Summary: Genesis 15:1-6. What is the most important lesson we can learn from the life of Abraham? It is that righteousness has always come through faith.
LESSONS FROM THE LIVES OF THE PATRIARCHS
GENESIS PART 2 – POSTDILUVIAN/PATRIARCHAL HISTORY
ABRAHAM: BEING MADE RIGHT WITH GOD
- Every religion in the world exists as a way of answering two fundamental life questions. The first question is: Does God exist?. The second is: If he does, how do I please him?.
- Let’s take that first question. What I like to call the theistic religions answer this question with an affirmative. Yes, God exists. Judaism and Islam are most like Christianity in this regard as they teach that a personal God exists and is involved in this world. Some strands of Hinduism also promote monotheistic belief (that is, belief in one God), but others do not.
- Other religious thought such as Buddhism and New Age philosophy mostly concentrate on the god within you. God is not necessarily seen as an external personal spirit but a part of your very own existence. So the emphasis is not on a specific God, but on the individual as they seek spiritual enlightenment and freedom.
- Of course, there is atheism. All of the atheists around the world would probably groan if they heard me describe their way of thinking as a religion, but I think it is a fair label. Atheism defines itself on the lack of belief in a God or gods. So even though atheists want nothing to do with God, they can’t help but define who they are by making reference to him. They are a-theists. They are self- proclaimed non-believers in God in any way, shape, or form.
- Then there is that second question: If God exists, how do I please him?
- The more mystical religions are not so much concerned with pleasing an almighty God, but rather are focused on improving the spiritual self. Those systems that are more theistic in nature all have moral guidelines that are to be followed if one is to gain acceptance with God – except one. There is one system of thought that is different from all of the others on this second question.
- Biblical Christianity has a unique answer to that question. Others will answer: in order to please the god within you, you must concentrate of improving yourself and move toward spiritual enlightenment. Still others would say: you must live according to the Jewish law to please God; or you must follow the morality of the Koran and give yourself in service to Allah. Biblical Christianity says: by the enabling grace of God, you must cast yourself at the mercy of the Savior Jesus Christ through faith.
- The Christian faith, as defined and shaped by the Bible, is the only faith based upon faith alone. All other systems of thought require some measure of good works or deeds or moral worth. Our look today at the life of Abraham, still known in our text as Abram, reveals this point with clarity.
[READ GENESIS 15:1-6]
- At the end of chapter 14, Abram has returned from rescuing his nephew Lot from some enemy kings who had taken him from his home city of Sodom. There is an encounter with the priest-king Melchizedek, and a dialogue between Abram and the king of Sodom.
- Chapter 15 picks up shortly after Abram and the king of Sodom have their conversation. And there is an interesting mix of faith and doubt contained in the first few verses of chapter 15. We get another glimpse at Abram’s great faith when we observe what the LORD says to him in v.1: Fear not, Abram, I am your shield, your reward shall be very great.
- The mention of a reward for Abram is an obvious reference to the extremely large amount of wealth that Abram just turned down from the king of Sodom. The king offered to let Abram keep the spoils of war from his rescue mission, but Abram refused lest the king take credit for making Abram wealthy once God fulfilled his promises to him. God is reassuring Abram that his trust in God’s provision will be rewarded greatly.
- But God also knows that Abram is human. And there is a part of Abram that is wondering how this promise of God is going to work out because he still does not have any sons. In v.2 Abram says, in essence, “God, how are you going to reward me? I still don’t have any male offspring, and if I were to die today one of my house servants would be the heir of all that I have.” So God’s words to Abram are both a reassurance of his coming reward and an admonition to trust him in faith.
- During this encouragement from God to Abram, God reiterates the promise he has made to Abram. He takes Abram outside and asks him to look at the stars in the sky. Then he promises to make Abram’s descendants as numerous as all of those uncountable stars he was viewing.