraham a blessing through his offspring. There God orders him, ‘Go
from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that
I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you,
and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those
who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the
families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Without that historical context, it is impossible to understand anything
This is a story of God’s grace and Abraham’s faith in trusting God and in
acting out that faith in obedience to leave everything that was familiar,
and to head to a land that was foreign and, most significantly to worship a
God whom he had never known. That is the big picture.
Included as part of the big picture is the story about Sarah and Hagar. It
is not a story that stands alone, but one that must be understood in terms
of the larger context.
*Note #3 The story of Sarah and Hagar tells us what happens when Abraham and
Sarah fail to wait upon God, and take matters into their own hands*
Central to the promise of God is the promise of an heir to the aging Abraham
and Sarah. As they grow beyond childbearing age, they begin to despair
unable to see how God’s promises can possibly come true. So, they take
matters into their own hands, and ‘produce” a son through Sarah’s Egyptian
*Note #4 So I must respectfully disagree with Dale when she infers by the
questions that she asks that this text is primarily a story about families
and how they are created rather, it is about trusting God’s word to be true*
When God reaffirms his promises to Abraham in chapter 15, Abraham reminds
God that time is apparently running out for him and Sarah to have a son. ‘He
(God) brought him (Abraham) outside and said, Look toward heaven and count
the stars, if you are able to count them So shall your descendants be.”’
To understand the story of Sarah and Hagar, it is vitally important to
remember that Abraham and Sarah waited years maybe even decades for God to
give them their promised son. In the process they grew impatient, and their
faith faltered. And, that fact is related to us to teach us, among other
things, that God’s timing is not our timing.
At precisely the right time, God gave Sarah and Abraham a son named Isaac.
But, when they chose to short circuit the process, terrible consequences
ensued that some believe can be traced right down to the present day.
*Note #5 I am convinced that an inductive study of Scripture (i.e. from the
historical and grammatical facts themselves) is generally to be preferred to
a thematic study that runs the risk of imposing meanings on the text that
may not actually be there*
Sarah and Abraham’s choice led to great suffering and conflict. But in spite
of the unintended consequences of their decision, God’s grace and mercy are
revealed in the way in which he cares for Hagar and Ishmael.
I make this point, because I am struck by the potential trouble we can get
into by bringing our own pre-conceived notions to Scripture rather than
allowing Scripture reveal its own themes.
While admittedly clever and tantalizing, this year’s theme ‘What She Said”
is also, to a large degree, artificial. That is to say, Scripture itself
never specifically suggests it.
However, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t consider it. But, it does mean
that as we deal with this year’s theme, we must always keep the bigger
picture in mind the full witness of Scripture. We should ask questions such
as ‘What is God revealing about himself and his plan to restore a broken
Dale Lindsay Morgan mentions the ‘covenant of circumcision,” in her lesson,
but without addressing the overriding problem of ‘the Fall,” circumcision
and covenant have little or no meaning.
Further confusion arises when, on page 9 in the sidebar, the three great
monotheistic religions are listed (i.e. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam)
without pointing out that it is through Isaac that the promised Messiah was
to come a fact that clearly makes Christianity unique (although in different
ways) from both Judaism and Islam.
*Note #6 Some of the questions are problematical for me*
This brings us to the list of questions on page 10.
Let’s look specifically at question #7. It emphasizes the common roots of
Judaism, Christianity and Islam in Abraham, and then asks, ‘How might this
common bond bring greater understanding between these three faith groups in
In my opinion, the question ignores the important Scriptural point that that
everyone (including us) who places their trust in Jesus God’s Messiah are
children of Abraham. Abraham is our father, too not through the flesh, but
through ‘the promise” that God kept through the line of Isaac.
Yes, I know, this makes the lesson more complicated than simply hearing
‘What She Said.” But, it’s well worth the extra time and will help to
inform the rest of the lessons we will study this year.
One more thing, I think that it is important to avoid questions that
‘imagine” what the various characters in Scripture might have felt, and
instead stick to ‘the facts.” A ‘Joe Friday” approach to Bible study is
much to be preferred to speculation. Very little is gained from conjecture
Questions 3, 4, and 6 can be helpful as we take the Scripture and attempt to
apply it to our lives today.
*Note #7 Preparing to teach this lesson*
The Suggestions for Leaders on page 11 provide an excellent approach to
lesson preparation. Always begin with prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to
guide you and teach you as you study God’s Word.
Teaching is a tremendous responsibility! Listen to the Word of God. Keep the
passage in its context. Use reliable commentaries from your church library
or borrow them from your pastor. If you have questions about the material,
go to your pastor. Teaching others is always a huge learning experience for
Only after you have a firm understanding of the passage, of what it is
teaching, and of how you intend to communicate its message should you even
attempt to apply its lessons to our life today. Short-circuit the process,
and you will inevitably end up teaching your own ideas rather than the
message that God has revealed.
One more thought. Personally, I intend to use the time of introduction and
‘Digging In” to present background material on Genesis and the importance
of the Covenant that God made with Abraham. A Scripture you might want to
use at this point is Galatians 3:6-9. It reminds us that we are connected
with Abraham and Sarah by faith. Then proceed with the story of Sarah and