God Reassures Abram
Good Morning. Lets flip on over in our Bibles to Genesis chapter 15, as we take a short, temporary break from Romans. As we look at a snapshot from the life of Abram, I see things which I think are very relevant to us in this day, especially now. As always, if you do not have a Bible with you, or if you do not own a Bible, please take one from the back table as our gift to you.
And so, as a starting point, what do we know about Abram up to this point is the story of Genesis, up through chapter 15?
Well, we know that God chose him. We know that Abram had great faith and trust in God, most of the time. We know that Abram had epic moments of failure, where he leaned on his own plans, his own understandings and did not trust in God and his promises. We know that he and his wife, Sarai, were an older couple who were passed child-bearing years and were barren. We know that God promised to make a great nation of him in spite of his lack of a child.
And we know that Abram just saw, in chapter 14, that when he listened to God and his plans and acted on Gods instructions, that he was blessed. In Chapter 14 Abram takes an army of 318 trained men, and defeated an incredible coalition of 4 kings who took Abrams nephew Lot. Abram followed God and acted on his faith, trusting completely that he and the 318 men could take theses 4 armies.
They did, and in a clear and decisive manner and brought Lot back to Sodom, where he was living. He then worshiped God with a high priest, the King of Salem, Melchizedek. And what we are going to see here this morning is that even in the good times, we still have a need for questions to be answered, to be reassured, to have God answer our questions and, ultimately, to be allowed to question.
We are going to look at Genesis 15, verses 1-6. It’s a few short verses, but it is packed dense with meaning and message and application and truth. I highly encourage you to follow along in your Bible as we read this few verses. So, Genesis 15:1-6 and I’m reading out of the English Standard Version:
Gods Word says:
After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 2 But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue[a] childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” 4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son[b] shall be your heir.” 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
So we start out at some point after the battles, after the worship and experience with Melchizedek, sometime after chapter 14. My guess is that it is shortly after the events of Chapter 14. And what we see is that God speaks to Abram, he comes to him and he encourages him, reassures him, reminds him and comforts him.
Now, why would Abram need this at a time when he had just had such a successful victory following the LORD and such an amazing time of worship with Melchizedek. This should have been the time when Abram was flying highest. He should have zero doubts, no questions, he should feel never closer to God than at that moment up to that point in his life.
And yet, I bet that each and every one of us here can testify to a time like this. Things are going well in our life, more specifically, in our relationship with God. We are doing what we know he wants us to do. We are praying. We are reading. We are giving. We are walking with him and being faithful.
But something is off. Questions pop up. Doubts are raised. We feel far away from him. We wonder IF. Or we wonder WHY. Things just aren’t quite settled like they are supposed to be. The enemy loves to take this opportunity to attack and attack hard.
For Abram, it seems to be that his question or doubt, not sure which, seems to be along these lines. God is proving him self faithful and trustworthy. He is keeping his promises. He is blessing me and my family and protecting us and just being God. But, why is he not keeping this one specific promise. This one promise has not yet been fulfilled. Why? Why is God not keeping this one promise?
The promise Abram is talking about goes back to Genesis 12, where God tells Abram, in verse 2, “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great.” This was a great promise. It was a promise that God and God alone could keep, could bring about. But it was a promise that seemed to need to be fulfilled a certain way.
In order for Abram to become a great nation, someone needed to take it over and keep his name going after he would pass on. That meant that Abram needed an heir. Without an heir, whoever took over for him would stake out his own claim, put his own name on it. But if Abram had an heir, his name would continue on.
So Abram is wondering, maybe worrying. “God said he was going to do this. He said he was going to make my name great, but I have no son to continue on my name. I have seen God keep all his other promises, and prove himself over and over, but I’m not seeing it in this.”
And this would happen occasionally in those days. A couple has no child, so who would inherit their possessions after they die? Often times in those days, one of their slaves or servants would become like a son. He would be adopted into the family and he would become the heir. Somebody needed to be an heir and take possession of their stuff.
And that’s what we see here. God appears to Abram and reassures him, responds to his wondering, saying, “I am your protection and I am your reward. I am faithful, I have been faithful and I will continue to be faithful.”
