I promise!!! We might make promises and have intentions, but human frailty limits our genuine ability. Fortunately, God’s power is much greater than our own. Throughout the Bible, God made promises to His people, and all of those promises were fulfilled in Christ Jesus. We can count on our Lord to keep His word, both in the past and now!
Lesson focus: This lesson looks at a few Old Testament covenants that God made with His people. God made promises to remain close to those He loved, and He fulfilled those promises. Children will see how God made promises and remained faithful to them. They will also acknowledge that we can rely on God to keep His word, and that He will be with us always.
Passage: Genesis 9:8-17; Genesis 12:1-3; Genesis 17:1-7; 2 Samuel 7:12-17; Hebrews 8:6-13
Target Audience: Kindergarten-6th grade (adaptable, but some concepts might be best for older students)
Materials Needed: Construction paper, scissors, decorations, glue, string, hole punch, paper plates, popsicle sticks, markers, crayons, Bible (optional, depending on crafts and activities of choice).
Lesson Introduction and Game Ideas
Lesson Opening: The stories in this lesson refer to promises that God made to His people. Consider starting off with an activity involving commitments that people make, or an activity reflecting plans and fulfillment of plans.
Here are some activities to get kids thinking… (select the best ones for your audience and age group):
- Pledges and promises: Come up with a list of vows or pledges that people recite. This could include things like the Pledge of Allegiance, a scouting oath, or wedding vows. Discuss what it means to say such things, and how important it is to stick with your word.
- Rainbow swirl…place several Skittles in a small dish or pie pan. Have children make predictions regarding what will happen when the candies are covered in water. Place water over the Skittles, and watch the colors run into the water, observing how they change with the swirling dye.
- “Don’t drop the Ark” balloon game: One of the representations of God’s covenant that the people of Israel valued highly was the Ark of the Covenant, which held the Ten Commandments. This container was so special that it could not touch the ground, and had to be carried in a very special way. Use a beach ball or balloon as your “ark.” Have children form a circle and work together to try to keep the balloon from touching the ground. For added challenge, spread the circle wider, or make sure students do not move their feet.
- Build a tent! In a way, several of the stories these passages review have to do with buildings or with making dwelling places. Split students into small groups. Provide each group with a blanket or sheet and small chairs. Provide a time limit in which they will build a small fort to “shelter” inside.
Remind children that unfortunately, we sometimes make mistakes. We don’t always do a great job of keeping our human promises. However, we know that God is faithful to His promises. In the Bible, He continually made commitments called Covenants with His people. He always kept His word, and ultimately gave us Jesus as the great sign that He kept His promises!
Ask: Have you ever made a promise to someone? Did you keep it? Do you always keep your promises?
Sunday School Lesson on God’s Promises
Bible Lesson: The passages used here take place over several centuries. If you have a Bible timeline in your class, point out approximations of when events took place, to put things in context. You might have students act out some of the stories, or mime activities to go along with what is read (for instance, lying down when Abraham falls down on his face). Feel free to read out loud, take turns reading with older students, summarize for younger kids, or use whatever method works best for you.
Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9 “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.” -Genesis 9:8-17
Review what events had just taken place when God spoke these words…the Earth had been flooded. Noah, his family, and the animals had been rescued by their shelter in the ark. Now God is making a solemn promise not to destroy the Earth again. He is making a covenant to take care of the people on His created Earth.
Ask: What was the sign that God gave? Do you think He needed a reminder of His promise?
God does not casually forget things. It’s likely that the rainbow is more of a positive reminder for us than it is for Him. We know, too, that when we see a rainbow, we can remember God’s promises to us to always watch over and care for us.
God also made promises to a man named Abram (re-named Abraham), who was promised that he would be a father of many nations. In one sense, this is the start of the great story of Israel:
Now the Lord said] to Abram, “Go from your country] and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And 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. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” -Genesis 12:1-3
God is making a promise to His servant Abram. He promises that he will be blessed and will be a blessing, and that a great nation will be born out of him. We call Abram one of the “patriarchs” or fathers of the faith. He was committed to God and would do whatever was asked of him. God reiterated this covenant a little while later, giving Abram a new name to go with his responsibility:
When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, 2 that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” 3 Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, 4 “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 No longer shall your name be called Abram,] but your name shall be Abraham,[c] for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. 6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.” -Genesis 17:1-8
God promises that He will watch out for the descendants of Abraham, and will always be their God. His name will be “Abraham” because he will be the leader and founder of nations. Explain to students (or review, if already familiar) that Abraham was the father of Isaac, who was the father of Jacob, from whom came the sons that made up the tribes of Israel. Eventually, from the line of one of those tribes, came a very significant son…
Ask: Have you ever moved? Do you think you would move if you didn’t know where you were even going? Abraham did a lot of trusting that God would take care of him. When is it hard to trust someone?
God promises to be with the people always. Even though He knew they would try to abandon Him and turn away from Him (and they certainly did), He remained faithful. Many years after Abraham, a man by the name of David came along. God made David the king and gave him many important victories. But He also made a promise to David. God told David that his line would continue, and that his throne would be “established forever.” This might have been a comfort to David, knowing that his sons would take over his royalty. But something much deeper is going on in this promise. God is assuring David that not only would the kingdom remain in his family name, but the king of kings would come from it!
When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, 15 but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’” 17 In accordance with all these words, and in accordance with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David. -2 Samuel 7:12-17
If time (and audience maturity) allows, you might want to examine one of the Gospel genealogies, such as the one given in the first chapter of Matthew. Show how from Abraham, through David, many kings and fathers later, Jesus was born. Jesus was the final fulfillment of God’s plan. Kings failed. People rebelled…but God’s Son would bring hope and salvation. Note that many times we hear Jesus called “Son of David.” David had a lasting legacy as king. To note that Jesus came from his lineage was significant, establishing His throne…which was a different kind of throne. Jesus created a new covenant with His life, death, and resurrection. He fulfilled the Law and established a covenant of grace and forgiveness, not just for Israel but for all people.
But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.
8 For he finds fault with them when he says:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah,
9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers
on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
For they did not continue in my covenant,
and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor
and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
for they shall all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
and I will remember their sins no more.”
13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. -Hebrews 8:6-13
Ask: How did Jesus make a “New Covenant”?
Explain that Jesus was sent to Earth to heal, preach, teach, love, care, and show how much God loved His people. Most importantly, He came to die so that we might have eternal life. Jesus was God in human form, come to show how much God loves us. Jesus was the final fulfillment of all that God had promised before. Everything that had been foretold and hoped for came true in Christ. He is our reminder that God keeps His promises, and will be with us always!
Close with a prayer thanking God for keeping His promises and sending Jesus to fulfill His covenants. Ask for appreciation and understanding of the amazing stories of Scripture.
Crafts: Base your crafts on any of the stories visited, or on the general concept of God’s promises. A few to consider include:
- “Rainbow Promise” decoration to recall the covenants of God.
- Ark of the Covenant craft
- Jesus “family tree” craft
- Covenant Fathers wall hanging decoration
- “Sands and Stars” collage (to commemorate the Covenant with Abraham)
- Crowns of David (decorative crowns)