Week of Dec. 11: God fulfills His promise to Abraham
By the Rev. Sam and Helen Rogers
Scripture: Genesis 15:1-6, 12-18
Background Scripture: Genesis 15:1-21
The journey of Abraham has paused near Hebron. Then one night in a dream, the scripture says, “The word of the Lord came to Abram.” This phrase, “the word of the Lord,” common to the prophets later, is used here for the oddly time in the Pentateuch—the first five books of the Bible! Abram has been involved in armed conflict to rescue his nephew Lot, and what God says is significant: “Do not be afraid, Abram.” That command is the most common one in all of scripture. In difficult times, we all need to hear God’s word, “Don’t be afraid!” Mary heard it. Shepherds on the hillside heard it. The disciples heard it. The women at the tomb heard it. Do you hear it?
When Abraham heard it, he began to question God. Many pious people think it wrong to question God. But, the Psalmist didn’t. Job didn’t. Jeremiah didn’t. Mary didn’t. Even Jesus didn’t. Some of the most powerful prayers are cries of the heart, which come from the anguish of the human situation, wondering “Why God?”
Abraham’s question was about the promise God had already made—the question of an heir. How could there be a great nation without a son? From the human perspective, Abraham began to believe one of his servants would have to carry the promise forward. Did God answer him? Oh, yes! And what an answer!
“A son coming from your own body will be your heir. Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if you can. So shall your offspring be.”
Then comes one of the great foundational verses of scripture: “Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord credited it to him as righteousness.” (Gen. 15:6) Remember, righteousness is being in a right relationship with God. It is not what we are, but what we trust God to do that saves!
This verse resonates in scripture and, most profoundly throughout Paul, as the basis of salvation. Humans are saved (by God’s grace) through faith. (Take time now to read Romans 4:3, then verses 20-24, and finally Galatians 3:6-9.) God did not give him any more information than he already had. He continued to trust God’s word and was content—at least for the time being!
As important as it was for Abraham to trust God in the matter of an heir was his willingness to wait on God’s timing. Today is the Third Sunday of Advent. Christians are already engulfed by the Christmas whirlwind with its deadlines of decorations, gifts and parties. As a consequence, the quiet season of preparation and expectation is missed. This season focuses on waiting for God’s coming. We humans are always in a rush to get to the next item on the agenda and forfeit the patient trusting to let God be God! How many times have you seen a couple anxious to have a baby? They have been tested. They have tried and tried. Nothing works. They finally adopt and then, the wife becomes pregnant! Timing!
Abraham’s willingness to wait was another evidence of his abiding trust in God’s faithfulness. Remember, he personally would never see the promise fulfilled completely. It will be at least four generations before his descendants finally obtain the land!
The context of this episode is the fuller background scripture verses 7—11. Here God initiates a binding covenant (promise), sealed outwardly with three animals (heifer, goat, ram) and two birds (dove, pigeon). These will be the same animals the Hebrew people will use in their sacrificial system later. They are prepared in separate halves and with fire and smoke God passes between them, making the promise of descendants who will inherit the land. God takes upon God’s self the certainty of bringing to fruition what God has planned. God is saying if the promise is not kept God himself will suffer the fate of the sacrificial animals! Ponder the power of such a God—ponder the love of such a God! Stretch your understanding to see how God is the source of every blessing and promise! God will never break the promise. God will always keep God’s Word!
“How firm a foundation ye saints of the Lord, Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said, to you, who for refuge to Jesus have fled?
Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed, for I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.
The soul that on Jesus still leans for repose, I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake, I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”
Life is always difficult and, often, life is not fair. Bad things do happen to good people and good things to evil persons. But God’s promises are sure and can be trusted in spite of the outward circumstances. Faith is trust in a relationship of love with God.
Recently in a sermon, a pastor told how his family had been to the beach on vacation. He took his small daughter out into the ocean where the water was over his daughter’s head. The waves also were breaking over them and she was enjoying the experience thoroughly! He asked her “Aren’t you afraid?” She responded “No.” He then asked, “Why not?” She quickly said, “Because you are with me!”
There it is—faith in someone sealed with trust and love. This kind of faith is what motivated Abraham to follow the promises of God, not knowing where it would lead or what the consequences would be. Thus, almost 4,000 years later, people read a story about God’s faithfulness and Abraham’s response of faith and find encouragement to live life with the same trust and obedience.
Helen and Rev. Sam Rogers are a retired clergy couple. They can be reached at email@example.com.