Summary: Fear. Frustration. Faith. We all have them and each is related. While faith can be the solution to fear and frustration, it can also be the source of fear and frustration. How can faith be both the solution and the source? That’s what the account of Abraham leads us to consider.
What are you afraid of? What is it that frustrates you? Maybe your fears come from the “what ifs” in life, what if this happens or that happens. Maybe they are the fears of what other people think of you or the fear of failure. Maybe it’s the fear of things from the past, things that you can’t go back and change. What is that frustrates you? Maybe it’s many of the same things. As you look at your life things have not exactly worked out the way you had planned or wanted. Maybe it’s frustration with a person in your life who you watch make one bad decision after or another or the waiting on someone to get something done. When you think about it, fear and frustration many times go hand-in-hand. We are afraid because we feel vulnerable. We are frustrated because we’re not in control. Fear and frustration both come from recognizing our limitations, that we’re not in control. What is the solution to those fears and frustrations? The Lord reminded Abraham, as he reminds us today, of the solution in the account that we heard of in Genesis 15.
This account takes place just after Abraham had returned from a battle in which he had to rescue his nephew Lot and his family. This took place before what we heard of last weekend when the Lord was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot and his family were living in Sodom when an alliance of kings attacked Sodom and took captive all its citizens including Lot and his family. When Abraham heard what had happened to his nephew Lot, he formed his own military alliance and attacked the armies of the kings that had taken Lot hostage. Abraham was victorious and Lot and the other citizens of Sodom were freed and able to return home in safety.
While Abraham was on the winning end of this battle it was a stark reminder of the constant danger in which he was living. Although Abraham was extremely wealthy, he was still a foreigner in the land of Canaan. He did not own even an acre of the land that God had promised to give to him and his descendants. The wealthier he became, the more he lived with a target on his back. And to top it all off, Abraham did not accept the religions of his neighbors, but worshipped the Lord who he claimed was the one and only true God. Having seen what happened to Lot and his family, Abraham was reminded of the constant danger in which he lived as a wealthy foreigner in the land of Canaan.
Given that background, that might help us to understand why the Lord came to Abraham and said, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward” (Genesis 15:1). The Lord reassured Abraham of his protection while living in a land that was often quite dangerous. The Lord reassured Abraham that what the Lord gave to him would extend into eternity, something that only the Lord could provide. Yes, Abraham had nothing to fear with the Lord on his side.
But Abraham was also seemed to be quite frustrated. Don’t you sense that frustration in the way that Abraham responded to the Lord? Listen again, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus? You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir” (Genesis 15:3). Years earlier the Lord had promised Abraham, “I will make you into a great nation” (Genesis 12:2) but Abraham and his wife Sarah still did not have any children. How was this nation ever going to come about if Abraham didn’t have any children? It had been years since God made that promise and still Abraham and his wife Sarah had not a single child! How or when was the Lord going to keep this promise?
The Lord reassured Abraham, “A son who is of your own flesh and blood will be your heir” (Genesis 15:4), and to reinforce his promise he gave Abraham a visual. We hear, “He took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the sky and count the stars – if indeed you can count them. So shall your offspring be’” (Genesis 15:5). Whenever Abraham got frustrated or began to doubt the Lord’s promise, Abraham could go outside and look up and be reminded of what the Lord had promised him.
How did Abraham respond? We’re told, “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). Did you hear that? There is the solution to fear and frustration – it is faith, trusting that the Lord will do what he has promised. Abraham trusted the Lord, and through that faith, received what the Lord promised – righteousness. You see, this was so much more than just Abraham having a son or being the father of the nation of Israel. This was about Abraham being right with God, something that he knew he could not achieve on his own. It was through Abraham’s descendants, the nation of Israel, that God promised to send the Savior who would bring righteousness to a world of unrighteous poeple. Jesus would come into this world, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a Jewish virgin girl named Mary. Through Jesus’ perfect life lived in the place of every human being, and by his suffering the punishment of hell for every person’s sins, Jesus would attain the righteousness that all people, Abraham included, are in need of. To all those who trust in God for the righteousness he promises, God credits to us the righteousness of Jesus. Through faith in Jesus, sinners like you and me and Abraham are declared right with God! The Apostle Paul referred to this account of Abraham when he wrote, “The words ‘it was credited to him’ were not written for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness – for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead” (Romans 4:23,24).