Abram responds, saying, “I don’t even have a son, I need to have my servant, Eliezer of Damascus be my heir.” He is saying, what we often say to God. “I don’t understand and I don’t see you working in this situation. I know what you said, but I don’t see it. This is the only way I can see this promise coming true.”
Lets be clear here. Abram is not sinning here. He is not doing anything wrong. What he is doing is he is being open and honest with God about his struggles. So often we are afraid to be honest with God. We worry that we are going to be ungrateful and demanding of him. We worry that we wont continue to be faithful to be honest with him and what our worries and questions are. Often, we will even worry that others will question our faith or our love for God if we are honest with our questions and struggles.
God calls us to come to him. Adam and Eve, in the Garden it says that they were naked and unashamed. The reference here is not only towards their marriage relationship with each other. But it also has to do with, I think firstly, their relationship with God. Adam and Eve were completely open and transparent with God. They hid nothing from him, had literally a perfect relationship with him. After the fall, the first thing they did was realized they were naked and cover themselves with a fig leaf.
When we look at the passage in Genesis 3, it’s about more than physical nakedness. It’s about our relationship with God, and us putting up barriers between us and him and hiding things from him that we never hid from him before. Our relationship with him was now fractured.
We don’t come to him, we are not honest with him and we question and doubt. but one of the things that God is showing us here is that if we are faithful, if we follow him, if we come to him with honest questions, honest wonderings, he will not hold it against us.
Now his response wont be like they are to Abram right here. Here, he answers Abrams questions. But Gods Word tells us he doesn’t respond in that way anymore. Hebrews 1:1&2: Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He has already given us all the promises, all the assurances, all the reassurances, and all the response we need.
Here, He reiterates his promise to Abram and clarifies it as well. He tells him that it will not just be any heir that keeps Abram’s name going, that allows his name to be great, but that God will give him a son. A literal, physical born son.
And his descendants, he says, will be as numerous as the stars in the sky, which while there is a literal number to that, we will never be able to count that high or accurately.
But know that sometimes, God’s answer isn’t always so… well, it’s not always what we are looking for. Looking at Job, he questions why God was letting him go through the things he was going through and Gods answer to him was essentially, “I’m God, that’s why.”
And here is the key, Job accepted that answer. Abram believed God. That’s what is important to this story if we are to try to see how it works in our lives today. It’s not wrong to ask God questions, to be honest about your struggles and doubts. But, when we know Gods answers, or when he hasn’t revealed them to us, you need to respond in faith.
Verse 6 is one of the key verses in all the Bible. I don’t think I’m overstating that either. Abram believed God. And what God was promising was not easy to believe. Remember what we know about Abram and Sarai. They were old and they were barren. They had no children and they were past the age where it was possible for them to have one.
There was no earthly, worldly reason for Abram to believe God. But he did. And God credited it to him as righteousness. And that’s good news because Abram had no righteousness of his own. Just like we don’t have any righteousness of our own. All of our righteousness, piled up on each other are as filthy rags to God. Abram’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. This statement and what it means is so important that Paul devotes an entire chapter of Romans, Romans chapter 4, to this verse, which we looked at a number of months ago.
When we wrongly understand this, it is not a good thing. And it’s not a thing of little matter. Hear this. Abram did not earn his righteousness by believing God. That would put Abrams salvation entirely in his own hands. It would take his salvation out of Gods hands. Abram, and each and every one of us, has no righteousness. We don’t have it, we can’t earn it and we cannot be given righteousness of our own.
Well then, what righteousness is credited to Abram, whose righteousness is credited to us? I’m glad you asked. It is called the doctrine of Imputed Righteousness. I know, big words. But what they mean is both complicated to explain in some ways, but very simple in other ways.
There are actually two parts to it. First, look at 2 Corinthians 5:21. Paul writes:
21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
The work of Jesus Christ on the cross is part one. Even though it happened in our linear thinking and experience, long after Gods promise to Abram and Abrams belief in God. God works outside of time. He is at the same time in the past, present and future, all at the same time. His plan from before the world began was for Jesus Christ, the Son of God, himself God, to be born as a human,live a perfect life and die on the cross.
For our specific discussion, one of the most important parts there is that he lived a sinless life. He had no sin. So what happened? God imputed our sins on to Jesus there on the cross.
