Summary: Even Abraham needed regular spiritual tune-ups. Look at how God provided them.
We were eight hours into a sixteen-hour drive when the “check engine” light blinked on. We had just driven through Great Falls, Montana at 11 at night and we had the most desolate part of the drive ahead of us—three and a half hours across the high plains of Montana before we would roll into Billings and any real hope of help if there was something indeed wrong with the engine. But we pressed on through the dead of night because the van had received a tune-up before leaving home. Everything should have been in tip top shape in spite of what the “check engine” light was proclaiming. We made it through the night without the van coughing to a stop by the side of the road because, as it turned out, that warning light was simply a reminder to do regular maintenance. It’s good to have those reminders because if you do skip the tune-ups, your vehicle may break down in the dead of night, in the middle of Montana.
For a month now we’ve been following Abraham’s journey of faith in our Sunday sermons. We watched as he left his home in Ur for Haran, and then on to Canaan. We tagged along as he nipped into Egypt to escape famine, and then chased after him as he dashed towards Damascus to rescue his nephew Lot before returning home. With all the miles Abraham put on, he was in need of a tune-up, a spiritual tune-up, which God would provide. Let’s find out why such regular tune-ups are also important on our journey of faith.
Whether you drive a basic Ford Focus or a fancy Porsche Boxter, your car will need regular tune-ups. It’s the same way for believers. Even a hall-of-faith believer like Abraham needed spiritual tune-ups because he didn’t always look into the future with perfect confidence. At times he wondered how God was guiding his life or even if he was guiding it all! (Robert Koester) It may seem strange that Abraham would have those kind of questions after what he had just experienced. He had rescued his nephew Lot, and had received encouragement from the priest-king Melchizedek. Perhaps this is a good reminder for us that as awesome as the Christmas Eve and Easter morning services are, if those are the only times that we are stopping in to hear God’s Word, our faith will suffer. We need much more frequent spiritual tune-ups than that.
So what exactly was bugging Abraham at this time? Well God appeared to him and said: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward” (Genesis 15:1). Was Abraham afraid that the kings he had just defeated might come back with a bigger army? Was he second-guessing his decision not to take any of the wealth that the King of Sodom had offered? If so, God was saying, “Don’t worry about that, Abraham. I am your shield, not your servants. And I am your very great reward, not the riches of Sodom.” Even so Abraham was still unsettled and he answered: “[But] you have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir” (Genesis 12:3).
The problem was that Abraham didn’t have any children? Yes, that was a problem, a big problem because Abraham knew that it was supposed to be through his family line that the Savior of the world would be born. No son meant no salvation. And so it didn’t really matter to Abraham that he was extremely wealthy and successful. What good was all that if he would end up spending eternity in hell because of his sins? You’ve got to hand it to Abraham, he was more concerned about spiritual and eternal matters than he was about material and earthly ones.
Do you echo Abraham’s sentiments? Do you cry out to the Lord to strengthen your faith more often than you call on him to strengthen your bottom line? Does your heart bleed because a loved one is sick or because that loved one is without faith? On this Thanksgiving Day do you offer your praise for all the stuff you have or for all of God’s promises? May God make us more like Abraham in this regard so that we are more concerned about the spiritual than the material!
So how did God respond to Abraham’s concerns? Did he roll his eyes and say with impatience: “Abraham, we’ve talked about this already. I’m going to give you a son. How many times do I have to tell you that?” No, and this is the delightful thing about God, he welcomes our questions and is graceful in handling our doubts. This is what he did for Abraham. God said: “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them. So shall your offspring be” (Genesis 15:12). Do you see what God was doing? He wasn’t just repeating the promise, he was illustrating it so that every time Abraham looked at the night sky, he wouldn’t just see stars, he would see God’s love for him. That’s not unlike how we ought to feel when we see a rainbow in the sky. For that isn’t just a pretty phenomenon, it reminds us of God’s promise to Noah and to us not to destroy the world again with a flood.