Summary: The faith of Abraham made him righteous. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, our faith makes us righteous and leads us to trust in God and God's promises. We never know what these promises will mean for us, but we can know that God works them together for our good.
Father Abraham had many sons
And many sons had Father Abraham
I am one of them
And so are you
So, let’s all praise the Lord
I know our Sunday School kids know that song and perhaps some of you do as well. In fact, it is probably the most well-known song and story about the great patriarch Abraham or Abram as he is in today’s story. But how do we get to that point, how does he become the father of many sons when we hear in today’s reading that he doesn’t even have one heir to pass on his estate to?
We’ll get to that, but I want to back us up even further to connect this reading to the one we heard last week about Adam and Eve. (next slide)
This is Abraham’s family tree.
As you can see, Adam is Abraham’s great-great-great grandfather. Adam’s lesser known son Seth gave birth to Noah, yes that Noah of Noah and the ark, whose son Shem gave birth to Abraham’s father Terah.
What began with Adam and Eve, God’s creation of humankind to be in relationship with God has continued through these generations. God has chosen this family, to be God’s own people and has promised to be with them always. Even when sin had totally taken over the world in the days of Noah, God stayed true to God’s promises and saved Noah and his family from the waters of the flood. God promised Noah that never again, no matter how angry and hurt God became, would God destroy the earth. Instead, God recommitted to being in relationship with God’s people through this one family. A few hundred years down the road and this family has become so large, so numerous that they scare the Pharaoh who ends up enslaving them as a means of population control.
But 400 years is a long time… a really long time. So for now, we will focus on Abraham, or Abram as he is in today’s text. (next slide)
Abram had been called by God to leave his father and homeland, and with his wife Sarai to go to the land that God would give them. It is a big ask, to give up most of his family and friends and security to follow God, but Abram does so. Taking his nephew Lot and all his possessions with him, Abram departs.
Throughout his time following God, Abram is faithful. And he prospers. In fact, he and his nephew each accumulate so many possessions and so much livestock, that the land simply cannot support both of them together. So they part ways. Abram to continue on his journey to the promised land in Canaan and Lot settles in Sodom (yes, that Sodom).
Eventually, a coalition of kings attack Sodom and takes all of its inhabitants, including Lot and Lot’s family captive. When Abram hears of it, he forms his own military coalition and rescues the inhabitants of Sodom. The spoils of war are great.
Having amassed even greater wealth, Abram now desires someone to share that wealth with by being able to leave it as an inheritance. But he has no child of his own and he and Sarai are quite old. Well past the age of childbearing and child-rearing. God had promised him long ago when God first called them that Abram would be blessed to be a blessing to the whole world and that he would be the father of many nations. That has not come to pass.
As we get to today’s reading, we find Abram worn out from battle against the kings who had taken Lot and others hostage. He is probably a little fearful that he has put a target on his back by attacking these people and because he has so much wealth but no land, no secure piece of property on which to keep and protect his wealth. And he is frustrated that God is taking so long to be true to God’s promise and give him an heir.
But God is patient with Abram. God speaks reminding Abram who God is—Abram’s shield and true protection. All of Abram’s possessions and wealth and even Abram and Sarai’s lives are held in God’s hands and watched over, guided, and protected by God. Next God reiterates God’s promise to Abram (next slide) calling him to look up and count the stars for that is how many descendants Abram shall have.
Notice God’s promise to Abram… God doesn’t have Abram check out a particular constellation and say, you’ll have as many descendants as there are stars in that little grouping. Rather the stars in the whole sky are representative.
Upon hearing these words of promise, Abram believes. Not believes as intellectually agreeing to a certain set of words, ideas, and premises, but rather believes as in deeply trusting in the person and truth of God. That’s why the writer of Genesis can see Abram’s faith as giving him righteousness. Abram’s trust in God and God’s promises are what make him right with God.