Jesus sacrificed and paid the price for sins that he never committed. He did it for the sins that we committed. Romans 3:21 & 22, Paul again writes:
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:
God, imputed our sins on to Jesus Christ on the cross. He then imputed HIS righteousness, his very own righteousness onto us. But, just in case you misunderstand what I’m saying, not all who live, not all who are born, receive Gods righteousness. There is a specific way, a specific method that God uses to impute his own righteousness onto us. It is through faith. It is through faith alone. Faith, which itself, according to Paul in the letter to Ephesians, is a gift from God. It is through this faith in Jesus Christ, to all who believe that Gods righteousness is given, or as said here, credited.
Abram had faith, he believed what God was telling him. In the face of a lifetime of reasons not to belief, a life time of experience that says, “Your not going to have a kid. You haven’t had one yet and now you are too old.” In the face of all this, God says, “Trust me. I will give you a son.” And Abram believed the LORD, and God credited it to him as righteousness.
I know this can get confusing, SO I want to share an example that John Piper gives on how this plays out by giving an analogy from his life.
Here’s a very imperfect analogy. But I will risk it in the hope of greater understanding. Suppose I say to Barnabas, my sixteen-year-old son, “Clean up your room before you go to school. You must have a clean room, or you won’t be able to go watch the game tonight.” Well, suppose he plans poorly and leaves for school without cleaning the room. And suppose I discover the messy room and clean it. His afternoon fills up and he gets home just before it’s time to leave for the game and realizes what he has done and feels terrible. He apologizes and humbly accepts the consequences.
To which I say, “Barnabas, I am going to credit your apology and submission as a clean room. I said, ‘You must have a clean room, or you won’t be able to go watch the game tonight. Your room is clean. So you can go to the game.” What I mean when I say, “I credit your apology as a clean room,” is not that the apology is the clean room. Nor that he really cleaned his room. I cleaned it. It was pure grace. All I mean is that, in my way of reckoning – in my grace – his apology connects him with the promise given for a clean room. The clean room is his clean room. I credit it to him. Or, I credit his apology as a clean room. You can say it either way. And Paul said it both ways: “Faith is credited as righteousness,” and “God credits righteousness to us through faith.”
So when God says, this morning, to those who believe in Christ, “I credit your faith as righteousness,” he does not mean that your faith is righteousness. He means that your faith connects you to God’s righteousness.
It is only through this righteousness that we are not sentenced to eternal punishment and torment. It is only though this righteousness that we are able to stand before God and have anything to say. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:20:
For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
But When we become believers in Jesus Christ and his work on the cross, when we are imputed with His righteousness, God doesn’t look at us and see us anymore. By that I mean, he doesn’t see you and me as the sinners that we are, that we were, that we were born as. Instead, he sees us through the lens of Christ’s blood, Christ’s righteousness. That’s what allows us to be adopted into his family. That is what allows us to be heirs to his kingdom and be given eternal life with Him.
This is one of the rewards that Abram is promised of God in Verse 1. Now, there are a couple of other rewards, rewards that Abram would be more in tune with that God is referring to as well. His son, his heir is one and if you continue reading Genesis, you see how big of a deal that is.
But the grand scheme, big picture thing that God is referring to when he says that Abram’s reward will be very great. He is rewarding Abram with himself. He is giving Abram his righteousness. Abram is getting the opportunity to exercise faith, belief, trust. And through that God has chosen to give him his righteousness.
When we believe in him, when we exercise faith, when we put our complete trust in Jesus Christ, God has promised to give us his righteousness. So my question to, are you covered in His righteousness? Are you promised a great reward? Eternal life? There is no other way. No other door leads to eternal life in paradise. Not all who live are getting in. I want you to get in. I love you and I want you to enjoy eternal life, but it’s not going to happen unless you exercise faith in his Son, Jesus Christ.
Now, to those of you who are covered in his righteousness, the Christian life is not one to “Set it and Forget it.” It is one of constant growth and trials and periods of feeling closer to God and feeling further from him. Peaks and valleys. The Psalms are filled with songs where David is begging, literally begging God to make him presence felt to Him. This is David we are talking about! And he has times where he can’t feel God close to him.
So you are going to go through those times too. That doesn’t mean your faith is weak, or you are a “lesser Christian,” or there is something wrong. What matters is how you deal with these valleys, these periods of life. Abram went to God, was honest with his questions, listened for and heard Gods response. And he trusted in that response. Job was going through incredible hardships and questioned why God was letting this happen! Today we ask, why God, why?
Why are these fires happening? Why did entire towns get wiped off the map? Why is this country allowing untold millions of unborn babies to die, without being given the chance to live their lives? Why are so many rejecting your Word and your promises? Why are you letting this company take away my job? Why are you letting me go through this health issue? Why are my friends and family letting me down? Why are my friends and family dying?
And it’s not just the questions like that, that we have. It’s also the ups and downs of life itself. As I mentioned earlier, there are times where we know in our heads and our hearts that God is faithful and true and he is without us to the end of the ages. But we don’t feel him. Many of Davids Psalms are asking God why it feels as if he is not there with him. David knew nothing could keep God from him or separate him from God, but that doesn’t always mean we feel his presence. And that can be tough.
Do you all know the story of Horatio Spafford? He wrote the hymn, It is Well. It is a heartbreaking story. He and his wife lost a son at the age of 2. He was financially ruined in the Great Chicago Fire, and then, sending his family ahead of him to Europe while getting their affairs in order, the ship they were traveling on sank and his three daughters drown at sea. His wife survived and while he was going over to meet up with her, as he was passing near where his daughters drowned, he wrote It Is Well.
Tim Chaffey of Answers in Genesis writes about the Hymn:
How could Spafford possibly proclaim “It is well with my soul” in light of the numerous tragedies he endured, including the loss of his young son to scarlet fever? The song reveals at least two reasons. First, he knew that all of his sins had been “nailed to the cross.” Second, look closely at the final line. It begins with two short words (“Even so”) quoted from the final passage of the Bible. He longed for Christ’s return because he was convinced that he would dwell with His Creator and would be reunited with his precious children.
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
“Even so,” it is well with my soul
Some recommended Bible reading for you, I am not going to read it to you this morning, but Read Psalm 77. This one specifically deals with a man going through these times, this depression, and through it all, through this moment in life, he cant sleep, he can’t feel Gods promises there with him. He knows intellectually God, his promises and his attributes, but that knowledge in and of itself does not dismiss the depression. And he says in this psalm, in the Casey translation, I can’t see you, I can’t feel you, but even so, you frighten the things that frighten me. You will bring me through this and you will take care of me and my soul. And he ends the psalm, not cured, or healed or happy or out if his depression in any way. But he ends it, still in his circumstances, but leaning and trusting in the God who promised to take care of him, who promises to take care of us.
We all have these questions. Own it. Face up to it. Ask God your questions. We all have those moments, when we know in our heads, but we feel so far from him, or we can’t see how his plan is working through whats going on, or if we are going through a valley, missing the peace and exhilaration of the peaks. We all have them and they hit in different ways or with different feelings or emotions, but I bet you all know exactly what I’m talking about. And we can’t always know when they are going to hit.
But when you do, there are two things you need to do. Read his word, searching for an answer. He wont always give you the answer you want, and he wont always say it clearly. If we see something we don’t like, that disagrees with out expectation, especially in the bible, we have a tendency to just ignore it and overlook it. But that doesn’t mean it’s not there and that he is not answering. Be willing to see whatever the answer is, not matter how unexpected it is.
Second, trust in his answer, whatever it is. Trust in it, accept it, lean on it, depend on it. Cling to it with everything you have. Whether he answers you like he did Abram and say, “your worried about this situation, I’m going to fix this situation the way you want it.” or whether its like Job where he says, “Im God, that’s why.”
Either way, God is God. And he loves us. He has promised us a great reward if we trust in him. Bank on that and accept that. Let it be credited to you as righteousness. Because, in the grand scheme, he promises us something very clearly. If we believe, if we have faith, and if he credits that to us as righteousness, we will have the greatest reward of all. We will receive him and we will enjoy that gift forever into eternity.
No matter what you are feeling. No matter what the circumstances, no matter what is going on in your life, in your heart, in your anything. When sorrows like sea billows roll. Whatever your lot, God has taught us to say, Even so, It is Well with our souls.